Thirty years ago, Monastery Drive in Eagle River, Alaska, was a dirt path in a forest of spruce and birch. Today about seventy-five families make their homes around St. John the Evangelist Cathedral, their houses scattered along Monastery Drive and Darby Road. Others live elsewhere in Chugiak/Eagle River and in Anchorage, fifteen miles to the south.
In 1968, Fr. Harold and Barbara Dunaway and their family arrived in Anchorage, sent by Campus Crusade for Christ to take the gospel message to the military in Alaska. Their small apartment became a gathering place for young people – so many, in fact, that Fr. Harold and Barbara decided to found their own ministry. They called it Maranatha North. A new house in Anchorage was quickly outgrown and a large house – the original “Big House” which was used for residence, worship and fellowship – and five acres of land was acquired, rather miraculously, in Eagle River. Families built homes nearby and a community grew.
During these years, Fr. Harold and his son, Fr. Marc (now archpriest of St. John’s), joined with other men in a journey seeking “true and right worship.” Their search led them from evangelical Protestantism to the ancient Orthodox Church. In 1984, the community pooled its first Alaska oil dividend checks and built our unique, geodesic-domed cathedral. In 1987, Metropolitan PHILIP of the Antiochian Archdiocese traveled north to ordain the clergy and chrismate the faithful, encouraging us with his loving words - “Welcome home!”
Monastery Drive is now a paved road, along which are houses, a school (preschool through sixth grade), the St. James House (a residence program for young single adults), a cemetery, St. Sergius Chapel, and the heart of the community, our beautiful Cathedral. Our parish is made up almost entirely of converts to Orthodox Christianity who believe that “we have found the true faith, worshiping the undivided Trinity.” We pray that God’s grace will continue with us now and forever.”
The community of St. John Orthodox Cathedral today is the result of a recent movement among many Protestant and Catholic Christians in America to return to the faith of the early Church. In April, 1987 our entire Church community, which had been in Eagle River since 1975, was received into the communion of the Orthodox Church under the Patriarch of Antioch. Today we share the same historic faith and worship as is held by all Orthodox Christians throughout the world.
The Cathedral itself was completed in November, 1984. Most of the work was done by members of the Church community.
The interior structure of the Cathedral is a 60-foot diameter, geodesic dome. The wood on the ceiling is native Alaskan Birch. The Alter furnishings are Canadian Cherry.
More than 50 families in our Church live within walking distance of the Cathedral, creating a vital Church community.
We are newcomers to Orthodoxy in Alaska, however, Orthodox Christianity was first brought to Alaska 200 years ago by Russian monks who came as missionaries. Today there are more than 80 Russian Orthodox Churches in villages extending from the Aleutians to the Southeast Panhandle.
A Brief History of the Orthodox Faith
Scholars estimate there are over 2600 groups today who lay claim to being the Church, or at least direct descendants of the Church described in the New Testament. Repeat: 2600!
But for the first thousand years of its history the Church was essentially one. Five historic, "Patriarchal" cities-- Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, Alexandria, and Constantinople -- formed a cohesive whole and were in full communion with each other. There were occasional heretical and schismatic groups going their own way, to be sure, but the Church still remained united. Then, in events culminating in 1054 A.D., the Roman Patriarch (the Pope) pulled away from the other four Patriarchs, pursuing his long-developing claim of universal headship of the Church.
Today, however, nearly a thousand years later, the other four Patriarchs still remain united, maintaining the Orthodox, Apostolic Faith of the New Testament.
(Adapted from A Time Line of Church History
Published by Conciliar Press, P.O. Box 76, Ben Lomond, CA 95005-0076
Time Line from Pentecost to Present Day
The Early Church
Age of the Apostles Through the work of Jesus Christ and His Apostles the Church Spread throughout the world.
Age of Persecution Christians were persecuted sporadically until about 313 A.D., under Roman emperors such as Trajan, Marcus Aurelius, Decius, and Diocletian. Still, the Church continued to thrive in spite of persecution.
Age of Councils During this time seven "Ecumenical" Councils were held to defend and uphold the true belief of the Church about Jesus Christ. The Church continued to thrive in spite of heretics.
The Great Schism After centuries of a gradual pulling apart following the Age of the Councils, the Church split into two parts, when the Pope of Rome broke communion with the other historic centers of the Church. This is the beginning in the West of ROMAN CATHOLICISM.
Age of Upheaval and Division That it was Roman Catholicism which departed from the faith of the early Church is partly evident from the great upheaval of the PROTESTANT REFORMATION. This movement, which began in the 1500's, was an attempt to rediscover something that had been lost. However, little agreement could be found as to what that "something" was. So instead of reform there occurred only more, drastic division, and the Western church fractured into hundreds of denominations.
The Orthodox Church
Age of Persecution and Preservation The churches in the historic "Patriarchal" cities of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and Constantinople remained united after the Roman church broke away. Today the churches which share continuity and communion with them are called the ORTHODOX CHURCH. In spite of renewed persecution this Orthodox Church has preserved intact the true Faith of the early Church.
"The Orthodox Church" by Timothy Ware
"Becoming Orthodox" by Peter Gillquist