This documentation of the history of Ss Peter & Paul Ukrainian Orhtodox Church is the history of the church as interpreted by the author from reading old anniversary books of the church.
The founding members of our church were Ukrainian-American immigrants. They had been attending St. Michaels Byzantine Catholic Church, which I would describe as an Orthodox Church that's under the Pope, AKA a Uniate Church. Around 1917 and 1918, the Roman Catholic bishops attempted to force Roman Catholic beliefs upon the churches that were in their control. Also at that time, forces in Ukraine were fighting to gain independance from Rome. Due to the fighting, the congregation that formed our parish began a movement to separate from the Catholic church and continue to practice the religion of their forefathers, Orthodox Christianity. The Catholic priest was removed from St. Michaels by the Administrator of the church in 1919 because the parishoners refused to turn the property over to the bishop. The parishoners tried to have another priest assigned to them, but the Catholic diocese would not give them one. So they went and got their own. Early in 1920, They contacted Fr. Gregory Kabasa and he agreed to serve the parish. When the administrator found out, he sent them a Catholic priest. The dispute between the parish and the new priest was taken to court. Judge Reiber ruled that the church property belonged to the parish, but that they must accept a Catholic priest. After a lot of discussion, the majority of the parish decided it would be best to leave the Greek Catholic church and rejoin the Greek Orthodox church.
The new Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church of Lyndora
Back then, it was called a Greek Orthodox church because the Ukrainians got their Orthodox Christianity from the Greeks in the year 988. In 1920, the parish purchased some property and started building the Ukrainian hall. The first pastor was Fr. Gregory Klemovich. Tears filled the eyes of the parishoners as the Divine Liturgy and other services were served in their own language instead of in Slovanic. With that, the parish grew. In 1921, a large room at the hall was decorated and properly prepared for church services. It was then, finally, that the congregation elected a committee to work toward the construction of the new church building. Many of the parishoners couldn't support the church enough finacially, so they offered their labor to help build the church. Men and women of the parish worked hard toward it's construction; hauling bricks, stones and concrete, and also digging out the basement and mixing the cement. The construction took longer than expected, but the Church building was finished just before the end of 1922. The church was dedicated and the first Divine Liturgy was served early in 1923, by Reverend Gregory Klemovich. Later in 1923, the belfry and 3 bells were added, and also the parish rectory was built. All these great accomplishments in the name of God showed the great devotion of our founding parishioners. Many people in the surrounding community were amazed by their great progress, and their love, faith, and devotion.
Post Construction Hardship
The construction of the church and the rectory was very demanding on the parishioners; their great efforts were not the only thing they put in, but many bank loans and private loans had to be taken for all this to happen. The debt was a great burden on the people. The offerings to the church diminished during the depression. The small salary of the priest could barely be met. It got so bad that the bank took possession of the hall. The parish members started offering their last savings to the church in order to get back the hall and keep up on loan payments. The bank was very cooperative. Thanks to God, the congregation regained the hall. And in the late thirties, they had all the mortgages paid off and became lawful owners of all the church properties. In celebration, the church, in 1940, was again repainted and decorated and new icons were put on the iconostas.
Time Goes On
In 1953, the first Liturgies served in the American language took place. This was a big step for the parish, because the much of the parish either spoke Ukrainian only or had English as a second language, while the number of American speaking people was growing. In 1955, the parish built a new rectory. The offerings toward it were so great, that they covered the entire building and furnishing of the seven room house. In 1958, the hall was modernized to better suit clubs and activities. The lower level was enlarged and the kitchen was added. In 1963, new stained glass windows were added and the church was repainted. In 1969, the parish began the church expansion project. They had commissioned a company to build the new iconostas, $22,800, and another company to do the new icons. The church received a new front, choir loft, the center dome, and a new sanctuary that is bigger. Then through the generosity of the Ladies Guild, individuals, and families, a complete set of 24 new pews was added in 1971. While all the remodeling of the church was being done, services were held in the hall. Also in the 70's, the auditorium of the Ukrainian Hall was remodeled with a serving kitchen and restrooms. In the 80's, the parish decided to replace the iconostas with a new one, once again. The new one would feature a wall that allows the congregation see into the altar. The new iconostas and icons were blessed in 1985 by Archbishop Constantine and Bishop Antony, assisted by our pastor, Fr. William Diakiw. In 1997, we celebrated our 75th anniversary with a pontifical Divine Liturgy served by Metropolitan Constantine, assisted by our pastor at that time, Fr. Tim Thomson. In the year 2000, the Ukrainian Hall second floor was completely renovated. The center walls were removed to make a beautiful banquet hall. The old Sunday-school rooms were converted into a modern kitchen and a storage room. A large number of round tables and red padded chairs were purchased to be used in the banquet hall. Also, large movable dividers were installed in the banquet hall so the room could be divided into sections to suit our Sunday-school classes. In November 2001, Fr. Stefan Zencuch was assigned to our parish. In 2002, the parish celebrated 80 years.
In 2002, our parish bought two properties near the church. They both were cleared to make much needed parking lots. Both houses were used for training of local firefighters, before being torn down. One was demolished afterwards and the other was burned to the ground. After the parking lots were finished, a war memorial and large flag pole were donated and erected in the center of all the church property. In 2003, the wall above the altar was painted with an icon of the Annunciation. Also just a few years ago, the basement of the church was organized and made into a parish cultural center and library. Early in 2006 the parish purchased and had installed a new high-tech electronic bells system. The new bell system is programmed with many many different bells and they all sound beautiful.
The idea of a parish website first came about in December of 2005. A page was created to test ideas for the website. The website became official on May 29, 2006 when the page received some major changes as a large amount of work was starting to be put into it. Finally in August, money from an anonymous donor was given and was enough to keep the site up for a full two years and remove the ugly ads and banners there were funding the website at the time. It was then that the website became fully operational, and had plenty of room for expansion.
In June of 2006, our parish priest Fr. Stefan Zencuch announced his plans to move himself and his wife to Florida to start a new Orthodox Christian Mission. For the rest of the Summer and Fall, we were left without a full time priest. By God's grace, Fr. William Diakiw, a former priest of our parish for many years, agreed to come out of retirement to serve our parish once again. Despite health problems, Fr. Diakiw served our parish nearly every week until November, when it was announced that newly ordained Fr. Paisius McGrath would be assigned to our parish. In December 2006, Fr. Paisius officially became our parish priest.