Mission / Church / Cathedral


Could you tell me the main difference between a “mission”, a “church”, and a “cathedral”? At what point does one progress from a mission to a church, or from a church to a cathedral, or does “growth” really have anything to do with it?


Thank you for your enquiry.

A “mission” is generally a small group of individuals who have formed a community that at some point would become a parish. Generally a mission

is an offshoot of a “mother parish” or a completely new community which is started in an area where there had formerly been no Orthodox presence.
does not have an assigned pastor of its own but has a priest visit with some regularity, sometimes even weekly.
does not own its own facilities.
When the mission has grown sufficiently that it can support a priest of its own and can purchase a facility of its own, it is usually elevated to the status of a “parish” or “church.”

In the Orthodox Church there are two kinds of cathedrals:

A cathedral can be the bishop’s church.
A major church in a given region, city, town, or other designated geographic region is often called a cathedral, even if it is not the bishop’s church.
In Russian there are two separate terms for these. The first would be the “kafedralny sobor,” while the latter is designated a “sobor.” In English we do not have separate words for these two realities.