Who We Are
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church is the fruit of the apostolic ministry of His Eminence, the Most Reverend Metropolitan Nicholas, of Thrice-Blessed Memory, former ruling hierarch of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church. She is the outgrowth of her sister parish, Saint Alexis Orthodox Church, Lafayette, Indiana, which was founded in 1994 by the Very Reverend Father Charles Sunderland, with the blessing of Metropolitan Nicholas.
The history of Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church begins with the story of one family’s long journey to the Orthodox faith and their vision to see an Orthodox church in their small mid-western town.
Wick and Nina Miller were married in the Evangelical Orthodox Church (EOC) in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1978,and were part of the EOC community there for 12 years. While in Indianapolis, they were instrumental in starting an EOC mission in Crawfordsville and in 1990 they moved to a farm 4 miles west of town to be part of the Crawfordsville EOC church of Saint Stephen’s.
The EOC started out as an association of evangelical and charismatic community churches who together were seeking a deeper experience of “church”. Under the leadership of Peter Gilquist, this journey eventually led most of the denomination, about 2000 people, into communion with the canonical Orthodox Church by way of the Antiochian Arch-diocese in 1987.
Most of the Indiana EOC churches did not enter into communion with the Orthodox Church at that time. For the Miller family and many other families this meant continuing to struggle to become Orthodox outside of the canonical boundaries of the church. In 1994, the Miller family decided it was time for them to enter into communion with the Orthodox Church.
Their first experience of the Divine Liturgy was at Saint Thomas in Kokomo on the day that this formerly EOC parish was received into the Orthodox Church of America (OCA), in July of 1994, by Archbishop Job of thrice-blessed memory. This was a moving and awakening experience and affirmed their conviction that the Orthodox Church was truly the “pearl of great price” which they had been seeking.
At the same time, a new mission had just been established in Lafayette, Indiana, by Father Sunderland, with the blessing of Bishop Nicholas of the American Carpatho-russian Orthodox Church. The Millers began attending Saint Alexis Orthodox Church in Lafayette and were chrismated on December 18, 1994. Wick received the name Alexis at chrismation and soon began serving as the cantor for the new mission parish.
The Millers experienced the fullness of Orthodoxy at Saint Alexis and began to share that with friends and associates in the Crawfordsville area. Dan and Anna Meece, a family with no church affiliation, began attending Saint Alexis and soon a catechism class began in the Meece home with the Millers, Meeces and other families attending.
In 1996 Alexis Miller was blessed by Metropolitan Nicholas to be a reader and began the work of catechizing and organizing the Orthodox families in Crawfordsville. The Meece’s were the first family to come into the Orthodox Church through the mission work being done in Crawfordsville.
Soon Dale Eads and his mother Elizabeth joined them. Dale was formerly an Assemblies of God pastor who had some experience of the Orthodox Church, in the military, while stationed in Greece. He received the name of Timothy at his reception into the Orthodox Church.
During this time, Alexis Miller was completing the three year Saint Stephen’s Course of Theological studies and, in October of 1996, along with Gregory Allard, was blessed by Metropolitan Nicholas to be a sub-deacon. Father Sunderland and Father George Havrila traveled to Crawfordsville occasionally and served liturgy in various locations, including serving a panikhida for the unborn at the Montgomery County court house on the anniversary of Roe v Wade.
Other families and individuals began traveling from Crawfordsville to Lafayette and eventually, in the fall of 1997, Metropolitan Nicholas established a new mission in Crawfordsville, naming it after the Holy Transfiguration and placing it under the heavenly protection of Saint John the Wonderworker. Father Mark Tyson of Descent of the Holy Spirit Orthodox Church in Schererville, Indiana, was assigned as administrator and Alexis Miller served as catechist and cantor. The first Divine Liturgy of the mission was served on Christmas Day, December 25, 1997, in the parlor of Williamsburg Healthcare nursing home, the residence of one of the founding members, Mary Gianakis, of blessed memory.
For the first year Father Mark traveled to Crawfordsville once a month to serve the liturgy and the rest of the time the parish worshipped with their sister parish of Saint Alexis in Lafayette.
Services were held in various temporary places until a long-term location was found in the upstairs of the Journal Review building. A large unattractive and dusty 30’ by 40’ room was converted into an Orthodox chapel complete with a moveable icon screen donated by Saint Nicholas Orthodox Church in Hobart, Indiana. The screen consisted of two large wrought iron pedestals each holding a single panel with a pair of large Byzantine icons, one panel with Christ and John the Baptist, the other with the Theotokos and Saint Nicholas.
A communion set was donated by Descent of the Holy Spirit church in Schererville, an altar and tetrapod were donated by Christ the Savior Seminary in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and various other appointments were provided from several sources. Father Orestes Binkowicz gifted the parish with a relic of Saint John the Wonderworker, a small piece of his exorassa.
In October of 1998, Metropolitan Nicholas made his first arch-pastoral visit to the parish of Holy Transfiguration, greeted with the hand cross by Father Samuel Sherry, dean of the Chicago deanery. An historic occasion, this was most likely the first official visit of an Orthodox hierarch to the city of Crawfordsville and Montgomery County, Indiana.
At the Divine Liturgy, Alexis Miller was ordained to the deaconate and given a blessing to begin serving the Deacon’s Service at Holy Transfiguration with the reserve sacrament being provided by Father Mark Tyson on a monthly basis. Also, during the liturgy, Dan Meece and Timothy Eads were tonsured as readers in the parish.
For the next two years, Deacon Alexis studied for the priesthood under the tutelage of Father Mark Tyson and Father Sunderland and traveled to Johnstown on a regular basis to spend time at Christ the Savior Seminary. One of the trips included three days at Holy Cross Seminary to hear several lectures from Bishop Kallistos Ware.
The Central Indiana Council of Orthodox Churches celebrated the Sunday of Orthodoxy in 2000 in a special way. A combined Divine Liturgy was held at the Indiana Roof Ballroom with Archbishop Job presiding and Father Thomas Hopko as homilist. A simple icon screen was constructed and donated for the event by Saint Nicholas Serbian Orthodox Church. This icon screen, in turn, was donated to Holy Transfiguration, and became the foundation for what is now the current iconostas of the parish.
On October 25, 2000, Metropolitan Nicholas made his second visit to the parish and at that time ordained Deacon Alexis to the holy priesthood and assigned him as pastor of the parish. This began a period of increased missionary activity in Crawfordsville including an icon exhibit and other outreach events at the local library.
Special speakers were invited to the mission including Father Daniel Byantoro of the Indonesian Orthodox Church and Mother Inez from the orphanage in Guatemala.
The facility in the upstairs of the Journal Review building was painted and decorated, air-conditioning installed in the chapel, and eventually a chair lift was added to make the location handy-capped accessible. The Jeff and Joanna Beck family, who were received into Orthodoxy by Father Alexis in 2001, donated oriental rugs, and Saint Nicholas Church in Hobart donated candleholders.
All Saints Orthodox Church in Bloomington, Indiana, donated two brass seven-candle stands. Many parishes throughout central Indiana and the American Carpatho-russian Diocese donated vestments, altar covers, a tabernacle and various other appointments. Though somewhat rustic, the chapel became a beautiful and intimate place for the Orthodox community to gather for the Divine services.
A full schedule of services including Great Vespers, Matins and Divine Liturgy began to be served using the Plain Chant of the Carpatho-russian Church. Justin Miller, Dan Meece and Timothy Eads served as cantors. The parish was blessed with several altar boys, including Nicholas and Nathaniel Meece, Alex Franks, and John and Isaac Miller.
On the great feasts, the parish would proceed down the stairs and make a procession around an entire city block, since the Journal Review was not a free-standing building. These processions presented an unusual picture to a Midwestern, predominately protestant, community with very little knowledge of Orthodox Christianity.
In 2002, Jean “Anna” Jamsa of blessed memory was received into the parish through baptism. She and her husband Ken, who joined her later in orthodoxy, eventually moved to Indianapolis, where they became very active at Saints Constantine and Helen Orthodox Church. Soon after, Theresa Barbara Stanton of blessed memory was received into Holy Orthodoxy by baptism along with her sons Steven and Kevin.
John and Ginny Stanton, long time residents of Crawfordsville, began attending the parish and contributed greatly to the iconography of the church, donating several hand-written icons, and helping the parish acquire the beautiful royal doors, which adorn the current icon screen.
A local Serbian orthodox woman, Dorothy Kalinowski, donated two large church bells, which were stored at the home of Claude and Linda Johnson, until a permanent church home could be found.
In 2003, the parish began a building fund and started to search for a location for a permanent Orthodox church. In that same year on December 13, the readers Timothy Eads and Daniel Meece, were blessed as sub-deacons at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. These two men have been the pillars of the church, faithfully serving both liturgically and materially, serving as officers on the parish council and helping to build the new church. Justin and John Miller were tonsured as readers.
Eventually, in 2005, the Miller family donated a two-acre parcel of land on Fall Creek Road as a site for an Orthodox temple. On August15, 2005, Metropolitan Nicholas made his third arch-pastoral visit to Crawfordsville to bless the land and plant a cross at the place where the altar would be.
Vera Gorbacheva, the parish’s newest “cradle” orthodox member, greeted the Metropolitan at the edge of a soybean field with the traditional offering of bread and salt.
A large cedar cross was carried by some of the men and local neighbor boys as the clergy and parish members proceeded along a path mowed out of the soybeans to the site where the church would be built. A large stone donated by the Meece family was blessed by the Metropolitan and placed in the bottom of a three-foot deep hole prepared for the planting of the cross.
At that time, a more intense capital campaign began and the parish began to discuss building designs and goals. With the help of local architect, Mike Whitecotton, the parish decided on a simple starter building design, which would provide a space for worship and a space for fellowship.
Donations for the building fund came in from throughout the diocese and the central Indiana community, and eventually in August of 2006, a groundbreaking ceremony was held. The cedar cross and stone were removed, the stone set aside, and the cross replanted just south of the building site, where it still stands today. The stone was later placed back in the spot where the altar would be before the concrete foundation was poured. This began what would become a full year of “blood, sweat, and tears” as the small parish undertook the task of building the church primarily with their own labor.
A contractor was hired to lay the foundation and as soon as that was completed, every Saturday the men of the parish gathered in front of the cedar cross and asked God’s blessing upon the work of the day. The women of the parish gave up their husbands for many weekends and provided hearty and delicious lunches at every workday.
The dry wall and brick work were contracted to local companies while the framing, electrical, plumbing, roofing and finishing were carried out by parish members, neighbors and other volunteers.
In July of 2009 the parish was blessed to have a visit from members of Saint Innocent’s Academy, Kodiak, Alaska, who for several days installed wood trim, completed the soffit, and prepared the concrete floor for staining.
Several local neighbors and friends of the parish donated many hours of labor to the parish, especially Nicholas Van Cleave and Mark Leiter. Dean Dilley and Kevin Thompson assisted with installation of the trusses, and Justin Miller directed the framing. Scott Daron engineered the wiring of the building. All together nearly 2500 man hours were provided by the parish and other volunteers. Finally, in September of 2007, the building was completed just in time for the building’s first big event, the wedding of Will Vazquez and Hannah Miller.
Upon moving into the building the parish began to make improvements to prepare for the day of consecration. The parish commissioned Father Jerome Sanderson, a local priest, iconographer, and craftsman, to provide the Pontocrator, the Platytera, a new altar and a bishop’s throne.
Local iconographer John Rigby refurbished the original icons on the icon screen, and Father Sanderson was commissioned to complete the screen with an icon of the transfiguration and an icon of Saint John the Wonderworker.
The church bells were mounted on a temporary pedestal and soon their beautiful sound could be heard around the countryside, announcing the good news of Jesus Christ to the Fall Creek neighborhood. The church’s closest neighbor, Harvey Rood, donated a swing set to the parish.
Isaac Miller, the longest serving altar boy of the parish and a Boy Scout eagle scout candidate, carried out a landscaping Eagle project on the church campus. The project included mulch around the building and the cross shrine, burning bushes, a maple tree, a picnic table, a cross to adorn the swing set, and other improvements to the property.
The parish has been most recently joined by Christopher and Diane Coyne, Zane Nevils, and Virgil and Arlene Lawrence.
The consecration of the church building is the fulfillment of many years of hard work, faithful service and patient dedication by a handful of families. The dream and the vision have become a reality but there are new dreams to be dreamed. Plans include a fellowship hall large enough for receptions, an expanded nave, a permanent bell tower, a parish cemetery, a retirement home, and perhaps even a monastery if God wills.
The parish acknowledges that it is the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God in three persons, who is the source of all good things and who has provided every good gift and made it possible for His church to be founded in this new uncharted territory.
She acknowledges with gratitude the faith, direction, and blessing provided over the years by her beloved bishop and arch-pastor, Metropolitan Nicholas, and her Dean, the Very Reverend Samuel Sherry. In addition, the parish expresses her gratitude to the parishes of the Chicago deanery, the Carpatho-russian Diocese, the Orthodox community of Central Indiana, and the many people of Indiana, Montgomery County and Crawfordsville who have contributed to the building up of this parish. May God grant to all of them many happy and blessed years!
The parish remembers with great affection the departed loved ones of the parish who have fallen asleep in the hope of the resurrection and asks the merciful God to remember them in His heavenly Kingdom. May their memory be eternal.