On Sunday, August 1, 2004, at the Church of the Smolensk Icon of
the Mother of God in the town of Beryozki, an one-hour drive from
Toronto, a solemn service was held, led by His Grace Bishop Gabriel
of Manhattan, Administrator of the Eastern Canadian Diocese.
Next year, 2005, the long-time residents and founders of Beryozki
will mark the 50th anniversary of this picturesque corner of Canadian
In contrast to the famous town of Churaevka in the USA, founded
by the author Grebenshchikov, where at the crossroads of Pushkin
and Tolstoy Streets stands a chapel built according to a design
by Roerich, Beryozki grew naturally, as though by itself. In 1955,
in the splendid Canadian woods that remind one of central Russia,
among tall birch trees, a summer cottage was first erected by the
large Artyiukhov family. The Artyukhov sisters, then young girls,
are the founders of Beryozki. This family even today directly participates
in the church life of Beryozki, despite the fact that the sisters,
Maria Yakovlevna and Alexandra Yakovlevna, must devote a great deal
of time to the largest parish of the Russian Church Abroad, Holy
Trinity Cathedral in Toronto.
The present Warden of the Church of the Smolensk Icon of the Mother
of God, Victor Vasilievich Pechnikov, settled in Beryozki soon after,
also in 1955.
last few years, some ten Russian Orthodox families have settled
in Beryozki from among the many who have moved to Canada. There
is waiting list for people wishing to become residents of Beryozki,
because houses for sale in Beryozki are few and far between. Beryozki
has transformed itself from a summer retreat to a permanent residence
for many. The number of parishioners is growing, and for this reason,
the Eastern Canadian Diocese has decided to gradually change this
into a permanent parish with service the year roung (previously,
services were only conducted during the summertime). For this reason,
then, a permanent priest will be needed, since now the Rector of
Holy Trinity Cathedral, Protopriest Vladimir Malchenko, oversees
the chapel. Of course, because of his overwhelming responsibilities,
he cannot conduct regular services in Beryozki, and this responsibility
lay upon the eldest of clergymen, Fr. George Belyaya, who can no
longer perform these services for reasons of health. This summer,
Priest Stelian Liabotis of Christ the Saviour Church in London,
ON, has been serving regularly. Fr. Stelian assisted His Grace Bishop
Gabriel last Sunday.
Grace Bishop Gabriel greets the worshipers during trapeza.
Usually, the annual celebrations in Beryozki are scheduled not only
for the feast day, but on the anniversary of the consecration of
the first, wooden church here, built through the efforts of Fr.
Sergei Schukin. This year the celebrations coincided with the celebration
of the Translation of the Relics of St Seraphim of Sarov.
His Grace Bishop Gabriel arrived in Beryozki on the eve and headed
the meeting of the Parish Council, attended not only by the Council
members but many parishioners as well. Opening the meeting, Vladyka,
in part, said: "On order that the greatest number of parishioners
could participate in the feast day, the celebrations were moved
to the end of the week. But this Sunday we will celebrate the Translation
of the Relics of our Holy Father Seraphim of Sarov. His eternal
words, addressed to innumerable worshipers coming to him from all
over Russia, were: 'My joy, acquire the spirit of peace, and a thousand
around you will be saved.' If we are able today through the prayers
of Father Seraphim to obtain the spirit of peace at least a little,
and if our meeting is held towards the benefit of the Church, it
will be to the joy of all who attend."
The ways of changing the Beryozka church from a "branch"
of Holy Trinity Cathedral in Toronto to an independent parish were
discussed, and a date was decided upon to conduct a review and election
meeting. His Grace Bishop Gabriel then answered numerous questions.
That morning, the greeting of the bishop began in a manner uncommon
in today's practice but in accordance with ancient Russian tradition:
Vladyka, in his mantle and holding his staff, escorted by subdeacons
and altar boys, walked along the street from the warden's house,
where he spent the night, to the church narthex, where he was greeted
by the ringing of bells.
Incidentally, the church is expected to have a new bell tower soon,
according to the plans of the new residents of Beryozki. They feel
that the founders of the town built a splendid church (a stone church
replaced the original wooden church in 1987), and their successors
must complete the project by erecting a bell tower.
Twenty-five year old Vladimir Vladimirovich Gitov, the deputy treasurer
of the parish, was ordained as a reader.
At the end of divine liturgy, all those present, over 200 people,
shared a delicious luncheon prepared by the sisterhood. Members
of the municipality and county were honored guests on this day.