History of the Church
Circa 1910 Russian and other Slavic immigrants began moving to an area three miles west of Sacramento along the Sacramento River to an area known as Riverbank. (In 1915 the area would be re-named Bryte and then in 1987 would be incorporated and known as West Sacramento.) These early immigrants were lured to the area by work for the railroad, food processing plants, and agriculture. Wanting more than material fulfillment these early immigrants began to look for spiritual fulfillment. They found that Sacramento had a Greek Orthodox Church and began to attend the services. However, they missed their Slavic traditions and customs.
In the early twenties waves of Russian immigrants began to arrive at San Francisco and the Sacramento area, especially Bryte. These immigrants, also lured by work and the fact that there was already an established Russian settlement, came from China and Canada. Soon after the arrival of the first of these waves inspiration came of forming a parish and building an Church. In 1925 a blessing was received from Archbishop Alexei for the building of a church and forming a parish. Money was quickly collected to buy land on the corner of Hobson Ave and Water St. Solicitations were made to various Sacramento businesses for funds and building materials.
While the Church was being built a blessing was received from Archbishop Alexei to hold services at the home of the prominent parishioner Afanasy L Cote. One of the first resolutions made by the parish was that parishioner labor only was to be used. Women played a major role in the building of the Church—they were not only involved with fundraising, but also the actual construction of the Church. These “Lady Builders” inspired Fr Vladimir Sakovitch [1925-1927] to suggest the name Holy Myrrhbearing Women for the Church. Initially, the church was called the Holy Myrrhbearing Women, Russian Eastern OrthodoxChurch. This name was changed in 1970 to The Holy Myrrhbearing Women Orthodox Church in Americaa.
The church was erected in 1927 but construction was not completed until 1929. It was originally a plain wood framed church. The cupolas on the church today are original, but the stained windows and the brick siding were added in later years. Initially, the inside of the church was also modest and plain. It took years and much labor and many donations by friends of the church to bring the church to its current beautiful ornate state.
The church was consecrated Bishop of San Francisco Alexis June 16, 1929.
A number of the parishioner worked for the Southern Pacific railroad, and they obtained permission from their supervisors to use the SP shops, equipment and scrap materials. In this respect, Southern Pacific Railroad contributed indirectly to the construction of the church-the cupolas and crosses for the roof, the first chandelier, candle holders, the crowns used in wedding ceremonies (these original crowns were stolen and subsequently replaced in the 1970s), and the tomb used in the commemoration services of the burial of Christ. Although the labor came from the parishioners, the materials were scrap metal from old steel pipes and straps. SP also contributed directly to the church; the administration donated a bell from a retired locomotive. This was the first church bell.
In 1959, the talented artist Nicolai Zadorojny painted the large icon of the Resurrection inside the altar. As part of their effort,the talented artist Vasilii Zadorojny, brother of Nicolai, was commissioned to paint the icon for the newly acquired iconostasis. He also painted St.Nicolas and Our Lady of Kazan (the patron saint of the Sisterhood), each occupying one of the three large icon cases.The St.Nicolas icon has an interesting history. Mr.Zadorojny painted it from memory- it is a replica of the one that had hung in the main railroad station in Harbin, China, and before which travelers would pray and light candles. 1990, the brick and wrought iron fence surrounding the church was built.
The first permanent Rector was Archimandrite John (Zlobin) who served from 1927-1933. It was under his supervision that the building of the Church was completed. From 1933-1943 Archimandrite Policarp (Filatoff) served as Rector. Under his supervision in 1940 an adjacent lot was purchased. A rectory was also bought in the 1930s with money donated by Fr Policarp. On December 15, 1943, Archimandrite Policarp fell asleep in the Lord. Archimandrite Varnava (Karateev) became the Rector from 1943-1952 and under his supervision a parish hall was built in 1948 and finished in 1949. The parish hall was built on land bought under the direction of Fr Policarp.
Shortly after the end of World War II a new immigration of Russians came to the Sacrament area from war ravaged China and Europe. This immigration increased the size of the Parish greatly.
From 1952 the following Priests served as Rectors: Fr John Karateev [1952-1954], the brother of Archimandrite Varnava, and Fr John Froloff [1954-1963], who landscaped the Church grounds. Due to the retirement of Fr John Froloff, no permanent Rector was assigned here, and priests would commute from San Francisco and other neighboring towns to serve. Fr Froloff came out of retirement [1970-1971] and during this time a new modern Rectory was built. Other Priests were Archimandrite Ambrose (Pogodin) [1971-1973], under whom an adjacent piece of land was built and a parking lot built; Fr David Black [1973-1975]; Fr James Worth[1975-1976]; Fr Daniel Cherry [1976-1977]; Fr Nicholas Czaruk [1977-1978]; Fr Theodore Krapcevic [1978-1983], who oversaw the purchase of adjacent apartments as housing for the elderly during this time; Archimandrite Dimitri (Egoroff) [1983-1986]; Fr Anatoly Fiedoruk [1986 until his falling asleep in the Lord in 1990]; Fr Basil Kalinowski [1991-1994], Fr Gregory Szyrynski [1994-2008]; Under Father Gregory's tenure, a number of developments have occurred. In 1999, a small house adjacent to the church lot on Hobson Street was purchased. Furthermore, the church has acquired two important icons. In 1997, the church commissioned Nicolai Siemovskikh to paint an icon of St. John, Archbishop of San Francisco and Shanghai. This icon occupies the third large icon case and is situated directly across from St. Nicholas. Then, on May 18, 2000 ( Holy Myrrhbearers Day ), a special gift (icon of Our Lady of Smolensk ) was presented to the church for our 75th Anniversary by the General Consul of the Russian Consulate in San Francisco, Mr. Yuri Popov.
In 1999, two young artists from Romania applied their talent and skill toward decorating the church. Due to the generous material and financial support of Ivan Senuka, the iconographer Aurel Onut painted the altar ceiling with holy imagery and Ivan Senuka gilded the wooden lattices and crosses throughout the church.
Fr Georgiy Gulin served [2008-2010]; and Fr Matthew, the current Rector since 2011.
The church's annual celebration in honor of its patron saint(s) ( prestolnyi praznik) is celebrated on The Holy Myrrhbearers Day-two weeks after Easter Sunday.
In 2015 the Parish of Holy Myrrhbearing Women will celebrate 90 years. Hopefully with God’s blessings we will continue to serve for many, many more years.