This data was last updated on 01 September 2020.
History and Demographics: The Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral, located in the Fenway neighborhood of Boston, was founded in 1910 as a parish of the Russian Orthodox Church with most original parishioners being recent immigrants from the Russian and Austro-Hungarian Empires. The parish was aligned with the Empire until 1917, when the Russian Orthodox Church in North America was administratively separated from the mother church in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution. This separation demanded a tense reevaluation of the relationship between the American Church and the Church in Russia culminating in the 1930s when the Soviet Union pressured the branch of the church in North America to sign an oath of allegiance to the Soviet government. The church in North America refused to adhere to such a directive, cementing the fundamental separation of the Russian Orthodox Church in America from the Russian Orthodox Church until 1970.
Beginning in the 1960s and carried into the 1970s, the church began to switch from Slavonic to English. Since the 1990s with the tenure of Fr. Robert Arida, all church services at Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral have been conducted exclusively in English. Further, during this period of transformation in the 1970s, the church officially switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. As the parish evolved in its relationship to Russia, Russian heritage, and the use of Slavonic as a liturgical language, so too has the demographic of the parish shifted and diversified. The majority of parishioners no longer identify as culturally Russian; instead, they define themselves as Orthodox Christians brought into the parish community by its rich liturgical life and community focus. According to a rough estimate by Fr. Robert, approximately fifty to sixty percent of parishioners formerly of other faith backgrounds were received into the Orthodox faith while attending services and catechetical classes at the Cathedral. In addition to those of Slavic origin, Orthodox Christians of different ethnic backgrounds have also made Holy Trinity Cathedral their home. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the parish welcomed Russian immigrants among whom were those who were subsequently baptized into Orthodox Christianity while starting their new lives in the United States.
Leadership: The church is under the authority of the Bishop of Boston of the Orthodox Church of America and spiritually led by Fr. Robert M. Arida, who has served the parish for more than three decades. The administrative life of the parish is coordinated by the Parish Council, with the priest as head of the council.
Description: The heritage and cultural presence of Russia is very visible in the parish, and the structure of Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral reflects a combination of traditional Russian Orthodox and Slavic architectural influences with more modern American architectural style. The space inside the church is adorned with iconographic murals, wood panels, mosaics, embroideries and wood carvings of the Slavic style, depicting different saints and scenes from the Old and New Testaments. The worship space is unique in that it deliberately excludes pews. This traditional arrangement encourages the congregation to worship in a more intimate setting. Beneath the worship space of the cathedral, parishioners can gather in the church hall for classes, meetings, dinners, and community building. The hall is equipped with sectioning partitions, making the space multifunctional.
Services, Schedule, and Programming: In accordance with the parish emphasis on its vibrant liturgical life, the Cathedral offers a minimum of four services to the community every week. During a normal week, this service schedule includes Vespers every Tuesday and Thursday at 6:30pm, a Vigil service on Saturday at 5:00pm, the Service of Hours every Sunday at 9am, and the Divine Liturgy following the service at 9:30am. All services are sung by an a cappella ensemble comprised of parishioners and led by Walter Obleshchuk. Additionally to the extensive liturgical offerings of the church, bells manually rung with varying rhythms also help to draw in new worshipers. The parish also offers church school for children and adult education programs to bolster their theological and spiritual education. Fr. Robert emphasizes the Socratic method equally in his sermons and in the structure of these educational programs, employing questions as a path toward deeper contemplation and understanding. Finally, the church welcomes the entire Fenway community to monthly dinners with parishioners and hosts bi-weekly food distribution through the Fair Foods program.
Mission and Community: The community at Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral emphasizes spiritual and liturgical accessibility, as reflected in its transition to the use of English during services and its decision to finance its operation solely through stewardship of individual parishioners and not through a general collection. Part of the mission of the Cathedral is to offer a pathway towards Orthodoxy that would be open to any in the larger community who might seek it, regardless of background, as Fr. Robert asserts: “We want to be an Orthodox church for all seeking Christ. Consequently, our doors are open to everyone.” Further, as part of its “ortho-praxis,” the parish of Holy Trinity and Fr. Robert have dedicated themselves to not only spiritually serving the Fenway and Greater Boston community, but also serving the community beyond the spiritual, including their food distribution program, monthly dinners, and larger collaboration with the Fenway Community Development Corporation and the Fenway Community Health Center. Historically, the church has been involved in the Boston Clergy Association, and Fr. Robert is a member of the Boston Ministers’ Club, the oldest ecumenical body in the U.S. that fosters fellowship and deeper awareness of the various Christian churches in the Boston area. In the wake of social uprising around race and inequality in the United States, Fr. Robert has sought to use this moment of reckoning as a “teaching moment” for the parish, choosing to include reflections on racial inequality in his sermons and teachings and encouraging the faithful to interrogate the real meaning and responsibility of the community in Christ.