On Saturday the 7th and Sunday the 8th of September, the parish of St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Washington, DC, held jubilee celebrations in honor of the 70th anniversary of its founding. In 1949, the parish established by the Holy Hierarch John of Shanghai & San Francisco. The first Divine Liturgy in the new Washington parish was celebrated on September 11, 1949, on the feast day of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist. The liturgical life of the parish began with this service in a small apartment; later, the community moved to Holy Resurrection Chapel in the lower part of the National Cathedral, and some time after that moved into its own house church. In 1958, the church was constructed, later to be rebuilt into a magnificent cathedral consecrated in 1988, in which Orthodox Christians worship to this day.
Leading the festal divine services was Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America & New York, co-served by Metropolitan Jonah (Paffhausen; former Primate of the Orthodox Church in America), cathedral rector Archpriest Victor Potapov, and a multitude of clergy. Over 300 of the faithful gathered for the celebratory services.
After the Eucharistic Canon, Metropolitan Hilarion ordained Subdeacon Peter Gardner to the diaconate. The newly ordained Deacon Peter will fulfill his service at St. Thecla Mission in Silver Spring, MD.
In his sermon, Abbot Tikhon (Gayfudinov; rector of Holy Protection Skete in Buena, NJ, and assistant to the First Hierarch) spoke about some miraculous events in the life of the Holy Righteous John of Kronstadt, and about how the Lord allowed him to take part in the creation of the monument to the saint.
Upon completion of Divine Liturgy, the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad led a procession around the cathedral. Metropolitan Hilarion blessed the 10-foot-tall bronze monument to St. John of Kronstadt, which was placed at the entrance to the church at the end of August, in honor of the 55th anniversary of the saint’s glorification by the Russian Church Abroad.
The monument is the work of sculptor Dimitry Kukkolos, and was donated by the Moscow-based Russian Foundation "Under the Protection of the Theotokos" and the Russian National Creative Studio ARTPROEKT and its general director Eugene Korolev. The saint is depicted as a priest in full vestments. In his left hand he is holding a chalice, while making the sign of a blessing and pointing to it with his right. The parish is now home to monuments to three great saints, who are specially honored at the parish and considered its Heavenly patrons: St. John the Baptist, the Holy Hierarch John of Shanghai & San Francisco, and the Holy Righteous John of Kronstadt. As Fr. Victor noted, it was decided to memorialize the wonderworker of Kronstadt in order to underscore that, like St. John of Shanghai, the Righteous John prays for and helps people not only in Russia, but throughout the world.
Fr. Victor also mentioned how Aeroflot Russian Airlines shipped the 1.2-ton monument to the U.S. free of charge.
Present at the ceremony was the Russian ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, whom Metropolitan Hilarion presented with a gramota from the ROCOR Synod of Bishops for his assistance in delivering the monument to Washington. Ambassador Antonov congratulated the parishioners, and underscored that, "Honoring the memory of one of the most venerated wonderworkers in Russia in the American capital is a radiant event in the spiritual life of all Orthodox Christians in the United States." He expressed hope that this event would become "yet another step toward the consolidation of the Russian Diaspora and strengthening of its unity."