Russian church rides the rails

As if recovering from seventy years of godless Communism wasn’t bad enough for the Russian Orthodox church, the fall of the regime has brought a whole new challenge: flocks of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and emissaries from other overseas religions competing with the old church for unsaved Slavic souls. In response, the Orthodox church has launched a church-on-wheels to spread the word.

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The GUARDIAN UNLIMITED reports that the rolling church has been painstakingly outfitted with a pulpit and altar, stained glass, and gold leaf worth more than US$70,000 — making it, as a train factory official bragged, “the most expensive carriage in all Russia.” Drunks and beggars were shooed out of the station so Patriarch Alexei II could come sprinkle the train with holy water to send it on its way.

The train will carry a team of six priests and 12 trainee clerics to remote, churchless villages in the far north, where an intensive line-up of weddings, funerals, and christenings await them.