St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Barton Sustains Tradition


Staff Writer

BARTON — St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Barton, founded by Slovakian immigrants in 1911, has served the community in the Orthodox Christian faith and provided an ethnic base for those who immigrated from the Austro-Hungarian Empire to make a better life for themselves in the United States.

St. Nicholas was established in 1911, but the cornerstone of the building was not laid until 1913. The structure was completed in 1918 with much of the labor being donated.

Most of the church’s founders were from the village of Osturna in northern Slovakia. According to the Rev. Michael Kabel, who has served St. Nicholas Parish since October 2001, each Orthodox church retains many of the traditions, customs and languages of each founding culture. For example, St. Nicholas church honors its Slavonic roots by often singing songs in the Slavonic language during services.

According to The Church Messenger, a newsletter of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the U.S.A., St. Nicholas has had a total of 25 resident priests who have served the church since its establishment in 1911: “Each pastor brought his own unique talents and abilities to the community. The labor, sacrifices and donations of the laity of the church were also critical to the success of the parish, and are too numerous to mention. … Even though the mines shut down long ago, and the steel mills are faltering, and many people had to re-locate elsewhere to find employment, St. Nicholas Church remains a vibrant Orthodox community in Barton.”

The Orthodox Church claims to be directly descended from the early church in Jerusalem, Christ and the apostles. According to Kabel, at its beginnings, the Christian Church was essentially a unified whole, having five patriarchial centers — Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, Alexandria and Constantinople — up until 1054 when the Great Schism took place. At that time, Rome broke away from the five, and the Roman Catholic Church was formed. The other four patriarchial centers remain together to this day and form the Orthodox Church.

Kabel said the Orthodox Church has remained the same throughout its history, having direct continuity of practice, liturgy, theology, ritual, doctrine, worship and structure.

“St. Nicholas Orthodox Church is a loving, vibrant Christian community where God is worshipped ‘in Spirit and truth,'” the church website states. “Throughout its 100-year history, our parish has perpetuated the cherished traditions of our ancestors in Eastern Europe, while also welcoming Orthodox Christians of other backgrounds. Many converts have also found their true spiritual home in our church.”

Ornate iconography is very prominent in the Orthodox Church, and St. Nicholas continues that tradition as well. According to orthodoxphotos.com, icons served many different purposes throughout Orthodox Church history including teaching the faithful about God.

“A person can walk into an Orthodox Church and see the whole Bible story unfolded on its walls. Icons of Old and New Testament people and events were used to teach the faithful, keeping in mind that many could not read about the Christian Faith,” the site states. “In the Orthodox Church, an icon is a sacred image, a window into heaven. An image of another reality, of a person, time and place that is more real than here and now. More than art, icons have an important spiritual role,” states the website of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America.”

Kabel noted that worship in the Orthodox Church around the world, and at St. Nicholas, involves all the senses and is completely “God-centered.”

“We see the icons, we hear the chanting, we smell the incense, we use our voices to praise God,” Kabel said.


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