17944Alaskan church keeps fingers crossed for funding
- May 22, 2013http://www.pravmir.com/alaskan-church-keeps-fingers-crossed-for-funding/
Alaskan church keeps fingers crossed for funding
Brian Smith May 22nd, 2013
Sitting at his dinner table, looking out his window at the Holy
Assumption of the Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Church, Father Thomas
Andrew said he sometimes worries about the church he heads.
"Nobody knows if something is going to happen," he said.
Currently, the church is protected from fire only by two fire
extinguishers and the priest's watch. But, a proposed $230,000 from the
Alaska State Legislature could add a new fire protection system that
would greatly ease Andrew's mind, he said.
"If we don't have that, what if we had a wire that shorted that caused
the church to start burning? If we don't have the system and nobody is
there, our treasure is gone," he said.
Dorothy Gray, secretary for the church, said the proposed $230,000 ---
not yet approved through Gov. Sean Parnell's final capital budget ---
would fund installation of the fire system as well as a theft protection
system. It would also go to construction of an outbuilding south of the
church that would house a furnace, boiler, tanks for the fire system, a
small gift shop and, perhaps most importantly, a bathroom.
"The church doesn't have water because it is a National Historic
Landmark, so there were a few things that could not be added to the
church, which was installing plumbing," she said. "That's always been
difficult for the parishioners, especially with children during our
The funding is about half of what the church needs to complete all the
items in the second of its three-phase restoration project that started
in 2008. Phase one secured the church's foundation with steel, replaced
rotten logs around base of the structure, developed an Americans with
Disabilities Act-compliant entry into the church and funded the design
of the anti-theft and fire suppression systems, Gray said.
"As soon as the governor puts the ink on the paper, we're shovel ready,"
The church's artifacts and religious icons that came from Russia when
the site was consecrated in 1894 are irreplaceable, Gray said. One of
the items is one of the oldest pieces of non-Native art in the state,
It's a godsend, Gray said, that the church hasn't had any close calls
"We have candles burning all the time --- we may have between 25 and 30
candles illuminated at any given service," she said. "The chandelier is
lit on Christmas and Easter with 50 candles burning."
Gray said the ROSSIA (Russian Orthodox Sacred Sites in Alaska) group
chose the Kenai church as a priority on its sacred sites list because of
how much the church is visited. ROSSIA asked the Legislature for funding
for seven churches in the state this year and Kenai was the only one
that made the budget, said Gray, who is the group's treasurer.
"We have had incredible support not only from the federal government,
but now the state government and we have had a huge outpouring of
support from our community," she said.
Gray also credited the work of the area's legislators, who she said
unanimously supported the request.
"I went to Juneau twice and (Sen. Peter Micciche) was appalled that we
didn't have any fire suppression system or anti-theft system," she said.
Moreover, Gray said the city of Kenai has been supportive of the
restoration because officials recognize the importance of the church's
historic culture in the community.
"I think they also recognize that it is irreplaceable," she said. "What
we have here is so unique to the city of Kenai and we need to protect
it. There are a number of historical sites in the state that have not
been taken care of and they are gone."
Kenai mayor Pat Porter agreed, adding that she felt church is
"absolutely priceless" to the community.
"The thing we have to remember is that it is a part of our heritage and
the city of Kenai and we're very respectful of that and even though you
have a separation of church and state, to us it is a historic building
that deserves to be preserved," she said. "Anything that we can do as a
city to help promote that and encourage our legislators to support it
financially, we will be there for that."
/Brian Smith can be reached at brian.smith@..../
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