St. Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church was founded in 1991. At that time, Fr. David Moser moved into the Boise area with the blessing of Archbishop Alypy of Chicago and the Midwest. Although the move was necessitated by secular employment, Archbishop Alypy had also given a blessing to begin a new mission in Boise, Idaho. It was determined that Idaho was more properly within the Diocese of Western America under Archbishop Anthony of San Francisco. Archbishop Anthony confirmed the blessing of Archbishop Alypy for the founding of the mission.
Although there was already a well established Greek parish in the city, within a few weeks a small group of Orthodox Christians desiring a parish in the Russian tradition had gathered together and formed the nucleus of the new mission. This group, comprised of both Russians and Americans, dedicated their new mission to St. Seraphim the Wonderworker of Sarov. Our first liturgy was Aug. 4 1991, the Sunday after the summer feast of St. Seraphim, which became our parish altar feast.
At first we met in a private home, setting up a chapel in the living room every weekend. After about 6 months we were in a position to find a permanent home. After looking at a number of properties, we made an offer on a house near downtown that could be remodeled into a Church on one side and a hall on the other. Everything seemed to be going smoothly until the last minute when we discovered that a firewall would have to be built on one side of the house as it was too close to the neighbor. This added expense meant that we would be unable to purchase the building and so the offer was retracted. Later that same day, however, another building which had been built as a church by a protestant group came up for sale. It was just what we needed – still centrally located with parking already established and a zoning variation in place. To top it off the price was very reasonable and the former congregation (which had just built a new building) seemed willing to carry the loan until we could work out a regular mortgage. In the process of getting approval for this arrangement, they discovered that this would not be possible, and so to “make up” for losing this part of the deal, they offered to drop the price by $10,000. Glory to God! A bank was found that was willing to take a chance on a new, small Church and the building was ours.
Like many new missions, St. Seraphim’s went through a series of ups and downs, starting with a “bang” and then dwindling to just a few. Growing again, the parish would thrive and then again go through a period of shrinking, but overall always gaining a few here and a few there – just enough to keep the doors open. Through the prayers of St. Seraphim, the core of the mission continued to grow and God provided all that we needed.
Because it had formerly been a protestant church, our building was completely unadorned – in fact one of our parishioners remarked that it looked like someone’s living room. The first order of business was to construct a temporary iconostasis and altar which was done just before Holy Week and Pascha 1992. Our first Pascha as a parish was held in our own Church building. Over the years we continued to remodel, recovering and leveling the floor, redoing the interior walls, refining the iconostasis - eventually a beautiful red oak iconostasis with handpainted icons from Archpriest Theodore Jurewicz was installed to replace our original painted plywood structure. One of the founding parishioners had studied iconography at the Valaam monastery in Finland and offered to provide not only icons for our first iconostasis, but also frescos for the east and west walls. Over the years the Church that looked like “somebody’s living room” has become a beautiful little Orthodox temple.
In 2000, Fr. John McCuen moved to Boise with his family to serve as our deacon. The McCuen family was a great addition to the parish with Fr. John serving in the altar and his daughters singing in the choir. This blessing was limited though and in 2002, Fr. John was ordained to the priesthood in order to take over a vacant parish in Arizona where he has been successful in pastoring a thriving mission parish there. St. Seraphim did not leave us shorthanded. Just about the time Fr. John left us, Fr. Luke Huggins moved to Boise from Alaska. Fr. Luke was received into the diocese by Archbishop Kyrill and assigned as the second priest for our parish. Fr. Luke served the parish until 2006 when he transferred to St. Juliana’s parish in Sante Fe as the new rector there.
In 2005, St. Seraphim’s put on our first Russian Food Festival. We started small, selling frozen pelmeni and borscht from the lobby of the Church building. Every year the festival grew and grew so that it now occupies the entire Church parking lot which is covered by tents. The festival offers not only frozen food to take home but hot food to eat there and a wide assortment of gift items. After only 6 years the festival has become a regular fixture in the Boise community events calendar.
The year 2011 brought about our 20th anniversary from the founding of the parish. Our rector, Archpriest David Moser also celebrated the 30th anniversary of his ordination to the diaconate. This double festival provided ample opportunities for celebrations and festivities. From here we can look back and see how far we have come with St. Seraphim’s help, and look ahead to see where he will take us in the future.