Since the end of June, the Living Communities research project team has been conducting a series of final expeditions to the regions with a presentation of the project results for the participants. Ivan Zabaev, Valeria Elagina and Tatyana Krihtova share to activists of Orthodox parishes and charitable associations the successful practices of their colleagues, developmental factors of an active parish environment, and indicators of a living community.
In the presentation, the researchers consider a typology of Orthodox parishes from a “closed” type with a high degree of cohesion, but also a high entry threshold to a “diffuse” one – with a situational nature of interactions and the absence of personal relationships. The third type, in between these poles, is exactly a “living” parish characterized by the permeability of the boundaries of the community, stable interactions between the “core” and “periphery” of the parish, as well as a pronounced sense of belonging. A “living” parish is recognizable by a number of features, among which researchers distinguish: growth, redundancy, coherence, continuity, and illness/cure. The successful creation of such a “living” social environment involves activity in two main directions: 1) practices that secure maintenance of a sense of belonging and 2) practices aimed at unlocking the boundaries of the community. The presentation provides specific examples of ward initiatives studied that are successful in achieving these exact goals.
On June 25, a meeting was held in Volgodonsk in presence of the head of the department for social service of the Volgodonsk diocese, Priest Alexiy Skorobogatov. At the meeting participants had the opportunity to share their parish experiences and get recommendations for the implementation of social service initiatives in deaneries. On July 4, the presentation of the project was made in Syzran for clergy and volunteers of local parishes. On July 7, the researchers visited the Tver diocese, where they also presented the results of ethnographic expeditions, surveys and interviews. The participants of the event had the opportunity to discuss questions of interest about the activities of their parishes together with the Living Communities project team. On July 14 the final event of the project took place in Yekaterinburg, and on July 22 in Kaliningrad.