There was a typo in the last line… “St Michael’s Ukrainian Catholic Church” was mistakenly inserted. I corrected it. The people doing the poster were rushed… shit happens. It’s put to rights, now…
St Michael Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Woonsocket RI is still recovering from the November fire that heavily-damaged its ornate 70-year-old granite and wood church building at 74 Harris Avenue. Nevertheless, coping with the near loss of their church won’t keep St Michael’s parishioners from offering a special tribute to the firefighters who kept total disaster at bay back on 21 November 2012. Fr Anthony Perkins, pastor at St Michael, said, “At the end of the Liturgy on Sunday, we’ve invited them to come. We’re going to present them with an icon of St Michael, who’s not only our patron saint, but he’s also the patron saint of firefighters”. The parish had the icon specially-made; it’s giving it to the firefighters in the hope that they’ll remain safe in their dangerous work to help others. Fr Anthony said, “We pray for them at every service”.
The parish hasn’t been able to hold services in their Ukrainian-style church (highlighted by two stone towers topped by gold-leaf ornamental domes) since the accidental fire broke out inside the structure. Instead, parishioners gather for liturgy in their church hall across the parking lot. For now, they’ve installed an iconostas… a separating wall between the altar and the congregation… borrowed from another church. Speaking of the temporary modification, Fr Anthony said, “Now, it’s recognisable as a worship space”.
The parish is still working out the details of the repair of the damaged church with its insurance company and Fr Anthony said that he expects repair work would start in the near future. He added that the fire damage could’ve been much worse if city firefighters weren’t as successful at saving the significant city landmark as they were, saying, “It was pretty close to being destroyed, really close, because the fire had gotten up into the rafters. Once that happens, it usually becomes a total loss”. However, the firefighters and their scene commanders kept in constant contact with parishioners as they battled the blaze, and they were able to work out a strategy that saved the church. Fr Anthony noted, “We told them where they could poke a hole into the rafters through the choir loft and they were able to go through that to put it out”.
The firefighters also went into the sanctuary of the church to rescue important parish religious artefacts that would’ve been otherwise lost to the fire. Fr Anthony stated, “After they put the fire out, they were like a moving company and got everything out of there. We weren’t able to salvage everything, but the important things were. We had religious relics in the church and they were able to get them out. They were tremendous. They kept talking to us and telling us what was going on. They were able to stop it. It’s going to need a new roof, but we didn’t have to tear down the walls”.
In the aftermath of the fire, the parishioners held services outside the church right away, but didn’t get a full understanding of the damage occurring in the fire until recently. After visiting the church to see the damage himself, Metropolitan Antony Scharba, the First Hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, told Fr Anthony that he should take his congregation inside the fire damaged church. Fr Anthony told us, “He said, ‘You have to bring the people to see this’. So, the parish held a prayer service inside their church about a month ago, and it was a powerful experience for the congregation”. The parishioners of St Michael Ukrainian Orthodox Church continue to work toward the day they’ll once again hold services inside their church and Fr Anthony said that the ceremony honouring city firefighters would be another step along that road.
In an effort to help repair the church, a benefit concert will occur on Sunday, 19 May, at the Blackstone River Theatre (click here for directions) on 549 Broad Street in Cumberland RI at 19.00 EDT. The concert will feature Ukrainian musician Julian Kytasty (click here for a vid). Admission is 20 USD (630 Roubles. 15.60 Euros. 13.20 UK Pounds) for adults, 15 USD (423 Roubles. 11.70 Euros. 9.90 UK Pounds) for seniors and 10 USD (315 Roubles. 7.80 Euros. 6.60 UK Pounds) for children under 12. For more information, call (401) 725-9272.
18 May 2013
These guys ain’t fly-by-night Johnnie-come-Lately newbies… they’re the real deal; hey, send ‘em a fin or two, if you can. They’re on the up-and-square. This is a typical Orthodox parish founded by hard-working immigrants, sustained by their faithful kids. It’s what Orthodoxy in the American diaspora is all about… give ‘em a hand… they need it.