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Route 66 News

Benld church will be converted to monastery

A 103-year-old Russian Orthodox Church on Route 66 in Benld, Ill., will be converted into a monastery — instead of being razed — because of declining attendance, reported the Springfield State Journal-Register.

Mindful of Holy Dormition’s rich history, but acknowledging a declining membership and church rules that say an unused building must be torn down, Russian Orthodox officials have decided to convert the Macoupin County church and surrounding structures into a monastery.

“Services will still be held at the church, but the property will be a monastery operated by the community of nuns,” Waters said. The monastery also could serve as a site for retreats, community outreach programs and other activities. […]

Residents and tourists to the Benld area, about 45 miles south of Springfield, have long admired the church, which is on old Route 66. Organized in 1907, the church served generations of Benld-area families and weathered the ups and downs of rural life.

Holy Dormition Cathedral once served 200 families that hailed from Russia and Eastern Europe, drawn to the central Illinois town by mining jobs. Now only 20 families attend the church.

The Illinois Times has an interesting article about the history of Russian Orthodox churches in Illinois, and has photos of the Benld cathedral.

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