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Unalaska church receives National Fund Award

November 3rd, 2017 | Jim Paulin Print this article   Email this article  

The National Fund for Sacred Places, a program of Partners for Sacred Places and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, announced the acceptance of Holy Ascension Russian Orthodox Church as one of 17 congregations nationwide to participate in a national grant-making program that supports capital building projects at historic houses of worship. Launched last year with grants totaling $14 million from the Indiana-based Lilly Endowment Inc., the Philadelphia-based National Fund will offer planning grants, professional services and capital grants ranging from $50,000 to $250,000 to a minimum of 50 congregations over four years.

Holy Ascension, a National Historic Landmark, was constructed in 1896. Through the generations, fishermen have looked upon Holy Ascension — located in Unalaska, the largest city of the Aleutian islands — as a symbol of their safe return to land.

"Holy Ascension is "a 'Spiritual Lighthouse' to the fishermen who call the Aleutians their port of call," said the Right Reverend David Mahaffey, Bishop of Sitka and Alaska for the Orthodox Church of America. The oldest cruciform-style Orthodox church in North America, Holy Ascension holds over 200 icons, books and relics, some of which date to the 16th century. "If these items were ever lost, they would be irreplaceable," said Bishop Mahaffey. The congregation will use awarded funds to install a fire suppression system in its cathedral.

Chad Martin, Director of the National Fund, announced on Oct. 25 that Holy Ascension was well-positioned for acceptance into this year's group, for which over 220 congregations applied. "The story of Russian Orthodox activity in Alaska is a unique and important thread in American religious history.

Further, the church's ongoing commitment to local Native Alaskan communities is important today. We are thrilled with the opportunity to be a part of this major effort to preserve a true treasure of religious architecture as an asset for its community," said Martin. "We believe this project is of national importance for the stewardship of America's sacred places." The final grant amount will be determined upon the completion of the technical support parts of the program

including training and project consultation.

Partners for Sacred Places helps congregations and others with a stake in older religious properties make the most of them as civic assets in ways that benefit people of all faiths and of no faith. Learn more at

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, protects significant places representing our diverse cultural experience by taking direct action and inspiring broad public support.


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