The Orbit road crew was a on a mission to find the grave of Jimmy The Greek in Steubenville, Ohio, and find it we did. Oh yes, find it we did. But as we were heading up Washington Street from downtown, there, sparkling like a new penny, was the phosphorescent green mini onion dome of Holy Transfiguration Russian Orthodox Church. Never ones to avoid getting distracted by shiny things, we detoured up to the tiny dead end of North 10th Street to get a shot of the church all lit up in the afternoon sun.
Pastor Greg, dressed appropriately in a friar’s dark, knotted robe and sandals, spotted me taking pictures outside and asked if we’d like to come in for the service that was beginning in fifteen minutes. We politely declined, to which he followed up by urging us to just come inside for a look. That was an offer we couldn’t refuse.
The humble country church look of the outside didn’t give any clue to the gorgeous collection of gold leaf icons, burning candles, Byzantine crosses, live flowers, incense burners, brassware, lace cloth, and the like that awaited within.
The pastor had departed in his minivan to pick up a parishioner who needed a ride to the service. I wish we’d had the chance to ask him about the history of the church and the current state of the laity. That very congregation was beginning to file in as we were poking around, so it started to feel pretty awkward and we made our exit.
Steubenville has been draining population since the 1940s (The Greek led that wave out of town), and my guess is that the number of Russian Orthodox parishioners is dwindling in the low double-digits. So one hopes that Holy Transfiguration will be around for Steubenville’s inevitable glorious comeback, but it will probably take a little divine intervention.