The fundraising journey to procure bells for the Church of the Venerable Sergius of Radonezh commenced with an endearing incident on the eve of the Christmas Vigil.
Father Vasily Duboisky, a cherished friend of our monastery hailing from the Pokrovsky church, was entrusted with conducting the service. Meanwhile, several sisters from the "Rejoice" monastery choir prepared to raise their voices in song. Father Vasily, known for his meticulous attention to liturgical details, approached the choir with a seizable liturgical book and, in a solemn tone, uttered, "It is inscribed here: 'ring all the bells.' Yet, this church possesses but one solitary bell." The Nativity bell ringing on that night lacked the expected festivity, resonating with the solitary chime.
Some time later, Sergei Moiseyenko, a devoted parishioner, a doctor, and the host of the "Cardiologist's Tips" column on the Monastery's website, came to attend a service at St. Sergius Church. Sergei, a vibrant and proactive man, also held the skill of bell ringing. He inquired, "Why is there only one bell? A true bell tower should grace this place. Let us initiate a fundraising campaign."
This marked the inception of a project to raise funds for the acquisition of new bells for our Convent farm. In a mere matter of months, it transformed into an expression of people's affection for the Venerable Sergius of Radonezh — a narrative of benevolence and empathy that united faithful souls from across the globe. Tatiana Zhedik, the project's leader and a member of our Sisterhood, has graciously shared this account of the swift intervention of St. Sergius, a testament to the sacrifices and love of individuals.
Sister Tatiana Zhedik
"The first step we took was to publish information about our bell fundraising efforts on the Monastery's website, sharing the story of our work at the Women's Farmstead* and the Church of St. Sergius of Radonezh. We also crafted a publication in English to reach out to our international friends," Tatiana reminisces. "Before long, letters started pouring in from both near and far corners of the world.
The first heartwarming conversation, one that held profound significance for me, occurred on the very day the article appeared on our website. An 87-year-old parishioner reached out to me. She said that although visiting the Monastery was a challenge for her, she tuned in to our broadcasts, read the website, and held a deep affection for Father Andrey. After speaking with her daughter, she made a contribution to the church's cause. It was the first inspiring ray of love for me, a sign that everything was falling into place…
Church of St. Sergius of Radonezh at the Women's Farmstead
Residents of Minsk and various parts of Belarus actively joined the cause, offering both contributions and heartfelt prayer requests for their loved ones. Numerous people in Russia also responded to our appeal. Here's one such response: 'Once a year, we visit your monastery from Moscow, and my husband bears the name Sergius. Please, include us in your prayers.' People made donations on behalf of their families, listing the names of their kin. Support also arrived as a loving tribute to departed family members.
We have received letters from friends across the globe - from Greece, Bulgaria, the USA, Australia, Great Britain, and Germany. Many faithfully follow our divine services broadcasts, stay updated with our news, and listen to Father Andrey Lemeshonok's sermons. Among them were Russian emigrants, people from the CIS countries and even foreigners. Most have never set foot in our monastery, yet they are aware of the substantial aid it extends to those facing challenging life circumstances.
A letter from the USA touched me profoundly: 'My wife and I are on a journey to embrace Orthodoxy. We're diligently studying and reading. We wish to contribute to the bell fundraising.' This family comes from a country where canonical bell ringing is scarcely known, perhaps having never heard the melodious toll of a church bell before.
Another message arrived from a family in the USA, saying, 'My husband bears the name Sergius, and I am Maria. We've recently converted to Orthodoxy and would like to gift a church bell from our family to the Church of St. Sergius.' These people, still new to the world of Orthodoxy, were willing to donate a church bell to a distant parish on another continent...
It's essential to comprehend that people abroad possess diverse financial capacities. Living in the USA or Australia doesn't equate to wealth. However, they sent their heartfelt responses from the farthest corners of the globe, which is truly remarkable.
Icon of Venerable Sergius of Radonezh
Love for the Venerable Sergius and compassion for those at the farmstead have united devout souls worldwide. These few months have revealed to me the abundance of sympathetic, kind-hearted, and generous individuals on our planet who cherish the beauty of the Church, revere the saints, and are willing to make sacrifices for the glory of God.
Every donor's name has been lovingly inscribed in the church's memorial book. The sisters offer daily prayers for them during the ceaseless recitation of the Psalms.
New bells for St. Sergius Church
In just a matter of months, we accomplished our goal, gathering the necessary funds to acquire nine church bells - three Zazvonny (soprano) bells, four Podzvonny (altos), and two Blagovestnik (bass) bells. These bells bear cast icons of the saints venerated by the farm's sisters: depictions of the Holy Trinity, the Resurrection of Christ, the Mother of God "The Inexhaustible Chalice," the Venerable Sergius of Radonezh, Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker, Saint Mary of Egypt, Righteous John of Kronstadt, and the Venerable Martyr Elisabeth."
"The farmstead in Vishnevka serves as a lifeline for souls in despair," Tatiana explains. "It is a haven where women burdened by difficult fates find refuge, sustenance, and spiritual support. Due to their age, health, and life circumstances, they often have no other place to turn. Some come to the farmstead temporarily, recognizing that these conditions offer their best chance to overcome personal struggles.
Life of the monastic farmstead’s residents
God welcomes these wounded souls and possesses a unique ability to soothe them like no other. The serene beauty of the surrounding fields and forests, the quietude of the picturesque landscape, the magnificence of God's house, and the resonance of church bells all conspire to warm their hearts. Under the protective embrace of St. Sergius, these souls draw spiritual strength and rediscover the gift of life."
"St. Sergius of Radonezh is known for his generous and swift assistance. My personal encounter with this revered saint unfolded unexpectedly and vividly. It all began when Sister Barbara (Atrasevich), the senior sister at the women's farmstead, invited me to sing at the Divine Liturgy in the church back in December 2020, coinciding with the Feast of the Entrance into the Temple of the Most Holy Mother of God. Early one morning, I boarded a bus bound for Vishnevka. That day, I sang alongside the choir composed of the sisters residing at the farmstead. As the service concluded, Sister Barbara invited me to return. After singing several Sunday liturgies, an astonishing gift from Venerable Sergius came my way.
In January, I received an invitation to a friend's wedding in Sergiev Posad, along with a plane ticket to Moscow. Imagine my astonishment when, upon arrival, I discovered that I would be lodging at the hotel within the Trinity-Sergius Lavra, as though Venerable Sergius himself had personally invited me into his abode!
Dormition Cathedral of the Trinity-Sergius Lavra
Each morning, I awoke to the melodic toll of bells and immersed myself in the divine beauty and grandeur of the Lavra. Equally remarkable was the timing of my visit to Sergiev Posad, which coincided with the feast of Sts. Cyril and Mary, the parents of St. Sergius of Radonezh. I even ventured to Khotkovo, where their relics repose in the Pokrovsky Monastery.
Yet another treasured gift came in the form of a meeting with our brother in Christ, Hieromonk Fedor (Silitsky), a spiritual disciple of Father Andrey Lemeshonok, who now resides in the Lavra. Father Fedor was one of the pioneers in serving at the children's boarding home supported by our monastery. He graciously arranged a visit to the bell tower for me. As the bell pealed for the service, I stood beside the bell ringer, marveling at the panoramic vista of the Trinity-Sergius Lavra.
During that period, I was enrolled in a bell-ringing school. A week following my return from the Lavra, there was a solemn rite of consecration for bell ringers, blessing the graduates of our school. Metropolitan Veniamin (Tupeko) bestowed upon us the words, 'You are now bell ringers of the Belarusian Orthodox Church.' I believe that his blessing served as the necessary inspiration for a project of the magnitude we undertook for the farmstead. In addition to my role in the church choir at St. Sergius, I have now also taken on the responsibilities of a bell ringer."
A bell ringer of the Belarusian Orthodox Church Tatiana Zhedik
"In the autumn and winter months, I often found myself in a state of melancholy due to the dreariness of nature. However, when I looked at them from the height of a bell tower, these seasons transformed into vibrant canvases of colour. The act of striking a bell permeates one's being; it rouses and awakens everything in its vicinity, beckoning all to glorify God. Bell ringing is an impetus to life, a clarion call to awakening. A passerby lost in contemplation on a quiet street hears the resounding bell, and suddenly, his soul stirs to life…
On the bell-tower of St. Sergius Church at the Farmstead of St. Elisabeth Convent
The new bells destined for the church of St. Sergius have now been delivered to the farmstead. With God's grace, we anticipate consecrating them on the 8th of October, our patronal feast. Installation will follow in the ensuing weeks, gracing the surroundings with the harmony of church bells, inviting all living creatures to awaken and partake in prayer.
In the house of God, silence should not prevail. There must be music, a symphony of sound in the sanctuary..."
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* Women's Farmstead is a charitable project of St Elisabeth Convent aimed at helping women facing difficult life situations (addictions, imprisonment, homelessness, etc.) reclaim a sense of normalcy.