Have you ever noticed a large church with golden domes while driving westbound from Exit 71 on Route 17 in Johnson City?
This is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of St. John the Baptist, a stop on the Sacred Sites Open Day, which takes place on Sunday, July 24. There are 20 places of worship featured with in-person tours this year, sponsored by the Floor Preservation Association.
“I think there’s a mystery,” said church member Carol Wasylko, “when you go to a church you don’t know, like the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.”
Wasylko has taken many people on tour. A couple came after driving several times over the years while their daughter attended Binghamton University. Their last trip to the area included a visit to the church.
“It was a wonderful experience,” she said.
Although it may look like two domes in the front, an aerial view reveals a third dome in the center of the building. There is also what appears to be a stained glass window depicting the patron saint above the entrance doors. It’s not.
“It’s a mosaic created in Italy,” Wasylko said.
“Colored glass stone tile,” she added. “When I say tiny pieces, I mean maybe less than an inch. It’s all been put together and erected above the front doors. And it’s stunning work of art.”
An original church was built by Ukrainian immigrants in the 1920s. The golden-domed structure, which includes a memorial center to remember soldiers from the parish, was built in 1968.
Wasylko said immigrants came to the United States to work in the coal mines in Scranton, Pennsylvania. She said shoemaking opportunities at Endicott Johnson have brought many to Broome County. While they could go to church in Binghamton’s First Ward, they sought the liturgy in their own language.
“I think one of the most historic parts is using the iconostasis from our old church,” Wasylko said.
“It’s the screen with all the icons on it that separates the altar area from the main part of the church,” she said. “All the paintings of saints have been incorporated into the new iconostasis. What we like to say, if something goes well to start with, to keep incorporating it into something new.
Wasylko notes that IBM’s growth in the area has helped provide jobs for future generations of parishioners. Some young people moved away in subsequent years, she said, but they return for visits.
“Coming back for Christmas and Easter is a must, and (we) welcome them with open arms,” she said.
Others were also welcomed into the parish, including the pastor, Reverend Ivan Synevskyy, his wife and family. Synevsky comes from Ukraine.
And for the first time in a few years, the doors are once again open to visitors on the Sacred Sites Open Day.
“You need someone who is interested in architecture when you visit a church,” Wasylko said.
“I think people learn that you’re on a tour of something unusual,” she said. “We welcome everyone, even if it’s for 10 or 15 minutes. So you can plan your trip to visit as many as you can.
St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Orthodox Church
Where: 1 St. John’s Parkway, Johnson City, NY 13790.
Open doors to sacred sites
Twenty places of worship in Broome County are open on Sunday, July 24. Sponsored by the Preservation Association of the Southern Tier. For more details, visit pastny.org/tours-events
More faith:Pantry at St. Michael’s Orthodox Church in Binghamton offers monthly grocery giveaways
More faith:Endicott Church holds monthly campaign to collect donations for Ukrainians
After:Binghamton-area nonprofits raise matching funds for A Community Thrives program