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Diocese of Charleston News

2015 Paschal Greetings from Bishop Thomas

His Grace Bishop Thomas writes:

GREAT AND HOLY PASCHA 2015

Beloved brother Hierarchs, Reverend Clergy, God-fearing Monastics, and all my Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ our True God:

Christ is risen! Indeed, He is risen!

There is nothing after Christ and nothing other than Christ. If you are not an extension of Him or an expression of Him, then you are nothing. At Pascha, I become Him or I am nothing. If I have loved Him, then I grow through Him and I grow in Him. I do not want anything in His place because He is everything. All the saints are in Him and unto Him, and if you look at their faces, do not look for them. Search for the face of Jesus traced upon them. How should I conduct myself at Pascha? My only affair with my soul is to bring it to the Lord. With Him it comes into existence. The Father is the beginning and the end and in Him the Christ of history pours forth. I am nothing if I do not become a person of Pascha, one who looks to the Father, the end point.
– Metropolitan Georges (Khodr) of Mount Lebanon, "Who Shall I Be at Pascha?"

As we celebrate Holy Pascha, we also each ask, "Who shall I be at Pascha?" This feast defines who we are, not just as a climax or triumph of the liturgical year, but as the very core of our life and, indeed, not just the core, but the whole of our life. Our task as Christians is to become an "extension" or "expression" of Christ, to become so like Him in communion with Him that the face of Jesus is also traced upon us.

Warming to our Calling: St. Philip Church, Souderton, PA

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

"Bless the Lord, you winter cold and summer heat, sing and exalt Him unto all ages!" (Song of the Three Holy Youths, Daniel 3:67)

As our diocese thaws from the brutally cold and snowy winter of 2015, the hearts of Orthodox Christians at St. Philip's, Souderton, PA are continuing to warm to the great calling of our life in Christ! "We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works!" (Ephesians 2:10). Here's a little glimpse of the flowers opening up to bloom in God's garden in South Eastern Pennsylvania.

Metropolitan Joseph Issues Letter in Support of March for Marriage

On April 25, 2015, on the National Mall in Washington D.C., people will be gathering from around the U.S. for the March for Marriage. This year's March will include an Orthodox Gathering, sponsored by the group Crown Them With Glory. His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph has released a letter encouraging the faithful of the Antiochian Archdiocese to participate. (Download the PDF of His Eminence's letter.)

March 26, 2015

To our Beloved Hierarchs, Reverend Clergy and all of the Faithful of this God- Protected Archdiocese:

Blessings to you during this Holy Season of the Great Fast! On January 16th of this year, the Supreme Court agreed to hear four new cases on same-sex "marriage," and "rule on the power of the states to ban same-sex "marriages" and to refuse to recognize such "marriages" performed in another state." More details on the announcement can be found at the Supreme Court's website.

We are writing to communicate the newly established date for the third annual March for Marriage in Washington D.C. on Saturday, April 25, 2015. The march is a peaceful rally and quite comparable to the March for Life. We ask that you would make every effort to attend the rally, and encourage others to do likewise.

Memory Eternal! + Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko

Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko, 75, dean emeritus of St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, Crestwood, New York, and noted Orthodox Christian priest, theologian, preacher, and speaker, fell asleep in the Lord on March 18, 2015.

Father Thomas was the beloved husband of Matushka Anne [Schmemann] Hopko. They were married on June 9, 1963. Together, Fr. Thomas and Anne are the parents of five children, sixteen grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

"Father Thomas was a good friend of the Archdiocese," reflected Vicar-General and St. Nicholas Cathedral Dean Fr. Thomas Zain. "He helped educate many of our clergy over the years, and often gave lectures and led retreats in our parishes throughout the country."

Bishop Thomas Delivers Guest Homily in North Port, FL

His Grace Bishop Thomas delivered a guest homily at St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church in North Port, Florida on Sunday, March 15, 2015.

Annual Orthodox Homeschooling Conference at the Village is April 23-26

Homeschool conference attendees from a previous yearHomeschool conference attendees from a previous yearAnother year has rolled on by and it's time, once again, for the St. Emmelia Orthodox Homeschooling Conference, hosted by Antiochian Village. The 2015 conference dates are set for April 23–26, and registration materials are available on the Village's website.

The evening Keynote Speaker is Fr. Andrew Steven Damick, pastor of St. Paul Orthodox Church of Emmaus, PA, author of Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy and An Introduction to God, and host of the "Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy" and "Roads from Emmaus" podcasts on Ancient Faith Radio. Other distinguished speakers and workshop leaders are: Lori Peterson Branch, professor of English at the University of Iowa; Theodore (Ted) Federoff, homeschooling dad and a board certified emergency medicine physician currently working in Jersey Shore, PA; Shell Keim, experienced homeschool mom and the Director of Education at All Saints Orthodox Church in Raleigh, NC; Andrew Kern, founder and president of the CiRCE Institute; Charlotte Riggle, of Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church, Tacoma, WA and seasoned home educator; Dr. Christopher and Anna Veniamin from St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary and Mount Thabor Publishing; and Barbara Shukin, art professor and gallery director.

View the list of topics and download the reservation form.

Eastern Dioceses Fellowship of St. John the Divine Scholarship

The Eastern Dioceses Fellowship of St. John the Divine offers scholarships to qualified college students from parishes in the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland and the Mid-Atlantic, and the Diocese of New York and Washington D.C.  For more information, contact Maria Abdalah at:

Send all completed applications to:
Maria Abdalah
2 Lydia's Path
Westborough MA 01581

Deadline for all materials: June 1, 2015

For questions on this application:
Call 412-916-4772
E-mail Laxg25@yahoo.com

Download the 2015 Scholarship Application (PDF)

On the New Martyrs of the Middle East: An Orthodox Christian View

by His Grace Bishop Thomas (Joseph), Ed.D.

Beloved in Christ,

Last weekend I visited parishes and college students in the Baltimore, MD area. While I was there, Orthodox clergy and faithful asked that I offer a response to what's going on in the Middle East. Attached is my response. Special thanks to Fr Andrew Damick for his contribution to what you'll read here.

To introduce this, I'll simply ask you to pray "for the peace of the whole world, the good estate of the Holy Churches of God, and the union of all men."

In recent months, images and stories of Christians being killed for their faith in the Middle East have flooded our news sources and dominated our social media. We see beheadings and shootings, sometimes available as gruesome videos on the Internet that are intended by their makers to inspire some to join their cause and others to cower in fear. We have seen bishops kidnapped, priests shot in the street as they ministered to the suffering, and innocents lined up and had their heads sawn off with knives.

Christians are not the only ones suffering in the Middle East—Muslims, Druze, Yazidis and others are also being targeted by the armies of takfirism. They are also dying for their faith, and even though we Christians do not share their religion with them, we still suffer with them in solidarity, because Christ still died and rose from the dead for them, even if they do not believe it.

Photos from OCF Retreat with Bishop Thomas in Frederick, MD

Students, clergy and His Grace Bishop Thomas recently enjoyed an Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) retreat in Frederick, Maryland. Photograph is courtesy of Victor Lutes: visit his website to see a complete gallery.

OCF is the official campus ministry organization of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America.

The Gift of Remembrance: The Many Beautiful Faces of Balamand

by V. Rev. Jason DelVitto, Ph.D.

Almost one year ago, from May 20th through May 28th, 2014, I had the distinct honor and pleasure to accompany His Grace Bishop Thomas (Joseph) to the Balamand Monastery of the Dormition of Our Lady the Virgin Mary, the Balamand University, and the St. John of Damascus Institute of Theology. Balamand is located in the region of Al Kourah, approximately 45 miles north of Beirut. This was my second trip to Lebanon, the first being the occasion of the consecration of our three new bishops for the Antiochian Orthodox Church in North America, 2011.

As our beloved hierarch Metropolitan Philip of thrice-blessed memory had recently fallen asleep in the Lord, His Beatitude Patriarch John X had called for a meeting at Balamand of the Local Synod of Antiochian Bishops in America and members of the Board of Trustees of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America.

On this soon to be one-year anniversary, I would like to offer a reflection on our trip, sharing my impressions regarding a unique opportunity for which I remain eternally grateful. As a start, as I traveled with Sayidna Thomas, I was afforded the opportunity to gain a sense of the work and life of the students of the Theological School of St. John of Damascus and to meet with its administrators and students and instructors. I was greatly edified by the people that I met there and the work that is being done at the University and School of Theology.

March 29: Syrian Relief Fund Raising Dinner in Pittsburgh, PA

On Sunday, March 29, 2015 the IOCC Pittsburgh Metropolitan Committee plans to hold a prayer service and fund raising dinner that will benefit our Syrian brothers and sisters in Christ. This Syrian Relief gathering will be held at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church in Pittsburgh, PA. We would like to cordially invite your parish to attend, and support IOCC's aid efforts in Syria.

The recent conflict has been devastating. It has resulted in the displacement of numerous Orthodox Christians that are now hungry, homeless, and lacking essential items.

Last year Archbishop Melchisedek, Metropolitan Silouan, Metropolitan Savas, Bishop Thomas, and (former) Archbishop Theodosius led our Syrian Relief gathering. This year we are hoping to more fully engage all of the Orthodox jurisdictions and faithful in this Orthodox offering of love, prayer, and mercy. Please join us!

New Lenten Evangelism Series, with Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick

Starting with the first Sunday of the Triodion, Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick has been releasing weekly installments of a 10-part sermon series on evangelism and the Lenten Triodion. The meditations are available in audio form through his Roads from Emmaus podcast, or as posts on the blog of the same name.

Father Andrew, who serves in the Antiochian Archdiocese, says in his introduction, "For the next ten weeks, from today through Palm Sunday, we will be discussing evangelism. Each Sunday of the Triodion has a different theme to it, usually based in the Gospel reading, and all of them have something to say about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ to the world. The Gospel is like a great jewel with many facets, each sparkling with its own light, and each drawing us into the depths of the beauty of this most precious gift. So from now until Palm Sunday, we will be looking at different facets of this gem of evangelism."

The pastor of St. Paul Orthodox Church of Emmaus, Pennsylvania, Fr. Andrew is the author of Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy and An Introduction to God (available at Ancient Faith Publishing). He is also the host of the Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy and Roads from Emmaus podcasts, both hosted on Ancient Faith Radio.

Read the text of the Lenten evangelism sermons, or listen to the podcast.

Transitions for the St. George Cathedral in Charleston

The Rev. Christopher Eid was named Dean of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral in Charleston, WV in 2014. He will assume the role in late July of 2015, when The Very Rev. Olof Scott retires. Archpriest Olof has faithfully served at the St. George Cathedral for 39 years. The Cathedral is the episcopal home of His Grace Bishop Thomas.

A native of Syria, Fr. Christopher was raised in an Orthodox home among the clergy members of his family. He attended and served at the Bosra Horan Archdiocesan Chancery Church of St. George in Syria before moving to the United States. While working full-time after arriving in the U.S., Fr. Christopher also attended the City University of New York (CUNY), obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree in International Criminal Investigation.

After completing his professional training, he established a career in executive protection security and investigation. However, his love for the Church compelled him leave his job; with the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Philip of blessed memory, he enrolled in St. Vladimir's Seminary and completed his M.Div. degree in May of 2010.

After graduation, Fr. Christopher was ordained to the Holy Diaconate on September 8, 2011 and then to the Holy Priesthood on September 11, 2011.

Immediately following ordination, Fr. Christopher was given a temporary assignment to serve alongside Fr. Elias Bitar at St. George Orthodox Church in Little Falls, NJ, before moving to Houston, TX to serve at St. George Orthodox Church from December 2011 to December 2014.

2015 Dioceses of Charleston and New York Parish Life Conference

The 2015 Dioceses of Charleston and New York Parish Life Conference will be hosted by St. John the Baptist Church of Levittown, New York. Dates are Thursday to Sunday, July 1-5, 2015.

www.stjohnorthodoxchurch.com/plc
Download Flyer (PDF)
2015 Diocese of NY PLC on Facebook

Accomodations are at:
Upsky Long Island Hotel
110 Motor Parkway
Happauge, NY
631-231-1100

Please visit stjohnorthodoxchurch.com/plc for more information.

OCF Spring Retreat in Maryland + March 7, 2015

Prepare your hearts and minds during this Lenten Season, and join us for a retreat led by His Grace Bishop Thomas of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid-Atlantic.

Sacred Monastery of St. Nektarios
8704 Hampton Valley Road
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
Hosted by the Orthodox Christian Fellowship of the University of Maryland at College Park

This one-day retreat is offered free of charge to all OCF members and other interested college students. However, free-will offerings to cover food and other costs are greatly appreciated from any other attendees.

Please register by Tuesday, March 3, 2015 using the following link: http://goo.gl/forms/AsFgzwLtIO

For more information, please contact ocf.umd@gmail.com.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Features Metropolitan Joseph Enthronement

On the eve of the Enthronement, Peter Smith of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette interviewed His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph and His Beatitude John X of Antioch and All the East for an article titled "Antiochan Orthodox installing new leader: N. American diocese celebrates its roots." Published on December 6, 2014, reporter Smith explained that those under 50 years of age cannot remember the last enthronement of an Antiochian metropolitan.

"This event means to us a lot — joy for the faithful in America and the homeland," Patriarch John was quoted as saying in the article, adding, "We are one family."

The Gazette reporter also noted that Metropolitan Joseph believes that he is "on equal footing with the newest of converts. 'Even though I was born in the faith, I have to convert to the faith daily by practicing the faith and doing virtuous and Christian actions,'" His Eminence explained.

Read the full story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Bishop Thomas Lists Youth and Education Resources

His Grace Bishop Thomas has reminded the faithful of several important resources for youth.

1. 2015 Orthodox Christian Camp and Youth Worker Conference 
The theme is "Walking Alongside Our Youth" and the keynote addresses will be delivered by Fr. Bogdan Bucur and Dr. Stefanie Yazge. More details will follow. We will also be posting this information to the Orthodox Christian Camping Association.

2. In addition, there will be a College Retreat the weekend of Orthodoxy Sunday, February 27—March 1, 2015. The topic is "Standing at the Foot of the Cross and the speakers are Fr. Anthony Yazge, Marek Simon, & Chris Shadid. Please register online at www.avcamp.org.

Bishop Thomas Pays Pastoral Visit to St. Tikhon's Seminary

His Grace Bishop Thomas of the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland and the Mid-Atlantic, paid a special visit to the community at St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary (STOTS) on Tuesday, November 18, 2014. His Grace has been a long-time supporter of St. Tikhon's, and came to meet with the students as well as to meet with STOTS Dean The Very Rev. Dr. Steven Voytovich.

His Grace toured the Seminary and Monastery grounds, and spoke to students during the lunch hour. "I always enjoy coming to St. Tikhon's because every time I visit I see people who are filled with joy," he commented. He also reminded those assembled of the importance of remaining joyful, and asked that they bring that same virtue out into the world as they minister to others for Christ.

(Sourced from Stots.edu—view the original story and more photographs.

Nativity Greetings from Bishop Thomas

NATIVITY OF CHRIST 2014

Beloved in Christ,

Greetings in the name of our incarnate God and Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ!

Let us strive to comprehend the mystery. The reason God is in the flesh is to kill the death that lurks there. As diseases are cured by medicines and assimilated by the body, and as darkness in a house is dispelled by the coming of light, so death, which held sway over human nature, is done away with by the coming of God. And as ice formed on water covers its surface as long as night and darkness last but melts under the warmth of the sun, so death reigned until the coming of Christ; but when the grace of God our Saviour appeared and the Sun of Justice rose, death was swallowed up in victory, unable to bear the presence of true life. How great is God's goodness, how deep his love for us!
– St. Basil the Great, Homily II on the Nativity of Christ

We rejoice in the coming of our God in the flesh precisely because He has come to do battle with death and to kill it. In these words of St. Basil, we see how great is the blessing and goodness of God to us, that He Himself would come and expel the darkness of our souls, cure the diseases that sicken our human nature, and set us on the path to resurrection. He Himself entered into humanity so that His power and love could conquer the corruption that had infected us.

This is why we celebrate Christmas. We are not only celebrating that God came to dwell among us. We are celebrating His coming because of what He came to do. He came to save us from death by destroying its power forever by uniting our humanity to His divinity. And so we will ever sing of His glory and His compassion for mankind.

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Yours in Christ,

Rt. Rev. Bishop THOMAS (Joseph)
Auxiliary Bishop, Diocese of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid-Atlantic

Registration Opens: February 2015 College Lenten Retreat

Come enjoy a weekend of spiritual retreat and fellowship with other Orthodox Christian college students. We will have discussions, daily services, and conclude the weekend by celebrating Sunday of Orthodoxy together! Registration is now open!

  • Please register online at www.avcamp.org
  • Cost is $95, including all meals, lodging, and activities, to be held at the Camp (bring own bed linens/sleeping bag, pillow, towels, and toiletries)
  • If you have questions, please e-mail Chris Shadid at chris@antiochianvillage.org or call the camp office at 724-238-9565, ext. 505 
  • Download the flyer

Bishop Thomas Visits St. Andrew Church + Lewes, DE

The mission community of St. Andrew the Apostle and Fr. Boniface Black welcomed His Grace Bishop Thomas for the 2014 feast of the Dormition and following Sunday in comfortable and beautiful August summer weather.

The visit began with Vespers on Thursday evening, August 14th, and continued with Orthros and Hierarchical Divine Liturgy on the Feast Day. Saturday Vespers and Sunday Orthros and Hierarchical Divine Liturgy rounded out a very blessed time of worship and Christian fellowship. All services were very well attended. Many summer visitors joined with parishioners for the Church Services and bountiful meals following, provided by the Antiochian Women of St. Andrew.

Middle School Winter Retreat at Antiochian Village

Registration is open for the annual St. Herman Middle School Retreat, convening at Antiochian Village on the feast day of St. Herman of Alaska.

  • Who: Students in grades 5-8
  • Where: Antiochian Village Conference Center, December 12-14, 2014
  • What: interactive presentations and discussions, weekend liturgical services (with an outdoor supplication service to St. Herman), games, crafts, meals and snacks, sledding, geocaching, stargazing, guided night hike, a campfire
  • Why: The distraction-free environment of the Village and the spiritual emphasis of the retreat offer a wonderful opportunity for middle schoolers to focus on their faith 
  • How much:  $100/person for lodging and meals; $120 if postmarked after November 15  
  • Download the registration form
  • Download the Consent Form
  • Visit the Antiochian Village's website

Orthodox Christian Camp and Youth Worker Conference: January 22-24, 2015

The 2015 Orthodox Christian Camp and Youth Worker Conference, with the theme "Walking Alongside our Youth," will be held at Antiochian Village on January 22-24. The Conference, now in its 13th year, exists to bring all Orthodox Christians doing youth ministry at any level and in any form together for several days to further their education, foster brotherhood, and provide fellowship.  Each year a different jurisdiction of the Orthodox Churches in the United States hosts the Conference, with the input and direction provided by the Orthodox Christian Camp Association and national Church Youth Department directors.

Keynote Addresses will be offered by The Rev. Dr. Bogdan Bucur, associate professor of Theology at Duquesne University, and Dr. Stefanie Yazge, professor of Theology at St. Vincent College. A series of workshops focusing on youth ministry as it relates to youth workers and camp staff, daily services, and fellowship, will be available to enable attendees to get to know each other better.

Registration is available online and an early-bird discount is offered through December 15, 2014.

 

St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church, Wilkes-Barre, PA Celebrates 110 Years

The 110th anniversary of St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church in Wilkes-Barre, PA was celebrated over the weekend of October 10-12, 2014. 

For the weekend Bishop Thomas presided over all of the events. On Friday morning the parish had the funeral of the oldest parishioner, Lorraine George, who was 98. Bishop Thomas arrived before to be able to serve the funeral.

On Friday evening there was a potluck dinner to which the parishioners brought many different kinds of delicious fast-day foods.  

On Saturday, Bishop Thomas went to visit his family’s restaurant in Wilkes-Barre and enjoy hot dogs and hamburgers from Abe’s Restaurant on Main Street. He reminisced there about his family during the meal. (View the photo gallery of the festive weekend.)

Bishop Thomas Visits St. George Church + Upper Darby, PA

Bishop Thomas Visits St. George Church + Upper Darby, PADuring the weekend of October 3 – 5, 2014, the faithful of St. George Church in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania were blessed with the annual pastoral visit of His Grace Bishop Thomas. The events of the weekend began on Friday evening with the local Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) chapters gathering for a falafel dinner and discussion with Bishop Thomas. Students came from three of the Philadelphia area OCFs: Drexel/UPenn, Eastern and Temple. After a delicious meal the students talked with His Grace about his own travels and work as the chair of the Assembly of Bishops Committee on Youth, as well as the particular struggles facing young people today with the increasing media and technology impact on life.