Renovation Progress

A shot of the exterior of the building, with the primer coat on the brick.

As we are nearly the end of the last phase of renovation, we’re beginning to see the progress in more dramatic ways. Parts of the exterior are being re-bricked, and the exterior has been painted with a primer, readying it for final painting. The new roof, a bright, Mediterranean inspired blue, has been put on. Work continues on the interior, and painting and finishing the ceilings should be done this week, as well as finishing the HVAC replacement in the downstairs of the add-on. Even these incomplete cosmetic changes have made a huge impact on our 63 year old building.

However, as is so often the case with renovations, once we got into demolition, some serious issues appeared that had to be addressed, which were not in the original budget. Not only did we have to rewire the whole building (something we had expected, given its age), we also discovered that attempts by the previous owners to fix the leaking roof over the 50 year old add-on in the back had only served to exacerbate the problem. As a result, not only did we have to repair their attempt to fix it, by resetting the engineered roof beam which spans almost the entire width of the building, we also had to replace all the rafters and the plywood, before the new metal roofing could be installed. As you may be aware, lumber prices this year have been at historic highs, and as a result, this particular expense, plus the lumber and engineered beams to reinforce the ceiling over the altar, cost us $20,000 more than our original budget. Another $10,000 budget overrun occurred through additional changes necessary for HVAC and bringing the restrooms and side entrance up to handicap accessibility code.

The altar area, showing the beams and posts that were necessary to shore up the structural integrity of the ceiling rafters.

Despite these setbacks, we are hoping to be moving in to the 1731 13th St N building before the beginning of the Dormition Fast (the end of August for those of us on the Julian Calendar). We will gratefully accept any assistance that anyone would like to offer, in terms of monetary donations, or for those local to us, in helping physically move in. There are also some projects we will need to finish inside, including the construction of a semi-permanent iconostasis and some shrines, for which we would greatly appreciate help from anyone who might have experience with carpentry, cabinetry, and/or construction.

If you would like to make a tax-free donation to the Chapel, you can do so via PayPal or through Square.

Thank you very much for everyone who has already contributed to this project, and even more to those who have prayed for us for so many years! Without you, our dream of having a dedicated temple to St John Cassian in Bessemer would not have become a reality.

Ordination of Fr. Justinian to the Priesthood

On Saturday, March 20/7, 2021, the Feast of St Theodore the Recruit, Fr. Justinian was ordained to the holy priesthood by His Grace Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan at the ROCOR synod cathedral in New York City. He is assigned as clergy of Glorious Ascension Monastery (Resaca, Georgia), to serve at its metochion (chapel) of St John Cassian in Bessemer, Alabama.

This will necessitate changes in the Lenten service schedule. Please see the calendar page on the website for the most up-to-date information on services and service times.

Web Address Change

When we first conceived the idea for St John Cassian Chapel, we were meeting in northern Shelby county, and anticipated staying in that area. That’s why our original web addressed referenced Shelby county Orthodoxy. However, with our upcoming move to the 1731 13th St N building in Bessemer, we decided a new web address was necessary. The original address is still active, but will now redirect to

St John Cassian Renovations

Thanks to everyone who has prayed for and contributed to our mission over the past six years, to bring an Orthodox presence to the area outside of Birmingham and into the suburbs of the metropolitan area, we have been able to purchase a building on the north side of Bessemer, in the historic McNeil Park neighborhood. As our social media posts have expressed, this quaint, mid-century church building had some major renovations begun by the previous owners, though in a state that the building was not immediately usable. In addition, some serious interior renovations are necessary to make the space appropriate for Orthodox Christian worship.

To that end, we have hired a contractor to handle the serious issues that have to be addressed, such as repairing the roof and brick exterior, replacing the windows, remodeling the interior of the worship space (creating a proper narthex, nave, and altar area), restroom renovations, kitchen renovations, and repairing the fellowship hall. These are the immediate needs that have to be addressed, so that we can move into the building and begin using it for services.

Additionally, the upstairs needs serious work. This was the space in most need of attention, where the previous owners’ renovations had begun but not been finished. At the present time, we do not have access to the funding to include this part of the project in the contractor’s renovations, and so we have decided to put them off for a later time, when we can, perhaps, finish them ourselves with volunteer labor — which we have already been blessed with many offers of help to do.

We conceive the project in 5 Phases:
-Phase 1: Interior demolition.
-Phase 2: Construction of new interior walls, insulation, windows, roof and facia repair, and finishing.
-Phase 3: Renovation of the restrooms, kitchen, and hall.
-Phase 4: Exterior repairs, new roof, and painting.
-Phase 5: Renovation of the upstairs.

Phases 1-4 will be done by the contractor. Phase 1 has already begun, and we hope that Phase 2 will begin very soon. God-willing, we should be able to move in by the end of 2nd quarter 2021.

If you would like to be a benefactor to the project, you can Donate Via Papyal or Square.

Phase One Begins!

Despite the setback caused by the unexpected winter weather situation early last week, our contractor was able to begin the demolition process at the 1731 13th St N property. Most of the interior walls and ceiling sheetrock are down, the old panneling removed, and the old carpet ripped out. The vintage hardwood floors in the church, while in need of some cleaning and refinishing, are in excellent shape and will be a beautiful feature of the new church.

Work continues this week on the project. As the end of Phase One (demolition) draws near, we should have a more or less accurate timeline for the rest of the renovations. Please continue your support of the project through your prayers and gifts! With God’s blessing we will soon be moving in to the new building!

Services for St. Nicholas

Services for St Nicholas will be served by Priest Elias Crowder of St Martin of Tours Mission in Montgomery, Alabama. We will be serving the All Night Vigil on Friday evening, and will be baptising our two catechumens, Johnna Prince and Michelle Mestler, immediately before the Hours and Divine Liturgy on Saturday morning.

The Service schedule for this weekend is as follows:

18 December @ 6:00 PM – All Night Vigil
19 December @ 8:45 AM – Baptisms; 10:00 AM — Hours and Divine Liturgy; @ 5:00 PM – Reader Great Vespers
20 December @ 9:30 AM – Reader Matins and Typica


It was brought to our attention a bit ago that our listed telephone number has not been working property. This issue should be resolved no later than 11/16/2020. We do apologise for any inconvenience this has caused in reaching someone at the chapel.

Additionally, the URL for the website will soon be changing. When the mission started we were meeting in Shelby County and chose the web address accordingly. We had thought that we would eventually land in that area. However, now that we’ve purchased a permanent building in the Bessemer area, we will change the URL to reflect our location.

The site will always be accessible from the native URL:

New Location

After five years of worshipping in our current space in the home of one of our members, St John Cassian Chapel has purchased a permanent building of our own. The new location will be at 1731 13th Street North in Bessemer, Alabama. The new facility features a large worship space, a fellowship hall, kitchen, offices, nursery, and library, as well as room to expand for classrooms and a ‘flex space’ for meetings, adult education, catechism, and other uses.

The building needs some work, and we will soon be beginning renovations to turn it into a truly Orthodox temple, worthy of the Lord. We anticipate moving in before Great Lent this church year.

If you would like to help out with the renovations, either by donating your time and labor, or through a financial contribution, we would be very grateful for your assistance. Dates/times for workdays will be announced here and on our FaceBook page. Donations can be processed securely through PayPal here.

We would like to extend a big THANK YOU to everyone who has helped us over the years, all of those who have prayed for us, and to everyone who has supported us as we have grown from a small group to real community of Orthodox Christians. We know that this move will be a big step toward helping bring the light of Orthodox Christianity to the people of Bessemer and the surrounding areas of metro-Birmingham.

New Location
Side view of the new location of the chapel

Autumn News from the Chapel

First some excellent news: for the foreseeable future we will be having weekly Divine Liturgies on Sunday morning following Matins. We begin Matins at 9 am with Divine Liturgy following, usually around 10:15 am. We are very blessed to have Fr. Joseph and his family with us every weekend.

Also, starting this Sunday (11/17) we will begin our Inquirer’s/Adult Education class after the common meal (around 12:30 pm). This class will be a basic introduction to Orthodox Christianity, with a particular emphasis on the very basic principles of Christian faith and a sampling of material that was used by the earliest Christians to catechize those coming to the Church. The material for this class will be St Innocent’s Indication of the Way to the Kingdom of Heaven (ISBN 9780884653035 ) which is available from Holy Trinity Publications or from Amazon; selections from the Wisdom of Sirach aka Ecclesiasticus (which can be found in the 1611 edition of the King James Bible, the Oxford Ecumenical Edition RSV, the Orthodox Study Bible, or in stand-alone editions of the Apocrypha); the Sermon on the Mount (Gospel of Matthew, chapters 5-7); and finally with the prologue of the Gospel of St John (chapter 1, verses one through eighteen). This class is open to anyone who would like to participate.

We are still having midweek Vespers on Wednesday evening at 6 pm, with our bible study following. We are currently working our way through Archbishop Averky (Taushev)’s commentary on the Apocalypse (Revelation of St John), and discussing its meaning in the context of the New Testament, the liturgical structure of the book, and learning about the nature of symbolism through an exploration of the many symbolic depictions in the book. All materials are provided for this class, and it is open to anyone who wants to learn about the Orthodox understanding of the end times.

Finally, the Advent Fast is approaching. This year it begins on 11/28. We will hold an Unction service at the beginning of the fast on 11/29. As a reminder, Holy Unction is a sacrament of the Church, and is only open to Orthodox Christians who have prepared themselves with fasting, prayer, and recent confession.

Please check back for service times for upcoming feasts during the Advent Fast.

Many Changes

This has been a very exciting year for St John Cassian Chapel. On Holy Pentecost Rdr Justinian Burnett was ordained to the Diaconate by Metropolitan Hilarion at Holy Trinity Church in Mebane, NC. He is attached as clergy at the Monastery of the Glorious Ascension (Resaca, GA), and has been assigned to serve at the Chapel by the monastery’s abbot, Archimandrite Maximos (Weimar).

The Chapel has also been blessed to have Priest Joseph Gagliano, who has been appointed as a Chaplain at the Monastery of the Glorious Ascesnion, to be serving at the Chapel on a bi-weekly basis. This allows us to have Divine Liturgy at least two Sundays a month (which are listed on the parish calendar). Having Fr Joseph and his family with us has been a great pleasure!

We are in the midst of two projects. The first, creating new altar cloths, chalice veils, and other sacred coverings for the chapel, as well as some new sticharia for the altar servers. The other is looking for a building or for property on which to construct a building. We have been very fortunate to be in the space set aside by Phillip and Ita Burnett in their home for the last three years, but, we are now reaching the point where we are outgrowing the space. If you would like to help us out with either project, please make use of the PayPal donation button on the Be A Benefactor page of our website.