Father Seraphim dreamt of establishing an English-speaking mission parish on the west side of Denver. On August 13, 2007, that dream was realized when 14 people gathered at Carolyn Baldwin’s home with His Grace, Bishop Basil. He gave the blessing to begin the mission, giving us the name St. John Chrysostom (the golden tongued) in commemoration of the 1600th anniversary of the Saint’s repose. We were assigned November 13th as the Feast Day which commemorates St. John’s first restoration to the Patriarchal throne.
A barn/art studio was our first home, thanks to Anne Emmons. We received donations of music stands and chairs and utilized (with permission) Liturgical furniture from the Air Force Academy which we were storing because their chapel closed. In October, we realized we needed a larger facility and the lovely outdoor coffee hours would soon be impossible due to the cold weather. By God’s Grace and fervent prayer, within a week we found our 2nd home; a one-room store-front on Golden Road in Golden, Colorado! After a couple gallons of paint and a lot of elbow grease, we moved in.
Evening Vespers proved to be interesting and challenging. Loud music blared from the Rock Rest Saloon, a biker bar across the street; our window coverings were not adequate to obscure the view. After Sunday Liturgies, the sanctuary was turned into a cozy fellowship area. In 2008, we received our iconostasis, donated by the DOWAMA PLC (parish life conference), hosted by SS. Constantine & Helen Church of Dallas, TX.
We gained a few parishioners, lost a few, and after a year realized that we weren’t going to attract families with children if we didn’t have a place to step out during services. With cold snowy winters yet again looming, we began looking for another home.
Buying an existing church or land was cost prohibitive. So we were blessed when we found a very large store-front just two miles away, still on Golden Road, in Golden. It had a vestibule where parents and children could step out, and an area that could remain set-up for coffee hour, separate from the sanctuary. We were next door to a great Goodwill store where many of us ritually shopped after coffee hour!
The first year at this location witnessed a mild surge in growth and after about a year and a half we suffered the loss of 8 adults and 8 children – a noticeable dent in a small congregation. The growth of our mission resembled a rubber band. After much debate, rent increases, and stagnant growth, the majority of the community recognized the need to find a place of our own.
Our next move was to the Loretto Center (a Catholic female monastic order) in March 2014 where, for a small fee, we had the use of their chapel. As in the beginning, Father Seraphim had to bring the essentials for serving Liturgy from home every Sunday. The space for coffee hour was about the size of a broom closet and not children-friendly. Thus, our search for a permanent home continued. We discussed multiple options and in March made an offer on some land in Littleton, which was rejected.
In April 2014, Father Seraphim accepted the kind offer of Pastor Greg, minister at Hosanna Lutheran Church on Belleview, to hold services there. We were given an unused music room in the basement of the church. In our space (20’x15’), we were allowed to set-up on a “permanent” basis, thus no longer needing to haul items from home! We resumed Vespers and most other services, and were offered their beautiful sanctuary with amazing acoustics for our Paschal services.
Our children had the use of the outdoors, complete with a playground. Hosanna was a gracious community, extending their love and hospitality to us. Holding services and coffee hour in one room was a familiar challenge. Although we felt like sardines, we witnessed a spirit of love, family and cohesiveness. We held brainstorming sessions during which time we expressed and discussed our needs and desired features for our parish.
In August 2014, our parishioner, Rebecca Ogden, drove by a property for sale, a former Montessori school located on 0.85 acres at 9300 W. Dartmouth Pl in Lakewood. Within 24 hours the Parish Council and a few others met to look at the property. This house-turned-school met many of our desired needs: space for worship, a Sunday school room, a fellowship hall, a kitchen and storage. And best of all, a large yard and two playgrounds! We could envision our future on these premises!
The price was right, and with Metropolitan Joseph’s blessing, St. John Chrysostom Mission found a home. After a couple months of hard work, both inside and out, complying with necessary building code regulations, and receiving help from Carolyn Baldwin’s daughter Carol and husband David’s construction company, we moved into our new home. The first Liturgy was served on the feast day of St. John Chrysostom, November 13, 2014.
In the three years since we moved, we have outgrown our space, but are no longer looking for a new home. Plans include expanding spaces inside and out as finances permit. Our initial choir of few, under the direction of Anna Gisetti, has grown to include 14 adults and 11 children (who have their own choir stands and sing loud and proud!). Two toddlers and newborn Sophia complete our choir. Five altar boys, ranging in age from 7 to 16, squeeze into the altar area. Every child, from the time they can walk, participates in the processions during the Little and Great Entrances.
From the very first home to the present, our pan-Orthodox community has held a variety of events and social get-togethers. We have had Lenten Women’s retreats/workshops, music workshops, Christian Education workshops, Teaching Liturgies for the Denver Metro Orthodox churches, and retreats with Frs. Chad Hatfield, John Behr, George Eber, and Archimandrite Jeremy (Davis). We have hosted post-Pascha pan-Orthodox Vespers, a variety of picnics, and Wednesday evening adult education classes.
In addition, our parish celebrates occasions such as birthdays, showers, new houses, the sporadic movie or game night, and even travel together. We are more than just a church. We are a family whose Orthodox faith and Christian love goes beyond the walls of any building.