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Location: Houston, Texas, United States

My name is David Stone. I live in Houston, Texas. I am a 30-something single white male. I am an Orthodox Christian and am a member of an English-language parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR).

Saturday, September 10, 2005

New York Times Article on Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville

September 5, 2005

A Russian Church Founded to Preserve a Religion Celebrates 75 Years


JORDANVILLE, N.Y., Sept. 4 - Amid the rolling hills of cornfields and dairy farms in this sparsely populated hamlet, a cluster of gold domes atop buildings reach toward the sky.

The domes are one of the few signs that Jordanville, a farming and recreational community in the Adirondack foothills near Utica, is as important to some Christians as Bethlehem or Vatican City may be to others.

Thousands of members of the Russian Orthodox Church come here, some traveling from the far corners of the country, to attend services at Holy Trinity Church, study at its adjacent seminary or visit its museum and library.

The church was in full glory yesterday as it celebrated its 75th anniversary.

"This is the spiritual center of the church outside of Russia, and it will always exist," said the Rev. Deacon Vladimir Tsurikov, assistant dean of the seminary.

Two immigrants started Holy Trinity Monastery and the church amid 300 acres of farmland - purposefully choosing one of the most rural settings they could find so that worshipers could practice their faith in peace and better ensure that the orthodox traditions that were being suppressed in the Soviet Union would be preserved.

Since that time, hundreds of Russian Orthodox priests have been educated at the seminary and assigned to parishes all over the world. Until Communism fell, Holy Trinity's onsite printing facility was one of the few places where the faith's spiritual literature could be found. (Literature published here was often smuggled back to the Soviet Union.)

"It's beyond just a church," said Nika Zaikoff, 25, a worshiper.

After her grandfather fled the Soviet Union to seek religious freedom, he found his way to Holy Trinity Church. His family kept practicing their religion through the generations, even after one of his children settled in Michigan.

While growing up, Mrs. Zaikoff traveled with her family from Michigan each year to attend Easter services at Jordanville. She met her husband through the church, and the young couple and their two children make up one of the dozen Russian Orthodox families who have settled in Jordanville.

"The people you meet here form a bond," she said as she tucked a lock of hair back under her headscarf, part of the traditional dress for women when they are on the grounds of the church. "It's a place of home, even if you don't live here."

For those who do live here, the larger community has maintained a distant but cordial relationship. "They're very good people," said Martha Vanderwey, who runs Aunt Martha's Bed and Breakfast, Richfield Fields, a neighboring town.

She and her husband attended a church service once. "It was more of a curiosity thing," she said. "But everyone was very nice."

To observe the 75th anniversary, hundreds of people stood throughout a four-hour service, with dozens of people spilling from the overfilled church, standing on steps and listening to the prayers at windows. The service, in Russian, began and ended with processions, in which worshipers walked around the church. Cars lined the road, with license plates from New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan and Mississippi, among other places.

Holy Trinity is still expanding. It has bought 95 additional acres of land over the last two decades, some of which it rents out to farmers or uses to house members of the congregation.

While members of the Russian Orthodox Church now are free to practice their faith in Russia, the freedom and modernization there have created new complexities. Newer members here are less likely to speak Russian or keep up with old traditions, Father Tsurikov said.

Still, he has no doubt that the Holy Trinity Church in Jordanville will ever lose its appeal. "Those who want to can return to Russia," he said. "But this place will always draw the faithful."


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