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On Wednesday, October 25, 2017, the National Fund for Sacred Places, a program of Partners for Sacred Places and the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced that Holy Ascension Russian Orthodox Church, Unalaska, AK, has been selected as one of 17 congregations nationwide to participate in a national grant-making program that supports capital building projects at historic houses of worship. Launched in 2016 with grants totaling $14 million from the Indiana-based Lilly Endowment Inc., the Philadelphia-based National Fund will offer planning grants, professional services, and capital grants ranging from $50,000 to $250,000 to a minimum of 50 congregations over four years.
Holy Ascension Church, a National Historic Landmark, was constructed in 1896. Located in the largest city of the Aleutian Islands, the church through the generations has been looked upon by fisherman as a symbol of their safe return to land.
“Holy Ascension is a ‘Spiritual Lighthouse’ to the fishermen who call the Aleutians their port of call,” says His Grace, Bishop David of Sitka and Alaska of the Orthodox Church of America. The oldest cruciform-style Orthodox church in North America, Holy Ascension holds over 200 icons, books and relics, some of which date to the 16th century. “If these items were ever lost, they would be irreplaceable,” says Bishop David. The congregation will use awarded funds to install a fire suppression system in its cathedral.
Chad Martin, Director of the National Fund, says that Holy Ascension Church was well positioned for acceptance into this year’s group, for which over 220 congregations applied. “The story of Russian Orthodox activity in Alaska is a unique and important thread in American religious history. Further, the church’s ongoing commitment to local Native Alaskan communities is important today. We are thrilled with the opportunity to be a part of this major effort to preserve a true treasure of religious architecture as an asset for its community,” says Martin. “We believe this project is of national importance for the stewardship of America’s sacred places.”
The final grant amount will be determined upon the completion of the technical support parts of the program, including training and project consultation.
Partners for Sacred Places helps congregations and others with a stake in older religious properties make the most of them as civic assets in ways that benefit people of all faiths and of no faith. The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, protects significant places representing our diverse cultural experience by taking direct action and inspiring broad public support.