From the first time a group of Russians, Serbs, Greeks, Alaskan Aleuts, and Arabs gathered in a tiny house in what is now inner Southeast Portland for the first Divine Liturgy in Oregon in 1890, St. Nicholas has been the spiritual home to people of a variety of ethnic origins.
Fast-forward more than a century to a small parish between Downtown Portland and the Southwest suburbs. Here, you’ll find a people from variety of backgrounds — “American converts and lifelong Orthodox,” along with Russians, Russians, Bulgarians, Greeks, Eritreans, Estonians, Romanians, and others — gathered to worship Christ.
St. Nicholas is a small parish of about (200?) families, with a strong emphasis on welcoming newcomers. Most parishioners are converts from another tradition, and we also have a strong Slavic presence, with our deacon leading Russian Bible studies.
Our church was completed in 1996, a mix of traditional and modern architecture with a Northwest vibe.
Our octagonal baptismal font figures prominently in the narthex—or entryway to the church—as a symbol of Christian initiation. At the doorway between the narthex and nave—the main section of the church building—you’ll find a mosaic of two peacocks with grapes and wheat—ancient symbols of immortality and the Eucharist.
The interior features the iconography by Heather MacKean. On the ceiling of the central dome, is Christ, the Ruler of All, blessing the congregation. Above the sanctuary (where the Eucharist is prepared), the Virgin Mary sits enthroned, and below her, Christ distributes Communion to the Apostles. On the iconostasis, the wall of icons between the sanctuary are St. Nicholas, the Theotokos, Christ, and John the Baptist. The Royal Doors at the front have the four Gospel writers, and the side doors have Cherubim.
On the south wall is a group of saints who created music, and on the north wall is a companion grouping of American saints.
The choir is made up of real parishioners, who volunteer their time out of love of the church and the music. The choir director, Tracey Edson, is a professional musician. Although music is limited by Covid restriction, you’ll hear music from a variety of cultures—from ancient Byzantine chant, from the churches of Eastern Europe and the Middle East, as well as from the fledgling American Church.
Our after Liturgy “coffee hour” (when it was permitted, before Covid restrictions) featured a full lunch and conversation with people of a variety of backgrounds and experiences.