MOSCOW -- On a recent snowy Sunday, the 17th-century Dormition Church was drawing evening Mass to a close. The ethereal chants that had for two hours entranced a standing congregation still echoed off the intricately painted walls as Father Aleksy Gomonov retreated to the sacristy to remove his vestments.
But his sizeable, surprisingly young flock remained. As tables were brought in and arranged in neat rows among the ancient icons and golden candelabra, the crowd began to mingle. Off came the thick winter coats, and out came the smartphones. Numbers were traded, eye contact held or averted, and a subdued atmosphere of piety gave way to flirtation and giggles.
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It was the latest gathering of the Peter and Fevronia Club, a sort of speed-dating night for Moscow's Orthodox Christians. Each Sunday, after the week's final service, Gomonov brings together the single men and women of his parish, and anyone else keen to join. As they chat over cucumber sandwiches and black tea, he dispenses relationship advice mixed with church teachings.
Many come to find their other half, the old-fashioned way. Others seek a companion for walks, church events, or pilgrimages. And Gomonov, a happily married father of two? He's just killing time.
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"I have nothing better to do," he said, his eyes scanning the room over a pair of glasses perpetually balanced on the tip of his nose. "And the youth have nothing to do either."
At 67, Gomonov sports an impressive white beard and a mane of strawberry-blond hair. In the 20 years since he took charge of the Dormition Church, he has fostered a community like few others in Moscow. Parishioners have a dedicated summer camp and a program of civic engagement. They organize ballroom-dancing classes and pilgrimages to sacred Orthodox sites.
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Father Aleksy Gomonov doles out advice to attendees of the Peter and...
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