St. Nicholas Parish in Red Bank, NJ Transfers to the Slavic Orthodox Vicariate Under the Omophorion of Archbishop Elpidophoros of AmericaDecember 20, 2021
Red Bank is a town in New Jersey in close proximity to Manhattan. The Orthodox Christian community of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker was founded there in 1950.
In 1955, the congregation acquired the building of a former Baptist church built in 1910. The majority of the founding members of the parish were Kuban Stanitsa, therefore it was nicknamed the “Cossack Church”. In the early 2010s, a conflict occurred between the Parish Council and the Rector, who was supported by the ROCOR hierarchy (read more here), which resulted in the community being without a priest since 2014. The iconostasis, icons, throne, altar, liturgical vessels, and furniture were illegally removed from the church by ROCOR. From that time no services could be performed, forcing the parishioners to pray independently. In 2020, the parish was approached by Archpriest Alexander Belya, Rector of St. John the Forerunner Cathedral in Brooklyn, New York, who gave the community liturgical books and vessels to begin its revival. On major feast days he came to read the Akathist.
The parish eventually agreed to transfer to the Slavic Orthodox Vicariate under the omophorion of Archbishop Elpidophoros of America. On Sunday, December 12, 2021, for the first time in seven years, the Divine Liturgy was celebrated in the Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker in Red Bank. Archpriest Alexander led the service assisted by Fr. Rostislav Zadorozhny and Protodeacon Vladimir Oleinik. Before the service began, Fr. Alexander performed the rite of minor consecration of the church. This marked a new chapter in the life of the community.
The iconostasis, altar and throne were restored in time for the first liturgy on December 12 thanks to the selfless work of the construction specialists Vasily and Vladimir with their team of assistants. The service had a spiritually joyous atmosphere with the heartfelt singing of the choir contributing to the beauty of the divine worship. Most of the parishioners went to confession and took holy communion in their parish for the first time in years.
At the end of the service, Archpriest Alexander delivered a sermon on the Gospel reading of the day. Using its example, he clarified the question of the true purpose of Sundays and holidays. He congratulated the parishioners on their long-awaited celebration of the most important service of the Church – the Divine Eucharist. Fr. Alexander noted that the Orthodox believers of Red Bank had endured and suffered much, yet, having firm faith in God, love for their community, and patience, followed the example of their heavenly patron. They were able to overcome the many difficulties and trials that had befallen them. In defending their parish, which was closed and vandalized by ROCOR, they fought against injustice. With prayers, faith, and the intercessions of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker and the martyr St. Paramon (whose memory was celebrated on that day), the Orthodox believers of Red Bank were able to restore their community.
In his concluding address Fr. Alexander stated that, “On such a long-awaited day, filled with spiritual joy and Divine grace, I want to express my special gratitude to His Eminence Elpidophoros, Archbishop of America, on behalf of the Vicar of the Slavic Orthodox Vicariate, Archimandrite Alexander, my own behalf, as well as those of the Warden, the Treasurer, the Sisterhood, and all the parishioners, for his spiritual support, understanding and desire to help this parish upon our request. Many hierarchs of the Church could not advise on how to find a way out in such a difficult situation, but His Eminence found ‘Solomon’s solution’, both pleasing God and bringing His people to salvation”. With his blessing, this church was consecrated today, the Divine Liturgy was celebrated, and all who wished to had confession and took holy communion, thus, receiving the Holy Mysteries of our Christ, the Lord. I would like to express my gratitude to Archimandrite Alexander, the Vicar of the Slavic Orthodox Vicariate, for his spiritual guidance, advice and prayers. Having been refused in other canonical jurisdictions to which the parishioners turned for help, the community was accepted into the Vicariate. In this jurisdiction every voice is heard and will not be rejected, as we always remember that everyone will have to answer before God eventually. “Why did you neglect and pass by the person who was suffering, and did not help your neighbor?” Without the spiritual support of Archimandrite Alexander, we would not have been able to accomplish this Godly deed. Finally, I would also like to express my gratitude to Eugene, the Warden of the community, to Nadezhda, the Treasurer, and all the other parishioners who defended and revived St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Red Bank.”
The service ended with the singing of “God Grant You Many Years,” which was proclaimed by Protodeacon Vladimir. The celebration continued with a trapeza, a common meal, where many had the opportunity to share their joy on the happy occasion. The parishioners expressed their wishes for the continuation of divine services in the near future, especially the upcoming feast days of St. Nicholas, the Nativity of the Savior, and the Theophany. At the end, the students of the Parish school of St. Nicholas delighted all those present with a poetry concert.