Set amid the spacious greenery of the embassy, the church, which dates back more than a century, has recently been restored to its former glory. Cleaned and repainted, the church was being used as a garage during much of the Soviet period. Given its compact size and onion dome, its grounds resemble a village church in Crimea or Volgograd. But this is Beijing and the church hopes to give China’s small Orthodox community a place to continue growing.
Pozdnyaev estimated that his Beijing flock is nearly 400 strong, and that at least 50 regularly attend Sunday service, which are usually conducted by laymen. The figure swells by several hundred more when a festival like Pashca (Orthodox Easter) occurs, even though local law forbids locals from attending services on foreign diplomatic properties.
Given Beijing’s influx of Russian traders and students, the numbers filling Beijing’s only functioning Orthodox church have been steady. Last year more than 300 marched as part of an Easter procession on the grounds of the Russian embassy in Beijing.
Apart from Russia and Greece, the Eastern Orthodox church has a significant following across Eastern Europe, but its following in Beijing, explained Pozdnyaev, is very international. Most are Russian “but there are even French, American and British people.” Multi-national worshippers brought dyed Paschal eggs for blessing during a recent nighttime Easter procession.