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Christmas in Russia

"(The Social Principles) invite us to step out of our comfort zones and take care of the world we live in, just as Jesus cared for it," says The Rev. Irina Margulis, superintendent of the Moscow District.

On the days when Russia was celebrating Christmas, a seminar on the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church was held in Solnechnogorsk near Moscow. Pastors and leaders of the Annual Conference of Central Russia were invited to participate in the training, and the staff of the General Council of the CMC for Church-Society Relations, the Assistant Secretary-General for Education and Leadership, Neil Christie, and the Director of Relations with the Annual Conferences, Robert Clayton Childers, became speakers.

Thanks to your gifts on Human Relations Day Sunday, pastors and leaders from across Central Russia were introduced to the Social Principles of the UMC.

As a basic guide, the students received a brochure "Social Principles 2013-2016" (from the series "We Are United Methodists"). "The Social principles are the fruit of the prayers and reflections of the General Conference concerning the problems of the people of the modern world. I rely on solid biblical and theological grounds, which have always been present in the tradition of united Methodism. They call for faithfulness and are written for edification, instruction in the best traditions of the prophetic spirit. Social principles are an appeal to all members of the United Methodist Church, calling for a prayerful and thoughtful dialogue of faith and life practice." ("Preface to Social Principles").

The students explored reasons and ideas for promoting values of justice and mercy in everyday life. But it wasn't just philosophical. Those values resonated with real experiences for some.

Participant Victoria Kaldekova shared her story about an uncle who had committed suicide. "The most terrible thing was that his wife and children were persecuted by people," she explained. "I have never told (anyone) about it, because in my childhood, my father said the families of self-murderers were rejected by (Russian) society and by the church."

In Victoria's view, such families need help and support. "What the Social Principles say about life and death and suicide mean more to me than people imagine — and I want to learn more."

The Rev. Irina Margulis, a Church and Society board member and superintendent of the Moscow District, wants to help Victoria and others learn more. With funding support from the Human Relations Day offering, she helps churches in her region benefit from these interactive training experiences so that they can respond to social challenges such as drug trafficking and abuse, alcoholism and domestic violence.

"In most cases, people do not think about the connection from the Social Principles to their daily lives," Margulis said. "But the Social Principles are an expression of our faith. They invite us to step out of our comfort zones and take care of the world we live in, just as Jesus cared for it."

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One of six churchwide Special Sundays with offerings of The United Methodist Church, Human Relations Day calls United Methodists to recognize the right of all God's children in realizing their potential as human beings in relationship with one another. The special offering benefits neighborhood ministries through Community Developers, community advocacy through United Methodist Voluntary Services and work with at-risk teens through the Youth Offender Rehabilitation Program.

When you give generously on Human Relations Day, you encourage ordinary people to have a voice in changing the world. Give now.

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