Orthodox Christians from central and eastern Europe petitioned Archbishop Platon for a priest in Robins back in 1912. In the beginning, worship services were held in the Lodge Hall, which was remodeled and converted into St. Michael’s Greek Orthodox Church.
The church sat against a bank in Robins, which is today known as Trail Run. During an Easter service there at midnight on Sunday morning many years ago, the church fell into total darkness. Everyone left the church to follow the priest around the church three times to indicate the three days Jesus stayed in the tomb. Then everyone stepped back inside the church to find it brightly lighted with many white candles. The Resurrection had occurred.
Easter baskets were blessed by the priest and a feast was held for those present to break their fast since Friday. Many had not eaten meat for the duration of Lent. It was a pleasant time as their soul had been filled with the Spirit and their bodies with the blessed food.
The interior of the Greek Orthodox Church, later called Russian Orthodox Church, holds many beautiful paintings, statues, and decorations. The church building is centered around the altar table, The Banquet Table of God. The Book of the Gospels sets on this carved wooden table from which communion is served. Many candles can be found throughout the center of worship.
Icons of Christ and the saints play a large role in describing the reality of God’s presence with us. They can be found on the royal gate, over the doors, around the central gates, on walls and ceilings.
The cross is the central symbol for Christianity. The Orthodox make the Sign of the Cross by placing their first two fingers and thumb together to signify the Triune God. Then cross themselves from head to breast and from shoulder to shoulder. This is done several times during their services.
This ribbon badge has two sides. The red, gold and blue side was worn for all church services, while the black side was used for funerals. This badge belonged to Dede.
Incense is the symbol of the rising of prayers, of spiritual sacrifice and of the sweet-smelling fragrance of the Kingdom of God. The priest frequently swings his censor of incense over the altar area as well as the entire congregation as a blessing.
Since services remain much the same from week to week, parishioners know the hymns and prayers easily as their chant is very repetitious. No organ or instruments are used as all words are from scripture or ancient Christian texts. Orthodox people generally stand for the entire service.
St. Michael’s Orthodox Church in Robins had a large attendance, and children were well behaved. There was no nursery so children learned to stand quietly for the entire service. In its early years, services were conducted in Slovak, however, today English prevails.
Land for the church cemetery, now known as Robins Cemetery or Trail Run Cemetery, was purchased on the hill across the road from the church in 1918. The Bethlehem Cemetery is in Lower Trail Run. About twenty years later, the “R” Club (Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America) was established.
The parish home in Robins, burned down on two separate occasions. The first time in 1939 when it was rebuilt with lumber from vacated houses after the mines had closed. After the second fire in 1958, parishioners decided to rebuilt in Byesville, OH and purchased land for a future church building.
In December of 1966, the first service was held in the new building in Byesville, where the church was called Christ the Savior Orthodox Church. Today this church is the only Orthodox Church in southeastern Ohio and covers an area from Columbus to the Ohio River and as far north as Canton. They celebrate their 50th anniversary this year.
Their church bulletin states: “May God reward your good deeds and preserve the spirit of devotion to Him every day of the year.”