Stary Wostok AB Holy Trinity Russo Orthodox Church and Cemetery 1897

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2016.12.26 Holy Trinity Orthodox Church Stary Wostok Alberta.jpg

Stary Wostok, AB, Church and Cemetery in the Name of the Holy Trinity, 1897


From about 1899 to 1903, the settlement of Stary Wostok (in English, “Old East”) or “Old Wostok”, Alberta, was located to the northeast of the present hamlet of Saint Michael. Stary Wostok was populated by immigrating newcomers from the Halychina area of Western Ukraine. This area had been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire before World War I, and it was known as Galicia (Halychina). Within that empire, it was called the Kingdom of Galicia and Ludomeria until World War I. It was, therefore, in the general political orbit of Poland. That those who settled in the Stary Wostok-Saint Michael area came from Halychina is something that they had in common with the founders of several other parishes in this region. Stary Wostok is situated in Lamont County, which is a part of the large region presently known as “Kalyna Country”, and it was part of the Edna-Star Colony of the Ukrainian Block Settlement.

Immediately after selecting homestead sites, the settlers began to clear the land and to prepare their temporary shelters (usually "soddies", or "boordays"). They also constructed their preliminary fences, planted gardens and acquired some livestock. Nevertheless, throughout the settlement, there was a deep sense of the lack of a place in which to gather and to worship the Lord. For these Orthodox Christians, the Temple had always been the centre of their daily lives in Europe. Amongst them, however, there were many persons who knew many of the services by heart, and who had prayer-books. They were able to lead the community as they prayed together in one another's homes, and many people attended. The main leaders were :

 Anton Sawka (leader) ; Iwan Halkow ; Iwan Hawrelenko ; Iwan Lakusta ; Kost Nemirsky ; and others. 

Despite the success of this temporary measure, people deeply felt the need of a priest not only to lead them in prayer, but also to provide the sacramental necessities (Holy Communion, Baptism, Marriage, Confession, Burial, Anointing).

During the winter of 1896, settlers in the recently-established Edna-Star colony began a serious meeting to discuss the need to obtain a priest. As a result, Anton Sawka was urged by his neighbours to write to Bishop Nicholas (Ziorov) (the bishop overseeing the Russian Orthodox Mission in San Francisco) with a request that he provide pastoral care for the young immigrant community. When the letter was written, it included the signatures of Theodore Fuhr and others in the Rabbit Hill area southwest of Edmonton. In response to the petition, 2 Russian Orthodox clerics were dispatched to the settlement from Seattle, Washington, the following summer.

It is useful to keep in mind that the development of this parish was affected in some ways by the events which were unfolding at the parish of the Holy Transfiguration at Star, Alberta about 12 km (7.5 mi) distant. As may be seen in the history of that parish, there arose quite early a strong difference of opinion as to whether the community would belong to the Orthodox Church or to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic church. This difference of opinion affected the spiritual life of most of the newcomers from Halychina in this region.

Foundation of the parish

In 1897, after having received letters of request from newcomers to this and other regions around Edmonton, Bishop Nicholas (Ziorov) at first offered to come himself. However, the humility of the settlers was such that they understood that they could not properly receive a bishop, so they declined the offer. Instead, Bishop Nicholas sent the Priest Dmitri Kamnev and Deacon Vladimir Alexandrov from Seattle, Washington, to Alberta, and specifically to the region of Wostok.

On 12 June, 1897, the first documented Divine Liturgy on Canadian soil was served by Father Dmitri and Deacon Vladimir at the farm of Fedor Nemirsky, where 380 settlers gathered. A stand of trees still marks the spot in the field where the historic service was held.

Nemirsky-First Liturgy in Canada.jpg Nemirsky homestead, first Divine Liturgy served in Canada

On 23 July, 1897, Deacon Vladimir Alexandrov filed an application for 40 acres of land for a church site and a cemetery on the land description site SW 23-56-18-W4. There was also a request for 120 acres on which to construct a priest’s residence. During that year, this district became known as Wostok, after the Old Church Slavonic word “vostok”, meaning “east”.

During this visit, Father Dmitri Kamnev and Deacon Vladimir Alexandrov received the entire nearby population of 600 persons into the Orthodox Church.

In 1898, Bishop Nicholas was returned to Russia, and Bishop Tikhon (Belavin) was sent to replace him.

In May, 1898, Father Dmitri Kamnev and Deacon Vladimir Alexandrov were sent again to Alberta. During this visit, once again, more than 600 persons were received into the Orthodox Church. They also fostered the development of other local communities.

First Temple

On 4 June, 1898, after an outdoor Divine Liturgy, the foundation of the first Orthodox church in Canada was attested to by this inscription on a cornerstone :

 In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the first Orthodox church in Canada is founded in the 
 Name of the Holy Life-giving Trinity on June 4, in the year of our Lord 1898.  

Holy-Trinity-Orthodox-Church-Wostok-the-first-Orthodox-Church-in-Canada S.jpg First Temple

On 13 December, 1898, Inspector C W Speers presented a report to the Commissioner of Immigration in Ottawa : “The church of the Russian Orthodox Faith on S23 T56 R18 is 35 by 75, is well built, and will cost $1200.00”.

In the spring of 1899, the recently-ordained Priest Vladimir Alexandrov arrived. On Pentecost Sunday, 28 May, he held a service outdoors beside the new Temple. In a letter to his bishop afterwards, Father Vladimir described in detail what he encountered and experienced during this visit. One paragraph from this letter follows :

 The 28th of May.  The Trinity Sunday.  At 5:30 a.m. I started to take confessions and continued until
 11:00 o’clock.  After Blessing the water and sprinkling the prepared place with it, I began to serve the 
 Divine Liturgy.  It took place next to the new church, in an open place, where a new table, covered with
 rugs and linen, had been set up next to a large cross.  There were many people who were able to sing and 
 they were singing prayers in the same manner, as it is sung in their old country. After reading the 
 Gospel, I spoke to the people about the origin of the Feast (Acts 2).  There were more than 400 people, 
 who had received Holy Communion on that day.  After the Liturgy I served the Vespers Service.  The 
 service, in which took part approximately 2,000 people, ended at four o’clock in the afternoon.  After a 
 short rest, I baptized 25 children.  From eight in the evening until midnight I have heard more than 150 

In the summer of 1900, a residence for a priest was constructed, and on 1 September, 1900, the Priest Iakov (Jakob) and Matushka Barbara Korchinsky arrived under obedience to Bishop Tikhon (Belavin), and Father Iakov then assumed his duties as the first resident and founding priest.

In 1901, Bishop Tikhon (Belavin), Bishop of the Russian Orthodox Mission in North America, arrived. On 8 September, he sanctified the Temple which was dedicated to the Most Holy Trinity.

In May, 1902, Father Korchinsky was transferred, and he was succeeded by the Priest Michael Skibinsky. He was a very good organiser and an energetic worker. He formed a reading club for the benefit of the youth, and he conducted classes in the Orthodox Christian Faith and in choir singing. A treasury was also established, with which other parishes were helped to make a beginning. In 1906, Father Skibinsky was transferred to Winnipeg, and Father Michael Fekula was sent to replace him.

Fire ; second Temple, 1907

On 28 October, 1907, immediately after a memorial service ("panikhida"), the Temple was destroyed by fire. The disaster was a shock to the community ; but with the help of insurance, another larger and more beautiful Temple was constructed. That it was to be 2 km (1 mi) south of the first site was a controversy that took some time to resolve. Also, a beautiful tall stone bell-house for the bell was erected beside the Temple. A monastery in the name of the Elevation of the Holy Cross was also built near the Temple. Deacons and monks lived in the monastery, and they also conducted religious classes.

In 1927, the railway came to the region, but not near to the Temple. As a result, the settlement of Stary Wostok (Old Wostok) moved several kilometres to the southwest, where the current Hamlet of Saint Michael is situated.

In December, 1932, the second Temple was also destroyed by fire. Services continued to be offered on an improvised basis, and the parishioners attended services in other nearby Temples. These were the years of the Great Depression, so it took time to consider what to do and where to find resources should the Temple be rebuilt. Although the parish had originally been included in the incorporation act of the bishop in 1903, the parish was incorporated in the Province of Alberta under “An Act Respecting the Holding of Lands in Trust for Religious Societies and Congregations” on 8 November, 1936.

Third Temple, 1938

The Orthodox faithful of the area (which in 1928 became known as “Old Wostok” (that is, Stary Wostok) after the relocation of local businesses farther east, on the new railway line) gradually rallied to the difficult task at hand.

In 1938, the parishioners resolved to construct a third Temple, once again on the original site, where it now stands. It is written that it serves as a memorial to the founders of the congregation, but the Temple has had a rather more living and lively function amongst the parishioners and neighbours than as a mere memorial to ancestors. It has always been the spiritual home of the parishioners, in which they are fed on the Divine Mysteries by our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of this, they receive strength to live their lives pleasingly, and they receive consolation and strength in times of difficulty and sorrow.

The present bell-stand near the present Temple is a metal construction.

Oca-ca-stvhtc.jpg The Temple in winter

As was the case with some other parishes after 1950, this parish eventually moved to the Moscow Patriarchate's administration in Alberta. This was largely because of the great shortage of clergy in the Metropolia's Diocese of Canada at the time, and the arrival in Edmonton in 1959 of Archbishop Panteleimon (Rudyk).

"Orthodox V Charitable Organisation, 1985"

Orthodox V is a Charitable Association of 13 Moscow Patriarchate parishes in Alberta. It was established after informal discussions between Serge Lopushinsky and Bill Holyk. Their aim was to try to unite the 5 parishes that Father Stephan Abramchuk was serving at the time, and to try to organise a fundraiser to help pay for the living accommodations for clergy in that region.

On 31 October, 1985, at a meeting of the 5 parishes, held at the Holy Trinity Church at Wostok, the name Orthodox V was chosen. Serge Lopushinsky was elected to be the president and Vicky Holyk was elected to be the secretary.

On 15 November, 1985, the first Pre-Lenten Social (or “puschenia”) was held at the Saint Michael Recreation Centre. The function was an outstanding success. Shortly after the puschenia, a meeting was held at the Saint John the Baptist parish at Chipman to review the successful function, and the third position was filled by electing Kim Lopushinsky to be the treasurer.

Return to the OCA

By 1987, Holy Trinity parish had returned to the Archdiocese of Canada in The Orthodox Church in America. It began to be served by the Archpriest Andrew Morbey and then by the Archpriest Larry Reinheimer (from 1 July, 1990, until March, 1994). At this time, Holy Trinity parish became a part of the "Lakeland" grouping of rural parishes within that diocese in this region.

In June, 1987, on the day after the episcopal ordination of the new Vicar-Bishop Seraphim (Storheim) of Edmonton at the Sobor of Saint Herman of Alaska, there was a Primatial Divine Liturgy served in this Temple for its Altar Feast-Day. Metropolitan Theodosius (Lazor), Bishop Nathaniel (Popp) and Bishop Boris (Geza) served together with Bishop Seraphim (Storheim). During the procession around the Temple, which included the blessing of the Temple with Holy Water, very many people noticed that there was a Cross-formation towards the south in the otherwise clear blue sky.

The present iconostas was hand-made by the Priest Larry Reinheimer in 1992, during the time when he was serving this and other parishes.

After 1994, the parish returned to the administration of the Moscow Patriarchal Parishes in Canada.

In the afternoon and evening of 28 July, 2017, following the close of the Archdiocesan Assembly in Edmonton, there was a tour provided for the delegates in order to visit some of the historical Temples in rural Alberta northeast of Edmonton, particularly those in which Saint Tikhon (Belavin) worshipped. They visited in particular the site near the Temple on which the first Divine Liturgy was served in 1898,

Holy Trinity Cemetery, 1897

Land description site SW 23-56-18 W4 on Range Road #182

Lamont County, Alberta

The earliest interment in this cemetery was in 1901. There are more than 105 marked graves in the cemetery, which continues to be in use in 2018.

CEM2562211 1418067279 in Ukrainian S.jpg Cemetery commemoration (Ukrainian)

Holy Trinity Stary Wostok AB Cemetery Sign.jpg Cemetery commemoration (English)

Holy Trinity Orthodox Church Stary Wostok AB Cemetery.jpg Cemetery

This parish is part of the Moscow Patriarchate Parishes in Canada. The bishop is Bishop Job (Smakouz).

This parish follows the Old (Julian) Calendar.

The Altar Feast-day of this parish is the Feast of Pentecost (Descent of the Holy Spirit, the Most Holy Trinity).

In 2018, the pastor of this parish is the Priest Alexey Surayev.

Address :

Holy Trinity Russo Orthodox Church

Land site description S23 T56 R18 W4

Range Road #182, south of Township Road #564

Lamont County, Alberta.

Directions :

Holy Trinity Church is located in the county of Lamont, 3 km (2 mi) east and 2 km (1 mi) north of the hamlet of Saint Michael. It is about 1 hour and 15 minutes' drive to the northeast from Edmonton.

From Edmonton, drive on Highway #15 northeastwards, past Scotford to Highway #29, keeping to the left onto Highway #29 before Lamont. From Highway #29, turn north on Range Road 184 and drive north to Saint Michael. At Saint Michael, turn to the right on Railway Avenue, and keep straight on at the merge with Township Road #562A. At Range Road #182, turn left and drive 2 km (1 mi) north. The Temple is on the right.

Highway #45 east-west provides access to Andrew, Smoky Lake and other towns to the east and north. Highway #45 is also accessible from Edmonton and Highway #15. From Highway #15, keep left onto Highway #29. Turn left (north) at Lamont onto Highway #831. At the junction with Highway #45, turn right (east) and drive to Range Road #182. Turn right (south) and drive 4.2 km (2.6 mi). The Temple is on the left.

From Highway #45, turn south on Range Road #182. Drive south 4.2 km (2.6 mi). The Temple is on the left.

From Edmonton, it is possible to drive eastwards on Highway #16 until Highway #830. Turn left (north) on Highway #830 towards Josephburg and Scotford. Turn right onto Highway #15 and follow one of the previous routes.

Mailing address :

Holy Trinity Russo Orthodox Church

c/o R Bryks

Box 154

Saint Michael, Alberta

T0B 4B0

Priest Alexey Surayev

PO Box 483, 5003-46 Street

Lamont, Alberta

T0B 2R0

Telephone : (780) 895-2149

E-mail :

References :

Alexandrov, V, "Journey to Canada : A Priest’s Diary"

Archdiocese of Canada : Orthodox Church in America, “The Orthodox Church in Canada : A Chronology” (Ottawa : Archdiocese of Canada, 1988).

Russian Orthodox Church History Book Committee, “Patriarchal Parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church in Canada, Millennium of the Baptism of Rus’” (Edmonton : Russian Orthodox Church History Book Committee, 1988). ISBN: 0-88925-830-9.

Tarasar, Constance J, ed., "Orthodox America 1794-1976 : Development of The Orthodox Church in America" (Syosset, NY : The Orthodox Church in America Department of History and Archives, 1975). ASIN : B000ZLZAUE.

Additional information :

MP parishes

First churches

Lamont County history

MP parishes

MP listing

Archdiocese listing

OCA listing

Settlement details

Orthodox World listing


Findagrave about Holy Trinity cemetery

CanadaGenWeb's Cemetery Project cemetery reference

Cemetery names

Wikimedia local article


History of Alberta

Brochure "Church Capital of North America Lamont County" (articles and photos about some of the 47 churches in the county), pp. 23, 26.

2017 Assembly Delegates visit some of the historical Temples in rural Alberta.

‘St Tikhon Orthodox Christian Mission, Lakeland AB’ in “Canadian Orthodox Messenger” (July, 1993), pp. 3-4.

‘Alberta Centennial Celebration, 27-28 July 1997’ in “Canadian Orthodox Messenger” (Winter, 1997/1998), pp. 5-6.