Nativity of St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church, O.C.A.
Nativity of St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church, O.C.A.

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Parish History

Nativity of St John the Baptist parish was founded in 1895 by Rusyn/Slavic farmers who immigrated to the United States from both the northern and southern slopes of the Carpathian Mountain region in Eastern Europe. Most of the immigrants came from areas around Presov in what is now Slovakia, then the Kingdom of Hungary, or the Lemkian region of Galicia, now in southern Poland.

After completing the church building on the Laura St property, it was consecrated by His Eminence, Nicholas, Bishop of the Aleutian Islands and All Alaska on the Feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist in 1895. The building has remained the same as it is today except for the brick encasement of the exterior which was completed in 1976 as part of a renovation project. Also at that time new iconography was installed as well as a new Holy Table, Table of Oblation and Sacramental Table.

Historically, the membership of Nativity of St John the Baptist has swung between a high of about 100 souls to a low of 31 souls. The current economic climate in Central Pennsylvania has adversely affected the membership of the parish due to a decline in population.

Currently there are 41 souls registered as assessment paying members of the parish while we provide ministry to upwards of 20 additional persons that do not consider themselves assessment paying members. The demographics of the congregation is almost evenly split between pre-school/school age children, young adults and middle aged adults. The balance of the congregation (about 50%) consists of retired persons. Orthodox Christians from the Carpatho-Russian, Serbian, Russian, and Greek traditions are included in the group. There are also a considerable number of converts from other Christian confessions making their home at our parish.

The primary liturgical language here is English, although small portions of some services are conducted in Church Slavonic and Greek. Congregational singing is emphasized and encouraged. To this end pew books are prepared to provide parishioners with the opportunity to sing the services with the Readers and the Choir.

The Revised Julian Calendar (new) is followed in this parish in conformity with the practice of the Orthodox Church in America.

The small size of the parish (both physically and in membership) allows for an intimate experience of Orthodox Community living and the worship experience as a whole. Everyone is known in the church and no one remains a stranger for long. There is great concern shown one-to-another and this can certainly be called a "family church" in the truest sense of that expression.

Painted in 1976, the new iconographic depictions were executed by Fr Alexander Jurewicz. These icons are without a doubt some of the best examples of neo-Byzantine iconographic style available in Western Pennsylvania. Several art classes from nearby Penn State University have made trips to the parish in order to study and appreciate these icons.

As we celebrate our 120th year as a community in Christ, we look forward to continued spiritual growth and the deepening of our commitment to Jesus Christ. At Nativity of St John the Baptist, we aren't about building bigger buildings or increasing our membership rolls for number's sake. We are about empowering each person, singly as well as corporately, to deepen their faith and work out their salvation in Christ.

In CY 2002, we built a fine addition to the rectory ($100,000 cost, w/o a mortgage) which included four additional rooms and a much needed garage. Thank God for all things. President Jack Foster and Engineers Doug Donovan and Kari Anne Donovan were highly instrumental in drawing up the blueprints, dealing with the contractor and providing successful closure to this project.

A new church sign, designed per church specifications, was donated and installed by Paul and Carol Supko. The sign was blessed by Father Donovan on April 20, 2003. Many thanks were forthcoming to Paul and Carol for this beautiful sign.

An Eagle Scout Project by Andrew Conkey during 2003: Landscaping plans were drawn up by Andrew for the Rectory and Church grounds, including projected costs. These were presented to the Church council and approved. With assistance from other church members, he installed the shrubs and flowering plants around the two buildings. Andrew also helped plan and assisted in a social luncheon to help pay for the costs of this landscaping project. Many thanks for a job well done Andrew.

An Eagle Scout Project by Michael Conkey in 2007 involved refinishing all of the church pews. Michael also helped plan and assisted in a social luncheon to help pay for the costs of this project. Many thanks for a job well done Michael.

An Eagle Scout Project by Christopher Conkey in 2009 involved construction and installation of benches at the cemetery. In conjunction with this project, the Parish had a sign made and installed to match the style of the sign at the church. Christopher also helped plan and assisted in a social luncheon to help pay for the costs of this project. Many thanks for a job well done Christopher.

The Icon of the Virgin of the Sign by iconographer Matthew Garrett has been installed on the ceiling above the altar. It was blessed on July 20, 2008 by Father Horosky. God grant many years to the donors of this beautiful icon: the Brennish family--Jan, Sonya and Janine and William Kuehn. The icon was donated in memory of John Pisancik Brennish, Jane Pollick Brennish, and Florence Pollick Coulter.

The apricot, nut and poppyseed roll bake sales are successful every year. It seems you cannot predict the amount of rolls to make - we always seem to sell out entirely. Also successfully completed is the annual chicken BBQ - over 300 dinners are sold.

If you're in the area, why not stop in and "break bread" with us.

You'll be most welcome here!