The construction of a church is a sacrifice to God; to allocate a parcel of land for church services is to sacrifice unto God a part of your own property, but most of all it is a gift of your love, your zeal. Churches are not needed by God Whose throne is Heaven and Whose footstool is the earth; it is we who need them. It is we who benefit from donating toward the building of churches, although the Lord accepts not so much the substances of our alms as much as He does our zeal – the quality of our effort. [. . .] At each Liturgy, those who contributed to the building of the church are commemorated. In building churches here on earth, we create for ourselves eternal habitations in Heaven. Decades will pass, our bodies will decay, perhaps our very bones will turn to dust, but our souls will live eternally. Happy will he be who prepared for his soul a dwelling in the Heavenly mansions. Even if the churches which are built should fall to ruin, the names of those who contributed to their construction will be written in God’s eternal books, and the prayers which arose from within these Churches will be sealed.
+St. John the Wonderworker, “On Building Churches” (1962)
St. John was a church builder. He oversaw the construction of the Surety of Sinners Russian Orthodox Cathedral with bell tower and large parish house while he was the bishop of Shanghai. He was specifically sent to San Francisco to oversee the completion of the Joy of All Who Sorrow Russian Orthodox Cathedral that had stalled. That Cathedral was finished November 6, 1965, eight months before St. John departed this life.
In 1997, the community that would become the future parish with his name purchased 304 Blair Boulevard in the Whiteaker neighborhood of Eugene, Oregon. The sixty-year-old building was in a state of disrepair. Over three years, the building was gutted and renovated by both Orthodox Christian volunteers and volunteers from the greater Eugene community. Here is a history, in pictures, of their labors to build the Lord’s house over the years.
304 Blair Boulevard Timeline
- 1935: 304 Blair Boulevard was built to be Willamette Hatchery, a chicken hatchery: four walls, a roof, and a dirt floor.
- 1940s: 304 Blair Boulevard housed “Hobart-Dayton Sales Agency,” which sold kitchen and restaurant appliances.
- 1950-1956 or 1957: 304 Blair Boulevard again housed Willamette Hatchery.
- 1958: The building was vacant.
- 1959-1968: 304 Blair Boulevard housed Gold Star Laundry.
- 1969: The building was vacant.
- 1970-1990: 304 Blair Boulevard housed Culligan Water Treatment System, which dealt in water softeners. In the early 1980s its name changed to Water Analysis & Consulting Inc.
- 1981-1990: 302 Blair Boulevard, which is now part of 304 Blair Blvd, housed Surata Soyfoods. During this time, Water Analysis & Consulting occupied a small warren of offices toward the front of the building; Surata took up three-quarters of the building and had a small walk-in cooler attached to the back.
- 1993-1997: 304 Blair Boulevard housed Icky’s Organic Tea House.
- 1997-2000: Parishioners of St. Paul the Apostle Mission and volunteers from the greater Eugene community renovate 304 Blair Boulevard.
- 2002: Gold dome and Cross, donated by St. Paisius Monastery from the Bell Tower in Forestville, California (before the monastery moved to Safford, Arizona) are raised over Blair Blvd.
- 2007: Hospitality House renovated.
- 2007: St. Katherine Bell Tower is finished and the blue dome (designed by Nathaniel Eichner) and cross are raised over Blair Blvd.
- 2008: St. Katherine Bell Tower consecrated by Bishop Maxim on the Sunday of St. John of the Ladder, April 6, 2008.
- 2013-2014: The west room is painted, filled with iconography with Old Testament themes, and receives an analogion, lampada, reading stand for the Hours, commemoration table, and custom blinds in order to make it into a permanent narthex.
- 2015-2016: From June 2015-June 2016, the community engages in the most significant remodel since 2000, continuing to conform the building to Orthodox norms for a church: vaulting the back ceiling, framing in unnecessary doors (There had been nine separate entrances to the nave! These are reduced to five.), removing two non-load-bearing walls, adding arches to nave entrances, adding two pillars to match the existing pair of pillars, adding a bathroom hallway from the narthex, framing in the old bathroom hallway entrance, plastering the entire nave and bell tower hallway entrance, adding chandeliers and new sconce lights, adding a custom-made choros, improving wiring and aestheticizing egress lighting, adding custom-made benches around the perimeter of the nave, and creating a secondary entrance to the kitchen with pantry. Additionally, the Altar received a custom-made Proskomedia table, custom-made bishop’s throne, two custom-made clergy benches, two new chairs, and custom-made chest of drawers. The children’s room and office received ductless heat pumps, custom-built cabinets were added to the children’s room, and it received an arched, soundproof window; meanwhile, the office door was moved and replaced.