The first portion of this page is a brief overview of the history of SS. Peter and Paul Orthodox Church accompanied by photos of figures significant in the Church's history. For the benefit of those viewers with a more profound interest in the history of our Church, the second portion of this page is a detailed history of our Church, taken verbatim from the introduction to the publication (1980) on the occasion of SS. Peter and Paul Orthodox Church's 75 Anniversary - Her Diamond Jubilee.
From the great famine of 1891 in Russia, many people from the state of Vilna emigrated to America. Amongst these emigrants was Alexander Schak, who arrived in South River in about 1895 after spending his first three years in America in Parlin, NJ. Upon his arrival, he found the Anton Kasperovich family, the first Russian Orthodox family to settle in South River. Mr. Schak became a stitcher, bought his own handkerchief factory, and built a home and an inn. Being the only person to have a telephone and a post office box, relatives of the townspeople arriving in America automatically called his phone number for information and assistance. His place became the center of activity for the Russian immigrants in the South River area. As the Russian Orthodox community grew, a parish was organized.
In the beginning the people worshiped in the facilities of Our Lady of Victory Roman Catholic Church in Sayreville with various priests sent from New York. In 1905 VRev. Alexander Hotovitsky (photo above left of Archpriest Hotovitsky; icon above right of Saint Alexander Hotovitsky), who was sent quite regularly from New York, formed a Brotherhood whose members committed themselves to raising funds and building a church. In early 1906 a new church was consecrated by Archbishop Tikhon (photo below left of Bishop Tikhon; photo below center of Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia; icon below right of Saint Tikhon of America). Since there was no rectory, visiting priests served the parish for the next few years. In 1910 a building was acquired for a rectory and church school. A wing was added for a library which soon had a collection of 100 Russian volumes. Grounds were acquired for a cemetery about a quarter mile from the church. The first burial was in October of 1910.
The first resident priest was VRev. Jacob Korchinsky. In 1915, Rev. Peter Semashko (photo below left) became the pastor. Although his stay was short, it was during his time that the parish solidified. After the wooden church was severely damaged by fire, a new brick and stone church modeled after the new church (St. Theodosius Cathedral) in Cleveland, OH was built in 1915. Significantly, Fr Semashko had a second brief pastorate in South River from 1932-34 during which time the church interior was decorated with murals and icons and so he got to see the completion of the new church which was consecrated in his first pastorate.
A number of choir masters served the parish, training choirs to sing the hymns and responses of the church events. They also aided the priests in teaching the faith, worship, and the Russian and Church Slavonic languages to the parish children. The most prominent of these was Ivan Blonsky (photo above center), who diligently served the parish from 1920 to 1944 and then again from 1967 to 1973. Nicholas Afonsky also served as choir master here before he was transferred to the New York Cathedral. Sunday School was instituted early in the pastorate of V.Rev. Philip Pechinsky (1952-1958) (photo above right) and a church school building with five classrooms and an auditorium was constructed in 1955.
Our Church Cemetery was founded in 1910 - five years after the founding of our Church. A number of individuals who were instrumental in the history of our Church are reposed there including the V. Rev. Philip Pechinsky, V. Rev. Peter Semashko, and Professor Ivan Blonsky who was the director of the church choir for many decades.
During the pastorate of V. Rev. Joseph Kreshik (1958-1976) (photo below left) stained glass windows were installed in the church. Property was acquired a few blocks from the church which was developed for recreation and became known as Seven Acres Park. On one end of this property a new rectory was built in 1974. The V.Rev. Sergius S. Kuharsky (photo below right) came to South River in 1976. He, with the help of Matushka Faith, worked to intensify the educational programs of the parish for both children and adults. The parish became more active in Diocesan and Central Administration support through Father's encouragement and through the activity of both Father Sergius and Matushka in various departments and commissions of the OCA.
In 1993 the church central dome and cupolas were reclad (photo above) with new copper and new gold leafed crosses now surmount each cupola. New outdoor lighting was installed to reflect the cupolas and crosses against the sky at night. During 1994 and 1995, both the exterior and interior of the church were restored, culminating in the celebration of the 90th Anniversary of the parish in November of 1995. Fr. David Garretson came to South River in 1998, after the retirement of Fr. Kuharsky. Father David is shown in July, 2004 in the photo below.
Most recently, iconography was written for the back walls of the body of our Church. The Saints of North America are the subject of this iconography (photos below). Funds for this project were the result of a bequest to the Church from the estate of the reposed Father Leonid Kubersky (photo below) of South River, a priest who had served several times in our Church.
Parish History: Part II. - A Detailed Accounting of the History of SS. Peter and Paul Orthodox Church
The Saints Peter and Paul Russian Orthodox Church of South River, New Jersey, was organized in July, 1905. To present the history of the church in its proper perspective, we must review briefly the history of Russia. Since people and events make history, let us consider the specific events which occurred in Russia that eventually resulted in the foundation of our church. The particular area of Russia upon which we focus is the state of Vilna in Byelorussia where most of the church founders originally resided.
In 1861, Czar Alexander II. proclaimed the emancipation of all serfs. However, the enforcement of the proclamation did not occur until the 1870's. The peasants' dreams of better lives were not to become a reality during that decade. Although the Czar gave the serfs their freedom, he let the landowners retain all the lands which had been tilled by the peasants for generations. The result was that the peasants were under the complete mercy of the landowners. To rectify this situation, the Czar later allowed the peasants to buy small parcels of land from the landowners which proved to be too small for self-sustenance. In order to purchase the land, the peasants took government loans, and the repayment of the "Redemption Money Loan" to the government for forty years added to their problems. Poverty and starvation raged through Russia. By 1891, when the great famine swept through Russia, the desperate peasants fed their thatched roofs to the livestock to keep the animals alive.
There was also forced military conscription for all males. Since royalty and rich landowners were almost automatically commissioned officers, the freed serfs, as enlisted men, were used as though they were still serfs.
The peasants started looking elsewhere for survival. Some young people found their way to America. Alexander Schack arrived in South River about 1895 after having spent his first three years in Parlin. Upon his arrival, he found the Anton Kasperovich family, the first Russian Orthodox family settled in South River. Mr. Schack became a stitcher, bought his own handkerchief factory, built a home and an inn. Necessary for his business, he was the only person in the Russian community to have a telephone and post office box. All mail to and from the immigrant community was sent and received at his inn.
Relatives of the townspeople arriving in America automatically called his phone number for information and assistance. His place became the center of activity for the Russian immigrant population in the South River area.
As word was received from friends and relatives back in Russia of the opportunities here in America, many more people decided to leave their Motherland. The arrivals were mostly younger people who were sent by their parents. The elders could not leave, since they were indebted to the government because of their land acquisitions. Others came to escape conscription, while still others had thoughts of reaping a fortune here and returning to Russia financially secure. Many of these young people, whose ages started at 13, were illiterate in their own language, let alone any knowledge of English. They arrived with their worldly possessions packed into one suitcase. Within a short time, many married to help share the responsibilities and to ease the burden of making a living for themselves.
In Russia, these young immigrants had received solace, inspiration, and hope from the church. Their only festive days were the holy days or when the sacraments of the church were performed. The Orthodox Church dominated their lives, and when they arrived in America, they lost none of this great faith. As the small community was forming, they sought a place of worship. Without any finances, they were unable to build their own church, but with a strong belief in their future here, in 1899 they organized and chose the name of Saints Peter and Paul Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church.
Being engrossed in starting their new families here, building a church would remain but a dream for six more years. Most of the people worked in the clay pits and brick yards, while some worked in a glass factory located in Old Bridge. They toiled from sunrise to darkness, earning six to eight cents an hour.
Our Lady of Victory Roman Catholic Church had just moved to Sayreville from South Amboy, and the parish allowed our people to use its facilities on Sunday afternoons for services and the sacraments. For burials, its cemetery was used until the establishment of the Monumental Cemetery (Protestant) on Hillside Avenue in South River. The New York Cathedral sent any priest who was available to conduct services, usually every second Sunday.
It was during these years that the immigrants had to walk the tracks and cross the river by means of the railroad bridge in order to attend church services, since there was no vehicular bridge leading to Sayreville.
Finally, in the spring of 1905, Very Reverend Alexander Hotovitsky (now St. Alexander Hotovitsky of North America), who was being sent quite regularly from New York, formed the Brotherhood. Sixteen members immediately decided to build the church. On September 28, 1905, Alexander Schack was authorized by Archbishop Tikhon to take charge of fund raising. Everyone in town was solicited, and they wholeheartedly gave sums ranging from two cents to one thousand dollars. Mr. Squire from Old Bridge built the church in the fall, and it was dedicated in early 1906. Archbishop Tikhon, later Patriarch of All Russia and now St. Tikhon of North America, made the formal dedication. For the festive occasion, all the ladies prepared a great feast at Schack's Park. The entourage from the church to the dinner consisted of almost everyone in town and was led by Archbishop Tikhon. The group was escorted by South River's only police officer, Casimer Offenburger.
The church was built under the guidance of Father Hotovitsky. Since there was no rectory, the arrangement of having weekend priests continued for some time. The Reverend Ivan Slonin served the parish in 1906, Father Leo Zozikov in 1907, the Very Reverend Johann Sinenin in 1908, and the Very Reverend Peter Popov in 1909. Most of the clergy came for Sunday services only. However, some came for Vespers, particularly prior to church holidays. Those who came for overnight stays were housed at Schack's Inn.
As the community and the parish continued to grow, a variety of needs was realized, such as a cemetery, a rectory, and a school for religious instruction and Russian classes. The many parish concerns occupied most of the men's free time. The women of the parish also gave their time and energy generously, and in 1909 organized the Sisterhood. Because there were no paved sidewalks or streets until 1927, the church was always dusty or muddy, especially after services. All the windows were washed often, the interior of the church had to be dusted and cleaned weekly. The linen icon covers made by the ladies from material imported from Moscow and St. Petersburg had to be constantly cleaned.
Among other duties, Andrew Boshko, the first starosta (Church President) of our church, had to keep the boiler banked throughout the winter months. Besides heat for the services, the line had to be protected from freezing. This duty was bequeathed to many succeeding starosti.
By 1910, the church was able to accumulate $800.00 through donations from the parishioners, and they acquired a two-story corner store next to the church for a rectory. The store was enclosed and a small wing was attached to it. The church school was housed in the store, and the wing became a library. It was one of the largest Russian church libraries in the United States, having started with over 100 volumes in the Russian language. The second floor of the building served as a rectory.
In the meantime, the Brotherhood had been working on a cemetery project. In May of the same year, they acquired five wooded acres from James Bisset, the first mayor of South River, for the sum of $300.00. To celebrate the signing of the deed, our parishioners walked through one and a half miles of marsh and woods until they found the hill where the cross now stands. There they exploded many firecrackers and then started to work on a road. Mr. Bisset had donated enough land for an access road, as well as the use of his horse and wagon, and gave our parishioners all the brickbats they needed to fill in the marshy areas. The parishioners had to do the loading and unloading, but their first task was to cut and clear about a mile of woods for their roadbed.
A local blacksmith, William Kelch, made and donated a 25 foot steel cross which, in time, deteriorated and was replaced by a smaller wooden cross.
The first parishioner buried at the cemetery was John Koval on October 7, 1910. Since there was no bridge crossing the river in Old Bridge to get to the glass factory, our people had tied a raft to get back and forth to work. During a torrential rain, the raft was swept away and John drowned.
The first child baptised in our church was Anna Shork Stochel who was born on December 25, 1905.
Our first resident priest was Very Reverend Jacob Korchinsky, followed by Very Reverend Basil Rubinsky in 1911. Reverend Basil Kurdumov stayed for two years, 1913 and 1914.
It was in 1913 that the parishioners saw that the parish was outgrowing its present facilities and ground was purchased directly behind the church property. Mr. Mills of Perth Amboy was hired to relocate the church. Assisted by a half dozen men and a team of Belgian horses, the church was moved to the rear property, raised one story, and a foundation and walls built under it. The church was located on the second floor, and the religious school and library were moved from the rectory to the ground floor of the church. The corner building was remodeled and became the rectory.
In 1915, the Reverend Peter Semashko came to our parish at the age of 24. He worked with the young and the old of the parish. By being civically active, he made the Russian community a strong segment of the town. The parish grew to 250 members. Again, the facilities were too small for the crowded church services and the school classes. While the parishioners were mulling over the problems, misfortune forced them to take immediate action. On June 12, 1916, lightning struck the steeple, setting the church on fire. The church relics were saved by the same person who sold the rectory building to the church, Adam Schack, brother of Alexander. In his attempt to rescue the holy church items, Adam received burns and was not able to save all the icons or the church library books which were destroyed. Repairs were immediately made, but definite plans went into effect for a new church.
Mr. Alexander Schack, now the treasurer of the church, was again called upon to take the chairmanship. A church had been recently built in Cleveland, Ohio, similar to the church in Russia that our parishioners wanted to duplicate. At his expense, Mr. Schack sent Paul Stankevich, the starosta at that time, and Mr. Merchant, the architect from New Brunswick, to acquire the blueprints. After a week, they returned and started to work on a similar but smaller version of the church in Cleveland.
In the meantime, Father Semashko and Mr. Schack solicited funds from the entire town. Again, the townspeople were generous. With the insurance money from the fire, the donations, and a mortgage, Mr. Marcus Wright, Sr., was hired to start building a new church by the end of the year.
Before the church was completed in 1918, the Archbishop found need elsewhere for Father Semashko. His replacement was the Very Reverend Ignaty Lachno who became the first dean (superintendent in those days) of the new New Jersey Deanery which now had thirteen Russian Orthodox churches. The present building was consecrated by Archbishop Alexander on May 6, 1918.
The new church created a need for the payment of dues by our members. The cost of the new church was about $40,000, and the membership was afraid to depend upon donations to pay off the mortgage. Dues were established at $1.00 per month, but were later reduced to $0.50 per month because of the generous support of the parishioners' donations.
In the meantime, the parishioners found use for the old church bell which had cracked when it fell during the fire. They buried it inverted in front of the new church and built a pedestal in the center with a metal cross which was made into a fountain. On the holiday of Theophany, the fountain would fill the bell with water, the water would be blessed, and the parishioners would fill their containers to take home for their own use. Today, it is still there, but a concrete curb has been erected around it, and the bell area is now used as a decorative floral planter.
In 1919, Reverend Joseph Shedko was sent here as a deacon. He took over the duties of the religious and Russian teaching from Father Lachno. He remained only a year, and in 1920, Father Lachno also left South River.
The music of church services had always been exhilarating to our forefathers in Russia. They found release of all their woes by participating in the church singing. They partook in the glory of the Birth of Christ and in the triumph of His Resurrection, not only in praying, but also in the hymns and responses. They lived with the Lord in all His Feasts by raising their voices as one. So it was with them when they came here to the United States. Almost from the beginning, in the original church, they formed a choir of those who knew the services. Keeping in mind that most of them came as teenagers, they found not all to be knowledgeable in the hymnology. The person with the most knowledge of the services was chosen to be choirmaster.
The first one thus chosen was V.S. Pytel. Some others following him, not necessarily in order, were Dimitri Slutsky, Nikofor Slobodien, Dimitri Cherepnin, Peter Nirko, Evstafy Gnatovsky, Petrish, and Ivanov.
Then in 1920, having received an invitation from our parish to be choirmaster, Ivan Blonsky came to South River from Scranton, Pennsylvania. He had recently arrived there from Russia after having graduated from the Volinsky Seminary. He remained with us for thirty years in two separate intervals. In South River, he married and raised his family. He not only became the choir director and the Russian language teacher, but he became a second parent to almost every child in the community. An entire generation learned the Russian language from him. In his quiet manner, he looked after the moral well-being of the children all the time, quietly scolding them when they were doing wrong, looking for them when too many church services were missed, and punishing them in Russian school for misbehavior. He was equally respected by the children and their parents. He was never addressed as Mr. or Ivan, but always as Professor Blonsky. In time, he not only made the choir known throughout the United States, but he also formed the young adults of the parish into the Russian American Youth Club (R.A.Y) and he organized the St. Magdalene Ladies Society. He also formed a Balalaika orchestra and the Russian Theatre group.
Following Father Lachno, we had the Very Reverend Paul Radskazov, Very Reverend Stephan Kudrikoff, and the Very Reverend Jason Kappanadze for short periods. They were followed by the Very Reverend Alexander Kukulevsky in 1925 for a few years, replaced by the Very Reverend Elias Klopotowsky.
In 1932, the parish received word from the Archbishop that Father Klopotowsky was being transferred, so it requested the return of the Very Reverend Peter Semashko. He came and faithfully served the parish until his death. From the beginning of his second term of service to our parish, he made Saints Peter and Paul his permanent home. The interior of the church was decorated, and on September 7, 1932, was blessed by Bishop Benjamin of New York. This time the Lord allowed him to see the completion of his work. Very soon after, on November 29, 1934, Father Peter passed away at the age of 48.
According to his wish, he was buried in the church cemetery next to the cross at the top of the hill. At his burial service, Metropolitan Theophilus and Bishop Benjamin officiated with twenty clergy and two deacons. Due to the huge crowd, many townspeople who attended the church service were forced to stand outdoors; nevertheless, they faithfully participated in the long procession to the cemetery.
The Very Reverend Nicholas Ouspensky, a highly educated individual, succeeded and carried on the work of Father Peter. Besides his church work and his daily religious classes, he got personally involved with many of the people of South River. Because of his close relationship with all the churches in the community, it wasn't surprising to find clergy from other denominations attending our services. He was very active in his work with the poor in the community and served and worked on the commission for the aged and the ill.
It was during his years of service that some changes considered too progressive at that time caused the parishioners to become concerned. With the approval of the parish and Father Nicholas, the R.A.Y. had pews installed in the church. Who ever heard of sitting during an Orthodox service? Only the elderly and ill sat through the lengthy five and one-half hour midnight Resurrection service that Father Nicholas served.
By 1942, our choir was reaching its peak with over 45 voices. Many concerts were given throughout Northern and Central New Jersey, sometimes combined with the Balalaika Orchestra. During this period, they sang in many Orthodox and non-Orthodox churches. At the invitation of the Greek Bishop, they sang at the Doxology (retrieving of the Cross from the ocean) in Asbury Park. Upon the request of Archbishop Vitaly, the choir sang at the New York Cathedral, and at the Trenton State House they gave a concert before 3,000 people. They presented concerts at the New York World's Fair and also sang on radio station WOR.
For short periods of time following Professor Blonsky's resignation on January 1, 1944, we had Vasily Prokopeny, Bokeshansky, Simon Andreiev, and Igor Soroka serving as our choir directors.
On August 15, 1946, Father Nicholas Ouspensky passed away. Archbishop Vitaly and fourteen attending clergy officiated at the funeral service. It was estimated that over 2,000 people came crowding the church grounds. The funeral procession was almost one continuous line from the church to the railroad tracks, where the casket was placed into a hearse which took the body to St. Tikhon's Cemetery in Pennsylvania for burial.
The Very Reverend Emilian Skuby followed, staying until 1948. Upon his arrival here, he found attendance at the religious classes poor, so he started a Sunday School. Matushka Skuby organized the Altar Society. One of the Society's first projects was replacing the Altar table. It was blessed by Bishop Nikon and dedicated to the 13 men who gave their lives for their country during World War II. Over 200 people from our parish served in the armed forces during the conflict.
About 1947, we welcomed Nicholas Afonsky of Paris, France, as our choir director. After a stay of three years, he was called to serve at the New York Cathedral. During his short stay, our choir again reached great heights of accomplishment. In addition to presenting concerts in the area, it combined with the world-renowned Don Cossack Male Chorus in presenting a memorial concert in New York City for the 10th anniversary of the death of Feodor Chaliapin. The U.S. Government requested the choir to make recordings which were played on the Voice of America. After its 1949 Christmas program, which was beamed throughout the world, congratulatory messages were received from most of the Orthodox Church hierarchs throughout Europe and Brazil, as well as from Alexander Gretchaninoff, the famous Russian composer.
On July 16, 1948, Very Reverend Andrew Vanyush was sent to us. In 1949, Father Andrew and the parishioners undertook the complete redecoration of the church. The Russian architect, Roman Verhovsky, was hired to do the job with the Russian artist, Andrei Hudrakoff as assistant. Mr. Hudrakoff had just completed the painting of the salons on the new Queen Mary ocean liner. They were also assisted by Ivan Gulevich, who had done paintings in many churches in Russia.
The four Evangelists were copied from St. Vladimir Cathedral in Kiev; the portrayal of the Holy Trinity over the altar recess is similar to the one in Christ the Saviour Church in Moscow, and three lay martyrs from Vilensky province were included with the depicted Saints. Bishop John of Detroit consecrated the newly-redecorated church.
Before 1949, the Sunday School was still not totally organized. Partially trained teachers, little material, and lack of help from parishioners were some of the problems encountered. Mrs. Anna Buyofsky was approached to coordinate the Sunday School. Since few books were available, much of the information had to be obtained directly from the priest. It was felt that the mothers of the children must get involved, and thus the Mothers' Guild was organized.
In 1949, the church acquired an additional 10 acres for the cemetery from Marcus Wright (son of the builder of our church) at $50.00 an acre. The property remained wooded until 1962. This new addition was dedicated by Metropolitan Ireney on June 9, 1975, as it was needed for interment.
The Very Reverend Phillip Pechinsky came to us in August of 1952. Although he was already 65 years of age, he worked with dedication - for our church and with our parishioners. Through his efforts, the Men's Welfare Club was organized. Although the parishioners had given thought to a new school building, it was Father Phillip who encouraged the parish to build. So, in May of 1958, our school (the original church building) was torn down and one year later our present school was dedicated by Archbishop Dimitry.
During his pastorate, Father Phillip found that much of our youth was not attending church services because of the complete use of Church Slavonic. To attract them to attend services, he instituted a short English service before regular Divine Liturgy. It was this new English service that brought about the birth of the English choir.
In this same time period, a few organizations were working with the borough to acquire seven acres of land which the church could use for recreational purposes. In later years, the church paid an additional sum to receive clearance of this stipulation.
Several R.A.Y. members had joined the Federated Russian Orthodox Clubs and received a charter in 1952. They saw need for greater support to our national church, besides working for the local parish. They saw need for closer relationships with people of other churches, and they saw need of an organization of their own. In September, 1955, this group of members, together with Father and Matushka Pechinsky, formed the Senior "R" Club. Our teenagers were organized into a Junior "R" Club in April, 1953.
On September 16, 1958, at the age of 72, Father Phillip passed away. According to his wishes, he was buried in our cemetery at the top of the hill.
The church's progress and expansion did not stop with Father's passing. The Very Reverend Joseph Kreshik found long-range plans had been made, and with his assistance they were followed through. The new ten acres were developed at the cemetery. Another strip of land was acquired from the town to include some old burials which were located on borough property, and the entire 15 acres were fenced in for the first time. At the same time, our Seven Acres Park was still mostly mud and swamp. French drains were put in, fill dirt from the cemetery was carted in, a barbecue area was built, a baseball field laid out, some trees removed and others planted, and the entire area was enclosed by a fence.
Over the years, our church bells had to be tolled by someone pulling on a rope. Now they are automatic, or on special occasions, operated by push buttons. In 1961 these electronic bells were purchased with monies left from the estate of Vasily Kosko.
When the church was first built, only the four large arch windows on the sides and the altar windows were stained glass. In the Thirties, a store which was only a block away was demolished by a gas explosion. Although none of these stained glass windows was broken or destroyed, they did buckle. Having never been properly repaired, and fearing the leaded beads might be cracked, four organizations of the church had them replaced. A few years later, the three Rose windows and the smaller windows in the church nave were replaced with stained glass by monies donated by individual parishioners.
After Nicholas Afonsky left as choir director, we had E.V. Mercuriev for a few years, followed by Mr. Policoff. Mr. Stephen Sichuk came in 1959 and remained until 1967. At that time, Professor Blonsky was asked to return to his home parish. He remained with us until his death in December, 1973. Robert Parent directed our choirs until 1976.
Our original rectory was still serving its purpose but becoming a financial burden in maintenance and repair. In 1972-1973, a new rectory was built at one end of the Seven Acres Park. It was dedicated and blessed by Bishop Dimitry on November 17, 1974.
The old rectory was demolished in 1976 to allow more space around our church. A few years prior to the building of the new rectory, the property adjacent to the church on the opposite side was purchased and the building demolished. The two areas were landscaped to beautify the overall appearance of the church.
While Father Joseph was in the process of receiving pledges from individuals for the completion of the installation of the smaller windows with stained glass, he was reassigned by the Bishop, and the Very Reverend Sergius S. Kuharsky was sent to us from Cleveland, Ohio. Father brought with him the urgency for supporting the Orthodox Church on the national level, in addition to the local parish. He served on many national committees, the newest of which was the chairmanship of the Department for Christian Stewardship and Lay Ministries.
In 1976 we received our first female choir director, Mrs. Catherine Zankovich. In addition to directing the two choirs, she taught the Russian language, although only a few students attended.
Since his arrival in May of 1976, Father Sergius brought to completion the work begun by Father Joseph and had the eight smaller windows installed with stained glass. For this 75th Jubilee Year, the interior of the church was redecorated, and now, Father had the parishioners donating for the painted icons of the major Feast Days and Saints. He had expanded the Mission service in our parish and had invited other clergy to enrich us with lectures and sermons.
Above all, in coming here, Father saw the need for two complete Liturgies. The shortened English service may have served its purpose with the youth, but more adults were attending this English service because of the language. However, by doing so, they missed the essence of our Orthodox Liturgy, the Divine Eucharist, and an English Liturgy was a must. Since a Slavonic Liturgy was also still needed. Mitered Archpriest George Lukashuk was requested to leave retirement and serve as our associate priest.
In presenting this history, the Starosti of the church should certainly have been mentioned. Above all, they were dedicated, hard workers. Not wanting to offend anyone through omission, we honor all of them with much gratitude. During our history, there were the other "leaders" who served on committees, as chairpersons, and led others when work was necessary. There were those who couldn't lead, but always availed themselves for work. There were also the many who couldn't work, but donated and supported. To them all, we dedicate this, the 75th Jubilee Book.
Following Mrs. Catherine Zankovich, our church choir was led for several years by Mr. Vladimir Marchuk who was succeeded by our current choirmaster, Mr. Basil Kozak, who has led the choir for some thirteen years. In the Spring of 1998, Father Kuharsky took retirement from the active pastorate but still visits and serves with the parishioners of SS. Peter and Paul Orthodox Church in South River. In June, 1998, Rev. David F. Garretson was assigned to serve our parish and he has led our church spiritually for the past seven years, the most recent of which (2005) is our Centennial Anniversary Year. Rev. Garretson has the distinction of having been our priest across two centuries of the Christian Era- the twentieth and twenty-first - and as well of having helped our parish complete her first century and of having led our parish into her second century of worship and service for Orthodox faithful in central New Jersey. Space is reserved here on this Website for the recounting of his spiritual leadership by a future historian of SS. Peter and Paul Orthodox Church in South River, N.J.!