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Historical Background of the Parish
In 1915, three years after the John-Manville Corporation constructed its first building in Manville, a group of families of Russian heritage met to organize a parish of the Orthodox faith. With the blessing of the ruling bishop, Archbishop Evdokim of New York and under the leadership of Fr. Peter Semashko, the rector of Ss. Peter and Paul Church in South River, this was accomplished.

In the beginning the parish consisted of a small group of believers that rented a building in a lumber yard on North Main St. In this makeshift structure, with bare necessities, the divine services were held. In 1916, six lots were purchased on a rise of ground known today as Washington Ave. Later, six more lots were obtained. In this same year, an 18 foot by 37 foot wooden chapel was built by the parishioners themselves. In 1922, the structure was destroyed by fire. Undaunted by this misfortune, the parishioners realized the need to build a larger church. After the foundation for a new church was completed, since sufficient funds were not available; it was decided to make the basement structure the temporary house of worship. In 1935, fire again consumed the church building. It was in this early period of foundation that 2 acres were purchased in Hillsborough Township for the beginnings of a parish cemetery.

When fire destroyed the church in 1935, plans began immediately for the reconstruction of the temple. On June 6, 1936, the present church edifice on being completed, was consecrated by Metropolitan Theophilus, the primate of the Russian Church of America. During the ensuing years, the parish developed with an increased membership and material well-being.
The old rectory was completely renovated; major improvements were made to the interior and exterior of the church; the parish cemetary in Hillsborough was newly-paved and perpetual care system was instituted for the cemetary. In 1949, plans were made for the building of a new rectory. The former rectory was converted into a multi-purpose building. On the first floor church school classes were held and on the second floor were kitchens facilities, a shower room and recreational rooms used by parish organizations.
In 1955, the parish purchased five acres to add to the parish cemetary. The following year, stained glass windows were placed in the church, and in 1957, three bells - 600, 300, and 225 pounds each were installed with an electric ringing system. The Church continued to be adorned with the placement of an altar and lecturns, and the present parking lot was secured. In 1962, a fire caused extensive damage to the sacristy area of the church and work went on immediately to refurbish the church interior. In February of 1963 the church was blessed after all repairs had been made due to the fire.
On October 10, 1965, the new educational-social building was dedicated and blessed by Metropolitan Ireney. The parish now had classrooms, a gym-hall, kitchen, coatroom, bar, storage area, lower hall and library room. The year of 1966 marked the Golden Jubilee of the parish. On October 16 the 50th Anniversary Banquet was held with Metropolitan Ireney presiding at the Divine Liturgy. A commemorative book was prepared as was a Golden Jubilee Float. The renowned theologian, Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann gave the address at the banquet. A two volume photo album was made and added to the parish library. Parish organizations during this period included: the Sisterhood of the Myrrh-Bearing Women, Parent-Teacher Association, Russian Orthodox Club ("R" Club) chapter 143 and Junior "R" Club. Members of these organizations did much to contribute to the prosperity and fellowship of the parish.
During these years the parish had an all-time large census of some 450 adults and 130 children. These were years of slow transition from a local community to one that served Orthodox believers in neighboring counties. The Russian character of the parish gave way organically to an American coloring and English became the dominant language.
Shortly after autocephaly was granted to the Orthodox Church in America, the parish adopted the new name of "Ss Peter & Paul Orthodox Church." The dropping of the word Russian was not seen as a lack of appreciation of the contributions of the Slav people of the parish; but rather as a reflection of the multi-ethnic and all-embracing nature of Orthodoxy. The parish founded by Russians and Carpatho-Russians, over the years assimilated Serbs, Romanians, Irish, French, Macedonians, and Americans. The parish of Ss Peter & Paul was for all Orthodox believers of all backgrounds.
This was a period of inner growth and reflection of theological understanding. If the period of the 1950-1960s was one of external parish building, the 1970's through the present time is one of internal self-understanding of what it means to be Orthodox in pluralistic America. The parish was revitalized in accordance with traditional liturgical practices and sound theological principles. The needs of the youth were given primary attention. A new iconostasis was installed in the church complete with Byzantine icons. The church decorum, parish by-laws, and parish organizations were re-structured in conformity with general Orthodox norms.
Attention continued to be focused on the inner principles of church life. Eucharistic participation, observance of lenten periods, sound fund-raising means and awareness and participation in Orthodox liturgical services and fellowship with other parishes was stressed. In 1980 the parish celebrated its 65th Anniversary. To mark that event, the church was newly painted inside and out and carpeted anew. The beginning of a new period of iconographic restoration began with the placing of the Icon of the Mother of God over the altar. In the following years traditional icons were placed on the walls, panel icons of new saints were painted, new vestments, carved analogions and stands, coverings, and other holy articles.
In 1984, central air-conditioning was installed. In the same year the parish adopted the "First Offering" stewardship means of financial support. With the blessing of Archbishop Peter, a charitable society, dedicated to St. Philaret the Merciful, was established in 1985 to provide for the needs of individuals of the parish, community, and church institutions. Since 1985, capital improvements were made to the parking lot, cemetary, the purchase of new tables for the hall, payment of debts, and the complete restoration of the parish rectory. The Church interior and exterior were painted. In addition, the entrance to the lower hall was redone and a new church roof installed. By education, and by being guided by the example of older parishioners, the young people of the parish are assuming their roles in the parish council, choir, social affairs, and community life. In 1990, the parish celebrated its 75th Anniversary.
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Ss. Peter & Paul Orthodox Church
605 Washington Ave.
Manville, NJ 08835

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