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Howell, NJ: On Bright Tuesday, Metropolitan Nicholas visits Renovated St. George Church

On Bright Tuesday, May 7, the third day of Christ’s Glorious Resurrection, Metropolitan Nicholas of Eastern America & New York paid an archpastoral visit to St. George Church in Howell, NJ. The visit of the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad was timed to coincide with the parish’s patronal feast (May 6 – the feast day of the Holy Great-Martyr & Trophy-Bearer George), in honor of which he celebrated Divine Liturgy and reviewed renovations to the church.

When the parish learned of Metropolitan Nicholas’ intended visit, it was decided to carry out renovations on the church’s roof and cupolas.

""We got hit with a couple hurricanes pretty bad, which caused some roof damage, which accelerated the water getting in and causing additional damage," explained St. George Church warden John Rimakis.

The warden is certain that the church’s Heavenly patron, St. George, helped the parish in its renovation projects.

"We were able to find two contractors who helped us a lot," Rimakis continues. "So we were able to get all of the work done for half the cost of what it would have taken. One of the contractors is ethnically Polish and told me that our church reminds him of the church where his mother attended and helped out. Their company did the work for half price, while the contractor who did the roof and domes did the repairs and painting for free. We are very glad and thankful to them." The weather also assisted in the renovations, allowing it all to be completed in four weeks.

"We put on a new roof and new roofing tiles. The cupolas were repaired; cracks in the walls were filled in, and inside we repainted with waterproof paint. Now the moisture won’t get inside and the church will be safe. The only thing we still have to do inside is repair the hardwood floors."

The parish was founded in 1959 by a group of Russian Cossacks with the blessing of Archbishop Nikon (Rklitsky; +1976) of Washington & Florida.

"You had all these displaced people ("DPs" – ed.) coming after World War II. Russians, Serbians, Greeks." "And Cossacks and Kalmyks," adds Valentina Rimakis, the warden’s wife and a parishioner of St. George’s from childhood. "Two Cossacks – Nikolai Bosko and Foma Manin – bought this land and built a small chapel. They put their meager income to erect a church, just as Orthodox Christians do on every continent – building churches wherever they arrive. A lot of people were involved in the construction."

Almost every spot here has its own significance and history. For instance, the location of the church is called "Freewood Acres." New residents could buy land and housing here for very cheap, nearly free. Thus the governor of New Jersey at that time recommended the name. Ermack Street, which runs past the church is named for a Cossack atman, the conqueror of the Siberian Khanate – Yermak Timofeevich.

Next to the new church was a Buddhist temple. The Kalmyks gave the building to the Cossacks, who organized it into a Cossack Museum and hall, while the Buddhists moved from Third to Fifth Street.

"Archbishop Nikon came here and gave his blessing to dedicate the new church to St. George the Trophy-bearer, Valentina continues. In 1963, the church was consecrated and from that time has been the center of the Russian community in Freewood Acres and of the Kuban Cossack Voisko in the Russian Diaspora.

"The first priest who nourished this parish was Fr. Nicholas Kotar from Philadelphia. He came here every Saturday evening and celebrated Liturgy Sunday morning. Metropolitan Philaret also came to us often, serving and going fishing in his free time."

Thuss the church was renovated. Metropolitan Nicholas was greeted at the entrance to the church by girls throwing rose petals, while John Rimakis presented the First Hierarch with a Pascha kulich.

Concelebrating with His Eminence at Liturgy was the rector, Archpriest Serge Lukianov; clerics of the neighboring St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, to which St. George’s has been attached since 2014: Archpriests Vasily Andrejuk, Luka Novakovic, Rafael Melendez, and Boris Slootsky, Priest Anthony Williams, Protodeacon Paul Drozdowski, and Deacons Alexandre Sarandinaki and Dimitry Lisan; as well as Archpriest Serge Ledkovsky (deputy rector of St. Vladimir Memorial Church in Jackson, NJ).

The service, which took place under the aegis of the wonderworking Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God, was sung by the parish choir under the direction of Andrei Roudenko.

Upon conclusion of Liturgy, the Metropolitan greeted all with the radiant feast of Pascha and wished them all God’s aid and blessing. He called on the faithful to attend this parish, dedicated to the Great-Martyr and Trophy-bearer George, and to pray for the help and protection of their Heavenly patron.

The clergy and faithful then went in procession around the church, after which Metropolitan Nicholas and J.R. August, a Howell resident and head of JR’s Roofing & Gutters LLC, which had repaired the roof and cupolas, were lifted up in a cherry-picker, and His Eminence blessed the new domes. J.R. recalled how he would drive by this church in his youth and be delighted by its beauty, architecture, and adornment. He could not have imagined at the time that he would personally take part in rebuilding the church’s roof, for which the workers had to use special safety harnesses customary for this sort of work.

J.R. August and two representatives from the company were also present at Liturgy, and were invited to the festal luncheon.

The Paschal celebrations continued with smiles on the faces of the clergy, parishioners, and guests, all of whom wished to prolong the Paschal joy!

With materials from the Asbury Park Press.


Howell, NJ: Metropolitan Nicholas visits Renovated St. George Church - 05/07/24

Photos: Media Office of the Eastern American Diocese -  G. Konyev, T. Veselkina

(46 images)

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Eastern American Diocese | Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia