...a number of years ago a man came to this church loaded with a parcel for one of the parishioners. He was an unbeliever rather impatient, almost aggressive and he had made calculations so as to arrive here when the service was over because he wanted to deliver his parcel but he did not want to have anything to do with what was going on inside these walls but providence has thought of it differently. He arrived before the Vsenoshnaya, the evening service was over. Impatiently he settled at the back of the church with his parcel.
And then something happened to him because when he had delivered his parcel and everyone had gone and I was going round to check everything I found him sitting at the back and I mildly suggested that it was time for him to go home. He said: “No, you must explain something to me: what is happening here? What is it that has affected me, that has impressed me? I am an unbeliever, I am certain that God does not exist and yet something was happening. Is it the effect of the candlelight? Is the mournful singing of your choir? Is it the quiet that is here which one does not meet in the street? What was it?” I shrugged my shoulders and said: “I would say it’s God’s presence but if you believe that there is no God you must look for another explanation”. He said: “Yes, I want to come here some time when no-one is in this church so that the collective hysteria of your people does not affect me. And if I come I want you to make yourself scarce because I don’t want to be influenced by your presence”. I said: “Yes, come again”.
He came several times, sat for a long while and one day he said to me: “You know, when there is no-one, when you have made yourself scarce there is still something in this church which I have not met or found anywhere. Supposing it is God Who lives here and that in His presence people feel well, peaceful, comfortable, warm to one another, what does it really matter? You have provided Him with lodgings, He lives here comfortably, He makes yourself welcome when you come and what then?” I said: “I don’t know, come again and find out”. And he came again and one day he said to me: “You know, I have noticed something: when people come to the church there is worry in their faces, there is tension in their behaviour, when they go they are still. One can have a feeling that they are at peace with themselves and with one another. And then there is another thing which I simply can’t understand. People who come in a morning service to the steps that are now behind me and receive something from a cup with a spoon they come with one face, when they turn round, their faces are absolutely changed, there is light in them, there is light in their eyes so that your God must be not only a Host in this building, He is an active God, He does something about people and something which I wish someone could do for me.” I said: “Yes, how do you want to proceed?” “I want you to talk to me and to explain things to me which I don’t understand or know”. And for a while he came regularly, then he came to services and he stood still and quiet and one day he said: “I know now that God, your God is an active God Who transforms people, I need being transformed. Could I be baptised?”