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1950-1959

The New Church

The 1950s were a time of much change and momentous events in the life of the parish. In the wake of the Communist takeover, Russian families started arriving from China. The newcomers revitalized the parish. The Russian Culture Group and Youth Circle were formed, and in September 1951, the first “Cultural Season” was officially opened at the Church House, with many scheduled events.

In 1951 Metropolitan Leonty divided the Diocese of Canada into three parts; Holy Resurrection Church was attached to the diocese of San Francisco and the West, North-western Deanery. Bishop John (Shakhovskoy) of San Francisco, a much-loved archpastor, visited in April and announced the pending transfer of Fr. Leonid to the USA. He recommended Fr. Peter Kurzemnek, a native of Latvia who was ordained priest in the DP camps in Germany, for the post of Rector. In the fall Bishop John (Garklavs) of Detroit undertook a tour of Western Canada with the wonder-working icon of the Tikhvin Mother of God. The Evangelist St.Luke for Theophilus, king of Antioch, painted this icon, according to tradition. He visited the Holy Resurrection Church on Sept.5. The next year, Bishop Nikon (de Greve) was appointed Bishop of Toronto and Canada.

Fr.Leonid left in February 1952; Fr. Peter Kurzemnek arrived soon afterwards and was appointed Rector. Right away he had to deal with a major challenge: the city of Vancouver had decided to demolish the church in order to make room for the new Granville Bridge. The ROS decided to use the offered compensation of $50,000 to build a new church, hall and rectory. A Building Committee was formed, led by the ROS Chairman Mr. M. S. Sergeyeff, who played an enormous role in the project. Many sites were looked at; the General Meeting finally approved the one at 43d and Quebec – near the city limits of that time. Local architect Russ Lort was retained; parishioners helped with the design and engineering, especially Mr. Boris Shevelev. Ground was broken in October; Bishops Nikon and John blessed the foundation on Dec. 27.

The contractor, John P. Murphy, wasted no time. The building was ready by May, and the iconostasis, decorations and fixtures were moved in from the old church. Fr. Peter suffered a tragic loss: his wife died in April, but he persevered and celebrated the Lesser Dedication on May 8. Metropolitan Leonty consecrated the new church with hall and rectory on July 11. Bishops Nikon of Toronto, John of San Francisco and John of Alaska concelebrated. The Great Consecration was followed by the Divine Liturgy and a grand banquet.

The cost of construction ran up to $75,000. Several parishioners made large donations, and debentures were issued for the sum of $15,000. The mortgage was finally paid off by 1959. In 1955 the neighbouring house was bought for $6,000, repaired and made into the Rectory. Parishioners donated many icons, and some old icons were then donated to other churches of the Metropolia. Some 35 members of the Ladies’ Auxiliary formed the Canadian Orthodox Ladies’ Guild; they subsequently purchased several expensive ritual items for the church. The ceiling murals in the church and many icons were painted in 1959-60 by Mr. N. S. Zadorozhny (USA). Mr. A. M. Panofsky led the choir; Mr. E. P. Rozvaliaeff was warden throughout the 1950s.

The parish was now bigger than ever: up to 300 people received Holy Communion on Sundays. For the first time in parish history, there were more baptisms than burials. The ROS established a regular Russian school program, with a Parents’ Committee in charge. The subjects were Russian language, history, and Divine Law. Up to 45 children attended during the late 1950s. The spacious new halls invited many social activities: film viewing, adult and children’s stage shows, dinners, balls, benefit concerts, Lenten concerts, Christmas festivities (“Yolka”). The Circle of Stage Art Devotees was formed. Because of a disagreement, it split off from the ROS in 1955, formed the Russian Amateur Art Theatre and became the nucleus of the Russian Centre of B.C.

In 1957 Holy Resurrection Church was reattached to the Diocese of Canada. The next year Archbishop Nikon retired, and Metropolitan Leonty became locum tenens of the Canadian diocese once again. He visited on July 14, 1959 – for the last time, it turned out.