The Rectorship of Mitred Archpriest Victor Potapov

 

In 1980, Priest Victor Potapov became the new rector. He had completed the Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, New York. On January 1, 1972, he was ordained to the diaconate by Metropolitan Philaret. Until 1974 he served the Holy Protection parish in Nyack. On September 1, 1974, Metropolitan Philaret ordained him a priest. Fr. Victor and his family moved to Washington from Stratford Connecticut, where he had served for three years as rector of the small parish of the Meeting of the Lord. In Washington he took a job with the “Voice of America” radio station, where for 23 years he has been producing and directing the program “Religion in Our Life.” During the many years of the “cold war” Fr. Victor arranged for the broadcast to Russia of our Vespers and Divine Liturgy services. Our compatriots have received them with great joy. One of our many Russian listeners wrote “I always listen to the broadcasts which you transmit from the Cathedral of St. John the Forerunner…It is impossible to describe that experience: the ringing of bells, the services in Christ’s Church, your precious singing; I can even hear your walking, censing the church. It is so touching that I am brought to tears….”

For over 15 years, Fr. Victor was editor of the Orthodox children’s magazine Trezvon, continuing the work after his transfer to Washington. He organized the Washington chapter of the Committee for Defense of Persecuted Orthodox Christians, and drew a substantial number of parishioners to its ranks. Some time later, Fr. Alexander Kiselev, founder of the committee, transferred his post to Fr. Victor. In this capacity, the rector often presented talks - at the Congress of United States, in the White House, and at various conferences. Everywhere he related the pitiful condition of believers in Soviet Russia, and offered concrete proposals as to ways in which those persecuted for their Faith could be assisted. The Committee raised several thousand dollars, the bulk of which was given to Russian Social Fund established by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn to provide assistance to political prisoners and their families. Fr. Victor founded and over the course of several years edited The Orthodox Monitor, a magazine which published news and analysis of the conditions in which Orthodox Christians exist in Communist countries. During his rectorship, the “Religious Literature for Russia Fund” was established within our parish. To it, parishioners donated not only money, but also books, magazines, brochures, and paper icons. This material was collected and sent to Russia by Fr. Victor’s faithful helper N.V. Prissovsky.

Improvement of the church has been a constant theme for Fr. Victor since the day he began to serve. The rector often reminds us that establishing churches has always been the favorite work of the Russian people:

“By God’s providence, Russian people have been scattered all over the world, in part so that they might bear witness to the One Holy and Apostolic Church. This should be the holy task of all Russian people living in the West. Even more so, we Russian Washingtonians, must strive to complete our church, for our temple in the capital of the free world symbolically belongs not only to us, but to the entire Russian Church.”

In the past few years, the exterior of the church, as well as its interior arrangement, has changed significantly. Our parishioners are eagerly responding to Fr. Victor’s challenge to help with the task of completing construction and physical improvement of the temple. In this regard, it is fitting to emphasize the fruitful work of our warden K.K. Borissow in drawing parishioners to do various tasks for the church. In the same manner, A. G. Bobrovsky, who replaced Mr. Borissow as warden, devoted a great deal of his and his family’s time and effort to installing a four-tiered iconostasis and then installing a great number of icons in it, and to organizing volunteers for work on various projects, including cleaning the church walls and preparing their surfaces for iconography, painting the walls of the rectory, and many other tasks. Our current warden is D. M. Saretzky, an extremely kind man who pays great attention to maintaining the church buildings and who shows exceptional concern for those who come to our church begging alms.

Tatiana Vsevolodovna Prujan was a devoted helper to several wardens. She remained in charge of the candlestand, standing faithfully at her post until she was overtaken by illness and died in 1996.

The main credit for the initial construction of the church, and especially for its completion, belongs to A.I. Gootan (+2011), head of the Building Committee and one of the founders of the parish. He devoted much effort to the building of our church, and as a professional building contractor saved us a great deal of money by devoting his time and effort to an endless series of projects, both doing work himself and arranging for work to be done to improve our temple and its grounds.

In June 1982, our parishioner Leonid Ivanovitch Mickle was ordained to the diaconate; in 1987, he was made a protodeacon. Fr. Leonid manifests an example of truly zealous service to the Church. In addition, he enjoys explaining to all who are interested, the profound spiritual meaning of the church and its icons.

In June 1985, in our temple, Fr. Protodeacon Theodore Shevzov’s ordination to the priesthood took place; Fr. Theodore has often served here, both as a deacon and later as a priest.

Over the two decades in which Fr. Victor has been rector, the interior of the church has been enhanced by many new icons, sacred objects, and church vessels. The icons for the four-tiered iconostasis, arranged according to Fr. Dimitry Alexandrov’s outline, were written by Priest Theodore Jurewicz (from Erie PA), and were paid for with donations by parishioners. The narthex was decorated by Lydia Rodionov (from Rome) and by Alexander Chistik (from Cleveland OH). Our parishioners have also generously responded to Fr. Victor’s appeals to acquire ancient icons and vessels.

Iconographic work on the nave, done according to Fr. Dimitry’s design, was begun in 1987 by Fr. Theodore Koufos, an experienced iconographer from Toronto, Canada. The walls of the altar, the choir loft, and the stairwell leading to the choir loft, were decorated by Victor Kazanin (+2012), an iconographer from Moscow.

The work of improving the church grounds and physical plant were accomplished with the constant participation of A.I. Gootan (+2011), head of the Building Committee, and under the supervision of engineer A.B. Bogolubov, who laid out plans for the project. An enclosed passageway, architecturally consonant with the church, was built to connect the church with the hall, and a portal over the main entrance to the church was erected. V. Kazanin (+2012) decorated the walls of the passageway. Soon the portal facade and the space above the entrance door will be enhanced by two mosaic icons ordered from Greece. One will bear the image of our heavenly patron St. John the Baptist, while on the other will be the image of Holy Hierarch John of Shanghai and San Francisco, founder of our parish.

Fr. Victor composes and publishes a monthly bulletin called Parish Life. Its purpose is to provide instruction and to advise members and friends of our community of the schedule of services and current events in the life of our parish. Our bulletin has developed a following, and is read outside the Washington area, even beyond the borders of the United States.

The rector carries on his pastoral work in close cooperation with priest John Johnson, priest Alexander Resnikoff, priest Vicor Klimenko and protodeacon Leonid Mickle, and with the members of the Parish Council. Fr. Leonid performs the labor-intensive work of translating Parish Life into English.

In describing the life of the parish, it should be noted that during Fr. Victor’s rectorship, a series of pilgrimages to the Holy Land have been taking place. The rector directs the pilgrimages with the active and energetic support of his matushka. The first pilgrimage took place in 1983, the second in 1985, the third in 1987, and the fourth in 1994. During these trips to the earthly homeland of our Lord Jesus Christ, many important sacred objects have been acquired by our church. These include a piece of the Life-giving Cross of Our Lord, a relic of our parish’s heavenly patron, St. John the Baptist (given to us by the Abbot of the ancient Monastery of Jozeba in Palestine) and a piece of the tomb of the Mother of God.

In addition to pilgrimages to the Holy Land, the parish has sponsored trips to pray at Holy Trinity Monastery, trips to San Francisco in 1994 for the Glorification of Holy Hierarch John (Maximovitch) and to New York in 1995 for the celebration of the 700th Anniversary of the Hodigitria of the Russian Church Abroad, the Miraculous Kursk-root Icon of the Mother of God of the Sign and other trips to holy places.