The beginnings of our parish are traced back to the year 1998 when Fr. Seraphim and Matushka Marilyn Bell, along with their three children, moved from California to Walla Walla. They had heard that there were people in the Walla Walla valley who were interested in becoming Orthodox Christians.
Accompanying the Bells that first year were other families and individuals who relocated from California to help found and support the mission in its formative years. Four more families would join them from California the following year.
After choosing the beloved Russian saint, Silouan the Athonite, as the patron, the newly formed parish had its first services in December of 1998 celebrating its first Holy Week and Pascha (Easter) the following spring. For the first five years of existence, our parish met at a house which was provided generously by founding members Dennis and Elizabeth Sturgill, just three blocks from our current location. All divine services, sacraments, catechesis as well as fellowship took place in the Sturgill’s home and backyard.
Soon it became apparent that with the steady growth of our mission we would need to relocate to a larger facility and our dear Lord provided. One Sunday morning, five years after the founding of St. Silouan, we all processed those three blocks from our Church home in the Sturgill’s house to our new and present Church facility. Months and months of labor and love were poured into the new Church building, a former residential home turned artist’s studio, and now converted to our Church. The roof was torn off, walls were straightened, cedar shingles were attached to the exterior, floors were sanded, and the iconostasis was added where once stood a massive easel used by the former artist resident. A few years later, a gold leafed Russian-style onion dome and cross were added to adorn the rooftop. All of this labor was done almost exclusively by in-house parishioners, men and women competent in craftsmanship and with a love for God’s Holy Church.
Two features of St. Silouan’s history especially stand out as unique contributions to the landscape of Orthodox Christianity here in America. The first is the founding a parochial school, Saint Basil Academy, a K-8th grade school of classical education. Most children attending St. Silouan attend St. Basil, along with several non-Orthodox children, while the school’s primary staff are comprised of parishioners from our parish. St. Basil’s first Headmaster, Matthew Barnett, continues as Headmaster today. Founded in 2006, there are approximately 50 students now attending our wonderful parish academy. Residing on a thirteen acre plot of land where one day, God willing, we hope to build a new Church, fellowship hall, and cemetery, St. Basil Academy is located about one-and-a-half miles from our parish on the edge of town.
The second unique feature of St. Silouan is the number of clergy and monastics that have been raised up over the years from within our parish. Fr. Deacon Innocent Philo serves in Kodiak, Alaska while his son, Fr. Jesse Philo, serves St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco in Kennewick, WA. Fr. Matthew Harrington serves St. John the Theologian Orthodox Mission in Francisville, LA, Fr. Silouan Thompson serves several parishes in the Philippines, Fr. Athanasius Kone serves a parish in Greece, and Fr. Daniel Reese serves as the current Rector of St. Silouan.
We at St. Silouan are deeply thankful for our Choir Mistress, Dr. Christine Janis, who, with her choir of young and not so young, provides our parish with a quality of music that truly glorifies our Lord. Christine has been with our parish from almost its conception until today. Joining Christine is our head chanter, Rd. John Smith. These two together, surrounded by so many competent others with a love for liturgical worship, help guide one of the most important aspects of an Orthodox Church: its music.
May this rich history that comprises St. Silouan Orthodox Christian Church continue to bless those who attend our parish and ultimately bring glory and honor to God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.