His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill
HOLY TRINITY RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH is located in the renovated 'Washington Hill' neighborhood in 'East Baltimore'. The parish is approximately 3/4 mile from Johns Hopkins Hospital and, in fact, much of the complex can be viewed from the front steps of the church.
The church building itself was constructed originally for a Methodist congregation either just before or just after the American Civil War and during the 1890's a Lutheran congregation purchased the facility and remained there until the Russian émigré community purchased it in February 9, 1919. There was another Russian Orthodox community in the area but closer to Hopkins Hospital that closed about 1926 and little is known about this community. Many of the original founders of Holy Trinity were from either today's Belarus or areas close to that Republic that are today in Poland or Ukraine. Today, despite the years the congregation continues in Russian style traditions but is the spiritual home to people of ever so many backgrounds be they Slavic or not.
Many decades ago the inherent religious convictions of our Russian settlers in the City of Baltimore brought about the primary organization of our Church. The attempt to organize came about because of the crying need felt by our people for their own Spiritual Home in their newly adopted country. The original group held a mass meeting on February 9, 1919 in the 500 block of South Broadway. The Rev. Father Vasily Kurdumoff and the Rev. Father Deacon Vasily Petel (Andreevsky) of Philadelphia addressed approximately 500 persons, who were present to lay the foundation for the organization of Holy Trinity Church. A working committee and officers were immediately elected. Both the officers and the committee members were charter members of our Church.
Father Vasily Kurdumoff continued to help by assisting the nuclear group overcome the many difficulties they encountered in the beginning. He also came to Baltimore every other Sunday to officiate at Divine Liturgy and other Services which were held at American Hall on East Lombard Street. By March, the actual membership grew and there was a feeling that the group was strong enough to purchase a place of worship. The first deposit was placed on our present Church on March 6. On March18, 1919 Holy Trinity Church was incorporated under the laws of the State of Maryland.
With the help of God, hard work of the collectors and generosity of the Russian people, the group was able to meet the necessary payments and, thus, the Church building and rectory were purchased. Times were not easy, and we pay tribute to those, who through their belief and devotion helped our Church by giving both their services and financial assistance when the need was the greatest.
A most critical time was the end of 1921 when it was learned that, because of faulty administration, the Church had a large debt with one of the banks. A new committee was elected for 1922. By the Grace of God, this committee was able to repay the debt during its first month in office and, thus, saved the Church.
From 1930-1932 the membership dropped. In 1936, 1937 and 1938, a small group broke from the Church and formed its own organization. However, by 1938, the original resurgence of nearness to our Creator once more returned and the group was ready to resume its growth. In 1939, a new membership committee’s efforts resulted in a Church membership of 350 families.
By 1949, we were prepared to make improvements within the Church property. New heating was installed in the Church and rectory. The Church interior became a truly Orthodox temple of icons and frescos. The rectory was refurnished and remodeled, and the exterior of the entire Church was repointed and painted.
In the 1980’s, the parish, once again spent many resources to renovate the church interior and to completely remodel the parish rectory.
Since November, 2002, by the grace of God, our parish rectory has been home to the newly founded Holy Trinity Women’s Monastery. Under the spiritual guidance of the St. Mary of Egypt Monastery (“Mercy House”) in Lower Manhattan, the Holy Trinity Monastery started with two novices who conducted morning and evening services daily. As of October, 2004 in the monastery there are four novices who continue an increased rule of prayer/services in our parish.
Our Parish Cemetery
By 1926, the need for its own cemetery became apparent and approximately 50 acres were purchased in Anne Arundel County. This property was developed for the use of the families of the parish to use as a cemetery and picnic facilities away from the hustle and bustle of busy city life.
The Sts. Peter & Paul Chapel was built in 1939 for Sunday Divine Liturgy for those Sundays when a family style church picnic was planned. In 1940, a family donated the bell for the chapel which still rings today for Divine Liturgy, Vespers, and funerals.
In 1947, Baltimore City decided it needed a new modern airport. It chose 3000 acres of land in Anne Arundel County along the newly built Baltimore Washington Parkway that connected the two cities. Holy Trinity Cemetery happened to be located on this 3000 acres and our property was condemned and purchased by the city for their new airport.
A hunt for new property for our cemetery was under way. A 71 acre estate was located in Howard County. In the 1920's this estate began work on creating a beautiful outdoor cathedral using trees and scrubs and landscaping. The property became known as Cathedral Gardens.
In 1937, the mansion on the estate burned down and the family moved back to the city. The property was vacant for ten years when Holy Trinity purchased it for its new cemetery.
It took 18 months to complete the sale and transfer the graves from Anne Arundel County to Howard County. The city agreed to sell the chapel back to the church for one dollar and it was moved to Cathedral Gardens and placed where the estate mansion once stood.
Ten acres of land east of the chapel were leveled and the cemetery section was created. West of the chapel was the location for the outdoor cathedral. You can still see the steps to the solea, the sanctuary, and to the far end, the steps that lead to the narthex.
Beyond the outdoor chapel were located the picnic grounds and the caretaker’s house. Two picnic pavilions were built near the old pump house in the center of the loop driveway. A playground was constructed between the picnic area and the outdoor cathedral. Roads were created to service the entire property.
The construction of Route 95 in the 60's resulted in 15 acres of land to be taken from the cemetery. A new service road replaced our entrance onto Lawyers Hill Road. Our old cemetery entrance can still be seen on Lawyers Hill Road. Our new entrance was created and new gates that we still have today were donated.
In March, 2001 the parish opened a special “Russian Filial Mission” housed at the Saints Peter & Paul Chapel to serve the pastoral needs of our Russian speaking parishioners and to reach out to the many new Baltimore region residents who arrived from Russia, Ukraine, Byelorussia and ther Orthodox countries of Eastern Europe.
After the opening of our filial mission, our parish completely remodeled the chapel’s interior, including the construction of a new ‘iconostasis’ (‘icon screen’ between the sanctuary and narthex) and an expanded sanctuary. Also, the parish recently built a large outdoor pavilion and new playground so to encourage more use of our facilities by the entire parish.
Presently, Divine Liturgy is celebrated on certain feast days at the chapel and the Vigil Service is celebrated every Saturday evening at 6:00 PM. All are welcome.
O Most Holy Trinity, Our God, Glory to Thee!