It,s the home, for now, of St. Innocent
,s Russian Orthodox Church, the only church of that faith in Southern Oregon, built over the last two years on the "back 40" of its priest, Father Seraphim Cardoza
The congregation of 30 is a modest "family" and their services, all sung and performed standing, are restrained, but the church is intended to be a dazzling storehouse of art that reflects that the world itself was made sacred by Jesus, said Seraphim
Ogan donated 300 hours of icon painting to Seraphim
,s chapel, a labor worth up to $40,000, Ogan said.
The chapel is like walking from a rural Oregon farmyard into heaven itself, an effect intended by Seraphim
and all Orthodox builders before him, said the black-frocked priest, noting the numbers of people who,ve burst into sobs on entering.
"It,s a holy place, created by God in his
merciful grace and I thank God for it," said Seraphim
, pointing out the tall painting of the hierarchy of Mary, angel and Christ ascending in the apse, behind an altar of gilt objects."It,s all there."
Father Seraphim started out to build a humble 10-by-10-foot prayer retreat behind his
rural home, where he
lives with his
There are no pews, as members of the Orthodox faith "don,t sit in the presence of God," said Seraphim
.All members stand , men on one side, women on the other , on the marble-esque floor and sing the liturgy, which is as close as possible to the original, 20 centuries ago, he
..."I like the church, I like Father Seraphim and they didn,t have much money," said Ogan, a trained psychologist who works in Josephine County schools and businesses as a counselor with ADAPT and teaches psychology at Rogue Community College in Grants Pass.
Over the entry and dominating the nave of the small chapel is a mural of Jesus helping Peter into the boat during the storm, a reminder, said Seraphim
, that "no matter how many times you feel you,re going to drown, Christ is there to pull you out."
Everywhere you turn, there,s something to draw the eye and open the heart , a small "Last Supper" up high on a wall , seven ascending candles in a gold candelabra, a gold-encased Bible and censer (a vessel hanging by chains used to burn incense) on the altar.
"A woman came in here for the first time and started weeping, saying the last time she
felt like this was in an ancient church in Rome," said Seraphim
."It,s otherworldly.It doesn,t make me or this church better than others, but it,s just something about the changelessness, the continuity from the time when Christ founded it." The Russian Orthodox Church
was created in 988 A.D., when Prince Vladimir I baptized the entire population of Kiev in the River Dneiper and adopted the religion of the Byzantine Empire as the faith of the Russian state, according to a history written by Seraphim
.The church was the fastest growing in American in the first years of the 20th century, but it was administered by bishops in Russia , and they were brought down by the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 that gave birth to Soviet Communism.
added, the Russian Orthodox Church
, with 250 million members, is the largest Christian group outside the Catholic Church.It is part of Eastern Orthodoxy, which has 350 million members.Russian Orthodoxy in the U.S. claims about 10 million members.
A handful of St. Innocent
parishioners have immigrated from Russia, but many find it hard to get employment, so they move to larger cities, he
led a large evangelical church in California till his
conversion to Orthodoxy in 1978 , a step he
made from "wanting to know if there was a church, if it had a continuous history from Christ and if it could be found today.
former Protestant faith, Seraphim
called it a "failed experiment for the most part , and our culture, which was founded by Protestants, will show that with the lapse of civility and the unwillingness of people to take responsibility for their own actions.We live in a post-Christian culture." The Orthodox Church
is determined not to change anything or lower the original standards, morals, sacred traditions and worship service, he
"We don,t change anything because it feels good, or someone says ,God told me., An Orthodox person would never say ,God told me, to do something.We would never have an espresso bar in church , give me a break," said Seraphim
...There is nothing more heavenly than our services, where we converse with the Almighty," said Seraphim, who was a Marine Corps sergeant.