About Our Mission Parish
We are the only Russian Orthodox Christian parish in Central Pennsylvania, tracing our worship and teachings back to Byzantium and the Holy Land.
St John's had its first service on September 13th, 2015 under the name Protection of the Most Holy Mother of God Russian Orthodox Mission Church, at the request of a community of mainly American converts to the Orthodox faith, with associations with the Bucknell University Orthodox Christian Fellowship. They lived in the region of the Susquehanna River Confluence area of central Pennsylvania, which had no nearby Orthodox parishes. The mission's original name was inspired by Holy Protection Greek Orthodox Monastery in White Haven, PA, where some of the founders had attended services or visited as pilgrims. The mission received its current name of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco in 2018 after purchasing property for building a temple near Lewisburg in Winfield, in rural Union Township, with the help of our Diocese. A change in name was requested by our Diocese, because of the need for a patron with a feast day when Bishops could visit, there already being other parishes named Holy Protection in the Eastern United States. The name emerged because of associations of mission clergy and parishioners with the veneration of St. John, a modern ascetic and wonderworking saint who had been a hierarch of ROCOR in North America, and whose missionary work in the U.S. helped inspire emigres and converts alike in unity in the ancient faith of Orthodox Christianity. His well-known devotion to the Mother of God marked continuity with the original name, as does the mission's continued practice of monthly akathists to our Lady the Most Holy Theotokos.
Mitred Archpriest Claude Vinyard, who had served in a number of Pennsylvania Orthodox churches and was at the time Rector of Christ the Savior Russian Orthodox Church in Sugar Notch, encouraged and guided the group's founding efforts. With initial encourage from Bishop George Schaeffer (then of Mayfield), and then with the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) the parish was founded as a mission of ROCOR in the Eastern U.S. Diocese's deanery of Pennsylvania, whose Dean is the Mitred Archpriest John Sorochka of St. John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Mayfield, who also has helped guide our establishment as a mission parish. Father Claude became our first Rector, and was succeeded as Rector in 2019 by Fr. George Sharonoff, who had been Subdeacon and Deacon at the mission's services under Fr. Claude's mentorship.
Pennsylvania has a long history of Russian Orthodox Christian worship and evangelism, extending back to Slavic immigrants coming to the anthracite coal region and working in the steel industry in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when North America in the Orthodox world generally was considered to be under ecclesiastical authority of the Russian Orthodox Church, due to the latter's longstanding presence in Alaska, the Northwest, and California, and its prominent financial support under the St. Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II of Orthodox communities in America, including in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Orthodox communities today include also many converts to the ancient Christian faith, as is the case with our mission. The Russian Orthodox Church is the largest of the "local churches" of Orthodox Christianity worldwide, and being "Russian Orthodox" today does not mean one is necessarily Russian, any more than in Catholicism being "Roman Catholic" means that one is Roman.
Our Synod of Bishops, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, had developed from the Bishops and community of faithful who, opposing the violent atheistic Bolshevik takeover of Russia and its persecution of the Church, in 1920 headed into exile with remnants of the White Army from Crimea to Constantinople. They at that time formed the "Church Abroad" outside of Communist control, to care for the refugee and emigrant Russian Orthodox diaspora worldwide, following an initial blessing by Saint Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow. The ROCOR Synod moved to New York City from Europe after World War II. Its seminary and main monastery developed at Jordanville, NY, at the source of the Susquehanna River, in whose valley our mission rests. A helpful history of ROCOR can be found here. ROCOR and the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia rejoined communion with one another in 2007, after the fall of Communism in Russia and the renewal of the Church there. ROCOR today is an autonomous Church body within the Russian Orthodox Church under Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. Through the Church in Russia, ROCOR enjoys apostolic succession back to the ancient Patriarchates of the Mediterranean and the earliest Christian Church.
We currently hold services in historic downtown Lewisburg near the campus of Bucknell University, and help to support the Bucknell Orthodox Christian community. Two acres of open land in Winfield, just south of Lewisburg, were added in May 2019 to a two-acre cemetery parcel (formerly Chestnut Hill Cemetery) acquired by the parish in December 2018, and a further two acres added in 2021. St. John Orthodox Cemetery was consecrated on St. Vladimir's Day in July 2019, adjoining the former Chestnut Hill Cemetery, which together are now the St. John Cemetery. The mission parish is currently planning a building on our land and donations to that end (through our PayPal account linked to this website) are much appreciated. Glory to God for all things!
News links chronicling our history
The Feast Days of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco are celebrated on June 19 o.s./July 2 n.s. (civil calendar) and Sept. 29 o.s./Oct. 12 n.s..