About Our Parish

The History of the Parish

Edit Content
Previous slide
Next slide


The miraculous formation of the Orthodox Church of the Annunciation was initiated by Mr. John Warren in 1979. Mr. Warren, a former choir director at Holy Virgin Mary Cathedral, Los Angeles, began contacting Orthodox families on the Central Coast and bringing them together for the purpose of founding a mission. That summer, the group sent a petition to Fr. Thaddeus Wojcik, the Dean of the Pacific Southwest Deanery, requesting to be received into the Orthodox Church in America. By Fall, Father Ian MacKinnon, a newly ordained priest and recent graduate of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, was appointed by Metropolitan THEODOSIUS as rector of the fledgling community. He and his wife, Nina, moved to Santa Maria in December. The initial group of fifteen families met at the local Episcopal church, who made their facility available for the celebration of the Divine Liturgy on Sunday afternoons. In the summer of 1980, the group moved to a vacant storage building behind the Marian Residence, a Roman Catholic convalescent home for retired nuns of the Marian order. The local Roman bishop permitted the group to set up a permanent chapel in a building that had once been part of Marian Hospital before it relocated and transformed the complex into a retirement facility. The director of the facility, Mother Barbara, gave her enthusiastic support to the work, setting rent at such a reduced rate that the Residence was underwriting most of the cost of the monthly electric bill. Now at twenty years of usage, the chapel has undergone a number of renovations and improvements. The last, in 1995, saw a 200 square foot narthex added. Not only did the extra space make room for a growing number of worshippers, but it also gave the chapel a more traditionally Orthodox appearance.
Edit Content


Father MacKinnon served the community until July of 1982, at which time Deacon Mark Koczak and his wife Jan arrived in Santa Maria. Father Deacon Mark continued to serve the community as a deacon until February of 1984, when he was ordained to the Holy Priesthood by Bishop Gregory (Afonsky) of the Diocese of Alaska. The ordination took place at the chapel and more than 100 people attended. After laboring for three and one-half years at Annunciation, Father Mark and Jan transferred to St. Nicholas Church in Saratoga as an assistant priest in February of 1986.

With the transfer of Father Mark, Father John Bernardi became the parish’s temporary priest, until August of 1986. Financial hardship forced him and his wife to relocate to Las Vegas, Nevada. The people of Annunciation were very grateful for his willingness to serve them, if only for six months.

After Father John’s departure, the parish was without a priest for a year. Periodically, Hieromonk Andre (Levshin), a retired priest, would come from San Luis Obispo and celebrate the Divine Liturgy, but most weeks the parish was without a priest. However, the faithful remained steadfast, and continued to meet among themselves and hold Reader Services. It is to their credit that the parish survived during this period, for it would have been easy to disband. However, our Lord blessed them during this period of clerical absence, and in August of 1987, Father George Masters and his wife, Georgette, arrived from Holy Cross Seminary in Boston. Father George remained in Santa Maria for one year. Shortly after his arrival, he was ordained to the Holy Priesthood by Bishop TIKHON at St. Herman’s Church in Oxnard. The people of St. Herman’s and Annunciation jointly hosted the reception afterward. Father George remained in Santa Maria for one year, and he, like Father Mark, transferred to St. Nicholas in Saratoga as an assistant priest under Father Basil Rhodes in July of 1988.

The four priests who served Annunciation from 1979 to 1988 all experienced a common difficulty: lack of financial support. All four were forced to seek out full-time employment in an area where housing costs are high and salary levels are low.

All four reported leaving the area in debt, having exhausted their personal resources. Rather than continue the same pattern of bringing newly-ordained clergy to the parish, it was decided by Bishop TIKHON to appoint Father Ian MacKinnon (the parish’s first rector) as priest-in-charge in July of 1988. Father Ian was able to enlist the help of two other priests, Father Luke Hill and Father David Ogan, to serve the parish on a temporary basis. At that time, a realistic salary goal had been established for the next resident priest; essentially, however, the emphasis then was on establishing the parish on a firm foundation through worship, Bible study, and patient evangelism.

Edit Content


The patient efforts of the faithful of Annunciation Mission finally were rewarded, for in the summer of 1991, Father Lawrence Russell, along with Matushka Cheryl and their two children, Stephen and Michelle, arrived to begin service as full-time priest of the community. Father Lawrence began holding weekly Bible studies at various residences within the community, and these studies proved to be a welcome event in the life of the parish. With Father’s persistent efforts, the parish gradually began to grow in stature as a fully-functioning Orthodox community.

Several events served as turning points in the community’s life since the arrival of Father Lawrence in 1991. The first of these was the arrival from St. Barbara’s Monastery (Santa Barbara) in 1993 of a portion of the relics of St. Elizabeth, the Grand Duchess of Russia, martyred during the Bolshevik Revolution in 1918 and glorified by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1992. A solemn procession of the icon of St. Elizabeth containing the enshrined relic was made, and a Molieben was celebrated the community’s first opportunity to implore the intercessions of the saint. The arrival of the relic marked the first time the parish had received the relics of a martyr. Since the arrival of her relic, St. Elizabeth has occupied a special place in the life of the community’s members, with one child receiving the middle name of Elizabeth at her baptism in 1998.

Edit Content


The second event was the arrival of a portion of the relics of St. Herman of Alaska, transferred to the parish by Metropolitan THEODOSIUS in August of 1998. Although the parish had long been consoled by having the Saint’s relics in the antimension, this event marked the first time that Annunciation had received a separate relic of any canonized American saint. An icon was promptly commissioned to be written to house the relic and, as of this writing, the parish is anxiously awaiting the day when the newly-written icon of St. Herman with his enshrined relic can properly be added to the family of saints already residing inside the chapel.

The third and most unexpected event was the donation in January of 1997 of a one-acre piece of property by Edith Kaplan, a long-time member of the community. Architect John DellaMonica was contacted and preliminary plans were drawn for a new temple and social hall. As of January 2004, the parish has acquired its building permit and is in the process of constructing what will be the first Orthodox temple in Santa Maria. The construction for Phase I (Social Hall/Temporary worship space) should be complete by April or May 2004, Phase II (Church) will begin once Phase I has been paid off. Therefore, fund raising is an on-going, constant necessity, as it is not at all affordable to build anything in Santa Barbara County!

Edit Content


This brief history of the parish would be incomplete without mentioning the sacrifices made by its members. A high level of commitment has been needed to overcome such variables as job transience and, at times, the small number of members. Time and again, the community has had cause to be grateful to its Patroness, the Theotokos. She, as well as the Holy Trinity, have clearly sustained the community during its twenty-year history. As a result, the members of Annunciation Orthodox Church have remained faithful, sacrificial, and full of hope. May God remember them in His kingdom!

A Few More Photos Over the Years

Our Media Page has more photos of the parish to view: Click here

Our Clergy

From Heaven through Russia

Shortly after a church member donated the undeveloped land on which we later built our church, Fr. Lawrence began searching through books for a picture of a small, Russian orthodox church after which to model our proposed temple. He settled on a temple in the complex of the Trinity-St. Gerasim Boldino Monastery, located in the Smolensk region of Russia. Later that same year, Father Lawrence visited his spiritual father at the Monastery of St. John the Theologian in Hiram, Ohio. He wanted to ask his counsel about the project and show him the photo of the proposed church. Before he had the chance to do so, Archimandrite Alexander (+ January 26, 2021) began to speak of a small monastery at which he stays when going to Russia to purchase items for resale in their monastery’s church-goods store. He excused himself to go to his cell and bring a book to show Fr. Lawrence a picture of the monastery. When he returned, he had in hand the very book Fr. Lawrence had used to find the church, and -you guessed it- turned to very same picture! Talk about the integration of earthly time with God’s presence in our lives! You could have knocked Fr. Lawrence over with the proverbial feather…

St. Gerasim Church in Russia

The Life of St. Gerasim

Saint Gerasimos of Boldinsk, in the world Gregory, was born in 1490 at Pereslav-Zalessk. In early childhood he frequented the church of God. Having learned about the holy life of St. Daniel of Pereyaslavl (April 7), the thirteen year-old Gregory begged the Elder with tears to let him join him. The Elder accepted the boy as a novice and after a short time gave him monastic tonsure with the name Gerasimos. The new monk zealously fulfilled the labors of fasting and prayer, and soon he was known in Moscow as a strict ascetic. He was summoned to the capital with his teacher, where he met the Tsar…
Scroll to Top