Common Cause: Restoration of wooden churches in the Russian North
The project “Common Cause: Restoration of wooden churches in the Russian North” unites enthusiastic people striving to preserve old Orthodox shrines and monuments of wooden architecture in Arkhangelsk, Vologda and other regions in the North of Russia. Travelling to the Russian North, you are likely to encounter remarkable wooden churches and chapels dating from a few centuries ago. In Soviet times, the vast majority of churches were burnt down, demolished, used as clubs and storehouses or allowed to decay.
We consider it an honour to locate and preserve these churches with a view to handing them down to our descendants. In the first place, we need to prevent further decay by repairing roofs, boarding up windows and replacing rotten foundation stones. It is essential to do this before it is too late. If not rescued in time, many wooden temples will soon fall into decay, as did hundreds of northern churches, which have now vanished from the face of the Earth.
The project was instigated by 75-year-old Alexander Porfiryevich Slepinin in the coastal village of Vorzogory when he began to make a new roof for the bell tower at his own expense. This initiative encouraged Moscow parishioners to assist him. The project was supported by archpriest Dmitri Smirnov with the blessing of the late Right Reverend Tikhon, bishop of Archangelsk and Kholmogorsk. These days the project is being carried out with the blessing of Metropolitan Daniel of Arkhangelsk and Kholmogorsk. The project’s activities have been highly praised by his Holiness Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia.
Volunteers from the project “Common Cause” clean up and remove garbage from churches, carry out preventative and conservation works, install icons and invite priests to conduct church services. Local residents actively participate in these activities and after the volunteers’ departure, they continue to look after their churches. This leads to the revival of church communities.
During the eight years since its launch, the project has organized more than 240 trips with 350 churches and chapels inspected and preventative and conservation works done in 127 of them. The first divine liturgies in decades since their closurehave been held in 13 churches.
The project “Common Cause” sends hundreds of volunteers to the Russian North annually. Traditionally, these volunteers include teachers and students from the Sretensky and Nikolo-Ugreshsky Theological Seminary, young people from the residence of Optina Monastery and other Moscow churches. The project’s coordination center is located at St. Seraphim Sarovsky church in Moscow (Shokalskogo proyezd, 48).
Experience tells us that the preventative works can be carried out for relatively small sums of money. These works are sufficient to preserve the temples until they can be fully restored. However, each wooden church in the Russian North needs a trustee to coordinate its preservation and restoration as a heritage for generations to come.
Everyone who is willing to participate in preserving and restoring our northern churches is welcome to join us on our trips.
The project supervisor is
archpriest Alexey Yakovlev
the senior priest of St. Serafim Sarovsky church in Raevo, Moscow