SPRING HILL — Compared to other local churches that are celebrating anniversaries of more than 100 years this month, Holy Trinity Orthodox Church is in its infancy.
The church will celebrate its 30th anniversary next weekend. But church leaders say its roots go back thousands of years.
According to a church history provided by subdeacon Gregory Orloff, Holy Trinity was formed in 1979 by local Slavic-American Orthodox Christians seeking their own place of worship in then-rural Hernando County.
"The congregation has since grown more diverse, drawing members from Finnish, Greek, Middle Eastern and other backgrounds as well — both American born and from overseas," Orloff said. "The common denominator among them is Orthodox Christianity, a religious tradition that reaches back to the lifetime of Jesus Christ and his apostles."
According to Orloff, Orthodox Christianity was planted in North America by Russian missionaries in Alaska in 1704 and spread rapidly across the continent with the arrival of immigrants from Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
"Now, growing numbers of Americans are discovering it," Orloff said, "attracted by its reverent worship, stable theology and transformative spirituality drawn from ancient roots, rather than driven by passing fads and trends."
Originally, the congregation in Spring Hill met in the Sunday school room of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church.
Ken and Lydia Pinkowski were one of 10 families that put up the money in 1981 to build the church's first building on the property on Eglin Boulevard that the Deltona Corp. had donated.
"At the time, there wasn't anything else in the county," Lydia Pinkowski said. "There was a Greek camp, but not a church."
A lifelong member of the Orthodox Church, Pinkowski, who is the choir director, said she would not have considered joining another church.
"The Orthodox Church has always been a very warm, personal, very traditional, very ceremonial church," she said. "There's a lot of feeling there. The beliefs are very deep, and it has lasted over time and has always been the same."
The church is a parish of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the USA, formed in 1938 to minister to American Orthodox Christians with roots in Carpathian Rus, which was then a part of Czechoslovakia.
The diocese, which is part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, numbers about 50,000 members and has about 80 parishes across the United States and Canada. The headquarters are in Johnstown, Pa.
The local congregation meets weekly on Sundays for the Divine Liturgy, a service of praise, prayer, Bible readings and communion. Services are sung between the priest, presbyter Michael Shuster and the congregation.
There are no musical instruments. Everything is sung a cappella by the choir or the chanters of the church. Visitors can follow along in a service book.
Orloff said communion and confession are vital parts of the service. Confession, he believes, helps members to take stock of their lives, "with an eye to growing more Christlike through prayer, fasting and almsgiving."
One of the church's ministries is to collect food, clothing and other necessities year-round to aid people in need through local charities.
It maintains a Web site to share the church's faith with the surrounding community that features news and updates, as well as free resources about Christian growth.
Shuster has been the church's pastor for the past 15 years and is its fourth priest. He remembers when there were just 20 members.
"We've gone up. We've gone down. We've been in between," he said. "Right now we have about 60 people, who are mostly retirees, on the books."
Shuster said the anniversary celebration next weekend will also be a reunion. Letters of invitation were sent to former members who have moved away.
Guests are also welcome.
"We have a big heart for everyone to come and be part of our community and our family," Shuster said.