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Diocese of Charleston News

Fruitful Labor and A Hierarchal Visit at St. Philip Church + Souderton, PA

Fr. Noah Bushelli, of St. Philip Church in Souderton, PA, writes:

Bp THOMAS Prays over Simeon Nicholas BushelliBp THOMAS Prays over Simeon Nicholas BushelliRecently, we had a blessed pastoral visit from Bishop THOMAS.  A unique aspect of this visit was that on Saturday Morning, Sayedna led about 50 of us in a retreat on "Raising Godly Children".  We prayed together the Akathist to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children, then His Grace equipped us with some inspiring stories from his own childhood and some practical resources.

At another visit earlier this year, my family had the blessing of Sayedna praying the 8th Day Naming Prayers for our youngest, Simeon Nicholas.

Brotherhood of St. Joseph of Damascus Clergy Retreat 2009 Report

September 23-25:

Click here for a collection of images from the retreat.

With the Pennsylvania forests’ magnificent change of colors well under way, proclaiming the glory of creation, the clergy of the Diocese of New York and Washington DC, and the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland and the Mid Atlantic gathered at the Village in late September with Bishop THOMAS for their fifth annual clergy retreat.  In attendance with Sayedna were twenty-seven priests and deacons of the Brotherhood, and Mother Alexandra, abbess of St. Thekla Convent and her guest Mother Mariamne.

The retreat was led by one of the Brotherhood’s own – Archimandrite John Abdalah, pastor of St. George Cathedral, Pittsburgh.  Bishop Thomas asked Fr. John to discuss the theme “Being a Priest with a Positive Attitude.”  During the retreat sessions, Fr. John challenged the Brotherhood to consider three questions about their ministries.  The first was what metaphor best reflects their ministry.  The second was to ask what person had a significant influence on their ministry.  And last was what do we want to be remembered for.  As we discovered through the individual and collective answers to these questions, the images of how we see our ministries - now and in the future - profoundly affect the attitudes we portray to others through our day-to-day work in our parishes.

Bishop THOMAS Celebratees the Exaltation of the Cross with St. George, Allentown, PA

“O Lord, save Thy people, and bless Thine inheritance, and to Thy faithful Kings grant victory of their enemies, and by the Power of Thy Cross, Protect all those who follow Thee.” 

-Troparia Tone 1:  Elevation of the Holy Cross

Click here to see more pictures.

On September 10-14, 2009, St. George Church in Allentown, PA lovingly welcomed His Grace, Bishop THOMAS.  Bishop THOMAS celebrated the Feast of The Exaltation of the Holy Cross with us and it was a true blessing. 

Bishop THOMAS Discusses Education on OCN

On this week's Come Receive The Light podcast: His Grace, the Right Reverend THOMAS (Joseph), a bishop of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America, serving in the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland and the Mid-Atlantic, leads a discussion to the topic - Where We Send Our Children to School.

St. John the Baptist Mission Profiled in the Frederick News-Post

One man’s spiritual journey ends with a congregation’s conversion

Lewistown is now home to Maryland’s first Western Rite Orthodox church

by Ron Cassie of The Frederick News-Post

Last weekend, at a service at St. Basil the Great Orthodox Church in Poquoson, Va., Bishop Thomas Joseph ordained James K. Hamrick into the holy priesthood of the Western Rite Orthodox Church.

It was a moment Hamrick’s congregation in Lewistown has been waiting for since early spring. On April 10, his small flock at the former Charismatic Episcopal Lamb of God Church converted en masse to the Antiochian Orthodox faith, which includes both Western Rite and Eastern Orthodox churches.

At Hamrick’s urging, the 40-member congregation, which worships in a church built in 1883 by Methodists, was officially accepted as an Orthodox mission in March. After preparation, members went through the sacramental rite of chrismation into the Antiochian Orthodox faith. Further highlighting their transformation, the congregation adopted a new name: St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church.

This weekend, Hamrick will lead an Orthodox Sunday Mass for the first time at the church, marking the final step for the 45-year-old priest and his congregation as Maryland’s first Western Rite Orthodox church.

“For the people who have endured a rather long and difficult journey, this doesn’t mark the end, but a fresh new beginning,” Hamrick said. “We’re excited about what God is doing — about being pioneers and evangelists, about bringing Holy Orthodoxy which is the faith of the Apostles and the ancient Church to the people of Frederick County living in the 21st century.”

Fr. James Hamrick Ordained to Priesthood

Maryland’s First Western Rite Orthodox Church Emerges

Click here for more photos.

On Sunday, August 23, 2009, Bishop THOMAS (Joseph) ordained James K. Hamrick to the Holy Priesthood in the Orthodox Church, Antiochian Christian Archdiocese.  The ordination ceremony was conducted during the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy at Saint Basil the Great Orthodox Church in Poquoson, Virginia (near Newport News).  The host priest and pastor of the church, Father Gregory MacGregor, was one of Hamrick’s three priest sponsors.  Father MacGregor had introduced Hamrick to Holy Orthodoxy three years earlier during a family vacation to Williamsburg, VA.  At that time Hamrick was a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church and had just planted a new mission in Lewistown, Maryland named Lamb of God Church—all of this after having previously served as a United Methodist pastor for six years in the Harpers Ferry, WV area.

Hamrick’s other two priest sponsors for his ordination were present and included Father Patrick Cardine, pastor of St. Patrick Orthodox Church in Warrenton, VA; and Father Nicholas Alford, pastor of St. Gregory the Great Orthodox Church in Washington, DC, both of whom were also the catechists for Hamrick’s congregation when they made a decision to become Orthodox last year.  

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

Click here to view more pictures.

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

Click here for more pictures.

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.