Sacred Icons move from historic Kenai Russian Orthodox Church

Posted: Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Last week under sunny skies, a small group of parishioners participated in a "Moleben" prayer service and processional to prepare sacred objects being moved from the Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Church in Kenai to the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center (KVCC), where the religious icons will remain through September, while the historic Kenai Church undergoes renovation. Upon arrival at the KVCC, Father Thomas performed a special blessing and sprinkling of holy water where the sacred objects will be on display through out the summer as part of the exhibit titled: "Sacred Space: Sacred Time".

According to Natasha Ala, executive director of the KVCC, the sacred icons will be part of their annual summer art show. "Father Thomas approached us about a year ago regarding the reconstruction efforts that will be going on this summer, and asked if we could store some of the icons and holy objects at the Visitors Center. Icons are rarely removed from a church, and this is the first time in the Kenai Church's history that this has happened. The more we talked with him, the more we realized what a historic and once in a lifetime event this was going be for the City of Kenai. We started to see it as an opportunity to talk about the Russian history of Kenai, while presenting a unique opportunity to view the icons and learn about their rich history. This is very different from what we have done in the past for our summer shows, which usually centers on contemporary, wildlife, or native art, but this exhibit will be all about the history of the Russian Church in Kenai and its sacred objects," said Ala.

The traditional opening gala of the KVCC summer art show will be Friday, April 23rd and the public is invited says Ala. "We have brought in a lot of museum professionals from Anchorage and Homer to work with us in preparing this show and we are very excited about it, so come help us celebrate the opening. And then throughout the summer bring your family and visitors back to the exhibit so they may share this unique opportunity. When the renovations are completed in September, the objects will all be returned to the church," she said.

Built in 1895 by Russian missionaries, the Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Church has deteriorated over the last century. The church is registered as a National Historic Landmark and efforts to restore the church by parishioners along with other organizations began several years ago, according to Dorothy Gray. "The restoration project has been funded by the "Save America's Treasures Grant" which has required us to come with matching funds. The community has been very generous and we've had donations from private individuals, businesses, and native corporations, as well as funds raised from events such as our Mothers Day Russian Tea we're going to have on Saturday, May 8th. Now we know that particular Sunday is actually Mothers Day on the calendar, but we feel that mothers are so special they should have a whole weekend. So we're kicking off the first Mother's Day weekend in Kenai on Saturday, and we hope it'll become an annual event, "said Gray.

The Mother's Day Russian Tea will be a family event according to Gray. "Absolutely a family event, this is not a mother/daughter type of tea, we have lots of activities in addition to great food for the whole family, classical and folk Russian music, we're going to have a vintage clothing fashion show put on by the Kenai Performers Curtain Call, and for the kids a cupcake walk, that'll be lots of fun," she said. The Mother's Day Tea will be held at the Kenai Senior Center. Tickets for the Tea are available at the Kenai Senior Center or by calling Dorothy Gray at 776-5220.

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