GOSHEN — As Russian forces exerted more control over Ukraine's Crimean peninsula Sunday, March 9, Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox religious congregations came together to celebrate their common faith.
Sunday, known as Orthodox Sunday, the first Sunday of Lent, is a major holiday in the Orthodox Christian world. It marks the defeat of iconoclasm, giving Orthodox Christians the right to worship Jesus Christ through paintings of him and the saints, called "icons."
Goshen's three Orthodox Christian churches, Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Holy Protection Russian Orthodox Church and St. Mary's Antiochian Orthodox Church combined for a service at St. Mary's on C.R. 33 near Goshen. They set aside the heightening tensions in Ukraine for a day of worship, fellowship and food.
The celebration included the unveiling and blessing of an icon painted by St. Mary's member Brian Whirledge. Titled "Christ the Healer,” it depicts different times in the Bible that Christ healed people. It will be displayed at each of the three churches before going to its final display later this year at IU Health Goshen’s chapel, Whirledge said.
In Goshen, the Russian and Ukrainian parishes are across the street from each other on C.R. 21. Father Timothy Tadros, pastor at Holy Protection Russian Orthodox Church, said the Russian and Ukrainian congregations in Goshen have maintained “cordial” relations recently despite the tensions in Ukraine.
“There’s no animosity between us,” Tadros said. “We are separated by our ethnicity, by our bishops, by our churches, but today we’ve become one in the Sunday of Orthodoxy because we proclaim the triumph of orthodoxy over iconoclasm. It’s good to share in our brotherly unity.”
Fr. Silouan Sloan Rolando, pastor of Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Goshen, agreed.
“There was a time when I think we were more separated, but now, after 40, 50 years, the parishes are able to come back together and do events like this, and pray for what’s going on over there,” Rolando said. “We’re deeply concerned. At least here in Goshen, I feel that the parishes are very sensitive to it without being all pro-Russian or all pro-Ukrainian. They understand it’s a very complex issue and they want the best for the country.”
Rolando said he had no idea how the crisis is going to end because it’s been very surprising how Russia involved itself militarily. Everyone was predicting they wouldn’t, he said.
“But on the simplest level of the issue, each group tends to say that one side’s bad or the other one’s bad. They both have serious problems. There’s a lot of corruption over there across the board so it’s hard to say who’s the good guys. Each side likes to villainize the other, over there. Over here there’s a tendency to look a little more cautiously at who’s doing good and who’s not.”