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Arthur Kostiha – Reminiscences


Many memories of various events and people come to mind as I recall my years at Holy Resurrection Church, which I first started attending about 25 years ago. His Grace Bishop Joasaph and Fr. John Karateyev served the first services I attended, with Fr. Andrey serving as deacon. Fr. Andrey, who this year celebrated the 25th anniversary of his ordination to the deaconate, had recently begun his long, devoted and distinguished position as our deacon.

He always added so much dignity, solemnity and beauty to the services. I also remember very well some of the altar servers, such as Constantine Somow, Darryl Koskinen, and George Vishniakoff. Mr. E. P. Rozvaliaeff was churchwarden. His assistant was J. T. Belonohie. Bishop Joasaph lived in the old rectory next to the church. I was often a guest there and enjoyed his warm, gracious hospitality. Eventually a new one through the generosity of the Levitsky family replaced the old rectory – great benefactors of the church.

There was a much larger choir then, directed by Vadim Wright. Mr. T. Nagorny was the psalomschik whose chanting and reading I remember well. Several of the choir members from that time are still singing in the present choir, under the talented and devoted direction of Matushka Henriette Somow. The choir is much smaller now and more limited, but I still find their reading, chanting and singing as spiritual and prayerful now as it was then. I always especially enjoyed the music of the beautiful evening services, which were generally much better attended years ago than what they usually are now.

Services were mostly in Old Church Slavonic, but slowly more English was introduced. The clergy and choir have made this transition very well. I feel we have now reached a satisfactory arrangement regarding this and should not lose this link with the past. Language was not really a major issue for me, especially once I had learned a good part of the services. Often I even forget which language is being used. The parish was also using the Old calendar then, to which I eventually became used. When we changed to the Gregorian calendar several years ago, it was a major adjustment for most of us.

I also remember long ago seeing in the church a few times Mr. Kenneth Storheim who is now our beloved Bishop Seraphim. Some other early memories are of church bazaars, organized by the Ladies Auxiliary, two of the prominent organizers being Irene Rozvaliaeff and Olga Fetissoff. I remember Olga Fetissoff very well from the first bazaar I was at. These two capable, talented and hard-working ladies are still doing a great deal for the church.

As everyone knows, I am a convert to Orthodoxy. I was chrismated by Bishop Joasaph, with Fr. Cyril Bulashevich assisting, on September 20th, 1978, just in time for that year’s Patronal feast day, presided over by Archbishop Sylvester. My sponsors were Eugene and Irene Rozvaliaeff. This was, of course, a major change for me, and I had much to learn. Of course, I am still learning.

I recall Mrs. Anna Mironoff, whom I came to know fairly well and respected very much, saying that all of us need to learn more about church matters. After some time, I had learned the basic church services fairly well in both languages, and came to feel very much at home and regard the parish as part of my extended family. Holy Resurrection Church became a major part of my life.

On October 18th, 1978, Bishop Joasaph suddenly reposed while on his way to visit his daughter Olga, whom I had met a few times when she was visiting in Vancouver. It was a great honor to have known them both. I have very special memories of them. I also became well acquainted with their relatives in Sumas, Anthony and Helen Farmer.

Not long after this, while visiting Eugene and Irene Rozvaliaeff one day, I joined the Russian Orthodox Society under their sponsorship. About this time, the Greek community of St. Nicholas/St. Demetrios started using the upper hall for services, an arrangement that continued for several years. I gradually became more active, helping where and when I could, such as sometimes helping the ladies to clean and prepare the church for special occasions, and with changing of the vestments. At times I helped a little with bazaars and with making pelmeni. I remember Fr. Panteleimon and Fr. Evan also helping in this way. I always felt a lot of goodwill when people worked together cooperatively for the good of the church.

The following years saw many events and changes. Regular church life and business continued under the guidance of several clergy, with Fr. Andrey continuing to serve as deacon. A small, dedicated core of parishioners continued to work for the church. Slowly the overall composition of the parish has changed. New people, both immigrant newcomers and converts, have increased our numbers and given the parish a better age cross-section.

In addition to the Greeks, we also had Romanian and Ethiopian groups using our premises from time to time. The Parish Life publication and the regular coffee hour after Sunday liturgies were revived, as were the traditional kut’ya on Christmas eve and razgovenye on Pascha. A regular Sunday school, now under Sandra Leclerc, was organized and continues. The Christmas Yolka was also successfully revived. Traditionally the kitchen work was done by some of our ladies, but some of the men have become involved, especially with such events as preparing/hosting the meal on the Myrrh-Bearing Women’s day, feast day of our Ladies Auxiliary. Several times I have been in charge of this and enjoyed doing so.

As everyone knows, I have held the position of churchwarden (starosta) for many years. At times I was alone, but I did have some assistants, in particular Walter Kuc and John Orros. Both were good examples for myself and for all of us. I have very good memories of both of them. In more recent times, Tamara Mihailoff was my regular assistant. I also assisted her during my time as Council president (1995-1998). During these years, I have worked very closely and well with our wonderful treasurer Olga Fetissoff. I also learned how to make prosforas and continue to do so. The Miloserdie Group under the direction of Raissa Kolesnikoff was formed and expanded. A great deal of charitable work for ill/destitute people in Russia, especially for sick children and their families, has been done.

Through these years, many improvements were made to the church properties, largely through generous donations from various people, such as the Levitsky family who paid for the new rectory. One day Mrs. Levitsky commented to her husband that the church did not have a bell and tower. They donated funds for the bell-tower and the electronic bell, which we hear at every service, as well as for some of the stained glass windows in the church.

During the 1980s the old wooden-framed windows in the church were replaced with beautiful stained glass. The impetus for this came from Mrs. Maria Kosikar, daughter of our former parishioners, who approached us with the idea of replacing one window with a stained glass image of Christ. After much debate, the idea was accepted. Later each window in the church was replaced through generous donations. The following years saw a lot of further upgrading, such as renovation of the upper hall, offices and kitchen, and some landscaping under the direction of Sandra Ellis. Always there are lots to do, and this year we have accomplished enormous tasks in preparation for our seventy-fifth anniversary. The church interior has been repainted. The ceiling paintings have been attended to. A beautiful new wooden floor was recently installed, a generous donation from Victoria Phillips.

There are many other things which could be mentioned, such as our 65th and 70th anniversary celebrations, and the 1983 Assembly of the World Council of Churches – an occasion when several hierarchs served in our church. This was the first time I was present at such a service, celebrated by His Beatitude Metropolitan Theodosius and other hierarchs. Another big event was the ordination of Fr. Andrey to the priesthood in December 1992, a beautiful service that many of us had never seen before.

In recent times there has been a large but ‘fluid’ influx of newcomers, especially at Easter time. It has been truly impressive to see so many people gathered in the hall for the blessing of the kulichi and in the church for the Paschal services. It was wonderful to see such a crowd forming an unbroken ring around the church for the midnight procession. Years ago few people stayed to the end of the Paschal Liturgy, but now a good number stay to the end.

This year we are busy preparing for the 75th Jubilee, a great milestone in our history. The parish Council and the Jubilee committee, under the leadership of Fr. Andrey and Laurene Tkaschow, have worked very hard to prepare for this big event which we are celebrating this year. As Council president for this year, I wish to thank them, and all others involved, for their great efforts.

I also wish to express my congratulations to all at Holy Resurrection Church on the occasion of our 75th anniversary.

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