Conventional wisdom cautions against a “we’ll build it and they’ll come” attitude when planting new parishes. But that’s exactly what happened in the case of Saint Juvenaly and His Companion Mission here, one of the Orthodox Church in America’s five planting grant missions for 2016.
“I had been serving Saint Herman parish in Fairbanks Alaska, but in February 2009 I was transferred back to the Anchorage area to reopen the vacant Saint Nicholas Church in Eklutna,” said the mission’s Archpriest Mikel Bock. “Shortly thereafter, a small core group of people from the Wasilla area expressed a desire to build a church ‘closer to home.’
“Shortly after the reopening of Saint Nicholas Church, another church that had been meeting without a permanent building decided to combine resources and become a part of Saint Juvenaly,” Father Mikel continued. “The faithful—mostly young families with a large number of children—pooled their resources through tithing, donations and fundraising, and we purchased approximately four acres of land in Wasilla to build a church.”
In July 2012, His Eminence, Archbishop Benjamin blessed the property, and plans for a church soon emerged.
“In 2013 we obtained a construction loan, and while still meeting in Eklutna, the building of the church in Wasilla began in earnest,” said Father Mikel. “Construction was completed in time to celebrate our first service in August 2014. There are still a few things that need to be done, such as the installation of the cupola, for which we are now raising funds.”
But the community’s primary focus remains on building faith.
“Our goal as a mission is to bring the true teachings of Jesus Christ and His Church to the community of the Wasilla/Palmer area,” said Father Mikel. “There are many people in the area to whom we plan to introduce ourselves through our outreach.”
In addition to gathering for worship, mission faithful have seized opportunities to touch the lives of those in their new community. For example, to assist Father Mikel in visiting between 30 and 50 inmates in two prisons weekly, the mission raised funds to purchase Bibles, Orthodox prayer books and calendars for the prison chapels’ libraries for use by the inmates. The parish also sponsors a homeless family during the Nativity season. And during the coming year, additional outreach ministries are planned as new opportunities present themselves.
“We’ve experienced solid growth since moving into our new building,” said Father Mikel. “And we continue to pray that our Lord will continue to bless us in sharing the Orthodox Faith here in Wasilla.”