Voices from Russia

Monday, 9 December 2013

9 December 2013. There’s GOOD NEWS Out There Too! Sheppton PA Church Could See New Life

00 Russian Orthodox church building. Sheppton PA USA. 09.12.13


Editor’s Note:

Here’s something, a GOOD CAUSE worth a fin or two (or three or four). It’s on the up and square. E-mail Fr John at otch@icontech.com for contact information. These guys are on the straight n’ narrow… give ‘em a hand if you can!



One of the Cabinet sent this:

I put up an article about the Russian Orthodox church in Sheppton PA near Hazleton PA; its cornerstone says 1891. Bishop Herman Swaiko closed the church many years ago and the OCA sold the property. Apparently, the parish just died out. A couple bought the property in the early 2000’s intending to demolish the church building so that they could build a house. Then, they walked into the church and it looked like Liturgy just ended, people closed the doors, and left! The robes were still there, the candles were still in the candle stands, and the iconostas was intact. The couple got in contact with Fr John Sorochka, as they didn’t want to destroy the church. St John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Mayfield PA ended up buying the property and church in 2003, and we’ve been slowly renovating it.


A shuttered church could get new life in Sheppton PA. A Russian Orthodox congregation in Mayfield PA bought a historic Russian Orthodox church in Sheppton that closed years ago. They plan to make it usable sometime in the future, possibly, for a Russian Orthodox parish. The church is on West Market Street in Sheppton and, according to East Union Township resident John Biros, there’s been no services there in more than 20 years. Biros said he and his wife, Ann, purchased the church with the intention of perhaps building a house on the property, but once inside, something told him not to demolish the old church because it was so beautiful. He said, “It wasn’t heated but it somehow withstood the elements after it went out of service and it was preserved. It was just amazing how beautiful it was inside”.

Schuylkill County records indicate that Biros purchased the church in 1999 for 5,000 USD (164,000 Roubles. 5,300 CAD. 5,450 AUD. Euros. 3,050 UK Pounds) and sold it for 30,000 USD (982,000 Roubles. 31,900 CAD. 32,800 AUD. 3,650 Euros. 18,250 UK Pounds) in 2003 to the St John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Mayfield PA. Fr John Sorochka of Mayfield used those same words to describe what he saw when he went inside with then-owner Biros. He’d contacted Biros about his parish wanting to buy the church, and the good state of preservation of the building amazed him, seeing as how many years had passed. He said, “We were very much surprised how beautiful the inside of the church was”. The Mayfield parish and some local volunteers intend to restore the church so that they could conduct services in it from time to time, Fr John said.

About five years ago, Fr John, 71, and a few volunteers put a new roof on the church to stop any rain or water from leaking into the structure and he said that the outside needs a new coat of paint, saying, “The inside needs some cosmetic work, but it’s a very solid church. Outside, the church looks rustic”. He noted that they found some paper print icons inside with “vibrant” original colours that are more than 100 years old. Fr John said, “There’s a chandelier missing, but the altar is there, and, again, it’s surprisingly in good shape considering the years that have passed since a service was held inside it”.

According to Fr John, Biros bought the church 14 years ago, and his only stipulation in selling was that it remain a church. The parish didn’t hesitate to buy it. Fr John noted, “Just from a historic aspect, it’s believed to be one of the first, if not the first, Russian Orthodox churches in the area, it’s very important. The cornerstone of the church is marked 1891”. County records show that the official date for the church’s building was 1894.

St John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Mayfield has almost 800 parishioners, and it’ll celebrate its 125th anniversary in two years. The congregation might investigate having the Sheppton church added to the Schuylkill County Historical Register. Fr John said, “Our position is that we want to get the Sheppton church in usable condition, to where it can have a service once a month. It’s cost a few dollars, so far. The roof was most expensive and, you know, the cosmetic things, like the grass has to be cut and maintained each year. Its part of the history of that town, so, for that reason alone, in addition to the spiritual aspect, this is the actual motivation to restore a landmark church in Sheppton”.

9 December 2013

Thomas Ragan

Hazleton (PA) Standard-Speaker




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