November 21, 2011
Wayne, WV: "An American Monastery with a Russian Spirit" – The Orthodox Business Association visited Holy Cross Monastery

On November 16-18, representatives of the Orthodox Business Association (OBA) visited Holy Cross Monastery in Wayne, WV. The purpose of the visit was to meet with representatives of the Holy Cross Monastery Benevolent Committee (HCMBC) to discuss the details of "Project Kellia" and to become more acquainted with the holy habitation, which the Association seeks to assist.

Representing the HCMBC were:
His Grace George, Bishop of Mayfield, Vice Chairman
Archpriest Serge Lukianov, Diocesan Liaison
Hieromonk Alexander (Frizzell), Committee Secretary
Reader Peter Lukianov, Media Director
Mr. George Rogatchev, Engineering Liaison

Representing the OBA were:
Igor Popov, Association President
Reader Igor Shafranov, Food & Beverage Division
Ms. Maria Malysheva, Administrator
Ms. Olga Skorobogatova, Childcare Division

After a tiring journey along the winding roads of West Virginia, the guests arrived Wednesday evening and were greeted by the abbot of the monastery, His Grace George, Bishop of Mayfield. His Grace held a small reception for the guests, during which he thanked them for making the long journey, and for continuing their support and love for the monastery. On Thursday morning, they prayed at the early Midnight Office and Divine Liturgy, and afterwards the monks prepared a breakfast using eggs, cheese, milk, and bread, all of which were produced at the monastery. After breakfast, Bishop George accompanied the guests on a full tour of the monastery grounds, church, workshops, and farms. They examined the ongoing construction of a three new cells and visited the proposed site where more cells will be built as part of Project Kellia.

With the current brotherhood at 21 monks and novices, Holy Cross Monastery is one of the fastest growing monasteries in ROCOR. The monastery has a waiting list of approximately ten monastic candidates that are not able to enter the monastery because of the lack of available housing. The challenge is unusual because it is bittersweet.

Hieromonk Alexander (Frizzell), the dean of the monastery, said: "On one hand we are being overwhelmed with monastic candidates and opportunities for cooperation with people who have the skills to place the monastery on a solid physical foundation. On the other hand we are struggling to pay our bills and provide proper housing and food for the members of our community," Facing this new challenge, the monks firmly believe that this is the Providence of God. "Such tribulations must have a purpose – that is, we must be humbled by trials and difficulties so that buildings and physical achievements do not come before spiritual growth," said Fr. Alexander.

The Orthodox Business Association has teamed up with the HCMBC and the Eastern American Diocese to raise awareness of the difficulties that the monks are faced with as they try to expand the monastery. "The relationship between the monastery and the OBA was formed only very recently, but it has developed very rapidly," said Fr. Alexander. "This remarkable association of people of great piety and goodwill was informed by others about the existence, history, and growth of our monastery, as well as its role in diocesan spiritual life."

The OBA took the initiative to launch "Project Kellia" in order to raise funds that are desperately needed for the construction of new monastic cells. While many things need to happen before the project consisting of a number of cells in a monastic dormitory is fully designed and funded, the project received the blessing and full support of His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion, who serves as chairman of the HCMBC.

On November 1, 2011, Bishop George and Fr. Alexander met with representatives of the OBA at their official headquarters in Brooklyn, to discuss the details of Project Kellia. His Grace invited Association President Igor Popov and his co-laborers to visit Holy Cross Monastery and experience the monastery's way of life, spiritual program, and natural surroundings.

"Our time together was very short, but I think it was extremely fruitful," said Fr. Alexander. "We took them through the entire monastery and tried to acquaint them with every aspect of our monastic life from the Divine Services to our farming activities and production of incense, soap, candles, and other items."

One of the main sources of income for the monastery is the sale of hand crafted soaps and pure monastery honey. The monks use milk from the monastery goats to produce their high quality hand crafted soaps. The large apiaries produce an abundant supply of pure monastery honey to feed the brethren and the hundreds of pilgrims who visit the monastery annually. In order to provide milk for the monastery soap and food for the brethren, every day the monks must carefully tend to the vegetable gardens and take care of the monastery bees, chickens, goats, and cows. The monastery farm provides the monks with fresh vegetables, honey, eggs, and milk, from which the monks even produce homemade cheese.

Yet, despite the hard work being done by the brethren, the monastery is still having difficulty making ends meet. Collaboration with the OBA affords the monastery an opportunity to improve its financial situation, which will not only help the brethren, but will also make a tremendous contribution to the spiritual life of the Diocese.

Fr. Alexander believes that, in years to come, the OBA will be a catalyst which conceives of, supports, and encourages others to support projects which are extremely necessary for the life of the monastery and the diocese. "They are helping to raise the profile of the monastery so that many other people, God willing, will become not only benefactors of, but true co-laborers with the monks of Holy Cross Monastery."

As part of this collaborative effort, the OBA has arranged for Russian architect Aleksey Naumovich Neiman to visit Holy Cross Monastery with the hope that he would design a new cathedral and master plan for the physical expansion of the monastery. Aleksey Naumovich is a lifelong artist who has designed several churches in Russia and Belarus. After his retirement, he decided to dedicate the rest of his life to help design Russian Orthodox churches and monasteries at no cost. Currently he is helping design a new church complex at St. John’s Mercy House in Brooklyn, NY, and a new monastery building and chapel for St. Elizabeth the New Martyr Skete in Jordanville, NY. "More impressive than his portfolio, is his vibrant personality, huge smile, and sincere Orthodox piety," said Fr. Alexander. "The spiritual kinship we found from this initial meeting will, I believe, be the foundation of our future cooperation."

Visiting Holy Cross Monastery for the first time, Aleksey Naumovich explained that the experience had a huge impact on his soul. "This is an American monastery with a Russian soul," said Neiman. "Having no prior connection to the Orthodox faith or Russian culture, these American converts have wholeheartedly embraced the ancient traditions of Russian monasticism. Anyone who comes here immediately feels this overwhelming love, which is the basis of our Orthodox Faith."

Aleksey Naumovich enthusiastically agreed to help Holy Cross Monastery design a new church and a master plan for necessary monastery buildings such as a refectory, administrative offices, monastic cells, and a center for pilgrims.

The beginning of Project Kellia has revealed many other potential projects that the HCMBC and OBA are investigating. "We, members of the Orthodox Business Association, are grateful to the Lord God for the opportunity to take part in the joint "Project Kellia" with the Eastern American Diocese," said Association president Igor K. Popov. "Having begun the realization of this project by organizing a visit for Moscow architect Aleksey N. Neiman, we soon saw other opportunities to aid this truly marvelous place."

The OBA is hoping to create a brand called "The Orthodox Farm," which would promote various products that are being produced in the many different monasteries of the Eastern American Diocese.

"We hope that the idea for ‘The Orthodox Farm,’ born within the Association, will finally begin its development here, at Holy Cross Monastery, whose superior production of various goods we plan to offer to the Russian marketplace in New York and New Jersey in the near future," said Popov.

By promoting the goods produced by the monasteries of our Diocese, the OBA hopes to increase revenue to the monasteries. This will lift the heavy financial burden that is placed on them so that the monastics can focus on prayer, instead of on survival. Members of the Association are preparing a detailed plan to launch "The Orthodox Farm," and hope that others will join them in supporting our monasteries.

"The success of the Association and the projects that we are organizing, will depend on the level of participation from the clergy and faithful of the diocese," said Popov. "God has blessed us with many incredibly talented pastors and people who have a lot to offer the Orthodox community. By uniting our Orthodox people, we can better serve the Church and together overcome the challenges that we face. Not only do we need help with current projects, but we need more ideas for future endeavors. We encourage everyone to visit our website and become members of the Orthodox Business Association."

The visit to the monastery was completed with a Diving Liturgy on Friday morning, during which visitors had an opportunity to receive Holy Communion after preparing through Holy Confession.

"It was vitally important that our work began with repentance and prayer at Holy Cross Monastery," said diocesan secretary Archpriest Serge Lukianov. "Finding different ways to support the work of the Church is important, but we must never lose sight of our main goal – to achieve eternal salvation. All of the different projects and the work that we do must ultimately help us to save our souls and lead us to become better witnesses of our Holy Orthodox Faith. If our intention is to help the Church, then we must begin by helping ourselves become better Christians, and then God will bless our work."

After the Liturgy, the guests gathered in the monastery library for a final meeting with the monks. They finalized a short-term plan to continue their joint venture and thanked the brotherhood for their love and hospitality.

In conclusion, Igor Konstantinovich said, "I would like to express our sincere gratitude to Bishop George, the dean, the clergy, and the whole brotherhood of this monastery for the warmth and love with which they greeted us. May the Lord help and fortify us in this good work!"

Those who are interested in supporting Project Kellia should contact the diocesan administration at and also register at the Association’s website A new website for the Holy Cross Monastery Benevolent Committee and Project Kellia is currently under construction and will be published in the near future.

Republication of materials must include a reference to: 
"Eastern American Diocese"

Media Office of the Eastern American Diocese