“Orthodoxy is the Church of Christ on earth. The Church of Christ is not an institution; it is a new life with Christ and in Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit.” —Sergius Bulgakov
Established in 1960 to proclaim Christ to Bergen County and the New York metro area, Christ the Saviour is a pan-Orthodox parish of the Diocese of New York and New Jersey, part of the Orthodox Church in America. We are grateful to God for our visitors!
We invite you to learn more about the Orthodox Church and the Apostolic faith She has preserved for over two thousand years according to the words our of our Lord: “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mat. 16:18).
The Early Years
Speaking at the Founders Day Banquet of Christ the Saviour Church on October 23rd, 1960, the Very Reverend Dr. Alexander Schmemann talked about the birth of a new parish. Father Schmemann spoke of “the need of obedience to God and the Holy Church. Obedience is the opposite of Pride, therefore, the Church should be organized as an instrument of our obedience to the Divine Commandments and not as a symbol of our pride.”
Taking Father Schmemann’s words to heart, the foundation of the parish was established on the following eight commitments.
- To receive the Sacraments of the Church frequently.
- To lead a moral life consistent with the Gospel teachings.
- To participate in the Lord’s Day, which means preparing on the eve and receiving the Eucharist.
- To celebrate the 12 major feasts of the Church in a proper manner.
- To volunteer time, money and talents as well as being respectful, loving and obedient to the Bishop and spiritual father.
- To continue spiritual growth, ever striving, ever working out salvation daily.
- To be alive and active in the life of the Church.
- To have budgets met by means conducive to the Bible and not dependent on external resources.
Christ the Saviour Church contributes to realizing the vision of Saint TIKHON (Belavin) for the Orthodox Church in America — a United Autocephalous Church. On April 28th, 1960, a group of Russian Orthodox Christians met at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Horoschak for the purpose of establishing a new Orthodox Church in the Fair Lawn, New Jersey area. A suburban-located Orthodox Church was needed to meet the needs of parishioners who had moved from the cities like Garfield-Passaic-Clifton. An Orthodox presence was also needed by those who were seeking what Orthodoxy had to offer. While pastor at the Three Saints Church in Garfield and Secretary of the NJ Deanery, Father John provided guidance on Church Law and led in the establishment of the Parish. Archbishop Dimitry approved the request of parishioners to permit Father John to become permanent rector, effective August 15th, 1960. The certificate of incorporation was drawn up by Mr. John Warhol, attorney. The Parish accepted the Statutes of the Orthodox Church as set forth at the Ninth All American Sobor held in 1959.
Father John suggested to name the new church “Christ the Saviour” after the Cathedral in Moscow. (Christ the Saviour Cathedral, Moscow was dedicated 1883 to commemorate the Russian victory in the War of 1812. It was destroyed by Stalin in 1931 but was rebuilt and consecrated in 2000.)
Founded on August 7th, Christ the Saviour Church became the eighth Orthodox Church in Bergen County. The founding was blessed by His Eminence Metropolitan LEONTY of the Metropolia. Parishioners were to meet temporarily at the Legion Hall in Paramus for services. The first Divine Liturgy was celebrated by Father John on 8/7/60 in the Legion Hall. Five acres of land were purchased from Mr. and Mrs. Adrian Habben of Paramus. The property included a large house for the Rectory, barn, and several farm sheds that were subsequently taken down to make room for the Church.
The first Annual Parish Meeting was held on December 16th, when Council members were elected and authorization to purchase the properties was finalized. While the meeting was being held at the new Rectory, the Nehrebecki family was moving in and a snow storm was blowing out! The building blocks of the church were laid throughout 1960 and 1961; the Parish Council was established August 7th, 1960; Sunday School classes began on September 25th; Saints Martha and Mary Society was founded March 26th, 1961; the Youth Group established April 14th. The building blocks continue firm to this day.
His Eminence Archbishop DIMITRY officiated at the ground breaking on March 13th, 1961. Nevel Associates began construction on the Church on November 18th. The Church was dedicated on June 10th, 1962 when the cornerstone was laid by Archbishop IRENEY. The Iconostasis was built by Greiz and Moses. Over the years additional Icons came to fill the Church to include the latest (2000) Icon of Christ not-made-by-hands located in the parish hall. In his capacity as Dean, Father John and Matushka Eugenia helped to establish additional suburban Orthodox Churches in: 1962 West Point Chapel; 1964 Holy Resurrection, Wayne; 1964 Holy Trinity, Dover/Randolph; 1966 Joy of All Who Sorrow, Mays Landing; 1968Holy Transfiguration, Pearl River;1968 Holy Trinity, Rahway/Clark;1970 Holy Annunciation, Bricktown; 1970 Holy Apostles, Saddle Brook; 1973 Holy Cross, Cherry Hill/Medford; 1981 Saint Gregory, Flemington/Glen Gardner.
On April 10th, 1970, according to the Tomos (decree) of His Holiness, Patriarch ALEXIS of Moscow and All Russia, the Russian Orthodox Church granted autocephally (self-governance and independence) to the former Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of America. A delegation headed by Bishop THEODOSIOUS of Sitka, Alaska, included Archpriest John Nehrebecki. The Patriarchal Decree established the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) which became the 15th autocephalous Orthodox Church in the world. The parish of Christ the Saviour Church was now a member of the OCA.
In September 1973, Father John and a delegation visited Orthodox Churches in Finland and Russia. He had the opportunity to con-celebrate the Divine Liturgy with His Holiness Patriarch PIMEN on the Partiarch’s name day in the St. Pimen Church, Moscow.
The first 20 years of the life of Christ the Saviour was eventful. The Church participated in extending the presence of Orthodoxy from the urban centers to suburban areas. It struggled to bring forth an autocephalous Orthodox Church in America. Parishioners secured the building blocks of good stewardship and community through its on-going activities.
The Second Twenty Years
“When we celebrate a feast, it is TODAY that it happens. The saints are our contemporaries.” —Fr. John Nehrebecki
During the second 20 years of Christ the Saviour in Paramus, the parish entered into a vigorous adulthood. The Family residing there grew in faith, obedience, love and the knowledge of the Lord.
Families were established; children became adults and started families of their own. Dear ones fell asleep in the Lord, and we remember them always and at every service. Families joined the parish, and others moved away from us.
The Parish Council served faithfully, with wisdom, and cared for God’s work in this world and the spiritual needs of the Church.
The Choir continued in devotion to the musical traditions of the Church, not condescending to human innovation.
Readers gained experience and expertise so that all should be done “decently and in order,” deepening their devotion and service to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
The taper bearers learned how to walk straight, carry a taper straight, serve Fr. John in his duties straight … and then showed the younger servers the same. Some seek vocation in the Church as priests or choir directors.
Saints Mary & Martha Altar Society worked tirelessly for the Parish as it does to this day. The faithful women raised funds for the poor and needy in our local communities and in others far away, provided assistance to students, seminaries and monasteries, and provided vestments and altar cloths for the Church.
The Youth Group served, grew, and had fun, too! The faces may have changed, but the ideals stayed the same.
The Orthodox Church of Christ the Saviour continued in the beauty of holiness for the last 20 years. Everyday faithfulness. Loving one another and bearing one another’s burdens. Striving to finish the course set before us. Our eyes set on the Author and Finisher of our Faith, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour. Blessed art Thou, O Lord! Teach us Thy statutes!
The Passing of the Torch
In 2003, Father John retired from parish ministry. Father David Vernak, who had previously been serving Holy Annunciation in Brick, New Jersey, was appointed rector following Father John’s retirement. Father David, Matushka Mariam, and their son Alexander moved into the rectory in July.
Out of great love for their pastor, the parish erected a second rectory for Father John and Matushka Eugenia, giving them the opportunity to continue to serve the parish in manifold ways. On October 5th, 2003, Archbishop PETER celebrated the Hierarchical Liturgy. At a banquet hosted by the Brownstone, Father John and Matushka Eugenia were presented with keys for their new home.
Father David’s service at Christ the Saviour was characterized by dedication to visiting the sick and homebound. While ministering to many of the founders in their later years, Father David also brought many young families into the parish. The unparalleled liturgical life continued at Christ the Saviour, giving parishioners numerous opportunities to join their prayer to ceaseless prayer of the Church.
Today, the parish is a mix of young to middle-aged adults, seniors, and children. Most parishioners are of Slavic heritage, but there are some Greek, Latin American, and Anglo-Saxon members as well. We have a census of just over 100 adult members.
Our parishioners participate in a full liturgical cycle which includes the usual divine services for Sunday and major feast days, Saturday night Vigil, and daily vespers on Tuesday and Thursday. There are very well attended bible study and iconography classes, a vibrant church school and youth group, and an adult education series.
Love of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—and His Church is also expressed at Christ the Saviour through the meticulous attention given to the care and adornment of the edifice. Everyone has an opportunity to participate, be it by the weekly parish cleaning, serving on the Parish Council, teaching for the Church School or Adult Class, being a Taper Bearer, Reader, Singer, or working on behalf of the Saints Martha and Mary Altar Society.
The Church School Program has some twenty-five children attending. It is held Sunday morning one hour before the Divine Liturgy begins so that the children can also participate in the full service. The Adult Study takes place while the children attend church school classes.
Retreats are held in conjunction with the Great Lent and Nativity fasts with guest retreat masters invited to come from throughout the United States. The parish is well represented at the Sunday of Orthodoxy Vespers and Lenten Mission services held in the deanery.
The Choir, under the direction of Theodora Gramkow, consists of about fifteen adults and children who regularly attend rehearsal and whose faithfulness and dedication have been able to sustain the Liturgical Life at Christ the Saviour Church. At most funeral services, and at the Divine Liturgy for the burial, there is a full gathering of the choir helping to “sing away” the departed.
Saints Martha and Mary Altar Society, with twenty members, is continuously active at the parish. It was started for the purpose of getting the women of the parish involved in keeping the House of God beautiful and in order, and “for doing the works meet for repentance.”
The Altar Society is responsible for receptions and the agape-meal after the Divine Liturgy and has been blessed to have received visiting Hierarchs, Clerics, Theologians, Nuns, and Seminarians from the Church in America as well as from the greater Church abroad. The woman also participate in a local food kitchen providing meals for the homeless.
The Society’s “Ways and Means” of raising money to support its many activities are diversified and include crafts and baked goods sales, Chinese Auctions, Rummage Sales, and Silent Auctions at the coffee hour. The ladies’ annual charitable donations include stipends given to the three seminaries, to several monasteries, and for missionary activity on behalf of the Church.
The Orthodox Christian Church of Christ the Saviour: since 1960, expressing the unity of the people of God as a community of love, striving to grow in a way that is not selfish but charitable, and endeavoring to fulfill the evangelical mission of bringing all people to Christ and His Church.