Ukrainian Orthodox Church members from across Alberta were in Red Deer on Sunday to celebrate the opening of a new place of worship.
St. Nicholas Ukrainian Orthodox Church is the first orthodox church built from the ground up in Red Deer and the first Ukrainian Orthodox Church to be built anywhere in Alberta in about 50 years, said Morris Brese, St. Nicholas parish council president.
“Most of them were built in the ’50s and ‘60s in the cities and the big Prairie towns,” said Brese.
Red Deer has had a Ukrainian Orthodox parish for 19 years, but it never had a permanent home.
“We’ve been meeting in community halls, funeral homes and hotels,” said Brese.
From a handful of families, the church has grown to more than 30 regular members.
“Once the church is up I think it will increase a lot more than that,” he said.
While the church is Ukrainian Orthodox, worshippers of Serbian, Russian and Greek background are among the parishioners.
More than 200 worshippers from across the province, Edmonton and Calgary, and as far as Lethbridge, were expected to celebrate the grand opening on Sunday.
The church at 107 Vermont Avenue is the culmination of three years of fundraising, planning and organizing. About $700,000 was raised with help from generous donations from a sister parish in Calgary.
Services are held in both English and Ukrainian.
Services are held every other week, usually the second and fourth Sundays, because a priest must come up from Calgary.
“We don’t have a full-time priest yet. But we’re hoping to have services every Sunday in the near future,” he said. “Financially, if we can afford it, we hope to have a full-time priest.”
Now that local worshippers have a permanent home, it is hoped it can become a site for a community garden and perogy suppers and other events.
There are two other Orthodox churches in Red Deer, the Holy Trinity Orthodox Church (Russian) and St. Mary and St. George Coptic Orthodox Church.