Western American Diocese
Western American Diocese
Feast Day of “Our Lady of Kazan” church at Vacation Beach – commemorated on July 24, 2021

On the 21st of July, the Orthodox Church celebrates the appearance of the Icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the city of Kazan (1579). The Kazan Icon of the Mother of God is the most famous and especially revered icon of the Virgin in Russia. The shrine is truly the guardian of Russia: the Blessed Holy Mother of God has repeatedly saved the country from catastrophe by prayers before Her Kazan image.

In celebration of the manifestation of the miraculous Kazan' Icon of the Mother of God, one of the most important in the history of Russia, the traditional celebrations on the occasion of the parish feast-day took place on Saturday, July 24th at the Our Lady of Kazan' Church on Vacation Beach, a picturesque suburb of Guerneville on the Russian River. The Russian Orthodox people who immigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area decades ago fell in love with the region, which reminded them of the scenery of their homeland, and acquired summer homes in the area so that before long a community of dachas was formed. The Our Lady of Kazan church had long held services each week during the summer months for the many vacationers at Russian River and is now one of the gems of the Russian Orthodox Bay Area community. Although enveloped in redwoods, not characteristic of Russia, the nearby river, the small dachas, many of which have planted birch trees in their yard have the feel of the outskirts of many such countryside regions of Russia.
While the actual date of the Feast Day, according to the new style calendar is on July 21, the feast was moved to the Saturday following, so that more worshipers could attend. Three bishops took part in the service: Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America, Bishop Theodosy of Seattle, and Bishop James of Sonora. The service was concelebrated with Rev. Paul Volmensky (Holy Ascension Church, Sacramento) and Rev. Aleksey Bykon (St. Nicholas Cathedral, San Francisco) along with 4 Deacons: Peter Karakozoff (Holy Virgin Cathedral, San Francisco), Alexander Sarandinaki (All Russian Saints, Burlingame), Paul Kazachenko (St. Herman of Alaska Orthodox Church in Sunnyvale) and Nikolai Sharkov (St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, SF & local from the Kazan Vacation Beach church) and many devoted altar servers. In the small cozy church where the service was held, an atmosphere of prayer reigned, and everyone present here felt like a member of one large family - the Church of Christ.
Especially moving was the church procession, led by 5 nuns, including Mother Macrina and the sisters of the Holy Assumption Monastery in Calistoga and Mother Gabriela (Vacation Beach) carrying banners, cross and icons and the worshipers, some singing along with the choir, led by Matushka Ioanna Sharkov. A special moleben was included to honor St. Olga, Equal of the Apostles, whose Saints Day was also commemorated that day. Not for many years, had so many faithful attended to celebrate the Feast Day of this intimate, welcoming beloved church.
Afterwards, all were invited to share in the festal banquet, which was served outdoors with tables beautifully set, adorned with blue tablecloths and flower arrangements on each table under white canopies overhead providing comfortable shade from the summer sun. The banquet was organized by Natalie Sabelnik and her family with the help of some other locals, Kira Poluektov and her sister-in-law, Elena Poluektov, Maria Litvinova-Lysenko, Michael Menko, Aliona Russie and the invaluable assistance from Mother Gabriela. Many of the guests responded favorably by bringing a variety of dishes to share in the potluck lunch. The food table was overflowing with an array of salads, main dishes, side dishes, appetizers, breads, desserts and fruit. Especially touching was also how many young adults attended the service and lunch. St. John's Russian Orthodox Youth group, coordinated by Olga Yakoubovsky (commemorating her Saint’s Day), also contributed much to the variety of food at the table. The youngest helper, 11-year old Anastasia Sarandinaki eagerly assisted in setting up, serving and cleaning up throughout the entire day.
Archbishop Kyrill thanked all who had helped organize the celebration, commenting on the unprecedented number of people (over 100) who came to share the feast together. He announced that the next service at the church would be held on Saturday, August 21 and invited all to come back for the service and the lunch. He also announced that Victoria Sabelnik, who helped with all aspects of the preparations, setup and cleanup, including all the floral decorations, would be the official coordinator of the luncheons (trapezas) from now on.
While the church has no sisterhood, no actual membership or dues, no permanent clergy, the entire celebration, including the abundance of pot luck food that was shared by the many attendees, locals and guests from neighboring parishes, the SF Bay Area, Sacramento and as far away as Bakersfield and Los Angeles. Much of the equipment and supplies for the Feast Day were sponsored and paid for by the Russian American Women’s League and the Congress of Russian Americans.
It seemed that the church had again survived trials during the past years, including the devastating effects of the pandemic, numerous disastrous floods and a surge of countless California wildfires and yet, has been miraculously strengthened, as services were again resurrected this year in May. One of the long-time residents of Russian River, Matushka Margarita Poluektov, whose husband, the late Rev. Alexey Poluektov was rector of the Our Lady of Kazan church in San Francisco (Feast Day commemorated November 4), commented how the Feast Day event this year “surpassed all her expectations”.  She said, “it was like seeing some flowers or mushrooms spring up in a long-forgotten place”.
Natalia Sabelnik

Some photos from the Feast - 07/24/2021

(23 images)

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