Here's our parish story! Come get to know us better.
In 1983, no Orthodox Church in the Carolinas celebrated its services in English. Mr Andrew Kuharsky, director of the Greenville Ballet and son of Fr Sergius Kuharsky of New Jersey, began trying to establish a core group for a mission. Fr George Gladky of Florida, Fr John Townsend of Georgia, and Igumen Damian of the Monastery of the Glorious Ascension served Liturgies as they were able. Fr George Gladky celebrated the first Liturgy in Greenville on the Sunday in Lent commemorating St John of the Ladder, hence the name of the mission. In July 1985, Bishop DMITRI of Dallas and the South assigned Fr Jacob Lee Kulp as the first permanent priest to serve the mission. Fr Jacob and Sharon Kulp arrived with their five children in July 1985. The mission church was incorporated on April 15, 1986.
After three years of sacrifice and noble effort, three families remained out of the original six. Fr Jacob was transferred to Nativity of the Theotokos in Charlotte, NC. In 1992, after a hiatus of seven years, Fr Jacob was assigned to reorganize the mission in Greenville, SC. On arrival he found a few familiar faces and several new ones. Mr Kuharsky had found a meeting space donated by a private school. The new/old priest arrived to find an altar and iconostasis already built!
In August of 1995, five families co-signed for a loan to buy St John's first building. A former "mill house," it had been converted for use as a church some twenty years before. The new property came complete with its own parking lot! It was then converted for use as an Orthodox Church. The members worked together, not only constructing a raised altar area and iconostasis, painting the interior, and repairing the building generally, but, under the direction of a professional hired roofer, removing the old roof entirely and building a new one.
In 1998, because of declining health Fr Jacob sought retirement and in Summer of 1999, Fr Marcus Burch, his wife Barbara, and their two children were assigned by Archbishop DMITRI to St John of the Ladder Mission. The years since the arrival of Fr Marcus have marked a time of substantial growth at St John. Several families who were already Orthodox have moved into the area and joined the church and many non-Orthodox families who already live in the Greenville area have been joined to the Orthodox faith. By summer of 2000 we were often exceeding the capacity of the converted mill house and began in earnest a search for new property. St John’s GO (Growth and Outreach) Team developed the criteria necessary for the new property and presented a plan of action which was accepted with hearty approval at the mission’s annual meeting in January 2001.
The search ended in late summer of 2001 when a contract of purchase was signed to buy the former Augusta Road United Methodist Church on the southside of Greenville near the intersection of US 25 and the new ‘Southern Connector (I-185)’. The purchase was completed on October 31, 2001 and renovation began immediately (and still continues!). The sanctuary of the building was reconfigured, an altar area and iconstasis were built, icons were commissioned, and much of the interior of the building was painted.
The twelve years since St John moved its present south-side location have been years of continued growth and outreach.
In addition to attracting new members from the Greenville area, St John has also become the church ‘home’ to many new immigrants from the historically Orthodox countries of Russia, Bulgaria, and Romania. To supplement our regular liturgical life and celebrations, St John has an active a cappella choir, a Sunday church school program for preschoolers through high school and young adults, adult education on Wednesday evenings, and is active in many of the local charities. St John is also a co-sponsor of the Orthodox Christian Fellowship at Clemson University and Furman University.
Presently, St John's has over 100 adult members including many families with children (and children on the way!). We have found "mission life" a joyous spiritual discipline. Due to the number of people at our services and the size of our facility, we have recently purchased land on Roper Mountain Road Ext and are looking to break ground on a new facility with in the coming year. Please pray for our community as we continue the work of Christ in Greenville.