St. Vladimir’s Memorial Church (Jackson, New Jersey)
In 1938, during the celebration of the 950th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus’, the decision was made at the behest of Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko) to mark this jubilee by erecting the majestic St. Vladimir Memorial Church in the town of Cassville, soon after renamed Jackson, at ROVA Farms (ROVA: Russian Mutual Aid Society), where many Russian people typically congregate in the summer months.
On the hill where the church stands, there was once an American Presbyterian Church in the 19th century, which served the spiritual needs of the early settlers of the area. Although the chapel was no longer standing, an old cemetery remained, and the land still belonged to the Presbyterian Church of America, which graciously agreed to give the land to Vladyka Vitaly after he met with representatives. The original architectural design was done by the talented Russian architect R. N. Verhovskoy. Generally speaking, he based his design on the Transfiguration Church in Pereyaslavl-Zalessky, although the belfry is Pskov style, certain other details are Novgorodian, and the interior was originally based on St. Vladimir's Cathedral in Kiev.
In 1940, the triumphal laying of the cornerstone was performed by Metropolitan Theophilus (Pashkovsky), Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko), and Bishop Macarius (Ilyinsky), hierarchs of the then-united Russian Church in America, which later divided into three parts: the American Church, the Church Abroad, and the Moscow Patriarchate. St. Vladimir Memorial Church remained under the authority of Archbishop Vitaly.
The Second World War halted construction. In 1948, the rector’s responsibilities were assigned to Hieromonk Anthony (Medvedev) and work on the lower church was completed by V. I. Vishnevsky and M. I. Yazykov, with the technical assistance of the engineer A. E. Boldakov.
In 1951, Archpriest Vasily Musin-Pushkin was assigned church rector, and work on the church under his leadership took on a new character of intensity – the church walls and apse were completed under the supervision of architect V. G. Glinin, after which supervision over the construction of the church was undertaken by N. D. Popov. On May 28/June 10, 1959, Archpriest Vasily Musin-Pushkin died suddenly, and the church’s deacon, the newly ordained to the priesthood Fr. Vitaly Faktorovich, became the rector, soon after becoming a monk with the name Vasily, in honor of the Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Great Prince Vladimir, who took the name Vasily in Holy Baptism. Local architect S. N. Padyukov took over supervision of church construction. Upon Archbishop Vitaly’s death on February 21/March 8, St. Vladimir’s Society and the Building Committee for the Construction of St. Vladimir Memorial Church were led by Archbishop Nikon of Washington & Florida.
In 1984, Archpriest Boris Kizenko was assigned deputy rector of the memorial church, and together with Archbishop Laurus (Škurla) he prepared the parish both physically and spiritually for the celebration of the Millennium of the Baptism of Rus’.
The interior of the church was frescoed by the well-known iconographer Archimandrite Cyprian (Pyzhov). The overarching theme is the witness of Orthodoxy by the multitude of Russian saints throughout history. The iconostasis, based on that of the Dormition Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin, was designed and built by Bishop Daniel of Erie, who painted most of the icons on it as well.
The most significant event in the history of St. Vladimir’s Church was the celebration of the Millennium of the Baptism of Rus’ in 1988. St. Vladimir Memorial Church was the site of the official ROCOR celebration on July 30-31, 1988, in which the entire Sobor of Bishops participated, along with the heir of the House of Romanov, Grand Prince Vladimir Kyrillovich. The Great Consecration of the Church was held one week prior on July 24, 1988, the feast of St. Olga.
The lower church, dedicated to St. Olga, was the first operational church space of St. Vladimir’s. While construction was underway on the main church, all the services were held in the lower church for almost 20 years. Once the main church was completed, the lower church was primarily used for English language services, following the spiritual will of Archbishop Vitaly, who encouraged missionary work in America. Archpriest Philip Petrovsky oversaw the English Mission for many years until his repose in 2011, having served the Memorial Church for 37 years.
Today, St. Olga’s Church is the final resting place of Archbishops Vitaly and Nikon (Rklitsky). The Great Consecration was held on July 24, 2013, on the feast of St. Olga, and was led by the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral).
2013 marks the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus’ and the 75th anniversary of the founding of St. Vladimir’s Church. With the blessing of Metropolitan Hilarion, the Eastern American Diocesan Council resolved to organize a diocesan celebration of the monumental anniversaries on July 27-28, 2013.