In 1920, Orthodox Christians in the Russian Empire were forced to flee their homes because of the Russian Revolution. The Church in Russia was under threat with the new political power, and Russians in exile wanted to maintain their religion. The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) was established to organize these emigres who were now in diaspora. Over a century later, the ROCOR is still a central establishment for Russians practicing Orthodoxy outside of Russia.
In Enfield, CT, St. Nicholas Church serves as the place of worship for many Orthodox people, both Russian and not, within the broader Springfield area. Services happen throughout the week, but the most important and highly attended service is the Divine Liturgy, which is celebrated on Sunday mornings. At 9:30 AM, the priest gives the blessing, and the choir sings. After about 2 hours of singing and chanting, the service ends, and the parish moves into the hall for coffee hour. Kids go to Sunday school and choir members rehearse for the next service.
St. Nicholas is a space separate from the outside world. When parishioners come on Sunday, they are surrounded by iconography, the smell of incense, and the singing of the choir. Some greet each other with three kisses on the cheek, others wish each other a “happy feast day.” Most women wear headscarves, and the men in the clergy wear long black coats called cassocks. The church is a portal to a very different world than the one in which parishioners work their day jobs. It creates a sacred space to worship and practice Orthodoxy. Though most of the service is in English, Church Slavonic is used for the most important hymns, and it serves as a reminder of the Church’s connection to a pre-revolutionary Russia.