Christianity 101: An Orthodox Perspective

Wednesday, Feb. 28 Topic – Today’s Christian Landscape.

We will be holding a series of 6 public talks and Q and A sessions at the church on Wednesday evenings with the general topic of ‘What is the Orthodox Church – Christianity 101: An Orthodox Perspective’.

Wednesdays, Jan. 31 – March 6, at St. Aidan Orthodox Church.

6:30pm Akathist, 7:00pm Short Information Session, then a Q and A.

These sessions are a follow-up to the 6 columns that appeared in the Townsman in December and that are now posted on our website under ‘Father’s Desk’. The first one is below:

Nov. 14, 2023 Newspaper Article, Part 1 of 6

Cranbrook Daily Townsman

Read all of the articles in this series on our website, under Father’s Desk.

St. Aidan Orthodox Church: A Cranbrook Icon                          Part 1 of a 6 part series

Since 1953, the church with the towering cupola and 3 bar cross on the corner of 7th Ave. and 2nd St. S has been a cherished Cranbrook landmark. “The Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Mother of God,” built by the Cranbrook Ukrainian community was their religious and cultural center for almost 50 years (1952 – 2000). The Perogy suppers endeared them to the entire Cranbrook community. However, as the Sunday services were only in Ukrainian/Slavonic which few of the next generation spoke, by the year 2000 the Parish was gone.

Around the same time (2001) a small group of Christians in Cranbrook and Creston, the “East Kootenay Orthodox Christian Fellowship” were discovering the Orthodox Christian Church as they studied Church history searching for the “New Testament Church.” In 2006 they chose a Celtic Orthodox saint who died in 651 – St. Aidan – as their Patron Saint. In 2008 their first full-time resident Priest, Fr. Richard Rene arrived via Calgary’s only English-speaking Orthodox Church, St. Peter the Aleut. They then began leasing the former Ukrainian Catholic Church building from Bishop Ken and the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of New Westminster as Bishop Ken was happy to have the Church building’s legacy continue in a reverential manner.

The Ukrainian Catholic Church’s roots and worship style is much closer to the Orthodox Church than to the Roman Catholic Church. They split from the Orthodox Church in 1595 at the Union of Brest in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Coming under Roman authority, the 4 Orthodox Bishops who founded the Eastern Catholic Church retained their “Orthodox” rites and non-Roman practice and understandings.  They kept their married Priests, would not accept the Roman addition (Filioque) to the Creed, kept their Orthodox Services and Liturgies, incense, vestments, and icons… continuing with their “Orthodox” manner of serving. The same Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom or St Basil the Great served in Ukrainian/Slavonic by the Ukrainian Catholic Church from 1953 to 2000 is still the normal Sunday Liturgy but served in English at St. Aidan Orthodox Church. It has been in continual use for more than 1000 years.

After 10 years of leasing the church, in 2017 St. Aidan purchased the Church from the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy. Being a small parish of about 25 adults and 10 children at the time, we didn’t have the resources to purchase the building, but Bishop Ken gave us a mortgage at very favorable terms. We are most grateful to Bishop Ken for his help!

The parish of St. Aidan then embarked upon a journey to restore and increase accessibility to the Church. It was in great need of repair and to quote Dostoevsky “Beauty will save the world.” With the help of a generous grant from Columbia Basin Trust (CBT), we started by rebuilding the badly damaged roof structure and the iconic cupola and have now completely restored the historic Church.

In 2020 we purchased the tiny house to the west and again with some generous help from CBT, we cleared out the trees and overgrowth, installed a deer fence, and transformed the grounds into a community garden. This year we donated more than 600 lbs. of fresh garden produce to the Cranbrook Food Bank!

In 2021 we received a $220,000 Provincial CERIP grant to improve accessibility by putting in an elevator/lift and handicapped washroom facilities. This got us started, but we ended up spending an additional $1 million, as we elected to also do a complete building restoration. We added a 3-level addition to accommodate the elevator/lift, also giving us much needed extra space and a new loft. We built a beautiful new Altar/Iconostasis in the east end with curved arches, a barrel ceiling, and amazing acoustical qualities! We gutted the building down to the studs, replacing the old electrical, plumbing, and heating systems. An expanded modern kitchen now helps us better serve the needy with our Monday and Wednesday free breakfast offerings and Sunday pot-luck fellowship lunches. All has been done with an eye to honour the historic character of the church, preserving the character defining elements we have inherited.  

Come on by and check out our new/old Church! Eastern Orthodoxy has a very different Christian expression of worship and theological understanding from Western Christianity. Next week I’ll give a little history on the Orthodox Church itself. Who we are and where we fit in the somewhat confusing plethora of Christian churches.