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Diocese of Charleston News

St. Mary's in Johnstown, PA Celebrates Dormition with Bishop THOMAS

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St. Mary's Patronal Feast was a joyous weekend. His Grace Bishop THOMAS arrived on August 14, 2009 for the celebration of a Vesperal Divine Liturgy. On the following morning, His Grace blessed the beginning of the festival which drew in faithful and neighbors from Johnstown and beyond for food, fellowship and Church tours throughout the day, ending with Vespers. On Sunday morning, His Grace celebrated a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy followed by a presentation of awards to children who participated in the Creative Arts and Oratorical Festivals and brunch with a question and answer session.

Photos from Diocese of Charleston Deacons' Retreat

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With the blessing of Sayedna THOMAS, Bishop of the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland and the Mid-Atlantic, several deacons of the diocese met in retreat August 7-9, 2009 at Saint Ellien’s Church in Brownsville, Pennsylvania. The Rev. Dn. Glenn and Peggy McIntyre and the parish graciously hosted the bishop and the deacons. The retreat began with Little Compline Friday evening. On Saturday, the deacons prayed the services of Matins and the Sixth Hour with Sayedna and, in the evening on that day, Fr. Fred Pfeil of St. Michael’s in Monnesen joined the retreat to serve the Vespers.

Interspersed between these services, the deacons and Bishop met for two discussion sessions, one led by His Grace and another led by Dn. Gregory Roeber. Both sessions were in keeping with the theme of the retreat “The Bishop’s Hands,” and emphasized that the deacon is the agent of the bishop who extends the service of the bishop to the parish to which he has been assigned. Deacon Gregory’s paper reviewed both the theological and historical basis of the diaconate in relationship to the bishop and the priests.

Bishop THOMAS Visits St. Michael Church, Monessen, PA

On August 1, 2009, His Grace Bishop THOMAS visited St. Michael Church in Monessen, Pennsylvania. Photos courtesy of Rich and Lora Nahas: click here for more pictures.

Record Number of Children Attend Camp at Antiochian Village

His Grace Bishop THOMAS passes on the following message:

Beloved of the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid-Atlantic:
May God bless you always.
This summer a record number of our children are spending time at the Antiochian Village Camp.  I've been blessed to share some of this time with them at the Camp.  I encourage you to go on the Camp website to view what has been happening this summer of 2009.  In order to see the photos, go to the Camp website and see the Summer Memories section.
Thank you.
Yours in Christ,

Holy Spirit Church of Huntington Celebrates Pentecost with Bishop THOMAS

Left to right:  Sdn. Joseph Peck - Parish Council Chairman; Bishop THOMAS, Fr. John Dixon.Left to right: Sdn. Joseph Peck - Parish Council Chairman; Bishop THOMAS, Fr. John Dixon.The Great Feast of Pentecost was a momentous weekend for The Holy Spirit Antiochian Orthodox Church in Huntington, WV. Pentecost is the church's feast, and they just completed construction of their new social hall and Sunday School annex. To celebrate, a banquet and hafli was conducted on Saturday, June 6. The following morning, Bishop THOMAS conducted hierarchical Divine Liturgy.  Included was the installation of Abraham Saad to Subdeacon and the elevation of pastor Fr. John Dixon to Archpriest.

First Episcopal Visit of St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church + Lewistown, MD

On Sunday, April 26th (St. Thomas Sunday & Low Sunday), the faithful of St. John the Baptist Church in Lewistown, Maryland received His Grace, Bishop THOMAS, for their first episcopal visit and for the blessing of their space. Approximately 40 people were in attendance for the occasion at the historic chapel where the former Charismatic Episcopal Church congregation had been worshipping since Christmas 2005. Bishop THOMAS’s visitation followed closely the recent Chrismation of the new faithful on April 10th at Ss. Peter and Paul Orthodox Church in Potomac, Maryland, and their first Divine Liturgy on Palm Sunday. During the episcopal visitation, James K. Hamrick, the congregation’s former pastor was also ordained a subdeacon by Bishop THOMAS. Fr. Peter Jacobsen from New York is currently serving St. John the Baptist Church as the interim priest and pastor.

Paschal Greetings from Bishop THOMAS


Beloved in Christ,

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

In anticipation of the blessed occasion of Holy Pascha, I greet you with love in the Name of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ! As we celebrate this glorious Feast of Feasts, let us remember the uplifting words of St. Gregory of Nyssa:

It is a saying in Wisdom that evils are forgotten on the day of joy (cf. Ecclus. 11, 25). This day makes us forget the first sentence brought against us; or rather it eliminates its very existence and not just its memory…. At that time death reigned because of sin; now thanks to Life it is justice which has taken over the power. At that time one man opened the gate of death; now through one man the gate of life is opened in its place. At that time we fell from life through death; now death is abolished by life. At that time we were hidden under the fig tree by shame; now by glory we approach the tree of life. At that time through disobedience we were expelled from paradise; now through faith we are admitted into paradise. Once again the fruit of life is offered to us to be enjoyed by us freely. Once again the fount of paradise with its four rivers of the Gospels irrigates the whole face of the Church, so that the furrows of our souls are inebriated which the sower of the word has ploughed with doctrine, and the seeds of virtue raised by the victors over the vanquished. Since then the battle line of the enemy has collapsed, and the one who once held sway over the force of devils has been vanquished and disappeared, annihilated, let us say that God is a great Lord and a great King over the entire earth. He has crowed the year with his kindness (cf. Ps. 64.12) and has assembled us in the spiritual choir, in Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom is glory rendered for ever and ever. Amen. (The Paschal Mystery, trans. by Thomas Halton, 97.)

May you and your family enjoy a wonderful Paschal season in the Light of Christ’s Holy Resurrection.

Yours in Christ,

Rt. Rev. Bishop THOMAS

PBS Showcases Orthodox Chant in the Diocese of Charleston

Recently, PBS’ Religion and Ethics Weekly program featured chanting from our own Holy Cross Church in Linthicum, Maryland.

Click here to see the PBS feature.

The segment, taped inside the parish of Fr. Gregory and Kh. Frederica Mathewes-Green, beautifully captures the otherworldly essence of Orthodox worship. Church chanter Emily Lowe explains in the clip, “The Orthodox Church is unique in modern times, having a completely sung liturgy. Everything is sung, from beginning to the end.” She also gives a helpful beginner’s explanation of why there are “dissonant…foreign sounds” in Orthodox worship, and she witnesses to the ascetic tradition of the faith when she concludes, “Orthodoxy demands change. It expects change.”

Chrismation of Catechumens of St. John the Baptist Church + Lewistown, Maryland

On the evening of April 10, 2009, the Eve of Lazarus Saturday and the Feast of St. Leo of Rome, twenty-six catechumens from the newly formed St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church in Lewistown, Maryland were chrismated and received into the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America at Ss. Peter and Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church in Potomac, Maryland. The chrismations were conducted by the group’s catechists, including Fathers Nicholas Alford, Patrick Cardine, and Alban Waggener, as well as by the new mission’s interim priest, Father Peter Jacobsen.

New Mission in Maryland

St. John the Baptist Mission began as a small mission in the Charismatic Episcopal Church (called Lamb of God Church) on Christmas Eve, 2005 under the pastoral leadership of Fr. James K. Hamrick, a CEC priest and a former United Methodist pastor. The congregation, made up mostly of former Methodists, found a historic chapel for lease in Lewistown, Maryland, just north of Frederick, Maryland, an hour west of Baltimore and an hour northwest of D.C. The chapel, originally built in 1833 as a Methodist Church, has been home for the congregation since.


Retirement Dinner for Fr. Boniface Black

Bp. THOMAS and Fr. Boniface Black

His Grace, Bishop THOMAS, visited St. Philip Church in Souderton, PA the weekend of Cheesefare, February 28th--March 1st.  A surprise retirement dinner was held for Fr. Boniface and Kh. Joyce Black following Vespers on Saturday. Visiting clergy, family members and parishioners swelled the attendance to three hundred for Vespers and the beautiful Cheesefare dinner which followed.  Sayidna THOMAS presided at Sunday's inspiring Hierarchical Divine Liturgy and was with us again for the Presanctified Liturgy on Wednesday, March 4th.

Fr. Noah Bushelli became the Pastor of St. Philip Church on March 1st, and Fr. Boniface will now be spending weekends at the Mission Community of St. Andrew the Apostle in Lewes, Delaware, and assisting at St. Philip on weekdays, as time permits.

A Christian End To Our Life

Bishop THOMAS speaks on Ancient Faith Radio about living and dying as Orthodox Christians:

In this edition of The Illumined Heart podcast, Bishop THOMAS shares with us valuable lessons on how to prepare for and care for those who are near the end of their physical journey.

Click here to listen.

Bishop THOMAS and Bishop TIKHON Celebrate Sunday of Orthodoxy

On Sunday, March 8, 2009, Bishop THOMAS of the Antiochian Archdiocese joined Bishop TIKHON, the OCA Bishop of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania, along with the clergy and faithful of both jurisdictions, in the celebration of the Triumph of Orthodoxy services at Holy Resurrection Cathedral in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

Over the weekend of the Sunday of Orthodoxy, 2009, Bishop THOMAS visited the parish of St. Mary in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.  He presided over the Akathist Service on Friday and Great Vespers on Saturday, both of which were sung by the Antiochian Orthodox Students who attend St. Tikhon's Seminary.  Vespers was followed by a Lenten meal in the parish hall.

The Sunday morning Divine Liturgy with Bishop TIKHON represented the first time in the 105-year history of St. Mary that an Antiochian Orthodox and Russian Orthodox bishop served the Liturgy together in the parish. Bishop TIKHON preached the homily at the Liturgy.  This was Bishop TIKHON's first visit to St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church. After the Liturgy the entire community came together for a Lenten meal in the parish hall.

On Sunday afternoon the two bishops, together with many OCA and Antiochian clergy, presided over the Service of Orthodoxy at the OCA's Holy Resurrection Cathedral in north Wilkes-Barre.  Before the service began, Bishop THOMAS preached the homily.  At the end of the Service, the children of the Cathedral gave both bishops a gift of roses.  A meal followed in the church hall of the Cathedral.  This was Bishop THOMAS' first visit to the OCA Cathedral.

The entire weekend was a moving experience for all who joined in the celebration of our one Orthodox faith, with all hoping for the day of Orthodox unity to be drawing closer.

See more photos at the OCA's Diocese of Eastern Pennsylvania web site.

Care at the End of Life: What Orthodox Christianity Has to Teach

I. Making Decisions at the End of Life in a Post-Traditional Culture: Finding One’s Way to God

Orthodox Christianity offers orientation in the cosmos. More precisely, it leads us away from our passions and purifies our hearts so that we can be illumined by the uncreated energies of God and come into union with Him.1 Contemporary man finds himself bereft of such orientation. Both his life and his death tend to be trivialized, reduced to what can make sense without any recognition, much less experience, of transcendent mean­ing, purpose, and obligation. As a consequence, much reflection on end-of-life decision-making gives priority, if not exclusive attention, to com­fort care, death with dignity, and the preservation of personal autonomy until death. All of this is done without ever asking the foundational ques­tion, What was life really all about? much less the foundational spiritual question of how I should and can repent from a life that was poorly lived so as finally to turn in repentance to God. Properly directed care at the end of life is care that focuses on repentance. To talk about end-of-life decision-making and not to place centrally the urgent is­sue of repentance is to miss the target completely. Care at the end of life should offer a final opportu­nity to the dying person to find orientation. That is, end-of-life care must bring the dying person to repentance through a recognition of how the holy, indeed, God, defines the meaning of the right, the good, and the virtuous. Good end-of-life care can­not be the product of a secular or philosophical bioethics. It must be the proclamation of a liv­ing theology. Orthodox Christianity teaches how to become oriented in life and to achieve a good death. What is important to be said cannot be stated adequately in secular terms.

Training Up a Child: Educational Options for Orthodox Christians by His Grace Bp. THOMAS

by the Right Reverend THOMAS (Joseph), Ed.D., Bishop of Charleston, Oakland and the Mid-Atlantic

My son Timothy, you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, my sufferings, what befell me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra, what persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:10-15, RSV)

We read in this passage from St. Paul’s second epistle to St. Timothy, his child in the faith, that he puts great weight on Timothy having observed his teaching, his conduct, his aim in life, his faith, patience, love, steadfastness, persecutions and sufferings. St. Paul is also quite adamant that Timothy continue in what he has learned and has firmly believed from his childhood. The assumption here is that Timothy has been acquainted with the sacred writings—that is, the Holy Scriptures—for the purpose and benefit of his salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

Pre-Lenten Retreat with Frederica Mathewes-Green in Wilkes-Barre, PA

"On Becoming Orthodox and Being Orthodox"

On Saturday, February 21st, 2009, noted Orthodox writer and radio commentator Frederica Mathewes-Green, will speak at St. Mary Orthodox Church in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. The event will begin with lunch at 12:30 and will include two speaker sessions, a book sale and a book signing, ending with Vespers. This event is free and open to the public. Children are welcome. For more information or to register for the event by e-mail, please contact Freida Skaff at

Click here to download a printable flyer for the event (Microsoft Word format).

Bishop THOMAS Visits St. George in Allentown, Pennsylvania

Bp. THOMAS giving out scholarships Khouria Tammy Makoul writes:

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

During the Nativity season of 2008, Bishop THOMAS graced St. George Church in Allentown, PA with his presence and celebrated the Christmas Services with us. On Sunday, December 21st, Bishop THOMAS met with the Parish Council and had a wonderful dinner with them at the Holiday Inn. He spoke of his love for us and his vision for us as Orthodox Christians and as a Church. He discussed with his some of his travels specifically to Japan and spoke about Orthodoxy both in the U.S. and abroad. On Monday, December 22nd the Teen Soyo, Fellowship of St. John the Divine and some of the Ladies Aid hosted Bishop THOMAS at Fiesta Olé a local Mexican restaurant. After dinner, they went to see the Christmas “Lights in the Parkway” display and ended the evening in a spirit of joy. On Wednesday, December 24th, Fr. Anthony & Khouria Minerva Sabbagh hosted Bishop THOMAS at their home for lunch and then began preparations for Christmas Eve services. The Hours, Vespers, Orthros and Liturgy were all celebrated at St. George in Allentown. After Liturgy we spent the evening celebrating the Birth of Christ together as a family. God grant Bishop THOMAS many more years in serving Christ and the many parishes of his flock!

Bishop THOMAS Visits St. Raphael Church, Centreville, VA

On December 19th his Grace, Bishop THOMAS arrived at Dulles airport where he was greeted by Mr. Robert Najjar, a parishioner of St. Raphael Orthodox Mission Church in Centreville, VA.

Sayedna presided over Great Vespers on Saturday, with assistance from Father Thomas Palke, pastor of St. Raphael; Deacon Mark O’Dell from Holy Cross Orthodox Church, Linthicum, MD; and Subdeacon Michael (Robert) Rudloff, a member of St. Raphael who lives in Norfolk, VA. Following Great Vespers a light snack was provided by members of the parish. Parishioners were given an opportunity for a question/answer period with His Grace. Bishop THOMAS spoke briefly about the Feast of the Nativity and what it means for us as Orthodox.

Bishop THOMAS and Orthodox Scholars Attend Bioethics Conference in Japan

by Reader Herman Engelhardt and Brian Partridge

Bp. THOMAS with Metropolitan DANIEL of Japan

A major challenge confronting Orthodox Christians across the world is the impact of the dominant secular culture on how physicians act and patients are treated. This influence is reflected in the use of abortion and the increasing acceptance of physician-assisted suicide across the world. This secular culture and its bioethics touch the lives of patients, physicians, and nurses everywhere. We no longer live in a normatively Christian context.

To address these issues in Japan, a country that is only one percent Christian, a group of Orthodox Christians led by the Right Rev. Bishop THOMAS spent December 5th-15th of 2009 meeting with Japanese scholars and attending academic meetings concerning issues of bioethics. The group consisted of Father Iulian Anitei from Holy Protection of the Theotokos Romanian Orthodox Mission in Houston, Texas; Reader Herman Engelhardt from St. George Antiochian Church in Houston, Texas and professor at Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine; and Brian Partridge from All Saints of America Antiochian Church in Homer, Alaska and director at The Center for the Study of Culture, Ethics and the Environment. All members of the group serve in various capacities on the Editorial Advisory Board of the journal Christian Bioethics, now entering its fifteenth year of publication. Christian Bioethics is published by Oxford University Press.

Bishop THOMAS Attends Enthronement of Metropolitan JONAH

Metropolitan JONAH and Bishop THOMAS His Grace Bishop THOMAS thought he would be at Antiochian Village for the College conference when he began his 4 hour drive from the Chancery in Charleston, West Virginia on December 27th. But just a few miles from the Village he recieved a message from Metropolitan PHILIP asking him to represent the Antiochian Archdiocese at the Enthronement of Metropolitan JONAH of the OCA. Bishop BASIL, who was originally scheduled to attend, was prevented by bad weather. Bishop THOMAS then drove the 4-1/2 hours to the Washington area in order to attend the Enthronement and Divine Liturgy on Sunday the 28th.

Bishop THOMAS arrived at Saint Nicholas Cathedral at 7:45 on Sunday morning and vested with around 16 other Hierarchs from the various Orthodox Jurisdictions. The occasion provided the opportunity for many of the bishops to greet one another and catch up. At one point the new Metropolitan JONAH came in and asked if Bishop THOMAS remembered attending seminary with him, which he did of course.