Tuesdays With Moisi ~ Molokans

Today for Tuesdays With Moisi I wanted to give you some information on the Molokans, Moisi’s religion before he was born again.

I have some previous posts about the Molokan Cemetery in City of Commerce, California and the Molokans (Milk Drinkers). By sharing these posts I in no way am promoting the Molokan Religion. Some of the traditions are noteworthy but not to be worshipped.

I’m adding some photos I have of Molokan events and the Molokan churches in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The photo above is a wedding photo. This is our uncle Vasili’s (Bill’s) marriage to Nura. Our parents are the chaperones who stood with them for the wedding ceremony. This photo would have been at the bride’s home where the groom comes to pick up his bride from her parents to ride to church with the chaperones for the marriage ceremony and meal. At the bride’s home prayers are given as a blessing to the couple.

This photo above and below are not my photos. Above shows the dedication day of the new United Molokan church in Los Angeles (Big Church).

The photo above is a photo of a Molokan church on Portrero Hill in San Francisco. Some of our families good friends settled in San Francisco and attended this church. Very minimal interiors are part of the Molokan churches. A main table that have had different objects on it. A Bible, Salt and a loaf of bread. Some churches add a book of prophecy. We have heard that one of the small radical Molokan churches in Los Angeles have taken the Bible off their table. Benches are what are used for seating. The male leaders sit at the head and far side of the table. Others sit on benches a distance from the table. Men on one side and women on another side. For meals which are a large part of the church they use benches again and saw horses with flat 4X6 ish planks of wood for the table top that rest on the saw horses. You’ll see an example in the videos below. Long rows of those tables with the benches fill the whole inside of the building and food is passed down the table for the group meals.

In the background of the photo above is a small group of Molokans who came to our mom’s funeral in 2013. Our Pop, Moisi, is standing with our nephew Ryan.

The YouTube videos below are a sampling of what the singing is like in Molokan churches.

To my knowledge there are two distinct groups of Molokans. There are the postoyanniye, “constant”, original Molokans who wanted to keep their distinction from the “Jumpers”. In 1833 there was a breaking away of a portion of Molokans who experienced what is described as an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. This outpouring resulted in men and women in the church service at different times jumping. Spiritual Jumpers, pryguny, are the group of Molokans our Pop and his family were part of. The Russians in San Francisco are part of the Constant sect and they don’t jump.

Again to my knowledge there are two “prophets” associated with the Jumpers. One is Maxim Rudometkin. His writings are followed by the Spiritual Molokans of Los Angeles (Big Church). Some of these Molokan Jumpers called themselves “New Israelites” with their leader Maxim. They follow old testament dietary laws and also celebrate the feast days, holy days, festivals but they gather on Sundays as their Sabbath day.  The group, also known as Maximists, considered Efim Gerasimovic Klubnikin, a divinely inspired 12 year old boy prophet. He prophesied a “coming time that would be unbearable and that the time to leave Russia was now.” During the early 20th century under his leadership, about 2,000 pryguny (Jumpers) emigrated to the U.S., first settling on the east side of Los Angeles. Many seeking rural isolation moved to Baja Mexico, then Arizona, Central California, and some other parts of the West Coast. We visited a few Molokan families on their farms in Kerman, Calfiornia. Maxim’s writings are published in a book that is kept on the central table for worship along with a Bible and the song book.

This was the first church we attended before our pop along with some of his relatives and friends started a Molokan church of their own on Kern Avenue in Los Angeles. The Kern Avenue group celebrated Easter and Christmas but First United Christian Molokan Church (Big Church) did not celebrate these holidays. Our grandfather, Timofey, and our uncle John stayed at Big church and were leaders there. Our brother Fred got married at Big church and is still part of this church but it has relocated to La Habra, California.

When we attended church here there wasn’t a paved parking lot.

Another change from when we attended “Big Church” is the addition of the 60 Fwy in Southern California. It cuts pretty close to the church property now. This property has been sold and this church group now meets in La Habra.

My favorite part of being a Molokan were the meals we shared at those rows of tables along with hot tea. Sugar cubes were set on the tables in small bowls. We kids would always build a bridge of sugar cubes across the top of the tea glass then pour the tea and hot water over them and watch them collapse into the glass. In the videos you might see that glasses and bowls are still used to serve tea. The meals consisted of either Borsch (cabbage vegetable soup with beef stock) or Lopsha (noodle soup). Bowls of whole cucumbers and tomatoes would be passed down the tables and one person would take the knife in the bowl to peel the cucumbers and slice them and then slice the tomatoes and put them back in the bowl. Fresh bread was served with the salad and soup. Then the meat and potatoes that were used to make the broth would be served. I can almost smell the meal and that fresh bread and fresh cut salad. Delicious.

In google searches of Molokans I came across a great article out of Russia about their history. I will share more on another Tuesday.

Tuesdays With Moisi ~ 11

Our Pop’s story continued…

This is our Pop’s story dictated verbally by him a few years ago. I’ll be sharing excerpts every Tuesday. When I add to his story or explain a photo I will Italicize my words. Our Pop’s words will not be italicized. Our mom does not come into Pop’s story until “Tuesdays With Moisi ~ 9” even though I’ve posted photos of her before #9. I have very few photos from our parents’ life in Russia and Persia. At the end of my Tuesday posts I’ll add links to all the other posts.


The photo above of this group of Molokan leaders was taken in Los Angeles in 1933 before my parents immigrated to the U.S. It is not my photo. I believe they were walking to the church in the photo below to dedicate it’s formation from three separate churches.

After church on the first Sunday that he was in our village, Nadia’s cousin came up to me with a note.  It read “I want to meet you and talk with you.” I knew immediately who it was from. And so I trudged up the road to where he was staying – my knees barely supporting me.  We greeted each other. Almost immediately he said, “Let’s take a walk. I want to discuss a few things.” Then he launched into what he wanted to talk about. “I’ve heard that you are not really a good candidate for marriage.  In addition, I’ve also heard that you are not able to have children. And children are definitely a blessing.” These words made me so uncomfortable that I wanted to jump into a hole in the ground and pull the hole in after me. I answered, “I don’t know what the future holds.  All I know is that I love Nadia and I want to marry her.” I think it was then that he understood that I was determined to see this through. What about the wedding details was his next question. (Molokans do these things differently than Baptists.) I answered, “That is an issue we’ll discuss with my parents.  But one way or another we love each other and we definitely want to get married.” With that, our conversation ended. I went home and ate lunch. After lunch Nadia and I met in the fields. When I saw her smiling face my heart jumped with joy because her smile signaled her father’s acquiescence. Both sets of parents then met each other and discussed the details of the upcoming marriage, namely who was to do what and how it was to be paid for.

The first order of business was the engagement ceremony. This was to be done according to Molokan custom.  It was hosted by my parents at their home a few days later in the evening. The ceremony was basically a prayer gathering of invited guests, asking God to bless the upcoming marriage and then ending with a reception.  And so the guests came, sang, and offered messages of encouragement based on Biblical teaching. After that all took place Nadia and I made our way to the center of the room where hands were laid on us and we were to be prayed for.  To begin the actual prayer ceremony, Nadia and I asked that all in attendance would pray for us – specifically that God would bless our marriage. We then knelt and the Molokan pastor prayed for us. He was a gifted orator and his prayer was a shining example of that.  To such a degree that one of the Molokan prophets jumped in response to the inspiration of the prayer. But this jumping was specifically not to be allowed according to the agreement reached by Nadia’s father and my parents. Jumping was anathema to Nadia’s father – a staunch Baptist.  As soon as he heard the thump of the jump, he reacted immediately. “Up, Nadia! They’ve lied to us. Let’s go!” Nadia was ready to do so but she was firmly held down by my mother until the prayer was over. When it did end, Nadia, her father, mother and all their invited guests left for her aunt’s home.  As he was leaving, Nadia’s father kept repeating that he was deceived – the decibel level of his voice certainly not being on the low end of the spectrum. Only the guests of my parents remained. I walked outside and was so distraught that I seriously contemplated leaving this whole disastrous scene by taking the first means of transportation out and never coming back.  As I was standing there thinking about it, I happened to notice the position of the moon. It was just on the horizon. I had never seen it so close before. And then I felt a hand on my shoulder and a quiet voice in my ear, “Moisi, whatever you are thinking – don’t do it. Go to Nadia’s aunt’s house and be with Nadia. Her dad will calm down eventually. Everything will be OK.”  It was the voice of John Federov. I took his advice and went to the house, walked in and was greeted by a high level of commotion. The decibel level of Nadia’s father’s voice had increased significantly but his message remained the same – “They lied to us. They didn’t keep their word.” The others in the room were trying to calm him. I saw Nadia sitting on a trunk crying. Nadia’s mother went over to her and scolded her, “You got us into this and you’re the one crying about it?  Shame on you!” That made Nadia cry even more. I went over and sat next to her and began crying myself. After a while Nadia’s father did calm down. They talked him into going back to the festivities which were just beginning when we got there and it all ended without further incident.

In 1933 the First United Christian Molokan Church was dedicated in their new building on 3rd street in Los Angeles. I believe 3 congregations combined to form this church that was called “Big Church”.

In l941 the First United Christian Molokan Church relocated to Lorena St. in East Los Angeles. The new church looked a lot like the photo above. This was the location that our family attended and that we became familiar with. Now the new location for this church is in La Habra. Our grandfather was a preacher/elder at this church after he immigrated to the U.S. There are several Molokan churches in California and some in Oregon, Arizona. Each church has it’s own signature. Many traditions are the same and some are becoming more different from each other because there are no governing bodies or conferences amongst them. Each location is autonomous and as older members die off things change. I’m guessing Big church got that nickname because it was one of the bigger congregations. Some Molokan churches follow a prophet named Maxim and they are “Jumpers”. Certain members in the church when becoming “spirit filled” jump in response. Other Molokan churches don’t jump. As  a young child in the church I was always shocked and mesmerized by these jumping episodes, usually occurring at a crescendo or certain stanza of a Psalm being sung. I’ll share more about Molokans and Russian Baptists in later posts and about the small group of Molokans who broke off from Big Church to form Kern Avenue Church.