NY Times - A Russian Church Founded to Preserve a Religion Celebrates 75 Years
- A Russian Church Founded to Preserve a Religion Celebrates 75 Years
By MICHELLE YORK
Published: September 5, 2005
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
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
"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
"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."