Planning a Landmark
The inside of the present church is much more elegant than the outside would suggest, filled with elaborate candelabras, incense burners, an oriental rug, and fresh flowers. The walls are covered with icons--paintings of religious scenes and figures--from around the world, most of which are gifts from members. "We try to engage all the senses," explains Father Gregory. "Parishioners see the iconography, hear the choir, smell the incense, and see the candles." As in all Orthodox churches, the altar is at the east end, facing the dawn, a symbol of Christ.
The Russian Orthodox services follow the example of Jesus in Solomon's Temple as much as possible. Worshipers stand ("it helps them focus," explains Fr. Gregory), although people are welcome to sit on the pews that line the walls if they desire or need to. When not in use for worship, the same area is used for fellowship meals, which take place after every service, and Sunday school.
Weekly services are conducted in Russian and English, with one all-English service a month. The church's voicemail message gives information in both languages. Fr. Gregory, although descended from Russian immigrants, didn't grow up speaking Russian: he learned the language at U-M and became more fluent when attending Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, New York, where the instruction was in Russian.
The congregation hired Robert Latsko, a specialist in Russian Orthodox Church architecture, to design the new church. In addition to architecture, Latsko has a degree in theology from St. Vladimir's seminary in New York.