First Worship Service in the Renewed Church of Pleven

Sunday, December 19, 2010, was a special day for Pleven UMC: In the presence of Bishop Patrick Streiff the first worship service was celebrated in the renewed church building.

The United Methodist Church in this Bulgarian city was established in October 1874 by Gavrail Iliev, aid to the Methodist missionary Dr. Albert Long. During the first Annual Conference of the Bulgarian Mission in 1876 Jordan Tsvetkov was appointed as an overseer of the Pleven Region.In 1896 commissioners of the Missionary Society of the United Methodist Church purchased two properties where later a church building and a pastor’s house were built. In 1906 the Communist leader, Georgi Dimitrov, was married here. The then future world known opera singer Katja Popova often stood behind the church’s harmonium. The church building was completed and dedicated in 1916 during the 23rd Annual Mission Conference. The names of the following pastors were connected with the development and growth of the Pleven Church: Tsvetan Tsvetanov, Pavel Todorov, Nikola Pulev, Alexandar Georgiev, Tsvetan Litov, Kiril Jotov.

During the Communist regime the church building was turned into a Puppet Theater and the worship services were moved to the pastor’s house. The church remained without a permanent pastor and the task of its preservation fell on the shoulders of few dedicated women who served for many years as members of the Church Board. A special contribution was given by Marija Baleva and Marija Gajtandzhieva.

The church restored its activity in 1995 using the pastor’s house for that – the church building could not yet be used. It was returned to the UMC after long court procedures up to the supreme court only.

The reconstruction of the church building started with the generous financial support of Dunwoody UMC, Georgia, and continues with the support of West Market Street UMC, Greensboro, North Carolina, which is an In-Mission-Together partner church of the Pleven charge (consisting of Pleven UMC, Voivodovo UMC and Mizia UMC). And now the first worship service was celebrated in the renewed church. Next year – after completion of the works in the basement – the official dedication will take place. The church members would like to use this building as a tool for its mission and face anew the challenge to share God’s love in words and deeds with the people of their city.

Source: Pastor Daniel Topalski, Russe / Office of Bishop Patrick Streiff, Zurich