The Russian Orthodox Church is one of the oldest religious communities in history. It thrived under tsarist rule while facing numerous political difficulties; however, communist regimes eventually brought about relentless persecution against it.
Many Old Believers, known as the Starovery, refused to accept the 17th century reforms of the Russian Orthodox Church and either burned themselves alive, fled east or fled altogether.
The Russian Orthodox Church of Portland Oregon is the oldest Orthodox church in the Pacific Northwest. Established in 1851 near the end of the Oregon Trail, it’s now situated on Mallory Ave in West Portland.
In the 1920s and 1950s, the church’s doctrine became increasingly Russified, leading many non-Russian Orthodox to leave its fold.
However, in the 1970s a new generation of Russian-American priests helped revitalize the church. Nowadays it is an active community and is building a new church in West Portland.
The Old Believers in Oregon have a fascinating history. These communities come from many places: some emigrated from Turkey, others from Brazil, some from South America and even other parts of the United States.
The Divine Liturgy is the centerpiece of Orthodox worship. This form of service has evolved through centuries, incorporating prayers, hymns and gestures that reflect God’s will for us as believers.
At the core of Orthodox worship is the Eucharist, also known as Holy Communion. This act of grace from Christ and His Church is an invaluable blessing to its members.
Celebration of the Divine Liturgy can be an opportunity to unite people as a community, reconnect with God and each other, as well as deepen faith.
The Russian Orthodox Church in Oregon began with an Alaskan of mixed Russian and Native American heritage founding the first Orthodox chapel in North Portland. Soon after, another Russian chapel was constructed east of downtown, as well as Greek, Syrian and Ukrainian parishes.
Worship is an integral component of Orthodox Christian life. It serves to amplify and convey the teachings of the Church, while offering opportunities for fellowship and socialization.
At worship services, a priest or deacon leads the congregation in prayer and may distribute Eucharist (Bread and Wine) to those who demonstrate faithfulness to their faith.
Orthodox Christians hold Communion in high regard, as it symbolizes Christ’s Body and Blood. Therefore, Orthodox must make regular confession before receiving Holy Communion.
Orthodox churches are traditional and faith-based institutions. Many Orthodox schools in the United States combine a traditional curriculum with religion classes and chapel services for an enjoyable spiritual experience.
Agia Sophia Academy in Portland, which opened its doors this fall with preschool and kindergarten programs, is one such school. It’s the first Orthodox school to open in Oregon and one of fewer than three dozen Eastern Orthodox schools nationwide.
Old Believers in Oregon have managed to preserve their culture while adapting it to American life. This is especially true for Russian and Turkish Old Believers who reside in the northwestern part of the state.
Many Russian-speaking migrants in Oregon make church their hub of social activity. Congregations provide a variety of services and events for their members to enjoy, such as a two-day bazaar featuring various kinds of Russian pastries.
They organize catechism classes, a parish school and library on site. Ethos bookstore – located within the church grounds and open seven days a week – rounds out these services.
Though still small, the Slavic community in Oregon has become increasingly engaged with American culture and politics. Recently, these Slavic-speaking immigrants have formed an anti-gay coalition in Salem that has participated in rallies and protests. No longer a marginal group, this community will continue to have an increasing impact on regional politics going forward.