Halfway between Lansing and Grand Rapids, travellers on I-96 see a sign for the small town of Lake Odessa. If they get off and head down Jordan Lake Road for a few miles, they come to a beautiful little town nestled up against the north shore of a small lake (Jordan Lake - but you guessed that already, didn't you?).
Lake Odessa is something of a resort town. There used to be a train from Grand Rapids which brought weekend vacationers. There are enough fancy turn-of-the-century homes in town to suggest that it was a popular getaway, and enough cottages and summer homes around the lake to prove that it still is.
Most of all, Lake Odessa seems to be a good place to live and raise a family. Its school district has a good reputation. Most people here come from families that have lived here for generations. They know and value hard work. They look out for each other. Most of them are Christians of one stripe or another.
At the beginning of 2006, our community was informed that a small country church was up for sale in Woodbury, a hamlet just outside of Lake Odessa. The church was in very good repair, built by the United Brethren and used by them as a church for over one hundred years. The price was right, and fit our parish's small budget. After a lot of prayer, several meetings and trips out to see the place, we approached our bishop for a blessing. Thank God, we purchased the church and moved in just before Pentecost that year.
We had worshipped in a private home, as the Apostles had done, for six years. There was something wonderful about that. Still, we are finding that worshipping in a public, church building removes one more obstacle from people encountering Orthodoxy. A traditional onion dome has been ordered for the pinnacle of the church, and we are working now at putting up an icon screen. In many ways, the life of a mission parish retraces the line of church history.
Our calling as Orthodox Christians in Lake Odessa is no different than it is anywhere else: to bear witness to Jesus Christ by living the life of the Church He founded. We believe that all American communities, no matter how small or rural, should have at least one Orthodox Church.
Our local church family includes people who grew up as members of the Orthodox Church and people who embraced its life as adults. Our little parish includes people from Irish, Russian, Georgian, Dutch, English, Serbian and other ethnic backgrounds. One member of our parish has had Orthodox priests in the familyi for at least six generations. Another converted from Islam. Others have come to Orthodoxy from Judaism as well as from other Christian groups. What unites our otherwise motley group is our faith in Christ and membership in His Church.
The current parish membership includes older couples, singles, and young families with children ranging in age from teens to infancy.
St. Herman's strives to provide a welcoming community, in a quiet country setting, where its members can work out their salvation and serve as witnesses to Christ's love and transforming power.
Our services are in English (with occasion "decorative" use of other languages to make newcomers to America feel welcome). While worshiping in our own English language, we try to faithfully follow and be formed by the Russian liturgical heritage we have received. To the best of our ability, we strive to keep a reasonably full schedule of services.
Our community is debt-free and has its own church building. Like many other rural churches in Michigan, it has a fellowship hall in the basement. We have limited guest facilities, and maintain a parish bookstore and library.
For worship, we follow the Old (Julian) Calendar used by the majority of Orthodox Christians worldwide. May the Lord help us to be faithful witnesses to Him!