Ruth and I decided to bypass Goldendale, WA, a vibrant community at the top of the Columbia River Gorge with several attractions but no real place to stay and head for the interior of this state at Yakima. We had several times driven Highway 97 to Toppenish, WA and noticed a roadside attraction on the right side of the road near Goldendale but had never stopped to see what it is. This time we stopped and it turned out to be a Greek Orthodox Monastery for nuns. How curious this was! It is called St. John the Forerunner and it has a Goldendale address on the back side of volcanic Mount Adams that is now mostly Yakama Indian Nation territory. How did this curiosity become a reality?
We learned that this became a female monastery in 1995 when a local doctor named Timmer donated his 48 acre property to the Greek Orthodox faith. These nuns have grown from 3 to 20 since then and are in the business of selling Greek wares to passers-by. Serving mostly Greek food, their day begins at 2 am, and Ruth and I learned that there are now 18 monasteries like this in North America under the direction of a an Elder named Ephraim. This is still a male dominated religion. This monastery for women is bent on teaching Americans about the Greek Orthodox faith. Several of the nuns are from Greece, and Greek treats dominate what is available in its gift shop.
The gift shop selling all things Greek was established in 2002. Ruth bought some coffee flavored cookies to share with family that was a seasonal item. The proceeds from these sales support the monastery and the women and range from local honey to soups and a word which I have often mispronounced gyros, For those like me who don’t know how to say this Greek treat, they’re called yee ros. Sweets dominate the choices for sale here with religious items like candles a close second. Prayer ropes, icons, books and Greek Orthodox items abound in this shop.
I have not been in a Greek Orthodox church since being in Juneau, AK. Before that it was a relatively new cathedral in Albania. Since the big split occurred in 1054 that separated this religion with the icons and alter facing priests from the Catholic faith in cities like Constantinople and cultures like Russia and the other side of the world, this religion has thrived in the world. There are now about 300 million people who practice this Orthodox faith globally. Most cities have at least 2 huge cathedrals per city for these worshipers at either end of downtowns.