A decrepit old house near the Valley View freeway interchange just north of Ashland was intentionally burned down Thursday, and supporters of the first Orthodox Christian church in Southern Oregon will build a “Byzantine style” church on the site.
The Archangel Gabriel Orthodox Church had been meeting for 20 years at the Walsh Memorial Newman Center just above the Southern Oregon University campus, but the congregation exceeds 150 members and has outgrown its current facility, said Andreas Blom, priest of the church. They’ve been holding services in recent weeks at The Shoppes at Exit 24 in Phoenix and will continue to do so, he said, until they raise enough money to break ground on the church.
It will be 45 feet high, with a spherical dome in the Orthodox style, not the Russian style with onion domes. The church owns seven acres in the 600 block of South Valley View Drive. The property is north of Interstate 5 and south of West Butler Lane, near the on-ramp heading north on I-5. Fire District 5 conducted a burn-to-learn exercise Thursday morning, clearing the land for the church. Architectural drawings of the 3,150-square-foot church are not yet available.
Supporters hope to raise $1.5 million for the church, he said. Andreas said the building of the church here is historic, as there has never been a full-scale Orthodox church built in Southern Oregon, although Orthodox people have worshipped in the region for decades. “We’re hoping for functionality in the church, but also beauty,” he said, “and getting it done depends on the people who come alongside us to do it.”
The church’s website, www.stgabrielashland.org, says a parishioner last year gave them an interest-free loan to buy the land and get started on the church. All county permits have been obtained, he added. County records show approval was granted at the staff level in 2014. The plans call for a community garden, orchard, cemetery, landscaping and fellowship hall.
The church phone number is 541-690-8822.