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A Wing and a Prayer

July 9, 2011

There are many topics on my “to blog” list that I intend to get to…someday. But tonight I felt compelled to push those aside and instead write about a church I recently visited here in Juneau. Just a couple of blocks away from my apartment stands a small Russian Orthodox church, Saint Nicholas, which was founded in 1894.

Saint Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, Juneau, Alaska

St. Nicholas has a very rich and interesting history here in Juneau and I encourage you to read more about it at their website. The Russain Orthodox Church had been incorporating local Native languages into their worship practices as early as 1800 in Alaska. Because of this, the Russian Church here had a large Native congregation and this influence can be seen in artworks that adorn the church today.

My mom and I had first stumbled upon St. Nicholas while she was here visiting over the July 4th weekend. We admired the quaint structure from the street, but at that time it was closed so we moved along and I checked it off my list of things to see.

Or so I thought.

Then yesterday the sun came out – making a rare appearance around these parts – and I felt the need to get out and go hiking.

Cement Blocks, Holding Up Base of St. Nicholas

Long story short…I never made it hiking. I made a wrong turn somewhere and couldn’t find the road I had taken out before. Instead, I found myself standing in front of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church…again.

This time I stopped to read the sign posted at their front gate. It wasn’t an informational sign about the history of the church like I expected. Rather, it was sign that detailed the structural problems the church is facing. And it was a plea for help. From rotted out structural boards to foundational instabilities and the constant worry that Juneau’s next earthquake might send the entire church tumbling down the hill. They additionally provided monetary figures the church needed to save the historic building.

Then I noticed a smaller sign by the door stating that the bookstore was closed, but the church was open to visitors. So I went to take a peek.


The door to the tiny building was proped wide open and not a single person was in sight. It was very peacefull and created an excellent opportunity to really look around and see all of the artwork the church had:


And then I stumbled across this:

State of the Artwork

And again, as I exited the building, there was another plea to help them raise the funds to restore their building, artworks, and to prevent loosing the rich cultural heritage their church has. Here’s a few images from their iconostas, which had been made and brought over from Russia sometime around 1894:

Screen of St. Cyril

Detail, Showing Losses in Screen

I have many more photos of some of beautiful artworks on display, which you can view on my Flickr site:

Father Simeon was kind enough to speak with me a bit before I left and it is evident that he and his congregation not only care a great deal for the community, but for the cultural heritage they possess.

If you would like to help their cause, you can contact Fr. Simeon B. Johnson directly at Or you can send a tax-deductible donation, as stated on their website:

“In conjunction with R.O.S.S.I.A. (Russian Orthodox Sacred Sites in Alaska), we are embarking on a major historic preservation project to repair these problems, and preserve the church for the next generation of Juneau worshippers and the thousands of people from all over the world that visit our church via cruise ship each summer.

Tax deductable donations, marked “preservation,” can be sent to:

St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church

P.O. Box 20130

Juneau, Alaska 99802-0130

4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 11, 2011 5:59 pm

    Thanks so much Crista, for bringing St. Nicholas to our attention. I feel a connection to the saint who is the patron for sailors and single women, and because I celebrated St. Nicholas Day (Dec 6) as a child and loved leaving out my shoes for the saint to leave little gifts.

    I wonder about the “rough attempts to clean and preserve” that doesn’t sound too great, like using really abrasive materials, of course it was all probably done with the best of intentions but perhaps without the best of materials or training.

    I hope you enjoy Alaska in the summer and have a great time up North, thanks for blogging and I am really looking forward to following your summer.

    Rose Cull

    • July 12, 2011 2:29 am

      Thanks Rose! Great to hear from you and I’m glad this post connected to you! And I had no idea that St. Nicholas was the patron saint for sailors and single women. What a great combo! 🙂

      I was curious about the “rough attempts” as well. Mostly I thought it was great to see the recognition that the paintings “survived” all of that and now they want to raise money to have them properly cared for. It’s such a beautiful little church – I hope they are able to reach their goals!

      Alaska is great and the time is flying by a little too fast! Keep in touch!


  2. July 11, 2011 9:00 pm

    Crista, So exciting to see you are in Alaska! Makes me nostalgic for my time there with. Please give my best to Ellen and Scott and Carson- whom I just missed meeting. Make sure you eats lots of salmon and lots of berries! Look forward to reading more about your projects.
    best, Samantha

    • July 12, 2011 2:38 am

      Thanks Samantha! I’m having a wonderful time up here and can see why you’d be nostalgic for it…I think I’ll have a hard time leaving at the end of the summer. I’m attempting to eat my weight in salmon, but I haven’t gotten any berries yet! I did hear that blueberries are easy for the picking along the road on Douglas island…may have to wander over that way this weekend!

      I’ll be sure to pass along your greeting to the Carrlees. Hope all is well with you!

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