August 27, 2017 will always hold a special place of remembrance for Priest Mikel Hill and the faithful of Saint Nikolai Mission here.
“One year ago, early on a Sunday morning, an area resident broke into our mission’s newly built temple and set it on fire,” explained Father Mikel. “Without question, the months following have been difficult, but now, as the sultry days of August have returned, we are glad and grateful to be worshiping once more in our own space.
“In part through our insurance company and in part through the generosity of many donors both near and far, we were able to cover the total cost of rebuilding and to purchase some beautiful new items for the altar and nave,” Father Mikel added.
Father Mikel celebrated the mission’s first Divine Liturgy in the reconstructed church on February 17, 2018, still surrounded by construction equipment and building material.
“Reconstruction was completed in mid-May, and on June 7 we held a ‘grand re-opening’ with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy by His Eminence, Archbishop Alexander and many area clergy, a festive meal hosted by a nearby Roman Catholic community, and an open house, which was a great success.”
Since February, the community of Saint Nikolai also hosted a lenten retreat with Matushka Meg Lincoln and a mission retreat with their mission planting mentor, Priest Andre Paez of Saint John the Evangelist Mission, Tempe, AZ.
“After Pascha, we restarted our weekday liturgies, which had been suspended during the fire recovery,” Father Mikel continued. “Vigils and liturgies for the Great Feasts also were celebrated, and during this year’s Dormition Fast, we celebrated the Paraklesis every night. Altogether, we have celebrated over 150 services in the course of a year’s time!”
Efforts to build an awareness of Orthodox Christianity in the wider community remain a high priority for the fledgling community.
“We mounted an aggressive online campaign, set out roadside banners and signs, and participated in a monthly farmers’ market, underscoring the importance of attracting new members to ensure long-term sustainability,” Father Mikel noted. “We continue to be quite dependent on the Orthodox Church in America’s Mission Planting Grant, and we cannot overstate our gratitude for the monthly support it provides.”
Saint Nikolai Mission was planted in 2013 to provide an Orthodox Christian presence in the area southeast of Allianace, OH. With the blessing of then-Bishop Alexander of Toledo and the Bulgarian Diocese, services were initially held at Alliance’s Mount Union University under the guidance of Archpriest Joseph Cervo and Protodeacon James Gresh. The community purchased and dedicated property one mile west of Alliance in October 2013 and broke ground in the spring of 2015. The completion of the temple in October 2015 provided the mission with a small but beautiful worship space. After Father Joseph relocated to Pittsburgh, Deacon Mikel Hill was ordained to the holy priesthood and assigned Saint Nikolai’s first full-time priest and rector in 2017.
Follow Saint Nikolai’s ongoing growth online.