Chicago Tribune article
August 7, 1992

American Gets Calling to Bring Opera on Christ’s Life to Russia

by Carey Kinsolving

Basso Jerome Hines of New York’s Metropolitan Opera was strolling around Red Square in Moscow last summer when he had an inspiration. He said he felt God telling him to bring his opera based on the life of Christ to the famed Bolshoi Theatre.

When Hines returned to the United States, he called Patrick Kavanaugh, director of the 500-member Christian Performing Arts Fellowship in Washington, D.C. Last month Kavanaugh carried Hines’ dream to Moscow with prayers, albeit strong doubts.

“Quite frankly, I didn’t think this was going to come off,” Kavanaugh said. “I was already aware that the Bolshoi had refused the Metropolitan Opera. In the theater’s 200-year-old history, operators had never allowed an American opera to come in.”

At first, Kavanaugh’s calls were greeted skeptically. Even efforts to get a ticket to a performance at the Bolshoi failed.

Finally, Kavanaugh called Vladamir Oielen, a music critic and publisher of a Christian newsletter who had once been a schoolmate of the Bolshoi’s director.

Soon, doors began to open. Two days later, Kavanaugh was watching an opera at the Bolshoi from the director’s personal box with the director at his side. At a meeting with Bolshoi officials, Kavanaugh explained that his company wanted to perform the opera for free. When he added that all the performers, including Jerome Hines, would donate their time, skepticism grew.

“The raised eyebrows took care of the translation problem,” Kavanaugh said. He said he sensed that Bolshoi officials were trying to “size up this supposed capitalist who was not making any money on the deal.”

After the shock subsided, Kavanaugh and Bolshoi officials signed an agreement for two performances of Hines’ 1952 opera, “I Am the Way.” They are scheduled for July 5 and 7, 1993. On July 4, Kavanaugh plans to perform Handel’s “Messiah.”

Kavanaugh said about 100 Washington-area performers will make the Moscow trip.

Kavanaugh finds irony in the Russians’ acceptance of an opera based on the life of Christ. Back home, the director of a Washington theater had rejected the production because he felt it might offend his patrons. Yet, Bolshoi officials said that they wanted the opera precisely because of its spiritual nature.

Performing at the Bolshoi will be new for all the performers except one. During the height of the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, Premier Nikita Khrushchev led a standing ovation for Hines’ title role in “Boris Godunov.”

Hines said composing “I Am the Way” was a life-changing experience for him. It compelled him, he said in a recent interview, to read the Bible deeply for the first time.

“I’d swept through the Bible years before to say I had read it, but had not made much of a dent in it. But in writing the opera, I was concentrating a lot on the Gospel of John, which is a pretty potent book.”

In his autobiography, “This Is My Story, This Is My Song,” Hines chronicles his search for God. “I had always been led by my intellect and, in a fashion, I worshiped it,” he wrote.

“Now I was about to learn to be led by God himself – by his revelation. I discovered that Jesus Christ is a reality… living today – in my heart!”

Washington Post article
April 25, 1992

Taking Lessons Of Christ, Law to Russia

Va. Lawyer to Host Conference

by Carey Kinsolving

Lauren Homer, a McLean lawyer, is going to Russia this summer to train that country’s lawyers and legal scholars in how the rule of law and inalienable rights can make a difference in a society that has recognized neither for many years.

The Law and Liberty Trust that Homer organized two years ago plans to host a conference on law and business in Moscow. Homer said she expects 150 to 200 Russians from political, business and legal spheres to study with American professionals and teachers.

“Laws are evolved from absolute legal, moral and spiritual principles,” Homer said. “There are certain things that are inviolate.”

Most basic of these principles, Homer says, is inalienable rights, which recognize that all people are created in the image of God. Thus, they deserve equal treatment under the law.

Under Communist rule, Soviet courts carried out what Homer calls “telephone justice.” Judges had special telephones so that Communist Party leaders could call and tell them the party line for any particular case.

In January, Homer spoke at a meeting in what had been an intellectual center for the Communist Party, the Institute for Marxism-Leninism. A senior editor for the former Communist Party historical journal told Homer that the situation in Russia was analogous to what he experienced after World War II, the only difference being that there had been no war.

Homer seized the moment and said, “But there was a war. You couldn’t see it. God was warring on behalf of His people in the Soviet Union. He brought down the entire Communist system so that He could reach the people He wanted to reach.”

Homer said she explained that Jesus Christ came into the world to reconcile people to Himself, and now He was going to be able to do this in Russia.

As Homer passed out Bibles to the group on a second visit, the editor asked her how she became a Christian.

Homer told the Russians that once she too had been an atheist. While taking comparative religion and philosophy courses at Duke University, Homer said, she decided that “Christianity was kind of like belonging to the Girl Scouts.”

Homer graduated from Yale University in 1970 with a master’s degree in city planning. Her first job after graduating at age 24 took her to an affiliate of the Rand Corp., the New York City Rand Institute. “I experienced great success at a very early age,” Homer told the editor.

After working for five years in New York, Homer entered Columbia University Law School. As one of the top students in her class, Homer became managing editor of the Columbia Law Review.

“I sort of wanted to show people that I was really smart,” Homer said. “Some people thought because I was a woman and maybe somewhat attractive that I got to where I was because of my personality.”

Homer’s climb continued when she joined the Wilmer Cutler & Pickering law firm in Washington.

Homer said she thought she had it all. Only a broken romantic relationship in 1982 prompted her to stop and question her achievements.

“I recalled I couldn’t rely on academic and career accomplishments to make me happy,” she said.

“I had reached a point of brokenness where I realized that the message of Christianity – Christ’s death, burial and resurrection – applied to me. Only He could heal the brokenness in my life.”

Homer told the Russians that she accepted Christ as her savior after hearing a sermon on the resurrection at National Presbyterian Church in Northwest Washington. However, she confided to them that she continued to struggle intellectually with “what Christianity was all about.”

A new sense of destiny and direction is the way Homer described her life with Christ. “It’s been the most wonderful, transforming thing in my life,” she said.

At the conclusion of her story, Homer asked if she could pray for her new Russian friends. They nodded. She prayed. “It was a very moving moment,” she said. “Some wept, and others hugged me. Their openness was evident.”

Last year Homer joined the firm of Gammon and Grange in McLean to give her more freedom to work on the Russia project. The firm comprises Christian lawyers who are supportive of Homer’s efforts to change the Russian legal system. One of the firm’s specialties is representing nonprofit corporations such as Christian ministries. The new Russian republic recently granted legal status to one of the Christian organizations that Homer represents.

Working with Homer is Russian scholar Nikita Zagladin, a visiting professor at Yale University. Zagladin is the department head of the Center of Strategic Studies of problems of Russia at the Academy of State Management and chief editor of a newly formed independent political magazine called Centaur.

The magazine’s first issue created no small stir in Russian intellectual circles, Zagladin said in an interview.

The magazine devoted a page to Homer’s Law and Liberty Trust.

It also reprinted an article from a Christian lawyer that discussed the Christian concepts underlying the U.S. Constitution.

“It’s very important what Lauren and her organization are doing, supporting real democratic forces and a real democratic press,” Zagladin said.

Washington Post article
November 30, 1991

Soviets Seen Welcoming Evangelical Christians

Atheistic System Perceived as Failure, Activist Says

by Carey Kinsolving

An American academician went to Moscow for a religious experience that would have been unthinkable only a few months ago: He saw Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev join a group of Christians in prayer.

Kent Hill, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, was with a group of U.S. evangelicals who met earlier this month with Gorbachev.

Hill said one of the Americans closed the meeting with prayer. Gorbachev, a declared atheist although his mother is believed to be a Christian, did not offer an audible prayer, but photos showed him with his head bowed and his eyes closed.

Meeting in a Kremlin conference room with pictures of Marx and Lenin on the wall, leaders representing 18 evangelical organizations told Gorbachev about “Project Christian Bridge.” The project enlists U.S. Christians in providing spiritual and material aid to the soviets.

Hill reported that Gorbachev said, “It has been a long time since I met with a delegation that came offering to help and not to criticize.”

Hill describes the Soviets as people who have been humbled by their experiment with atheism. “They know what doesn’t work,” Hill said. “They know state-sponsored materialism, atheism and hostility to Christianity have produced nothing but chaos. Even the atheists will often concede this point.”

The Soviets are looking at other world views. As proof, Hill will teach for eight months at the prestigious Moscow State University and academy of Social Sciences. His subject: apologetics.

Hill seems suited for the task. In 1978 he spent seven months in Moscow on a Fulbright scholarship. He speaks fluent Russian and has a master’s degree in Russian studies.

The title of his 520-page book, released shortly before the Soviet coup attempt in August, has proved to be prophetic: “The Soviet Union on the Brink: An Inside Look at Christianity and Glasnost.” Hill accurately predicted hard-line communism would attempt to halt the rapid move toward democracy, but he also said that the Soviets could never go back to the way things had been. Too much change already had taken place.

In Hill’s view, a telling sign of the radical changes occurred when the Christian delegation met with a top KGB officer in Lubyanka, the headquarters of the KGB. The headquarters, with its labyrinth of underground prison cells, had become a symbol of political and religious oppression.

But now, a top KGB official is admitting past abuses and extolling Christian missionaries. According to a statement released by the Christian delegation, Gen. Nikolai Stolyarov, KGB vice chairman, said: “The role of the missionary is necessary. Any good that unites us as a people is important.”

During the meeting, Hill asked Stolyarov whether there was an official link between the KGB and the Council for Religious Affairs, the official committee that oversees religious affairs.

“I will not deny that such a connection existed,” Stolyarov said in a statement quoted in Izvestia, a Moscow newspaper. But he also said the connection no longer exists.

For a top intelligence officer to admit the KGB tried to manipulate Russian churches is a huge step forward, Hill said.

During the meeting, the Rev. John Aker, a pastor from Rockford, Ill., moved Stolyarov to tears with his account of how he had been involved in U.S. covert activities.

“Before I became a Christian,” Aker said, “I worked in Army intelligence, and my wife did as well. I did some things of which I was very ashamed, over which I had tremendous guilt. At one point I considered taking my own life.

“But I came to know Jesus Christ and found forgiveness. This gave me a sense of forgiveness, the promise of eternal life and a reason for existence now.”

Aker, who recounted the incident, reported that Stolyarov said, “I’ve only cried twice in my life, once when my father died and on this occasion.”