NICOLA VIDAMOUR fell in love with the Russian language while at secondary school, and thanks to an assistante française with Russian émigré roots, who invited her to stay with her family in France, experienced Russian Orthodox worship. With a vocation to the ministry in the Methodist Church, Vidamour after ordination spent six years (2003-09) serving her church in the Russian town of Pskov, 250km south-west of St Petersburg. In Where Two Rivers Meet, Vidamour writes movingly about her own spiritual journey and her love for Russia.
Thanks to many visits to the Pskov Museum, she learned to understand the religious significance of icons, and uses the series of icons that represent the feasts of the Russian Orthodox Church’s year as the structure for her book, with an icon printed on the first page of each chapter. This structure holds the book together, which otherwise seems somewhat disjointed, moving from one thought, memory, or experience to another with little continuity or logic.
There are many glimpses through these icons into spiritual truths and the author’s own inner life, but she provides few glimpses either of her physical environment, with its remarkable architecture, or of the many people she must have got to know. Nevertheless, her account of her encounters with one of the Russian Orthodox Church’s great priests, Fr Pavel Adeheim, who was murdered in 2013 by a mentally ill young man, makes up for these deficiencies.
© Pskov-Izborsk United Museum-Reserve, Pskov, Russia, 2022The Presentation in the Temple, in one of the icons reproduced in Where Two Rivers Meet
Fr Pavel had been imprisoned in the Gulag for three years, and with difficulty eventually got a post as parish priest, first in Uzbekistan and then, in 1976, in Pskov. A recent account by the daughter of the Soviet judge who was in charge of Fr Pavel’s trial in 1969 reveals that even her atheist father “watching from the steps of the courthouse, thought the sun was playing tricks with his eyes, because no matter how hard he blinked, what he saw was a halo over the head of this tall man, with his hands bound behind his back”. As Nicola testifies, with Fr Pavel you felt you were “in the presence of great holiness”.
Xenia Dennen is a Russian specialist, and chairman of Keston Institute, Oxford.
Where Two Rivers Meet: Russian windows on the gospel
Sacristy Press £12.99
Church Times Bookshop £11.69