“The person who can learn by observation can create his own culture.” ― Santosh Kalwar

View from the Hammock – blogs in English

Взгляд из Гамака – Russian

Changing the Mindset: Full Acceptance or Just an Exception

By Lydia Istomina 
(first published by GCSRW )

What prevented The United Methodist Church from amending the original phrasing of Paragraph 4 earlier? The amendment is about female leadership in The United Methodist Church and the age of our leaders. Let’s leave social justice, democracy, and inclusivity aside for a moment and approach the problem from economical and performance standpoint.

A recent study by Duke University shows that only 11% of women serve as “senior or solo pastoral leaders.” Ironically, the beginning of my ministry was with a “new start” congregation that became a fast-growing church. I became a poster-child for The United Methodist in Eurasia. But now, after 20 years of serving small American congregations, I do not see a way for me, as well as for many other clergywomen, to get even near the glass ceiling without divine intervention.

In 2008, there were 82 women who were senior pastors of churches with a membership of more than 1,000. In 2010, there were 94 women leading large churches. The survey found that 9 out of 10 lead women pastors of large membership churches were the first women to lead that church, as in the case of Grace Olathe UMC in Kansas.

Is the church scared of women’s sexuality behind the pulpit that it causes the church push a clergywoman to find a job outside of the church? Kira Schlesinger blogs about how often women clergy hear that they were “too pretty” to be a pastor. The still patriarchal Church continues viewing women as “desirable” or “disposable” objects. Could it be that out of the fear of sexual harassment lawsuits, The United Methodist Church keeps women away? Continue reading “Changing the Mindset: Full Acceptance or Just an Exception”

The last Soviet Generation: hope dies last

New Fully Revised and Expanded Edition of Lydia Istomina’s book Bringing Hidden Things to Light: Spiritual Revitalization of the Last Soviet Generation is available on Kindle:

“The Easter celebration was broadcast as “East Meets West.” Before the service, a corner of Red Square had been set off for our group. We had just gotten there when we saw on the opposite side of the square, in front of the Hotel Russia, a crowd of people with red flags and banners.

“Yankees, get out of Russia!” we read as the demonstrators began to move toward us.

“Let’s defend children from the influence of the West!”

“Russia for Orthodox believers!” The “patriots,” apparently hired by someone for this action, were obviously drunk and were holding their banners with difficulty.

“Shield the children!” one of us shouted, and we closed ranks, forming a semicircle around our children. Then, suddenly, the pure voices of Yuri Bondar’s boys choir began singing behind our backs, seeming to raise a protective dome over us. Though the Methodist church had no building on its own in Russia then, it suddenly acquired a temple; all of us, the ordinary people united by one Faith, became that temple.

“What do you teach the children, sectarians?” Through the singing, we could hear the shouts of the aggressive men and women.

“Listen, they are singing in Russian,” someone answered calmly. “This is Russian music.” This argument, or possibly the purity that surrounded us, cooled the attackers. Some of them inconspicuously disappeared in the crowd and others, still holding high the now ludicrous slogans, moved back across the Square.”

Bringing Hidden Things to Light

The second edition of Lydia Istomina’s book Bringing Hidden Things to Light is available on Amazon.

Americans have churches on every corner and do not value their freedom to practice their faith. American congregations suffer from bullying and antagonism running people off. In Russia, faith and Church were prohibited for 60 years. This book is about the first female pastor and God’s work through her in post-Soviet Russia. It is a true story of transformation that took place in Ekaterinburg, Russia and brought together many ordinary individuals who attempted an extraordinary change.

The book also shares a concern about the ethical side of Christian missionary work in a foreign country. The excitement of meeting American missionaries did not allow the former Soviets to distinguish true collaboration from manipulation and discrimination. Continue reading “Bringing Hidden Things to Light”

“From Misery to Mystery” on FaceBook!

Lydia Istomina’s From Misery to Mystery is filled with short, easy-to-digest anecdotes that fit together to depict her story- the life of a mother, immigrant, and spiritual leader. Taken individually, each morsel is easily accessible and applicable to all of our lives. Childhood wonderment. Adolescent questioning. The growth and success, as well as loss and transformation, of adulthood. What is remarkable about Istomina is that she has not lost the connection to the unadulterated, sincere emotions that she lived in each of these anecdotes. The passage of time has not covered her memories in cob webs and the retelling of them has not become mixed with the revisionism of ex-post facto rationalization. This quality of Istomina as a story-teller makes the experience of reading From Misery to Mystery so rewarding, the rewards compounded by the growing understanding of her worldview, humor, and spirituality that one gets moving through each story. (From one of the reviews)

Russian Giant Delivers Saving Grace 20 Years Ago

April 22, 2012

Twenty years ago, people of Shreveport, LA got serious jitters at the sight of a Russian military plane AN-124 coming in for a landing at the nearby Barksdale Airforce Base. Against the stereotypical assumptions, however, this flight did not have any militaristic intentions. Quite the opposite, the large transport plane was coming with the most noble of goals – to load 86 tons of humanitarian aid consisting of food and medical supplies and to deliver the valuable load to Ekaterinburg, Russia.

April of 1992 witnessed several historical moments. This very first memorable landing of the Russian military plan, AN-124 (Ruslan), on the American Airforce Base, Barskdale AFB, was completely unthinkable before that day. Such breakthrough event led to a series of reciprocal visits and exchanges between ex-enemy states in the months to come.

The gifts of humanitarian aid from the Unites States to Russia took place before, but this was the first of its kind from American Methodists to Russian Methodists, especially on that scale. Moreover, thanks to AN-124 and its 18-member crew, this valuable load bypassed the bureaucracy and corruption, arriving directly to Ekaterinburg and reaching the ones truly in need.

Capt. Yuriy Martinenko and his team flew 24 hours straight, in shifts. Arriving in the morning of April 22, 1992, the plane spent 32 hours on the base while being loaded up, setting off on its return journey on April 25.