Alf Siewers, reader and warden, chats with the Rev. Claude Vinyard, rector of a local Russian Orthodox parish, at the site of what will be St. John the Wonderworker of America.

Plans to move being developed

WINFIELD — A local Russian Orthodox parish recently bought property in Union Township and hopes to build a church of its own.

The property, near Winfield Cemetery, will be blessed following the 10 a.m. Sunday Divine Liturgy service of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco Russian Orthodox Mission Church at the Lewisburg Club.

The Rev. John Sorochka, dean and archpriest of St. John the Baptist Orthodox Cathedral in Sheppton, will lead the blessing. An Orthodox cross from a coal region church, will be raised and permanently put in place as part of the blessing.

The four-acre property on a hillside, with two additional acres expected to be added, contains space for a Russian Orthodox cemetery and a non-Orthodox cemetery with plots open to all.

The Rev. Claude Vinyard, rector of what will be known as St. John the Wonderworker of America, said there were several options for a church building. They included dismantling, moving and rebuilding Christ the Savior Russian Orthodox Church from Sheppton to Winfield. 

Vinyard said they have also priced building a wood-frame building on the site. He said they have blueprints which include a 50-foot by about 25-foot structure with ADA compliant features and other facilities.

Vinyard noted that the Lewisburg Club has been accommodating during their rental period. But he hoped that with God’s blessing they would be able to make the move this year.

Vinyard credited the Rev. Ricky Phillips of St. John’s Lutheran Church of Dry Valley for alerting parish members of the availability of the property. He called Phillips a good friend of the parish.

Alf Siewers, reader and warden, said it was important to have an Orthodox Cemetery nearby.

“The dead are still part of the church,” he said. “We still feel a closeness to them by having them in community with us near the church building.”

Siewers said most of the Orthodox cemeteries in Pennsylvania were established over 100 years ago in the coal region.

“This is a new thing for Union County to have a Russian Orthodox cemetery,” he said, “But it is an old thing for the church as a tradition to have the cemetery nearby.”

Fundraising would come in the form of support from other Russian Orthodox Christians in the region and the nation, the local members and other activities ranging from pierogi sales to a GoFundMe site.

Once all the property is acquired, sales of cemetery plots could be a source of revenue.

When founded in 2015, the parish was known as the Holy Protection Mission. Vinyard noted that they originally had worship services at St. John’s Lutheran Church of Dry Valley.


Staff Writer Matt Farrand can be reached at 570-742-9671 and via email at matt@standard-journal.com.

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