Protection of the Holy Virgin Church

Santa Rosa, California

Protection of the Holy Virgin Church

Founded 1936

Diocese: Diocese of the West

Deanery: Pacific Central Deanery


90 Mountain View Ave
Santa Rosa, California 95407

Office: 707-584-9491

Parish Contacts

V. Rev. Lawrence Margitich
Home: 707-584-9491
V. Rev. John Schettig
Associate Priest
10400 Cherry Ridge Rd
Sebastopol, CA 95472
Home: 707-829-2861
V. Rev. Michael Margitich
Retired, Attached
204 Presidential Cir
Healdsburg, CA 95448
Home: 707-473-0314
Dn. Jeremiah Crawford
10408 Cherry Ridge Rd
Sebastopol, CA 95472
Home: 707-861-9974
Dn. Nicholas Carr
440 Derby Ln
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
Home: 707-588-8753

Lay Leadership

Nicolas Custer
Choir Director
Gloria Collins and Ron Parmenas Davis
Church School Coordinators


General Location
The Church is located at 90 Mountain View Ave, on the southern edge of Santa Rosa, just east of the US 101 Freeway.

Heading south on US 101
Exit at Todd Rd and proceed over the freeway to Santa Rosa Ave.  Turn right on Santa Rosa Ave to Mountain View Ave (just beyond Friedman Brothers Hardware).  Turn left on Mountain View Ave.

Heading north on US 101
Exit on Santa Rosa Ave and proceed north to Mountain View Ave (just before Friedman Brothers Hardware).  Turn right on Mountain View Ave.  The Church is on the right with both a small white wood-framed chapel with bell tower and blue cupola (Protection of the Holy Virgin Chapel) near the front of the property and a new and much larger cruciform concrete and masonry temple with copper dome (St Seraphim of Sarov Church) behind.

Schedule of Services

5:00 PM Vespers or Vigil.
Saturday Evening

10:00 AM Divine Liturgy, Church School (11:30 AM).
Sunday Morning

9:40 AM Hours.
Sunday Morning

6:00 PM Vespers.
Wednesday Evening

3:30 PM Catechism during Advent and Great Lent.

6:15 PM Vigil.
Eves of Great Feasts

9:00 AM Divine Liturgy.
Mornings of Great Feasts

6:15 PM Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts followed by Lenten Meal and Talk.
Wednesday Evenings in Great Lent

Confessions are heard following Vespers or Vigil, or by appointment.

Parish Background

Jesus Christ Himself is the Cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a Holy Temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Eph 2:21-22).

The history of the Protection of the Holy Virgin Church has been written in the lives of all those who have been touched in one way or another by the parish over the last sixty years.  In this short account of the Protection parish, we are limited to mentioning only a few of the builders and founders of the parish.  Behind them stand many more who have participated in the life of the Church, giving of themselves to the realization of the Body of Christ, laboring under the protection of the Most Holy Mother of God to whom this temple is dedicated.

To all those gone before us:  Memory Eternal!  To all those who labor and share in the life of the Church, to all our friends and benefactors:  Many Years!

The idea of establishing an Orthodox Church in the Santa Rosa area began to take shape in the early 1930’s as increasing numbers of Russians were moving north of San Francisco into the small town and rural life of Sonoma County, establishing themselves in places like Santa Rosa, Healdsburg, Petaluma, and Sebastopol.  There were also Orthodox of other nationalities, notably Greeks and Serbs who were part of this movement. These Russians, who came to make up the bulk of the parish, were mostly persons displaced by the Communist Revolution of 1917 and the subsequent turmoil of Russian life and who had fled eastward through Siberia to Manchuria and China before coming to America. Many of these refugees had made their home in the city of Harbin before moving on, and it is in this Russian enclave in Northern China that many of the marriages and friendships of the founders and builders of our Parish were formed.

Russians living at a distance from San Francisco maintained their attachment to the San Francisco Cathedral and colony, even while at the same time they sought to establish satellite churches and social groups.  Thus in the 1930s churches were established in Berkeley, Santa Rosa, and Bryte.

The movement to build a church was fueled by a group of about twenty families, including the family of Mrs Julia Rayburn (Reabinin), who was to fall alseep in the Lord at the age of 80 as Mother Elena at the Dormition Convent in nearby Calistoga.  Under the leadership of Fr Michael Pelzig, who arrived in Santa Rosa from Santa Barbara in time for Pascha in 1936, the movement to get parish life underway gained momentum.  Moneys had been collected for the purpose of building a church as early as October 1934.  Several fund-raising concerts were held in the local Episcopalian Church hall in 1935.  But it was in February 1936, on land donated for the purpose by Mrs Rayburn in memory of two of her sons tragically killed in 1932 and 1935, that building began.  The temple was rough finished by April 1936.

Parish reports from the 1940s and 50s express the desire to develop the grounds, establish a well, build a cupola and bell tower, build a road through the property and construct washrooms.  To meet the challenge of generating the funds whereby these projects could be undertaken a sisterhood was organized and given the task of finding “a profitable means of raising money.”  This was the beginning of the now famous Sunday luncheons and other social activities sponsored by the parish Sisterhood.  To the parcels of land donated in 1936, three parcels behind the first were added over the years and a fourth was left to the parish in 1985 in the will of Matushka Elena Szerocki.  The first church hall (now the church school and choir director’s apartment) was built in 1950.  The Rectory was built in 1954.  The “new” church hall was built in 1968.

The Protection parish today is a microsocm of Orthodoxy in America.  While striving to remain faithful to Holy Tradition, and the spiritual ethos of Russian Orthodoxy, it is also enriched by the customs of Greek, Arabic, Romanian, Eritrean, and other diverse backgrounds.  For the last 10 years, the Parish has been blessed with many American converts, who find in Holy Orthodoxy the fullness and purity of the Christian Faith.  This unity of the Church - and the reconciliation and communion of persons in Christ - has always stood at the heart of the Orthodox experience of life.  With the help of God, we, like our predecessors—the founders and builders of the Church—endeavor in this task to the glory of God and of the Church.

The construction of our new temple has proved to be another form of reaching the community and bringing the message of Orthodoxy to others.  People regularly drive up to see what is going on and to watch our progress, some on a weekly basis.  As we move into St Seraphim’s Church we hope many of these curious will come and join us for worship in our larger quarters.  The cramped quarters of our existing Protection of the Holy Virgin Church makes it difficult for many visitors who are new to Orthodoxy to feel comfortable.