In the summer of 1968, Fr. Athanasius Emmert began pasturing a flock of 20 Orthodox families of Middle Eastern descent in Huntington, WV. They met in their homes, St. George Greek Orthodox Church, and finally at a chapel on McCoy Road owned by the Pallotine Sisters of St. Mary’s Hospital.
By that fall, Metropolitan PHILIP named the mission “The Mission Parish Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit.” Later, for the sake of brevity, the name was shortened to "Holy Spirit Orthodox Church."
The next year a fundraising drive was conducted to purchase a permanent location in which the young parish could worship. In October 1969, the Board of Trustees bought the former Church of Christ building at 2109 Tenth Avenue. The sanctuary was then converted into a suitable Orthodox house of worship.
Fr. Athanasius served from its inception until December 1973, then The Rev. Fr. Anthony Bassoline served as “interim Priest” from January 1974 until July 1974.
The years between 1974 and 1980 was a time of significant spiritual and physical growth, under The Rev. Fr. Alexander Vukovich. Huntington area residents became more familiar with the Orthodox faith by means of the written and spoken word by utilizing the local media at every opportunity. During this period, the number of convert members became equal to that of the cradle Orthodox.
Fr. John Morris served our parish for six years, beginning in June 1980. During this time the parish became more involved in the activities of the Archdiocese and speakers were frequently invited to hold retreats to teach the Orthodox faith.
Emphasis was placed on the necessity to embrace proper Orthodox ecclesiology for the stability and well-being of the parish. It was also during this time that there were major renovations made to the church property, including the installation of the Platytera and Pantocrator icons on the ceiling.
In August 1986, Fr. Daniel Keller was assigned to Holy Spirit, and he stressed the importance of the parish as a true community of believers. The services of the parish were expanded with daily Vespers and several all-night vigils, making it necessary to renovate and double in size.
In August 1997, Fr. Joseph Cervo and his family came to Huntington, emphasizing proper Orthodox ecclesiology, as key to church stability. During his pastorate, a weekly Orthodox educational series was included in the local paper to bring greater awareness and understanding to local residents.
In 1999, Mark Hagan was ordained to the diaconate to serve the parish, and it was during this time that interest grew to build a new church for the community. The existing property was in need of significant renovations and concern was raised over the decline of the surrounding residential neighborhood. In 1999, the church property was placed on the market for sale and a committee was established to raise funds and search for a suitable location.
In a surprising move, a buyer was found for the current church building before a new location could be agreed upon. In the spring of 2000, the parish voted to accept a purchase offer from the Full Gospel Assembly and moved into temporary quarters that were graciously provided by Fifth Avenue Baptist Church for the next three years.
In 2001, during the Midwest Region Parish Life Conference hosted by Holy Spirit, parish son, Richard Dixon was ordained to the Holy Priesthood, taking the name of John (St. John the Theologian). On August 1 of that year, he was assigned as pastor of the Holy Spirit Orthodox Church.
That same month, Deacon Mark Hagan was ordained to the priesthood and assigned as pastor of St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church of Iron Mountain, Michigan. Fr. John continued his secular employment as the Director of Development and Planning for the City of Huntington in order to free up additional funds for the church construction.
In May 2002, the parish purchased two tracts of property located at Woodhaven Drive and 5th Street Road for $189,000. These tracts consisted of 1.7 acres on the south side of Woodhaven and .69 acres located on the north side of Woodhaven. That fall, Edward Tucker Architects was hired to design the new church. The project was put out to bid in late winter of 2003 and Jarrett Construction was contracted to build the new church for the amount of $980,000.
In May of 2003, Bishop DEMETRI blessed the property and construction, and by Christmas of that year, the building was completed and the parish family moved into their new home. After serving almost four years as a part-time priest, Fr. John Dixon was able to resign from his secular employment and became a full-time priest in May 2005.
In its 50 plus years of existence, Holy Spirit Orthodox Church has been blessed by Godly priests and faithful parishioners who have endeavored to be witnesses to Christ and the Holy Orthodox faith. The parish has also been blessed to offer several of its sons to the Church as priests.
In addition to Fr. John Dixon, they include:
- Fr. Tom Gallaway, pastor of St. Andrew Antiochian Orthodox Church in Lexington, KY
- Fr. Mark Hagan, pastor of St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church in Iron Mountain, MI
- Fr. Samuel Haddad, pastor of St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church of Beckley, WV
- Fr. Alexis Duncan, pastor of Our Lady, Joy of all Who Sorrow Russian Orthodox Church in Cumming, GA
- Fr. Adam Horstman, pastor of St. Anthony the Great Mission in Rock Hill, SC
Glory to God for all things!