Driving on the Minsk Ring Road, you can’t help noticing a shining golden dome from afar. That is the new church in honor of Saint John of Shanghai built on the territory of St. Elisabeth Convent. The nuns of the Convent have carried out their ministry in the National Applied Research Center of Mental Health for the last twenty-five years. This church connects the hospital to the adjacent Convent. The church was built precisely for the patients of the Center and on its territory. The National Applied Research Center of Mental Health is one of the largest psychiatric hospitals in Europe. It provides psychiatric care for several thousand patients.
The construction of the new church began in 2012. It was built thanks to joint effort of people around the world. We announced a fundraising drive, and it was thanks to your donations that this majestic edifice was constructed. Art and craft workshops of St. Elisabeth Convent were also involved in the construction. The Architectural Workshop provided architectural design and oversaw the process of construction from the beginning to the end. By the way, it was the first time most architects of our workshop ever constructed a wooden church.
Wood wasn’t chosen by accident. Mental patients feel more comfortable in a building made of natural wood, which feels more alive and cozy than the brick walls of the hospital where they have to spend all the time. This church continues the architectural traditions of the 17th century.
Initially, the walls were assembled on a building site near the city and then transported to the permanent location. Logs were fitted to each other individually using manual cutting, and insulated with moss, which the sisters had gathered in the forest.
The tiles around the lower parts of walls and pavement around the church were made of quarry stone gathered on the fields across Belarus.
Having assembled the walls and topping them with the hip roof and the domes, we went on to do the interior, which took a long time. Craftspeople of St. Elisabeth Convent gilded the domes and the dome crosses. The Icon Painting Studio of St. Elisabeth Convent painted icons for the iconostasis and the rest of the church in the ante-Mongolian style. The joiner’s shop made the iconostasis and kiots for those icons. The blacksmith’s shop forged the main church chandelier, supports for vigil lamps, and handrails. By the way, each detail was designed individually. The interior of the church was also decorated by the Non-Ferrous Metals Workshop, Sewing Workshop, and Stained Glass Workshop.
At last, the church in honor of St. John of Shanghai was consecrated on June 2 this year! The event attracted a large number of parishioners and guests. The church was overflowing with people. There was an art exhibition dedicated to Saint John in the basement.
Father Andrew, the spiritual father of St. Elisabeth Convent, underlined the importance of the construction of a church in a place like the Center of Mental Health, and about Saint John:
“We consecrate the church in honor of a great saint who sympathized with people and prayed for the sick, that is, those who need the Heavenly Doctor… This church is the fruit of effort of our sisters and brothers… The Lord lets us see how good He is towards us. We cannot grasp this love in its entirety. However, the things that are preserved in our hearts give us power to go on living and fighting for our neighbors and for everyone who is in trouble. It is so important for people to have this possibility to touch real life, real beauty, and real love! It is possible only in God.
The Most Reverend John served his neighbors. He was an amazing hierarch for our hard time. His simplicity, trust, and love of God made miracles. Consecration of this church is not just a holiday for us. It is a fact of the life which we should aspire for – a life we should work hard to attain. Even if we fall, we must rise up again and follow Christ!”
Architecture has always been one of the ways people make sense of the space around them. A church is a place where man encounters God and becomes one with him. The Lord helps us to build the church of our souls, which is even more important for those whose souls are ill, wounded, and exhausted. Those people are in dire need of a church.
The project is far from finished. The church has just begun to operate. Aside from regular worship, there will be talks, exhibitions, and cinema shows in the basement. Inspiration Creative Studio will open its doors to the patients of the Center.
All these bold and daring endeavors could hardly be possible without your contributions. The construction of the Church in honor of St. John of Shanghai in the Center of Mental Health has been a genuinely common cause, which was made possible thanks to many people around the world. We are grateful to you for your supporting us not only with your donations but also by purchasing the goods made in our Convent via our Catalog. Every time you order something from the Catalog, you make a contribution to the development of the workshops of St. Elisabeth Convent and to our social outreach projects. With your support, everything is possible. We can help more people together!
June 2, 2019
St. Elisabeth Convent