Bishop Gabriel Consecrates a Chapel at Ruskoka Camp

On Sunday, July 17—the day the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia has for a quarter of a century appealed in prayer to the Holy Royal Martyrs of Russia—the first Divine Liturgy was served in the new chapel dedicated to the Royal Passion-bearer and Martyr Tsarevich Alexis at Ruskoka Camp for children (Ontario, Canada).

Located 150 miles from Toronto in the wooded hills on the shores of a river, the picturesque camp "Rus on the Muskoka" (if one were to expand the name fully) reminds one of the Russian North. The camp is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year.

Last fall, with the blessing of His Grace Bishop Gabriel of Manhattan, Administrator of the Eastern Canadian Diocese, construction began on a permanent church on the Ruskoka property, where services have been until now performed practically under the open sky. It was decided to build a chapel of logs, in the old traditions of the Fatherland, and build it so that services could be held there at all times of the year, regardless of the fickle and severe Canadian climate. The construction of this sort of wooden edifice was expected to cost some 200,000 Canadian dollars, but since a great portion of the work was performed by a large group of volunteers, costs were cut by almost half.

In early May, the site chosen for the chapel was blessed by the Rector of Holy Trinity Cathedral in Toronto, Protopriest Vladimir Malchenko—and building commenced not by the day but by the hour. Up to fifty volunteers at a time of all ages would come on off days. It was decided to complete the outside of the chapel in time for the day of the Holy Royal Martyrs, so that on the first feast day of St Alexis Chapel (the only one in North America), the Bloodless Sacrifice of Divine Liturgy could be performed for the first time. At the end of June, cupolas and crosses specially ordered from the Russian city of Volgodonsk arrived in Canadian Russia, and in early July, they were consecrated by the Rector of the Church of the Holy Resurrection in Toronto, Fr George Sachewsky, and elevated onto the chapel.

By mid-July, everything was ready. An icon of the Tsarevich-Martyr, painted by the renowned icon-painter Vladimir Krassovsky of San Francisco, arrived in Ruskoka and was installed in the iconostasis. The icon of the Royal Child was painted against the background of a Canadian forest in honor of the chapel devoted to the saint. Incidentally, the iconostasis itself already has its own history of interest to Canadian Russia: it was first constructed for the first house church of St Xenia the Blessed of St Petersburg on the outskirts of Ottawa, then was taken to Montreal, where it was temporarily installed in St Nicholas Cathedral, which had suffered terribly from a fire in 1998.

The Protectress of the Russian Diaspora, the Miracle-working Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God, arrived at Ruskoka on the holiday. Its arrival at the first Liturgy held in St Alexis Chapel brought to a conclusion its longest sojourn ever in our Church in Canada (over one month).

Beginning early Saturday, guests began arriving in Ruskoka. Bishop Gabriel was joined in performing all-night vigil by the camp's spiritual father, Fr Stelian Liabotis, Deacon Wassily Milonov of Ottawa and Deacon Alexander Morin of Toronto. Most of the worshipers—there were over eighty—stayed the night at Ruskoka. The next morning, after heavy overnight rain, the sky brightened and the number of visitors grew. A chartered bus full of worshipers from Toronto arrived in time for service, held in the thick of the woods, the chapel filled with the smell of fresh timber. With them were Fr George Sachewski and Deacon Victor Chernikov and almost all their parishioners from Holy Resurrection Church.

After the minor blessing of the water and the greeting of the bishop, immediately after His Grace's vesting, Bishop Gabriel blessed the cornerstone of the chapel and the entire sanctuary itself. Divine Liturgy was attended by over two hundred people, and even more by the time of the procession of the cross.

At the trapeza that followed, the honored guests—Mayor Scott Northmore of Bracebridge, the closest town to Ruskoka, and the local Deputy of the Provincial Parliament of Ontario, Norm Miller—thanked our Orthodox youth camp for their labors. The Consul General of the Russian Federation in Toronto, Nikolai Smirnov, also spoke. In his address, His Grace Bishop Gabriel noted how important it is for the Russian emigration to work with youth, and reminded everyone that another 40,000 Canadian dollars will be needed to completely finish the chapel.

In conclusion, Eternal Memory was sung to the founder of Ruskoka, Alexei Vasilievich Kosachev.