- Category: Parish History Section
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Our parish was founded in 1966 by immigrants from Russia and Ukraine. Records list some of the founders and early benefactors as: M/M Nikolaj Taran, M/M Nicholas Gajewski, M/M Paul Datzko, M/M Semion Chudajew, M/M Ivan Solotowski, John & Katherian Holyk, Jacob Sokolov, Roman Lohwyniw, Ivan Mosev, Ivan Moskalew, and Peter Dremow. It was first known as “The Orthodox Church of the All Sorrow Gladness” member of the Sobor of the “Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of America”.
By the last half of the twentieth century, Mays Landing, New Jersey had a large Russian community that gathered at the American Hotel. It was known by the local people as 'The Russian Embassy'. Services were held there for some time, until it fell into decay. Mostly Orthodox members of the Mays Landing travled to parishes in Vindland and Millville to attend church services.
This parish first held services upstairs over a bakery on Main Street. Our church building was constructed in 1966 by the parishioners at the corner of Hudson St & Ivans Lane. There was also a rectory on Ivans Lane. The first rector was Fr Steven Shkurin who died in 1974. Fr George Lukashuk, Fr Theodore Gorb, and Fr Michael Rachko followed him.
In 1970’s, at the time the Church was proclaimed Autocephalous, and became known as the “Orthodox Church in America”, the parish change its name to “The Orthodox Church of the Mother of God” (in honor of the icon “The Joy of All the Sorrowful”).
In the last part of the twentieth century, visiting clergy occasionally served the Sunday Liturgy. Due to the irregularity of liturgical services, and the lack of clergy leadership, attendance severely dwindled and parishioners left. The unused rectory was sold, and the diocese suggested that the parish look into merging with a mission that was in another county.
In the mid 1990s, Fr Boris Vlasenko, who retired as rector from the Cathedral of the Holy Transfiguration in Brooklyn, was assigned as the next Rector. This started a turnaround. Regular services, and a permanent parish priest, brought the return of some former parishioners. A very dedicated and energetic parish warden, James Polansky, helped bring other changes to assist the parish growth, such as shifting to the 'new calendar', and using English along with the Church Slavonic. Attendance noticeably improved, but after a few years Fr. Vlasenko's health started to fail, and he had to leave, first temporally, and later, permanently. Attendance dropped again.
This time, determined to keep regular services, Subdeacon Ed Dawson (also the parish warden), worked hard to keep having visiting clergy come to serve regularly. On the weeks a visiting priest could not attend, he would perform a 'Reader Service' himself. Dn. Boris Slootsky, also from the Brooklyn Cathedral, became very helpful to the parish at this time. He came down many times when needed. When Dn Boris was ordained to the priesthood, the whole parish traveled to Manhattan to share in the occasion. Fr Boris Slootsky was a true blessing to the parish. More than returning as a parish with clergy and regular services, he started a rebirth of the parish. After he was assigned, the look of neglect was removed from the church building, the dark iconostas was restored with new iconography, and the whole interior of the church was cleaned and painted. After eleven years as our rector, Fr. Boris Slootsky retired.
Again, our parish found itself without a permanent rector, but we were grateful to Fr. Daniel Hubiak, for traveling here each week from Maryland for Saturday evening Vespers and Sunday Divine Liturgy (along with many feast days). Now we are blessed with V. Rev. Dr. Matthew Searfoorce who recently came to our parish.
Today we are a growing parish. We believe anyone will feel welcomed if they come worship with us. Most of us are new and do not know the founders or even the history of our parish. Our services are now primarily in English. We have folding chairs, a good sounding choir, and an expanding church school program. We are proud of the Slavic roots of the parish, and the people who worked hard to build it and keep it going, but we also believe that this parish can be the Orthodox Church for everybody in the area. We still have a way to go and need help. Please come see us if you can.