There are many things to do in Juneau, AK, a steep town of 33,000 people. The 1st place Ruth & I headed was the Saint Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church. Uptown and 2 blocks from the Alaska State Capitol building, St. Nicholas is deteriorating because of the harsh Alaskan winters, but inside it is still beautiful and iconic. A service was in progress when we entered, and we felt very welcomed. St. Nicholas is different from what you see in Sitka, the capitol of Russian America. Built in 1894, St. Nicholas is the oldest original Orthodox Church in Alaska.
At 325 6th Street in upper Juneau, St. Nicholas Orthodox Church is a true, urban survivor. No Orthodox Russian priests were sent to this city when Juneau was established in 1881, but the Tlinkit elders sensed the importance of this religion and fought to establish this church. It’s still largely supported by the Native Americans in this area who are its main members.
The patron saint of sailors, St. Nicholas is much in evidence in this Russian Orthodox Church. More of the Orthodox churches still in Alaska, and there are many, are dedicated to him than to any other saint. Most of the churches in Alaska are Episcopal followed by Presbyterian and then other denominations. However, there are still many Russian Orthodox churches around. I recalled visiting a new and impressive Orthodox Cathedral in Tirana, Albania, while there a few years ago. I was very impressed with the domination of this religion in this part of the world and found many cathedrals in conspicuous locations in urban areas.
The construction of a Russian Orthodox church is important. Its worshipers are restricted to its narthex and do not seem to enter the sanctuary during a service. Religious icons are much in evidence and adorn almost all walls. This religion is still critically important to the citizens of Russia and The Middle East. To ignore it is to dismiss it as unimportant to a large percentage of the world’s population. This is still true in Alaska too.