« A.Yu. Zakharov, Head of the Department for Church Charity and Social Ministry of the Sourozh Diocese, took part in the VIII All-Church Congress on Social Ministry »

On October 17-19, 2018, the VIII All-Church Congress on Social Ministry of the Russian Orthodox Church was held in Moscow.

With the blessing of His Grace Bishop Matthew of Sourozh, Subdeacon A.Yu Zakharov, Head of the Department for Church Charity and Social Ministry of the Sourozh Diocese, took part in the work of the Congress.

If a church social worker is guided only by external attitudes and rules, doing charity without spiritual work, he can do more harm than good, said Bishop Panteleimon of Orekhovo-Zuevsky in his sermon at the Martha-Mariinsky charitable Convent on October 17, 2018, the day when the largest church social forum begun.

The work of the VIII All-Church Congress on Social Ministry continued in sections at the Russian State Social University. On the evening of October 17, a meeting took place between the participants and Bishop Panteleimon of Orekhovo-Zuevsky, Chairman of the Synodal Department for Church Charity and Social Ministry. During the meeting, the participants prayed together for the wellbeing of the injured and for the repose of those killed in the tragedy in Kerch. Representatives of 167 Russian and 24 foreign dioceses participate in the congress.

“A lot has been done in recent years: social work is actively developing in the Church. Organized forms of assistance have appeared in it, the number of church social workers has increased, said Bishop Panteleimon in his opening speech. “However, I think that it is very important to remember that the main thing in our social service is not technology or methods, but unfeigned, Christian love. Without it, our ministry cannot be called church ministry. ”

Bishop Panteleimon also reminded that if in social service only external forms are developed, and care is only taken of the number of people in care and of the number of volunteers, then the benefits of such work will not be great. “The social ministry of the Church is a ministry of love, therefore the task before us is not only to develop the forms of ministry, but also to use them so that we ourselves become closer to God, so that it does not harm us, it does not prevent us from fulfilling the main commandment, but that it would help us”, noted the vicar of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill.

He reminded the leaders of the diocesan social departments that every worker, who comes to the Church to do work of charity, must be filled with even more love, become a light for other people. The Chairman of the Synodal Department also stressed that social service should bring joy to leaders, staff, and those who receive assistance. “Our work should not be a verbal preaching, but a preaching of Christianity, which should manifest a divine image,” said Bishop Panteleimon. “A person receives information not only through words, but also through our faces, intonation, behavior, ability to listen and to have compassion.”

Natalya Pochinok, Rector of the Russian State Social University, addressed the leaders of the diocesan social departments with her greeting word. She stressed the importance of the mutual exchange of experiences in the social ministry between the Church and the university. “Social service is a profile direction in our educational activity, science and practice,” said Natalia Pochinok. “Transmitting knowledge to students and to the whole country, we rely not only on modern technologies and methods, but also on the foundation of the church social ministry.”

The meeting with Bishop Panteleimon was organized in a “question-answer” format. The participants' questions concerned organizational and spiritual work in social ministry: how to avoid “burnout” in social work, how to combine several ministries, and how to organize work with subordinates. To the question about working with subordinates, Bishop Panteleimon answered as follows: “The Department of Social Ministry is a department of love, where everyone is happy and willing to help each other. A leader, according to the Gospel, is not a master, but a minister who is ready to help everyone. If we are appointed chiefs - we are set to serve other people”.

Representatives of both Russian and foreign dioceses - Tallinn, Vilna-Litovsk and Surozh - asked their questions, which concerned details of  interaction between the Church and state social structures, differences in the organization of work of social departments in Russia and abroad.

In the middle of the meeting, participants have prayed together for the health of the injured and the repose of those killed in the tragedy in Kerch, where 20 people died and more than 40 were injured. Also, all those present prayed for the speedy recovery of the Congress participants from Severomorsk diocese, who were involved in a road accident on their way to the airport.

A report on the church hospital named after St. Alexis, Metropolitan of Moscow, was made by Alexei Zarov, director and chief physician of the hospital. He told about the recently opened department of surgical ophthalmology, day oncology hospital and a new building of the neurological department.

Also, on October 17, at the end of the Liturgy in the Marfo-Mariinsky Convent, Bishop Panteleimon of Orekhovo-Zuyevo awarded the best helper to the homeless. This year, Archpriest Roman Khabibulin, Dean of the Elevation of Holy Cross Church in Ufa, Head of the shelter for homeless people, became the laureate of the All-Russian Nadezha Monetova Award for help to the homeless. He has been coordinating assistance to the homeless people at the parish for 17 years.

The main topic of this year Congress is the coordination of social ministry at the entire diocese level. On the first day of the Congress, work on federal districts was held at the RSSU: representatives of each federal district discussed topical issues and problems with the federal district coordinators from the Synodal Department for Charity.

This year, for the first time, at the General Church Congress, separate programs were allocated for experienced and newly appointed heads of social departments. For experienced managers of social departments, sections were held on building up system activity in the diocese, on the basics of personnel and project management, and on interaction with government bodies. For the newly appointed heads of social departments, sections were organized on the sequence of actions upon assuming office, on attracting resources from scratch. Synodal Department’s Specialists will also tell how to start the development of specific areas of social work: assistance to the disabled, alcohol and drug addicts, assistance to families, anti-abortion activities and assistance to the homeless.

A separate program was provided for delegates from sisterhoods of mercy - participants spoke about the meaning of nursing service in the modern world, about attracting new sisters, preventing burnout, about the spiritual life of sisterhoods and about the missionary service of sisters.

At the VIII All-Church Congress on Social Service, online broadcasts of the main events and sections were organized for everyone.

On October 19, 2018, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia took part in the final plenary session of the VIII All-Church Congress on Social Service "Coordination of social service in the diocese." The meeting took place in the Church Hall of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow.

The All-Church Congress on Social Service, with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, is held annually. In 2018, the congress was held on October 17-19 in Moscow and was dedicated to the coordination of social ministry at the diocesan level. The congress was attended by heads of social departments of the dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church, leaders of social projects of the dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church, chief sisters and confessors of the sisterhoods of the Russian Orthodox Church, priors and social workers of parishes and Moscow Patriarchal metochions.

Prior to the meeting, the Head of the Russian Orthodox Church served a litany for the victims of the tragedy at the Kerch Polytechnic College. “A tragic event occurred in Kerch. Innocent people died. This event is experienced by our people with great sorrow. I propose to begin our meeting with a memorial litiya for those who were innocently killed in this terrible event in the city of Kerch”, said His Holiness.

Prayers were offered for the repose of the souls of the newly departed servants of God, innocent victims killed in the city of Kerch. On October 17, explosions and shots thundered at the Kerch Polytechnic College, killing 20 and injuring more than 40 people.  15 students and five college staff are among the dead. Some of the wounded are in serious condition.

At the end of the memorial service, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, Bishop Panteleimon of Orekhovo-Zuevo, Chairman of the Synodal Department for Church Charity and Social Ministry, and V.I. Skvortsova, Health Minister of the Russian Federation, took seats in the presidium of the Congress.

Bishop Panteleimon, opening the meeting, raised the issue of providing assistance to victims in Kerch: “Your Holiness, bless us to begin our plenary session. Unfortunately, the work of our Congress is clouded by this tragic event. Together with you, we prayed for those who died. And I have to report that, with your blessing, priests are visiting the victims: today, bishop Dionysius of Tuapse visited injured girls in the hospital in Krasnodar. Here in Moscow, our priests also were in the hospitals, visited victims in Dr. Roshal Center. The victims are all minors, with very serious injuries, and, of course, they need all kinds of assistance. They relatives came to Moscow together with the victims, and now our sisters of mercy, social workers and priests will take care of them. Your Holiness, they conveyed flowers from you together with your wishes for a speedy recovery. And they all ask for your prayers, Your Holiness. We will continue to help them, as much as we can, to survive this difficult and terrible tragedy. ”

Then His Holiness Patriarch Kirill delivered a main report.

After the report of His Holiness, Bishop Panteleimon spoke in his speech about the development of social ministry and about the work of the Congress.

Then the Chairman of the Synodal Department for Church Charity and Social Ministry gave the floor for welcoming speeches.

Greetings of T. A. Golikova, Deputy Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation, and M.A. Topilin, Minister of Labor and Social Protection of the Russian Federation, were read out.

V.I. Skvortsova, Minister of Health of the Russian Federation, addressed the participants of the Congress.

Then His Holiness Patriarch Kirill answered questions of the Congress participants.

At the end of the meeting, Bishop Panteleimon thanked, on behalf of the participants, the Head of the Russian Church for participating in the final plenary session of the Eighth All-Church Congress on Social Ministry.

The meeting was broadcast live on the Spas and Soyuz TV channels.