In February of 1990, seminary graduates Stephen and Mona Soot moved from Pasadena, California to Albany, Oregon in response to a job offer Stephen accepted from the Albany General Hospital Foundation The Soots, both baptized in the Orthodox Church as infants, graduated from St. Vladimir’s Seminary (Yonkers, New York) in 1986, each with a master’s degree. With the closest Orthodox churches in Portland and Eugene about an hour’s drive away (and their first baby due in July) it was the Soot’s hope that an Orthodox church could be established in the area within a relatively short period of time.
Then in November of 1990 with the blessing of His Grace the Rt. Rev. TIKHON, Bishop of San Francisco, Los Angeles & the West of the Orthodox Church in America, and with the encouragement of the Archpriest Vadim Pogrebniak, Chancellor of the Diocese of the West, the Soots officially established the “Albany Orthodox Christian Mission”. The mission’s first reader’s service drew a total of six people and was held on a Sunday afternoon in a small classroom at the United Presbyterian Church in downtown Albany.
Over the next two years, the mission was served by two supply priests: the Rev. Gregory Cooke (the late, ever-memorable Archimandrite Gabriel) from St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Portland and the Rev. Timothy Perry from St. Spiridon Cathedral, Seattle. Fr. Gregory would serve the Divine Liturgy one Saturday per month and Fr. Timothy would serve the Liturgy once a month on a Sunday. Both priests worked hard, receiving several new members into the fledgling new church, and their love and sacrifice for Christ will forever be remembered.
From 1991 to 1993 the Albany Orthodox Christian Mission changed locations three times: first, to the basement rectory chapel of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Albany; then to a vacant doctor’s office; and then thirdly, to a rented room at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, where the community grew to 20 people. During this period, the mission also crossed two major milestones: it received its heavenly patron from Bishop TIKHON, the Holy and Righteous Anne, grandmother of Christ; and it received its first deacon and priest, the Rev. Stephen Soot. Fr. Stephen was ordained to the diaconate by Bishop TIKHON on December 25, 1991 at Holy Virgin Mary Cathedral in Los Angeles and then ordained a priest at the same cathedral on July 12, 1992. He was immediately assigned to the Albany church, which had then been renamed “St. Anne Orthodox Church” in recognition of its newly designated patron saint.
In 1996, St. Anne Orthodox Church purchased property at 2309 Scenic Drive in North Albany that included a small, flat-roofed house that was used as the church chapel, school room and fellowship hall for seven years. In 2000, shortly after St. Anne’s 10th Anniversary celebrations led by Bishop TIKHON, a bell tower was erected next to the house and five church bells from Russia were donated by two parish families.
Then in 2003, after having long outgrown the humble Scenic Drive house, and unable to obtain financing to construct an Orthodox temple on the North Albany site, St. Anne’s purchased the historic Lewisburg Grange Hall in Corvallis eight miles due west. The upstairs was converted into a spacious and suitable temple able to hold 150 people, and the downstairs houses a commercial kitchen and a large dining and meeting room, which is rented out for various occasions by local residents and community groups. The St. Anne parish family will remain forever indebted to the late Forrest Bowman for his help locating the grange hall for the church and for his indispensable aid in financing its purchase. May his memory be eternal!
Also in 2003, St. Anne’s founded the Family Tree Relief Nursery, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization for the prevention of child abuse and neglect. St. Anne parishioners serve both as staff and as board members for the Nursery, which also includes staff and board members from the community at-large. More recently, the church membership purchased a caboose in 2004 and finished renovating it in 2005 with the purpose of making it the church office. In addition to using the caboose to perform his daily office work, Fr. Stephen uses the caboose office as well for private counseling sessions and classes.
Furthermore, due to the immense generosity of parish benefactors Ron and Mary Mochnal Jones, St. Anne’s commissioned noted iconographer Dmitry Shkolniki in 2006 to paint icons for the church iconostasis. The complete set of traditional, hand-painted icons of Jesus Christ, the Ever-Virgin Mary, John the Baptist, St. Anne, the Great Martyr George, the Archangels Gabriel and Michael and Sts. Innocent and Herman of Alaska and St. Tikhon of Moscow were all offered to God in memory of Mary’s father, George. The icons on the iconostasis were blessed on the Feast of the Annunciation on March 25, 2007.
Lastly, at present the typical attendance for a regular Sunday morning Divine Liturgy now stands at 100 adults and children. Though some of the church’s current members are considered “cradle” Orthodox, a majority are recent converts from either Roman Catholic or Protestant churches, and most have become Orthodox Christians at St. Anne’s. Glory to God for all things!