Once upon a time I was sitting in a stuffy bus, looking out the window. We were just going by an old church in Marevo, a small village near Novgorod. My neighbor, a sturdy, hard-looking man, also looked at the church, then cursed and grunted something about "bet they're asking people for money to rebuild that old thing - the nerve of them!"
We started talking. I found out that he was working as a road builder - taking long shifts, trying to provide for his family. Well, yes, life ain't easy, but he wasn't complaining. Everyone's got their problems, don' they?
I started telling him about Novgorod and its history, and at first my neighbor did not seem interested. Yes, he knew about Novgorod, we all went to school, didn't we? But then, after a while I noticed that he started looking thoughtful, even serious.
I have long had a theory that the general disorder of our life and most of our problems are related to our attitude towards God. Yes, it's true, I ve seen it many times. Wherever I travel around the country, I talk to different people: hard men working hard jobs, women holding the world on their shoulders. After all, "Everyone's got problems, don' they?"
Travelling around many villages I noticed one strange thing. Life in the community starts getting better, when there is a church being restored somewhere nearby. This, of course, is not a miracle, that we read about in holy books, or hear about in sermons
Perhaps this happens just because some empty space gets filled in a community life. Or maybe it really is a miracle.
In the village of Marev, the temple has not had any restoration since the 18th century, but still stands and is supported by the prayers of people.The whole community came alive: reviving the church became their common goal. People start fundraising campaigns, some write about it on social media, others try to get the government involved - there are heads to be turned, grants to be had, lists to be included into.
I have already seen this more than once: when the parishioners get involved in the revival of their church, it gives people the feeling of closure that they might not even have known they needed. Life becomes full.
When people unite like this, God is present among them. "Liturgy" - the main action in the Church, is translated as "common cause." The very foundation of church life is there. And wen the restoration of a church becomes this common cause for a community, everything comes into its place. Life gets meaning, and the meaning of life for believers is service to God. Of course. it is not at all necessary that such service should be in the holy order, for the laity any business can be God’s work - if it is for the common good.
There are large cities where churches are often built along with new houses, planned within the new blocks and micro districts.. It seems to be a good thing, but those temples that people restore for themselves are filled with a special prayer and a special spirit. We live with it even if we rarely go to church. We might not go there every Sunday, but still we baptize children and we pray for parents.
“So it is,” - nodded my neighbor in the Novgorod bus, - “Now and then, when I;m going home from work, I stop at the church to light a candle for my father”. The man rose up to leave and I shook his strong palm, “Now you see - it means that the church needs to be restored. And not just one, but all of them would be nice. People in them have been praying there not just for years, but for centuries. They prayed for you and me too. And that can’t be all for nothing now, can it?" “Yes, right you are,” he answers me and smiles.And I hope next time he goes past the church of Marev, he will no longer grumble, but, on the contrary, maybe he will come in to pray, as best he can. That's how life gets better.