Old Russian church finds a new home in middle of a Boyle Heights apartment complex

The leasing office of the Lorena Heights Apartments was busy today with applicants eager to live in one of the 112 units of the newly constructed affordable housing complex, which held a grand opening on Wednesday.  But what is now a crowded leasing office and recreation center was once filled with the faithful attending services of the First United Christian Molokan Church,  which was founded by Russian Christians – some of them known as “Spiritual Jumpers” –  in 1933. Three separate Molokan congregations joined to form the First United Christian Molokan Church – or the “Big Church”  – that was originally located on East Third Street, according to Molokans in America.  On dedication day in February 1933, members of the three congregations descended on their new church:

Each group was to regulate their departure so as to arrive at the new church building at eleven o’clock sharp. Saying their final prayers at the old locations, each group marched … through the middle of the streets with their respective presbyters in the lead holding the Opened Bible in their hands while the choir was singing the designated psalm (Psalm 121 “I rejoiced when they said unto me: ‘Let us go unto the house of the Lord’.”

In 1941, the church building was moved to a new location on Lorena Street near what is now the 60 Freeway.

The Boyle Heights congregation remained active until 2009  when it relocated to Whittier and sold the Lorena Street property to the Michaels Organization, which builds affordable housing.  But part of the deal included keeping the church building on the hillside site of the $40 million project.

That was not easy task, said Laura Zane, a spokeswoman for the developer.  Once construction began, the old building had to be moved four times as two, large apartment buildings, parking garages and courtyards were constructed on the property.  When work was completed, the church entrance that one faced east to Lorena now faces south to Sabina Street. While the facade of the building with its tall, arched windows made of wood, remains virtually the same but the interior is totally brand new.

The Molokans may have left their Boyle Heights church behind but they remain involved as lenders, holding a $1.2 million note on the property.


  1. Thank you for your articel about the Molokan Christian Church because we have so much interest in how and what has happened to the building and the property that served the community for over 70 years.

    Please keep us informed of how technology and growth will affect the above property.

  2. Thank you for your article,

    As a member of the Molokans and a prior visitor to this building when it was one of our churches, I was engaged in your article about its renovation and what has become of it. As well as a few detailed parts of its history I hadn’t been aware of.

  3. Annabell Ingersoll Harris

    My mother was a member of the Rudemetkin family. They were a large Molokan family in Boyle Heights in the 1930 s and 1940s. I am trying to find anything or anyone who may know something about the family. My Mothers name was Jean, she had a younger sister named Sally, older sister named Anna, and Mary. Also a older sister named Jenney. All these people have gone to heaven, and my mother died in 1955. My mother married a non-Molokan. I know I have dozens of relations in the LA area, but have lost touch with all of them. I am 65 now, and would like to find as much history as I can from anyone who could give me some history. Thank You so much

    • Hi Annabell, My mother was Molokan and some off my cousins still are. They even attended this church. I remember my share of weddings and funerals here. My mothers maiden name was Kassimoff and cousins are Volkov’s.. My cousin can probably get you more current information on the church and the members. If you would additional information, please email me at makatkov@gmail.com

  4. Laurieahalopoff@yahoo.com

    My husband is Jim Halopoff son of James Halopoff and grandson of Alex Halopoff. Alex was the head of the family that immigrated to Boyle heights. If anyone is connected to this family, please let me know. My husband would like to reconnect with his Molokan relatives.

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