Our parish was started in St Justin Martyr Orthodox Church as an outreach for Russian speaking immigrants in Jacksonville area.
The seed for St. Justin Martyr Orthodox Church, a parish of the Diocese of the South of the Orthodox Church in America, was planted in November 1987 by Fr. John Ealy of Orlando. Fr. John, who was Dean of the Central Florida Deanery at the time, travelled to Jacksonville one Sunday evening each month to serve Vespers at St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church, ministering to a small group of English-speaking Orthodox Christians in the area. As the ministry grew and strengthened, a core group developed that was committed to establishing an Orthodox Church in Jacksonville with services conducted in English. A member from this group, Theodore Pisarchuk, completed studies and was ordained to the priesthood at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary in New York. In May 1994, Fr. Ted was tasked with planting the Orthodox Mission in Jacksonville.
On July 17, 1994, the first Divine Liturgy was celebrated in a classroom at the University of North Florida. Within a few months, the Mother of God Byzantine Catholic Church on Stacey Road became available and the community worshipped and grew there for 2 ½ years. The property, however, was then sold and an intensive search for another facility was undertaken during which time the Mission conducted services at the Mother of God of the Zorono Syrian Orthodox Church. After six months, a warehouse space on Baymeadows Road was renovated which was to house the St. Justin Mission for the next seven years.
In May 2001 a ten-acre parcel of land on Old St. Augustine Road was purchased. The current temple and a fellowship hall were constructed and, on the Feast of St. John Climacus, April 10, 2005, the first Divine Liturgy was served in the new sanctuary. A cemetery was then constructed and consecrated by Archbishop DMITRI ON May 14, 2005. The following day Vladika DMITRI consecrated the temple.
Our parish came into existence as an outreach ministry of St Justin Martyr Orthodox Church to Russian-speaking immigrants in the Jacksonville area. At first, a Russian priest from Orlando travelled to Jacksonville on one Thursday evening each month to serve Vespers and hear confessions. Several Russian priests were invited to explore the opportunity to establish a Russian Mission within the St. Justin parish. In the summer of 2007 Archbishop Dmitry (of blessed memory) gave his blessing to Hieromonk Arkady (Migunov) to assume the task. In September of that year, the Russian-speaking members met and pledged a sum sufficient to support a priest for one year. This was supplemented by a $10,000 donation from the SJM Missions Fund to help with initial expenses.
Our first Slavonic Liturgy was served on November 8, 2007. Slavonic Liturgies subsequently were served on the second and fourth Sundays of each month following the English Liturgy. Weekday Liturgies commemorating Church holidays according to the Old Calendar were then added.
After 4 years of steady growth, the Russian mission determined to seek approval to establish an independent parish. Archbishop Nikon of Boston granted his blessing to establish the Orthodox parish of the Annunciation to the Theotokos with services in Church Slavonic according to the Old Calendar.
A suitable location was found in the Commerce Center on Baymeadows Road where a 2500 sq.ft. warehouse space was renovated by our parishioners. Our first Liturgy as an independent parish was served on September 2, 2012. We continue to worship and fellowship in this space at the present time, but continued growth has necessitated the search for a larger, permanent facility. We are in the process of searching for property and collecting funds for its purchase.
We welcome everyone to our diverse parish! While most of our parishioners are Russian-speaking, there are many who do not speak Russian. Among these are many English- and Spanish-speaking family members, some of whom have been baptized into the Orthodox faith in our church. Others without family connections simply feel comfortable in our spiritual community.
Annunciation Orthodox Church of Jacksonville, Florida is a parish of the Diocese of the South, Orthodox Church in America. As such, we trace our lineage to the ancient Church formed by followers of Jesus Christ over 2000 years ago. For a millennium the Church was united under the governance of five “Patriarchates” established by the Apostles in the region of the eastern Mediterranean. Following the secession of the Roman Patriarchate, the remaining four became known as the Eastern Orthodox Church which continues to this day as a theological whole with a decentralized structure largely identified by ethnic composition. The Eastern Church has spread throughout the world from its origins in the Middle East, initially to the north and east but eventually arriving in the New World along with its émigré adherents.
The Orthodox Church was introduced to North American by Russian traders in Alaska and followed their path south along the Pacific Coast into modern day California. St Herman of Alaska, a Russian monk from Valaam monastery (up north in Russia on Ladoga Lake) along with other Valaam monks arrived to Alaska in 1793 and laid a foundation for the Orthodox faith for native Alaskans and it’s further spreading in North America. A larger wave of Orthodox arrived in the United States a century ago with immigrants from traditionally Orthodox countries seeking to escape political oppression and economic depression, settling in the Northeast and Midwest. As assimilation progressed and economic opportunities presented, succeeding generations migrated to the South bringing their needs for religious life with them, usually forming ethnic enclaves rooted in their culture of origin.
When it became evident that an Orthodox presence with services conducted in English and sensitive to American cultural mores was necessary to continue the spread of its message, the Orthodox Church in America was formed in 1970 and established as an independent entity theologically equal to its parent, the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate and all other canonical jurisdictions. The Diocese of the South of the OCA was initially headquartered in Miami, Florida and then moved to Dallas. The Diocese is the fastest growing diocese in the OCA, owing to vigorous evangelization and demographic shifts.
While several Orthodox churches have existed in Northeast Florida for many years, none has ministered in the English language. In 1994, Fr. Theodore Pisarchuk was sent to Jacksonville after completing studies at St. Vladimir’s Seminary in New York with the express purpose of planting an English-speaking Orthodox church. By God’s grace, and through the hard work of its parishioners, St. Justin Martyr Orthodox Church ministers to the faithful at a beautiful facility on Old St. Augustine Road. As the great grandson of a Russian priest who experienced the persecutions of the Communist regime, Fr. Ted was sensitive to the unmet spiritual needs of the sizeable Russian immigrant population in Jacksonville, so in 2007 invited Rev. Arkady Migunov to come to meet those needs as a ministry of the St. Justin parish. The ministry thrived to the point where, in order for both communities to continue to grow in their specific missions, a separation was needed.
Annunciation Orthodox Church was spawned in 2011 with the blessing and support of its sister parish to carry forward with its ministry to Russian-speaking people and their American families. A commercial space was leased and outfitted to conduct worship, education and fellowship activities. In the one and a half years of its existence, the community of Annunciation Orthodox Church has grown such that larger, more permanent facilities are needed to sustain that growth.
To further this goal of a permanent facility, an intensive search has been conducted for a property that will meet not only current facility needs but will allow for future expansion as necessary. The congregation is supportive of this activity and a building fund, separate from tithes, has been established. Concurrent with the search for property, an investigation of financing options is underway, in order help define the scope of the search and to be ready to act when we are led to the appropriate site.