Father Alexander Belomestnyh, senior priest of the Saviour Church
“Mysterious are the ways of the Lord”, and each of us has enough reasons to repeat these words again and again, analyzing his own life. But sometimes this expression is especially appropriately. For example, senior priest of our church, Father Alexander Belomestnyh had been an official in Irkutsk region administration for a long time. He looked at the Saviour church from the window of his study where museum of local lore was situated at that time and even organized a small brochure about church history. And now he is a senior priest of this temple. Mysterious are the ways of the Lord but the way of the Father from his home to his work almost hasn’t changed. Everybody knows that Saviour church and region administration are situated not far from each other. But the way between them isn’t measured in years but in prayers.
- As an official I have constantly felt certain dissatisfaction. After all, the official must maintain definite rules of the game. I was always depressed. In general I was like a parrot that continually repeated: “Lion hasn’t enough meat!” Nevertheless, I had been in charge of Youth Policy Committee in Irkutsk regional administration for six years. After that I was promoted to staff public service management. In comparison to working with people in which I was engaged in the Committee, staff work was a real torment for me. Staff work means knowledge and liking for those laws which were issued in large quantities and ability to be good at them. I had neither appropriate education nor inclination. Only a very competent assistant came to my help. Then a new governor took over a post and I was appointed a chief of protocol service. This work seemed more interesting for me. But I also felt some weakness. For example, to my shame I don’t know any foreign languages which are very essential for protocol service. Besides, I didn’t have such paternal relations with a new governor as with the former one.
But I have had a desire to serve God for a long time. Working in the Youth Policy Committee, I closely worked with Irkutsk Eparchy. I made trust relationship with the member of higher orders of clergy and made friends with some priests. While communicating I began to envy them at heart. It seemed to me they are swans and I was like milksop near them. In general, I have never dreamed to become a priest, they appeared particular people to me. It’s necessary to have education, talent for music, not to mention about spiritual component. Priests-friends began to joke that it would be good for me to become a priest. I have always answered that I have no hearing, no voice, these talents especially confused me. And I have always heard a reply that if God wishes He will arrange everything so that you will sing and read. I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t consider this answer as an honest one.
- Does it mean that you weren’t going to become a priest?
- I haven’t even dreamed. But I told member of higher order of clergy many times that I wanted to do something in the church. He always replied, “Don’t hurry, while you can work in the administration, do it. Authority also needs Orthodox people. As soon as something happens, I’m always ready to give you job”. I couldn’t realize at that moment what he was speaking about, what must happen. The moment came when I couldn’t work well together with a new direction; as a result I left the service. When I quit, the member of higher order of clergy told me: “Get ready, you will be imposed”.
This feeling can’t be expressed in words. To draw a human analogy, it’s possible to say that I stepped over several stages of promotion. After all, an official serves a terrestrial superior and a priest serves God himself. It’s clear that we all subordinate to the ruling member of higher orders of clergy, but we don’t serve him but God. Of course, it’s both enormous responsibility and at the same time enormous gladness. I don’t need to deceive anybody here and pretend because God knows everything about me. Serve honestly and discharge your obligations as you can. Certainly, it was difficult without special education. But there is a Religion Studies faculty and I’m a final-year student now. By the way, all priests of our church study there. This year we will graduate.
Has your imposition affected your family?
I used to say that I will give up everything, leave the service and go to the church but it was taken as a bogeyman story. My spouse was afraid of uncertainty and lack of social arrangements. It was obvious because I’m a sole working person in the family, my spouse is a housewife. When our second child was born, my wife left the service and began to bring up children. They grew up but my wife in any case stayed at home. We both like it. So, it’s possible to say that we have patriarchal way of life. When I came to priesthood, she told me that her soul felt miraculous world which can be given only from on high. And she believed it wasn’t my decision but God led us to it. Generally, I have reliable supporting of my family. At the front line as God arranges, so it’s well.
In addition, you take a position of Orthodox feminine gymnasium headmaster. Is it difficult to combine this work and service?
I could say I came to all provided in the gymnasium. When a former gymnasium headmaster got promotion, this position became vacant. And shortly before it my imposition took place. Nevertheless, I worked in region administration, kept contacts and got a great management experience. In any case it’s an advantage when a director is a priest. There were experienced heads of teaching department, good collective and educational basis in the gymnasium. For this time we have found sponsors and did a repair. A member of higher orders of clergy posed us a clear problem to keep rather high educational level, which was achieved by the former headmaster and at the same time to improve the religious component. We try all together to make our best. Father Pavel Telegin became a confessor of a junior gymnasium and Father Konstantin Manuylov of a seniour one.
- Only now analyzing my own course of life I realized an expression which has heard many times – everything that comes from God, comes insensibly and naturally. Everything unreasonable and miraculous may be not from Lord. So, thank God for everything.
Priest Pavel Telegin
In 1997 Father Pavel Telegin graduated from Finance and Credit Faculty of Irkutsk State Economic Acadamy (ISEA, now BNUEL). He worked two years in Securities Department of Sberbank and there was no need to worry about the future, banking career only began. And indeed, in 1998 he was already Securities Department Superior in one of the Irkutsk banks. But unexpectedly for parents, friends and colleagues banking beginner went to Moscow and enetered Producer Department in All-Russian State Cinematography Institute in the name of S. Gerasimov (VGIK)
Father, why did you do such a sudden change?
Working in the bank, I gradually began to realize that it’s not my place. I didn’t enter Economic Institute deliberately. I planned to enter Faculty of Law in the Irkutsk State University (ISU). That’s why I studied last classes of school in the historical class of ISU Lyceum. But finally my father offered me to apply with documents to ISEA with the entrance and job placement guarantee – firm’s demand where he worked as a deputy director. But then the firmed failed. I still envy, if it’s possible to say, those people who have liberal education. Maybe, also because of it I entered Religion Studies Faculty of ISU two years ago.
But why did you go exactly to Moscow and moreover enter Cinematography Institute? You could get liberal education not so far.
Firstly, as it is said “to straighten out, you need to bend”, and secondly I didn’t look simply for education, I looked for the meaning of life. For the sake of gaining it I think it’s possible to turn life on its head. Youth is the most suitable time for it when you have no family and you didn’t wallow in private life. And this way of life, more precisely slough of unreasonableness swallowed me up at that time. Believe me, life of a young man who has everything except high meaning of life is sad and distressing. Especially keenly one can realize it when he comes to the Church. Moscow was an escape from slough.
I believe that such life is distressing. But you can’t run away from yourself. I mean, search of the meaning of life doesn’t take place in geographical plane.
You are right. A man is constantly inclined to create “a slough of unreasonableness” inside and around him. But he must constantly run from it. A person can find himself in this “slough” at any place of the Universe and especially in Moscow because it is created by unrepentant passions and sins of a man. The true escape from this “passion slough” is the fight with it and this struggle can be victorious only in the Church founded by Jesus Christ. You don’t need to go anywhere; Orthodox church and priests are in every town. But this fact I realized only now.
And then you were simply young man…
Then, ten years ago I thought for happiness you need to reveal your talents that you didn’t reveal in your childhood, fully fall into them. I dreamt to find happiness and tell a whole world about it. I wanted to be happy and made everybody happy. For this reason I needed cinematograph.
Perhaps, it was difficult for a young man without liberal education to determine the meaning of life.
Of course! At that time I think secular education didn’t give answers to these questions and couldn’t help much. I had to seek myself. When I was final-year student I took an interest in alternative philosophy though I was much afraid of it, read Carlos Castaneda. I didn’t apply to Orthodoxy at that time, I had nobody to suggest me to it, but there were a lot of occult and sextant books: “Rose of the World”, Roerich, Blavaysky, A. Bezant and others. There was an invitation to a witch-doctor - extrasensory individual all over the place.
And what about the VGIK? Did it help?
In part, there I learned to cross myself.
I learned it at the lessons of acting technique. We as producers had to know how Orthodox and Catholic believers cross themselves. It seems to me now that many VGIK teachers are the faithful. My fiend is obliged his churching to the producer-tutor. Life of VGIK at that time is a search yourself as a young man and expression of this search at the screen. At first I liked it, I changed specialty and began to study for cinema and TV producer. I had a dream to choose ideas for a film and help to realize it at the screen; I took part in some student shootings. But at the age of 25 I was tired of search – I needed a result. I got a diploma and got fixed up in a job of advertising manager in the modern cinema.
And what about answers on the main questions of life?
The year 2000 was the time of absolute prevalence of western cinema: comedies, action films, thrillers. I tried to find a meaning in every film, announce it and make a man interested. But what fundamental meaning can be for a Russian in the entertaining western films? I was on the point of despair. In the cinema I found a cross with a cord in the table (to wear on hand), in the most difficult moments I unconsciously squeezed it in my hand and go with it. Then a priest accidentally came to our cinema (he earned on the side as a driver and brought something for advertising. You know, such things happen when a church burnt down and he had no means to support his family), he took funeral notes from a cashier (she was a believer), and I hung around him all the time without knowing why. Once I accompanied him to his car. And he told me: “You need to be christened”. I didn’t realize why he told me such a thing, but these words remained in my memory.
Father Pavel, and what exactly incited you to christening?
In some months after meeting in the cinema with a priest, in April 2001, I was in Irkutsk and found myself in the hospital. Once I passed by a local chapel and got interested in christening of two people which took place there. I didn’t understand anything plainly. Only one phrase amazed me: “You become Christ’s warriors”. I positively decided to be christened and asked my friend who was recently christened to organize it.
Has your life changed?
Not immediately. After all I didn’t know anything about Orthodoxy. I returned to Moscow, worked in the cinema for some time till I was fired. Then I confessed and received communion for the first time. I began to shoot student’s films again. And even returned to the cinema to work as an administrator but I couldn’t work there and left the service. I still warmly remember director of these cinemas Igor Dobrovolsky who wanted to help me very much. From January I tried not to miss Sunday divine services, confessed and received communion regularly. In summer a priest advised me to pray to St. Tryphon for employment and I did it. In 3 days I had a job of accounting clerk in a warehouse of the largest orthodox bookshop. It was a radical turn. It remained only to be patient and pray.
Did you want to come back to Irkutsk?
Certainly I did. Working as an accountant, I paid attention that a Michael-Archangelical parish was a frequent buyer in our shop. During my next coming to Irkutsk I came round to this parish. And as usual “accidentally” I become acquainted with Father Kallinik in the parish’s shop. I started to meet with him and once asked hum, “Father, if I’m going to leave Moscow, will you take me to your parish?” But I had no reasons to leave Moscow. Only when I met my Mother thanks to Michael-Archangelical parish, the reasons to move appeared. I returned to Irkutsk with pleasure. I had been working at a parish’s book warehouse for two years and I had been servicing as an altar warden for one year.
And then was priesthood?
Yes, it was. When Father Kallinik called me and said that an inquiry for my imposition came from the member of higher orders of clergy Vadim, I was shocked. Once a Moscow priest by whom I was churching hinted me at my imposition as a deacon; perhaps, he wanted to encourage me. I simply escaped and began to go to another church at the Patriarchal town church which was of use for my clerical growth. But the fact remains – you can’t avoid your cross.
Father, is it difficult to be a priest.
It’s impossible without Lord’s help that’s why a priest way is confession and prayer. You can lead others to God only if you can hold yourself at a God’s chasuble.
Priest Konstantin Manuylov
One year hasn’t passed yet as the third priest Father Konstantin Manuylov was appointed to the Saviour Church. But it seems that he has already been servicing here for a long time. When he appeared, divine services in the church became daily and people received and loved Father very quickly for his kindness and wisdom. Today Father agreed to tell us about himself in detail.
- I was born on the 29 of June in Kamyshin town of Volgograd region. The main hobbies were hunting and fishing. Therefore after finishing school I went to Irkutsk to enter Game Management Faculty. Having studied five years with the stop for army service I graduated from Irkutsk State Agricultural Institute in 1993 with the specialty Game Management. By that time system of students’ assignment had collapsed as many other things, that’s why I had a problem with job placement. By the way, I was already married and had a daughter called Nastya.
A question arose, “What to do?” Time was “cooperative” and we were busy with everything we could. Hunting and fishing helped, we sold furs, sewed fur-caps and lived in such a way. We tried to return to Volgograd region but for some unpractical reasons we found ourselves in Irkutsk again. Then together with my friend we decided to open fur-cap sewing workshop. We had just bought sewing machines, employed people and at that moment default happened in the country. We had been working for a year but when calculated profits we shed tears. It was clear that there was no use continuing “fur-cap” business. At that time we received a very timely offer from Koreans to harvest attire and supply them to Korea against contract. We got down to business with great distrust, but in spite of everything new occupation began to work. In some years I was already a co-founder of joint venture, and then headed it.
- And a new managerial stage in your life began.
- Well, to be a director is not as easy and good as it’s often considered. Director has no days off and no vacation. It’s a way of life. By the way, exactly at that time my family life went wrong. Because of this reason my wife first came to the church. And besides, all my maternal relatives were believers. The image of my godmother was kept from my childhood memories. She prayed in the evening, crossed us, children before going to bed and told us stories from the Scriptures Amazing and warm feeling remained after these childhood memories. It still warms my soul. So I have always had smooth and good attitude to the church. Maybe due to this fact I easily responded to my wife’s calling me to the church. And when I came, I found that pearl, for which the person is ready to sell everything, as it’s written in the Gospel.
However, my family life was finally ruined and my wife asked me to leave the family. She didn’t go to the church at that time and had negative attitude to it.
I was still working in business. But the question arose: Why do I need it? After all, the work makes sense when you help somebody with your job. But it turned out that I had no family and my job was useless. At that time the idea of leaving for the church came to my mind. “It’s better to be a yard-keeper in the church that director in business”, such formula of happiness was made up in my head.
- And have you really left?
- Well, it took me almost a year to do it. I had to finish some affairs. Nevertheless in January 2004 I left the company but I decided to travel around the monasteries before leaving for the church to become aware of the inner monastery life.
I was going to leave. But suddenly when I was at the church service exactly before my departure, another idea came to my mind. I shouldn’t go to different monasteries, but it would be better to live in one of them. Since the service was dedicated to Ambrose of Optina, I went to Optina monastery and lived there for two months of the Lent. I realized many things for myself there.
In autumn I started to serve in the altar of Trinity Church. I fulfilled the duties of churchwarden for the last two years before my imposition. I was ordained as a deacon on the 4 th of November 2008 in Kazan Church of Irkutsk on celebration of Our Lady of Kazan Icon. Next Sunday I was ordained as a priest. Very soon I was sent to the Saviour Church, where I still serve. About a week before my imposition Father Maximilian called me and just notified that my ordination was scheduled for a definite date. It wasn’t shocking but after all it was unexpected.
-Do you want to say that you weren’t inwardly ready for this proposal?
- I think nowadays almost every man who comes and takes root in the church, accepts the thought about possible priesthood. That’s why we have lack of priests, lack of people who work in the church initiatively.
I also admitted such thoughts and I had temptations. Only after some time I started to understand what is priesthood. The more I realized, the more frightened it became but at the same time it became calmer because I didn’t wish it any more.
Responsibility of a priest is very high. Wrong word can cripple a person and destroy his life. When a person comes to the divine justice and answers for himself, it’s one situation, but when he is responsible for another man, who was sent him in life by the Lord, it’s very scary. I can fast, pray, lead the pious life but if I destroy a person’s soul with a wrong word, how can I justify myself? Only the grace of God can justify me. Paisius Hagiorite said that it’s not necessary to wish and seek the priesthood. If you are ordained as a priest, you can take it as the Lord’s will. But then if you have some problems, you can apply to the Lord with a safe conscience and say, “Oh, my Lord, you put me to this place, help me.” And if you pressed towards the priesthood of your own free will, it will be more difficult for you.
So, at the time of ordination I treated the priesthood very quietly. However, when I received the proposal, it sounded like a bolt from the blue. In addition to it, my imposition meant the renunciation of attempts to create a new family. Though I supposed to be ready for it, it was very difficult to get over the irrevocable point.
Today I can say that there are sometimes very complicated situations in my life. But in spite of all difficulties, serving to the Lord is beneficial and joyful. Eventually, all our hopes we place on the Lord. When a person doesn’t believe in the Lord he is often at a deadlock and he can’t get out of it. But religious person doesn’t have such deadlocks at all. He works hard but at the same time he feels great joy and relaxation which compensate everything and give him a feeling of vital life without drawbacks. This is the life which a person must live by God’s providence.