St. John the Baptist Church

Spring Valley, New York

St. John the Baptist Church

Founded 1914

Diocese: Diocese of New York and New Jersey

Deanery: New Jersey Deanery

Address

64 W Church St
Spring Valley, New York 10977

Mailing address:

40 West St
Spring Valley, NY 10977-4760

Parish Contacts

V. Rev. Kyril Riggs
Acting Rector
Home: 845-425-0259

Directions

From Upstate New York
Take NY State Thruway to exit 14 (Spring Valley).  At exit, turn right on Rt 59 to Spring Valley.  Continue on 59 about one mile, passing Rt 45 intersection.  At West St (light), turn right and go 3 blocks to the Church, which is on the right.

From New Jersey
Take Garden State Parkway to NY State Thruway to exit 14 (Spring Valley).  At exit, turn right on Rt 59 to Spring Valley.  Continue on 59 about one mile, passing Rt 45 intersection.  At West St (light), turn right and go 3 blocks to the Church, which is on the right.

From New York City
Take Tappan Zee Bridge to NY State Thruway to exit 14 (Spring Valley).  At exit, turn right on Rt 59 to Spring Valley.  Continue on 59 about one mile, passing Rt 45 intersection.  At West St (light), turn right and go 3 blocks to the Church, which is on the right.

Schedule of Services

All divine services are celebrated in English.

4:00 PM Vespers.  (Visitors should call to confirm)
Saturday Evening

9:30 AM Hours and Divine Liturgy.
Sunday Morning

9:00 AM Divine Liturgy.
Mornings of Great Feasts

Parish Background

St John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Church came into being on April 30, 1914, when 42 persons of mainly Carpatho-Russian ethnicity living in Spring Valley, NY met in order to form a church committee which would seek the blessing of His Eminence Archbishop Platon (Rozhdestvensky) to organize a new Russian Orthodox parish.  Property at the southeastern corner of West and Church Sts, with an existing house facing West St and a sufficiently large yard as a site for th church, was purchased for $2000.  On June 1, 1914 an open air Liturgy was celebrated by the Rev Priestmonk Benjamin Basalyga on the newly purchased property, and on July 5, 1915 the church was dedicated by Fr Benjamin and two other priests.

Fr Benjamin remained priest-in-charge until April 1916, when the Rev Priestmonk Simeon Nikulnikoff became pastor of the new parish.  In December 1921 he was succeeded by the Rev Elisey Lilikovich, who remained pastor until December 1922.  None of these first three pastors were resident at the church; rather, they travelled from New York City in order to celebrate Divine Liturgy for the small congregation.

In February 1923 Rev Joseph Havriliak became the parish’s first resident pastor.  He organized the first parish choir (which led the congregation in the singing of their familiar Carpatho-Russian plainchant) and had a pastorate lasting until February 1926, when he was transferred to SS Peter & Paul Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Passaic, NJ.  He was succeeded by Rev Gregory Stefchak, who remained until February 1931, after which the parish was without a resident priest for nearly three years.

In December 1933, Rev John Havriliak (Fr Joseph’s brother) was appointed pastor, holding the parish’s lengthiest pastorate of almost forty years!  Under his able leadership the mortgage was paid in full in 1943; the church building was renovated and expanded in size, with a new gas heating and water system, in 1950-51; two new bells were placed in the church’s steeple and fifteen stained glass windows were installed in 1952; a new Byzantine-style iconostasis was built by the architect-artist Roman Verhovskoy, new canvas icons of the Resurrection and the four evangelists were mounted on the interior walls, and pews were installed in 1955; a new altar table crafted by the artist Gleb Griez, containing the relics of St Barbara, was installed and consecrated in 1957.

Fr John also painstakingly expanded the parish choir’s repertiore of sacred music, transcribing new music himself by hand.  By 1953 the parish’s “tradition” of congregational singing, led by a choir whose singers took their tones directly from the priest, was supplanted by a “professional” church choir directed by a salaried choir director, Wassily Flustikoff, a member of the Serge Jaroff Don Cossack Chorus.  In 1957, Lawrence Havriliak, the son of Fr John and until 1959 the director of the Rockland County Choral Society, took over the direction of the choir, under whose leadership the choir became one of the most proficient anywhere—performing a series of concerts and even producing six recorded albums of church music:  Russian Christmas, Russian Easter, Divine Liturgy (Slavonic), Divine Liturgy (English), Liturgical Classics and Folk Songs of Old Russia.  Another “offspring” of the parish’s musical tradition was the formation of the Troika Balalaika Orchestra, which grew out of the parish’s annual “yolka” presentation.

By the 1960s the parish reached its peak in membership of 150 families, many of which had school-age children.  Therefore, after six months training at St Vladimir’s Seminary, five lay teachers, under the direction of Eugenia Charlap, organized a well-structured program of church school classes in 1963.  The parish’s social organizations consisted of the Sisterhood of St Ann, organized in 1935, and an “R” Club chapter, organized in 1950.  The parish was also involved in several historic local events, such as being the site of the first diocesan assembly of the New York and New Jersey Diocese and of the first organizational meeting, held on November 15, 1962, of SS Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church (now located in West Nyack, NY).  The parish was also blessed with the visitation of the miraculous icon of Our Lady of Kazan in October 1963, greeted by a large crowd of parishioners singing the Akathistos hymn to that miraculous icon.

By this time the existing church was found to be too small to accomodate the congregation, so in 1967 a ten acre property on Rt 45 in Chestnut Ridge, NY was purchased as a site for a future new church (unfortunately, the proposed new church was never built; the property was sold to Holy Virgin & St Pakhomious Coptic Orthodox Church in May 1998).  All of the parish’s activities were blessed and led by Fr John until he finally retired in October 1973.

Succeeding Fr John was Rev Michael Dudas, whose pastorate lasted until October 1976.  He was followed by the VRev Joseph Kreshik, during whose pastorate of twelve years occured the restoration of the church’s now aged icons as well as other renovations of the church interior.  In November 1988 Rev Yakov Ryklin became pastor.  He utilized his talents in woodcarving in order to construct new icon stands, a new baptismal font, and other carved wood furnishings for the church.  Fr Yakov was transferred to Tokyo, Japan in June, 1991 and was replaced by Rev Alexander Tandilashvili, who was “on loan” to the Orthodox Church in America from the Orthodox Church of Georgia.  Although Fr Alexander’s appointment was originally only supposed to be temporary, he remained pastor for over six years!  Sadly, in 1995 Lawrence Havriliak retired from his position as choir director after over thirty-eight years of dedicated service.  Fr Alexander, however, took the lead in finding a muisician and recent graduate from St Vladimir’s Seminary, Ludwig A Djaparidze, to be the new choir director.

The Rev. Aaron Archer came to the parish in August 2003 and served through Pascha 2010.  At that time, V. Rev. Kiril Riggs came to serve the parish and continues to do so.

Like many other parishes, over the last thirty years St John’s has suffered some decline in church membership, with present membership rather diverse and numbering approximately 30 men, women and children.

The parish began using English in the 1960s and now services are entirely in English.  Feast Days are found according to the Revised Julian (New) Calendar.  We always welcome visitors to our services which are held at 9:30 AM on Sundays and Holy Days.  Saturday and Holy Day Vespers, suspended by Father Aaron, are to resume in the fall of 2010.  Sunday Liturgy is followed by coffee hour, where we hope to meet visitors and welcome them.