Braving muddy footpaths and winter cold, dozens of worshipers with Saints Peter and Paul Orthodox Christian Church gathered in Payson on Saturday to celebrate a milestone in the construction of a new church building.
The congregation sang prayers and hymns and watched as a crane lifted a candle-like golden dome above the church. Construction workers secured the section to the roof as children ran through the mud and took turns touching the other two domes on the ground.
“Each dome will go up and each will have a cross on top,” said the Rev. Justin Havens, pointing at the empty drums atop the church. “The inside will be very beautiful. It’s not done yet, but when you see it finished with the frescoes and everything, it’s beautiful.”
Along with the Rev. Paul Truebenbach, he dedicated each golden cross and cupola with holy water and prayer during the ceremony on Saturday. Every person in attendance also had an opportunity to kiss one of the crosses and be blessed by holy water.
Susanna Weyburn and her family drove from Bountiful to attend the ceremony. They are currently attending catechumen classes in Salt Lake City to prepare for baptism sometime next year.
“We just came to see the beautiful ceremony,” she said. “We’re happy to be a part of everything.”
She is converting from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has been attending the Saints Peter and Paul Orthodox Christian Church since August. There is a lot to learn, she said, such as the concept of the Trinity and different types of fasting.
“The parish has been really accepting and really wonderful people,” Weyburn said.
To buy the land in southwest Payson near 1173 S 1950 West, the congregation donated $400,000 and raised another $1.6 million for the outside structure.
Construction started in September with “a hole in the ground,” Havens explained with a laugh. His family is also building a home on the same property to have better access to the church.
“It’s exciting to have a church down south,” said Bruce Plympton. “The domes are beautiful and amazing.”
He and his wife, Suzanne, have been members for 10 years and he serves as a subdeacon in Salt Lake City.
“I think this church is going to be fine, there are plenty of families here,” Suzanne Plympton said.
After the building is complete, a dedication service is scheduled for May 16. Havens hope to eventually build another hall and create the first Orthodox Christian cemetery in Utah.
“In a world where no one supports Christianity anymore, we felt welcomed by the community and the whole City Council,” he said. “We felt such love from people. We feel very supported.”