In The Branches on Sunday
July 1, 2008
Since the church is a dedicated chapel, I cannot take pictures inside so there are no pictures for this article. However, I have added some pictures to the article about our apartment so if you have already read that one, go back and check out the pictures.
Going to Church
We are not attached to a particular branch, but are assigned to mentor the three branches on the east side of the river. They are identified by number that designates the order in which they were organized. On our side of the river they are the First, Second, and Fourth Branches. First and Second Branches meet in the same rented hall at the Gagarenskaya Metro stop. (The stop was named after the astronaut Yuri Gagarin) The Church has a long-term lease on the third floor where they have renovated it into a church facility with a chapel they call the Sacrament Hall, classrooms, Branch President’s offices, nursery, kitchen and restrooms.
You can tell which is the Relief Society room by the white table cloth and flowers on the table, and the Young Women’s room by the YW Values banners hanging above the chalk board and around the room. The Sacrament Hall has a slightly raised stand with the Sacrament table on the congregation’s right and the bishopric’s chairs on the left of the podium. The hall is about 80 feet by 25 feet and can seat about 100 in 10 rows of stackable chairs with an isle down the middle.
We have been assigned to the First, Second, and Fourth Branches that meet on the east side of the river. The First and Second Branches meet in this building and the Fourth meets in a small town farther to the east called Sniggeree (Spelling is my best transliteration) The first Sunday in Novosibirsk we attended both the First and Second Branches. Second Branch meets at 9 am and First Branch meets at 2 pm. Elders Bressler & Hoopes escorted us over to the building and the office elders Fry & Lunt brought us home after the First Branch meeting and stayed for dinner.
Second Branch had the smallest congregation with about 18 attending. The branch president was ill so his counselor, 19-year-old Misha Nickoliachev, son of District President Brat Pyoter (brother Peter)Nickoliachev, conducted most of the meetings. Being short of priesthood, I was asked to help pass the Sacrament and did OK except I think I didn’t wait to be dismissed by the conducting counselor and went and sat with Sister Simons too soon after the Sacrament. The First Branch had about 35 attending plus eight missionaries including the sister companionship (Cropper & Bertluskia), the District Leader companionship (McCleary & Gambardella), the office elder companionship, and ourselves.
In each meeting, we were asked to introduce ourselves and bear our testimonies with the help of the elders translating. Cindy spoke about us and about our family, why we came on a mission to Russia, and bore her testimony. I preached a short sermon based on I Nephi 3:7, where Nephi says he will go and do what the Lord commands, and bore my testimony. It is a little difficult to speak in short phrases and try to remember what you were saying while the elder translates it. I’m sure my short sermon was a little disjointed, but each congregation was attentive and I guess my message got across.
Part of the combined RS and PH meeting in the third hour of each branch was devoted to a discussion of the Sacrament; what, when, how, and to whom it is to be administered; and both branches talked about improving reverence in the Sacrament Hall; just like home.
We were very comfortable among the saints and all were friendly and some demonstratively glad to see us. We hope to be a positive influence in these branches and do something to strengthen them.