Centenary of the Archdiocese of Orthodox Churches of Russian Tradition in Western Europe

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Saint Martin of Tours community in Balingen (Germany)

The premises of the congregation of Saint Sergius of Radonège having become a little too small over time and their location in an inaccessible location, the search for another place of worship began in 2010. In May 2010, the first contact has been established with the administration of the city of Balingen. Our idea of ​​regularly using the Sick Chapel (Siechenkapelle) in the city for services fell on fertile ground.

The Sick Chapel is a listed building and was built in 1428. Until the 18th century it was the lepers' church outside the city walls of Balingen, but in the meantime it has not used for services for several decades. On October 25, 2011, the time had come and the User Agreement could be signed. After handing over the keys on November 04, 2011, we started the conversion work. A floor had to be laid, the electrical installation had to be renewed and everything had to be painted and cleaned. Thanks to the support of many collaborators, the work went well, so that we were able to start furnishing in the spring of 2012. Thanks to the support of many collaborators, the work went well, so that we have already been able to start reorganization in spring 2012. At the end of March 2012, the renovation was completed and we celebrated the first liturgy on April 01, 2012.

On May 12, 2012, the chapel was solemnly consecrated by Archbishop Gabriel. The liturgy, presided over by Archbishop Gabriel, was concelebrated by Archpriest Michel Buk, Priest Johannes Kasberger (Stuttgart), Hierodeacon Athanasius (Buk) and Deacon Alexis Veselov (Mainz, currently priest in Krefeld). During this liturgy, Thomas Zmija was also ordained reader, our current deacon of the parish. Also present were Mayor Reitemann and the Protestant and Catholic deans of Balingen, as well as other representatives of the city and the ecumenical community. On May 15, 2012, the community was officially founded by decree of Archbishop Gabriel and elevated to the rank of parish by Archbishop John on October 02, 2018. In the same year, on July 01, 2018, the reader Thomas Zmija was also ordained deacon for our parish. Since February 08, 2021 we have a second deacon, Father Ilija Jovic, who came to us from the Serbian Church.

A peculiarity of this congregation is that there is a partnership between the Orthodox diocese of Lublin and Chelm, its Archbishop Abel in Poland and the Protestant ecclesiastical district of Balingen. In this context, Archbishop Abel has already visited us several times and celebrated the liturgy with us. In 2013, part of the choir of Lublin Cathedral even accompanied the service in our small church. In June 2018, we went to Lublin with the Protestant delegation for the 25th anniversary of the partnership. During this visit, Archbishop Abel officially extended the partnership to our parish as well and our Archbishop John also gave his blessing. We were particularly happy with the similarities in the history of our two dioceses. For example, the portrait of our Metropolitan Euloge, who was Bishop of the Diocese of Chelm before becoming the first Metropolitan of our Archdiocese is hung in the Bishops Gallery in Lublin.

Services are mainly performed in German. The Our Father is prayed in all the languages ​​of the countries whose believers participate in the service. Because we are the only German-speaking congregation in a large region, we have a large catchment area. Some parishioners travel 200 km to be able to participate in the service. By celebrating the liturgy in German, believers from all Orthodox countries have the opportunity to participate. We have believers from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, but also Greece, Serbia, Romania, Georgia and a few Germans. Traditionally, we have coffee together after the liturgy. Since 2015, there has been a catechesis for adults one Sunday a month, but it is currently interrupted by the measures taken against the Covid. A monthly parish bulletin is published and we also operate a website for the parish and deanery in Germany. Father Michael and Deacon Thomas also regularly attend meetings of the Parish Conference (assembly of Orthodox priests) in Stuttgart.

On the Sundays of the Veneration of the Cross during Great Lent 2018 and 2019, we organized a pilgrimage to venerate the Holy Cross at the monastery of Wiblingen near Ulm. Last time, 8 priests and 350 faithful from southern Germany attended. In 2020 and 2021, we unfortunately had to cancel due to the Coronavirus.

We have translated and published two books in German: "A Letter to Our Lord Jesus Christ", a Childhood Story of Saint Nectarius of Aegina and the comic "Starets Seraphim: a monk from Sarov". There are few children's books in German and we would like to translate more books in the next few years using the proceeds from the sale of the books.