February 20, 2019

Churches and Religion

Ukraine’s Christian heritage began with the 986 forced baptism of the Kyiv Rus by Vladimir. Since that time, Orthodox Christianity has been Ukraine’s primary Christian church. With the advent of the Russian empire’s domination of Ukraine, a struggle emerged between the Russian Orthodox Church and Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Western Ukraine, following a period of Polish occupation, continues to have a stronger Catholic presence than the rest of modern Ukraine. Stalin and the Communist party policy considered religion an “opiate” of the people and brought about the destruction of thousands of churches and the imprisonment, exile, and execution of countless believers.

Protestants entered Ukraine mostly in the nineteenth century through German and other immigrants. With the Protestant population at less than 3%, Baptists, Pentecostals, and Seventh-Day Adventists have had the longest and largest presence in Ukraine. In the early 20th century, the charismatic movement along with the “health-and-wealth gospel” has attracted large followings. Most Protestant groups, though, are labeled as “sects” and treated with an enormous amount of suspicion especially by older people.

Read the US Department of State’s Report on Religious Freedom in Ukraine released in December 2008.

Visit the website of the Religious Information Service of Ukraine for their Survey of major religions in Ukraine and other valuable information.

To read more on Orthodoxy, www.orthodoxlinks.info has a wonderful list of Orthodox websites, in English and Russian, and http://orthodoxworld.ru maintained by the Orthodox church also offers information and articles. 

Churches of Christ
As of July 2003, Churches of Christ in Ukraine are represented by about 65 churches with a national membership of around 2,100, including 7 churches and about 300 members in Kyiv. A brief description of the Kyiv churches follows:

  • Garmatna—Meeting in a renovated, partial basement store in the southwestern part of the city, the Garmatna church began meeting in 1991 and has about 80 (maybe more) members. They also apparently have a sister church on the Left Bank in Darnitsa.
  • Harkivska—Established in 1999, this church with 10-15 in attendance meets in rented space on the Left Bank near the metro station by the same name. The church was established through a joint effort between the Obolon church, Rick Walker, and US visitors.
  • Livoberezhna—Begun in the northeast housing district of Troeshina, the church later began renting space by the Livoberezhna metro. The church currently counts about 20 members and gathers in small groups during the week.
  • Nivky—Meeting on Sunday evening in a renovated milk store combined with an apartment (about a 5-minute walk from Nivki metro), the church, established in 1994, has about 35 in attendance. The church gathers in 3 small groups throughout the week. Most of the members are young professionals and students.
  • Obolon—This church is the remnant of Kyiv’s first Church of Christ, established in 1991. That church, known as School 53 Church of Christ, met in the center of Kyiv until forced to leave the school meeting place. The church then found a meeting place in north central Kyiv near the Obolon metro station and with US support, purchased and renovated a store in 1998. In 2003, the church started a second assembly to accommodate growth. No North American missionaries work with the church now.
  • Vinogradar—Meeting in Kyiv’s northwest region, this small group of 10-15 was established in 2001. Jim (an American) and Marina (a Ukrainian) Noyes work with this church.
  • Shevchenko—Established in 1994 by Ukrainian-Canadian Rick Pinczuk, this church of about 55 permanently rents office and meeting space in the central western part of the city near Dorohozhichi metro station. They meet Sunday morning and Wednesday evening. The church operates a literature ministry and often works in US-based humanitarian relief efforts.

Most of the churches are still relatively young and many are still very much under the influence of American support or American missionaries. The next challenge for these churches is to move to a level of partnership with sponsoring churches with the next step being self-governance.

Web www.ueckyiv.org