In 1994, Christ the Savior Orthodox Church in Manhattan celebrated its 70th anniversary. The anniversary coincided with the bicentennial celebration of Orthodoxy in America, and with the 70th anniversary of the canonical Independence of Russian Metropolia in North America, proclaimed by the Detroit Sobor in 1924. The decision of the Sobor was directly connected with teh founding of Christ the Savior Church in New York City. By both these events, the Orthodox faithful responded to the violent advances of the “Living Church,” inspired and shielded by the Soviet Regime. The “Living Church” claimed, rather successfully The properties of the Metropolia, and gained, by church trial, St Nicholas Church in New York City, the pontifical Cathedral of the Metropolia.
To replace this loss, Christ the Savior Church was incorporated by a hundred of Russian immigrants with the blessing of Metropolitan Platon. The congregation began growing rapidly, andin 1927 it purchased the building on Madison Ave and 121st St in Manhattan. In the 1930s and 40s Christ the Savior became the biggest Russian church in the city with various community services and activities. At one time it used to provide space for the classes of St Vladimir’s Theological Seminary. In December of 1948 Metropolitan Theophil with the Synod of Bishops elevated Christ the Savior Church to status of the Cathedral see of New York City.
Then a long period of decline followed that eventually forced the governing board to sell the church building in Harlem and move to the more modest premises on the East Side. In 1976, Fr John Meyendorff became rector of the church and under him a new, English-speaking community with Fr Stephen Plumlee as its pastor, joined the congregation.
For a year the Russian Community was served by Fr Alexis Vinogradov who then invited Fr Michael Aksionov Meerson, then a recent immigrant from the Soviet Union, to take his place. For several years, two communities, a Russian-speaking one with Fr Michael and an English-speaking one with Fr Stephen Plumlee lived and worshipped together under the leadership of Fr John Meyendorff.
Several gifted choir directors like Julia Holmes, Matushka Olga Meerson, Sarah Loft-Morris, and Lynette Gahim conducted here. At present, two choir directors, Natasha Lutov and Ekaterina Calmus lead the choir.
In 1985 the English-speaking community under the leadership of Fr Stephen Morris formed a new congregation known as St Mary Magdalene Mission and began worshipping on the premises of Union Theological Seminary in the vicinity of Columbia University where Fr Morris became the OCA Chaplain. At present the pastor of St Magdalene Mission is Fr Yakov Ryklin, a former parishioner of Christ the Savior Church. Christ the Savior turned into a bi-lingual community with worship and activities in two languages: English and Russian. It is still served by Fr Michael Meerson, made rector in 1985.
The community keeps growing. it is a friendly place where two groups—new immigrants from the former Soviet Union, and Americans, most of them converts to the Orthodox Church, worship and work in unity. The average age is between 30 and 40. There are many children in the parish. Visitors are most welcome and have a good chance to meet interesting people at the coffee hour after Sunday Liturgy.