Thank you to Fr Gregory for the pictures and the mission history.
On Saturday, May 7, 2011, an historical event will take place at Holy Myrrhbearing Women Antiochian Orthodox Church, 1957 Pleasant Valley Loop, just south of Bonners Ferry, Idaho. His Grace, Bishop JOSEPH of Los Angeles will celebrate the Service of the Consecration of a New Orthodox Church, together with about 15 Orthodox priests and several Deacons from near and far. The day will begin with Matins at 9:00am, followed by the Consecration Service at about 10:15am.
The Consecration of an Orthodox Church involves several key components. First, the relics (parts of the bones or bodies) of early Christian martyrs are carried around the outside of the church three times by the Bishop in procession. In this case, the relics that will be used are those of St. Stephen the First Martyr, St. Cyprian of Carthage and St. Julia the Martyr. Following this, the Consecration of the Holy Altar Table will occur. This involves sealing the Holy Relics inside the Table, washing and anointing the Table and dressing the Table in vestments. Finally, the Bishop will anoint all of the interior walls with Holy Chrism prepared abroad by the Patriarch of the Church.
This rite has been celebrated for many centuries…ever since Christianity was legalized by the Emperor Constantine in the 4th Century.
A banquet of celebration will follow the services at 2:00pm at the Mountain Springs Church on Highway 95 in Bonners Ferry. Jill’s Café will cater the event.
A Short History of Holy Myrrhbearers Antiochian Orthodox Parish
Bonners Ferry, Idaho
This history begins in the late 1990’s with the Orthodox Christian families living in the Creston area of British Columbia, Canada. For years, several of those Canadian families traveled each week to St. John the Baptist Church in Post Falls, Idaho. This was no small feat as travel time each way was over two hours! Fr. Gregory Horton, then the pastor of St. John’s in Post Falls, also traveled to Creston on occasion to gather the faithful Orthodox Christians living there for worship. This continued intermittently into the early 2000’s. No one could realize at the time that the fruit of these gatherings would eventually result in the establishment of two Orthodox Christian Mission Parishes…Holy Myrrhbearing Women and St Aidan’s (OCA), in Cranbrook, BC.
Work in Bonner and Boundary Counties, Idaho, began in earnest in the years 2005-2006. Seeker classes and organizational meetings were held at various locations, most notably the Sandpoint Public Library. Sadly, the library closed at 8:00pm and many lively sessions were cut short as a result! Founders living in the area included the Harris, Ivins, Markunas, Schrom and Young Families. Whenever possible, these families would travel to Post Falls for worship and to renew their spirits with Orthodox Christian fellowship.
In August of 2006, Fr. Gregory and a small group of the faithful celebrated the very first Divine Liturgy in Boundary County at St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church on El Paso Street in Bonners Ferry. At the time, the church building was a bit large for the fledgling group, so new quarters were sought and found in a lovely little “living room” setting of a former real estate building at the far south end of town, across from the Bear Creek Lodge. The portable iconostasis, Altar Table, and all of the items necessary for liturgical worship were kept at this location and monthly services became the routine for the remainder of 2006 and well into the summer of 2007.
During this time, Fr. Gregory and Khouria Cindy were trying to discern where God was leading them to establish a new Orthodox Christian Parish. One of the possibilities was Kalispell, Montana, and they traveled there several times in order to “scout” the area. Returning from one of those trips, they stopped to bless the home of John and Julia Schrom in Bonners Ferry. During that visit, the conversation turned to possible mission work in Kalispell and John asked why a new Mission Parish could not be started closer to home in Boundary County. That seedling of an idea snowballed and the possibility started getting tested over and over again. One of the final “tests” involved Khouria Cindy quietly investigating a job opening at the local hospital one Saturday afternoon. It turned out not to be so “quiet” a visit after all. By the time she left the hospital that day with an application forced into her hand by a lab manager grinning from ear to ear, it seemed VERY GOOD to the Holy Spirit for the Hortons to move to Boundary County.
The big move came in August of 2007 when the Horton and Matthews Families ventured north from Post Falls to help establish their new lives and a new parish. The parish quickly began celebrating a regular weekend cycle of services and continued to meet at the same location at the south end of town.
Over the course of the next three years, Orthodox families from Canada, Montana and Bonner County discovered and became part of the new mission effort, as did several other Orthodox families that moved to the area from as far away as Massachusetts, California, Arizona, Oregon, Western Washington and Chicago! There have also been several seekers and catechumens that have converted to the Holy Orthodox Faith and call Holy Myrrhbearers their spiritual home. Currently (2011), there are about fifteen seekers and catechumens preparing to enter the Church through the gates of this little Mission Parish!
The parish was able to purchase a five acre parcel of land during the winter of 2008 about three miles south of Bonners Ferry in Pleasant Valley, not far from Highway 95 at the top of Peterson Hill. His Grace, Bishop JOSEPH, together with several of the area priests, deacons and faithful, broke ground for a new church building on the weekend of the Holy Myrrhbearers in May 2009. A philanthropic Orthodox Christian builder from California, Larry White, brought a small building crew and stayed through the summer of 2009 in order to construct the basic shell of the church building. Since then, finishing touches have been applied thanks to the sacrificial work of the people of Holy Myrrhbearers Mission. Most recently, during the weekend of the Holy Myrrhbearers in May 2011, His Grace, Bishop JOSEPH returned and joined a multitude of clergy and faithful Orthodox Christians for the Consecration of the New Orthodox Temple and Blessing of the Cemetery. The parishioners are now holding their breath and watching to see what God is calling them to do next!