My ten-days-long stay in Moscow is almost over and I am taking a bullet-train back to St. Petersburg tomorrow night. Only three out of my seven events here were held in front of live audiences. The live events were also broadcast live to those who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) come for the risk of the pandemic. Most were wearing masks and even gloves, trying to keep a safe, sanitary distance between themselves.
Honestly, it didn’t work very well at a Catechism and Missions Training in Kolomna. The event was planned carefully, but as more people were showing up than originally planned for, new chairs were brought and fit in between the rows. Standing in front of my audiences I had to constantly remind myself to keep at least a 10-foot distance from the first row. I am also learning to receive the feedback reaction from my event participants while only seeing their eyes and eyebrows. Unfortunately, Russians (unlike Ossetians) are very reserved in their facial expressions and it is extremely hard to tell the happy Russian from the upset Russian (for example, see below).
A number of presentations were switched to the online format with the same challenges for the presenter – a complete lack of visual feedback. Most online platforms allow only a limited number of participants to be seen on your screen at a time. My seminary students also tend to turn their cameras off, and I am teaching only to their “avatars,” completely blinded to their true reaction to the material. I will actually request that they keep them on for the whole class period next time.
On the other hand, I am doing just fine teaching over the radio. My “Religion and Politics” channel participation is growing every time. When I first started with them about a month ago they promised an audience of about 120-150 people listening to it. My very first program on the “Historic Foundations of Christian Faith” gathered their absolute record of over 400 listeners. After two more broadcasts, I had 921 people tuned in from all over the globe last Saturday. And, no, I am not discussing any politics but only addressing the matters of faith in God. Interestingly, after my presentations on different topics of faith, about half of the questions are coming from the listeners of Muslim background. They are asking me about their faith experiences with the Almighty.
I truly miss my public school teachers and student audiences on this trip and look forward to the teachers’ conference (online) I will be teaching at tomorrow afternoon.