New York.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
The Greek Orthodox parish of the Holy Transfiguration in Anchorage, Alaska, escaped a 7R magnitude earthquake that hit the vicinity with minor damages, while all parish members are well.
Parish priest Father Vasilios Hillhouse said in a message that “our new church building suffered only minor damage to the drywall and paint, and we lost a few glass items, but that is it. It is structurally sound, and could have been so much worse! We plan to continue our usual cycle of services tonight with Great Vespers at 5pm, and will offer a special service of thanksgiving to God for delivering us from harm during the earthquake. Tomorrow we will serve Orthros, the Divine Liturgy, and hold our PC Elections as planned.”
Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco – the parish is under his jurisdiction – said in a statement issued on Friday that he has been in direct contact with Rev. Father Vasilios Hillhouse, pastor of Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church in Anchorage.
“Father Vasili shared that there are some noticeable cracks in the nave of the church. Pieces of a chandelier also fell to the ground and shattered but no one was injured. Other damage was discovered in their secondary building which is used for administrative offices and parish education programs, but it is still too early to assess the extent of the full impact of these powerful earthquakes. Until the church grounds can be fully inspected, divine services will be held at an off-site location.
Father Vasili informed me that there are no reports of injuries to parishioners and there is minor damage to their homes.”
Aftershocks continue to be felt in the area of Anchorage. There have been reports of damage throughout greater Anchorage as well as disruption to electricity. The water system is also being tested to certify its safety. Several roads also sustained significant damage creating large and dangerous sinkholes.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake was centered about five miles north of Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city.
Republican Congressman Donald Young said at a press conference that an initial assessment found that the earthquake was not deadly. “
Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski said there was major concern regarding recovery efforts and safety.
“The impact is very real, the impact is very hard, and it will require apparently a great deal of recovery and effort,”’ she said. “There are homes without power. There is some concern that you may have gas line breaks that could lead to potential further disasters.”
The Holy Transfiguration parish was founded in 1953, with the first church being built in 1958. Construction on the current church began in 2010 and was completed in 2014. The parish currently serves over 100 families.
Holy Transfiguration is Pan-Orthodox in character, with a very diverse congregation. Services are primarily in English with some Greek. During the Divine Liturgy, the Lord’s Prayer is recited in Greek, Arabic, Armenian, Romanian, Ukrainian, French, English and sometimes other languages.
The parish’s history says that the Greek Orthodox presence in Alaska dates to the early eighteenth century when Greeks accompanied the first Russian Orthodox missionaries. However, it was not until the early 1900s that large numbers of Greeks first arrived to work on construction of the Alaska Railroad. After its completion, a small number remained in the railroad camp at the head of Cook Inlet, which became Anchorage. For many years, the nearest Orthodox parish was St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in Eklutna, a village 35 miles north of Anchorage.