"'Kyrie eleison,' the congregants intone, while at the altar, a retired cop-turned-Orthodox priest performs rituals as old as Christianity. When he steps down to face the crowd, he delivers a sermon like a country preacher, sweat beading on his forehead. 'Some of us here are former Methodists,' says the Rev. James Hamrick, wearing white vestments over a black cassock, addressing two-dozen worshippers scattered sparsely through the pews. 'Some of us were former Lutherans. Some of us were former Episcopals. Evangelicals. Non-denominational Christians. Pentecostals. But the one single factor that is common to all of our journeys — no, not where we come from — is that fact that we pursued the truth of God’s self-revelation.'"
Diocese of Charleston News
Bishop Thomas recently visited St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. His Grace's visit began on the day of the parish’s Annual Golf Outing. Sayidna came to the game at the Sand Springs Golf Course in Drums, and after talking with some of the parishioners, launched the tournament at 1 p.m. by blessing all of the golfers. During the afternoon he enjoyed the beautiful Pennsylvania weather and foliage, and was escorted by The Very Rev. Fr. David Hester, the pastor of St. Mary, to watch the golfers play. Neither Sayidna nor Fr. David are golfers, but that did not stop them from noticing how well—or poorly—the play was going. At the end of the day there was a meal in the clubhouse, at which Sayidna blessed the food. Sayidna even discovered that one of the golfers, John Charles, was a Wilkes-Barre high school classmate of his mother.
On Saturday, September 28, Sayidna made his annual visit to his family’s hot dog restaurant, Abe’s on Main St., and he saw both family and parishioners in the very busy and popular restaurant.
The priests of the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland and the Mid-Atlantic gathered together for their ninth annual Brotherhood Synaxis, held at the Antiochian Village from October 1-4, 2013. Bishop Anthony of the Diocese of Toledo and the Midwest was the guest speaker. His excellent talks addressed the need for parish priests to be aware of the challenge that the secular worldview presents in ministering to their flocks. In addition to Bishop Anthony’s lectures, the clergy had a supplication service for St. Raphael, whose tireless efforts brought about many of the churches of the diocese, and who is buried on the grounds of the Village Camp.
Additionally, His Grace Bishop Thomas inspired his priests on several occasions with discussions on activities in the Orthodox world, the archdiocese, and the diocese; he also counseled them to be diligent and prayerful in all of their efforts.
The clergy and faithful of Holy Cross Antiochian Orthodox Church in Linthicum, Maryland, welcomed His Grace Bishop Thomas to our Patronal Feast of the Elevation of the Cross from September 13-15, 2013. Along with His Grace Bishop Melchizedek (Orthodox Church in America), over twenty visiting clergy and many other well-wishers joined us in commemorating both the 20th Anniversary of the founding of Holy Cross as well as Sayedna Thomas' 25th year of ordination. The weekend also saw the ordinations of Lt. Col. Kelvin Gardner (chaplain, USAF). In total, four services and a banquet were held. Also included in the weekend was the annual retreat of the deacons of the Eastern dioceses with renowned scholar Dr. Christopher Veniamin, professor of Patristics at St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary.
An important reminder from Bishop Thomas for all clergy:
Next week is the Annual Clergy Retreat for the Dioceses of Charleston/Oakland and New York/Washington. This retreat is open to all Orthodox clergy, regardless of diocese or jurisdiction. The speaker will be His Grace Bishop Anthony (Michael) of the Diocese of Toledo. To register, please call (724.238.3677) or email Fr. Anthony Yazge, Antiochian Village Heritage and Learning Center, Ligonier, PA.
St. George Cathedral in Charleston, West Virginia, welcomed back family and friends for the 2013 Labor Day Weekend. The two-day event included haflis, a banquet, raffle, and special coffee hour. The St. George Choir also performed "The Star-Spangled Banner", "Eye on the Sparrow", and "He Lives" before the banquet. His Grace Bishop Thomas, who served the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy on Sunday, was in attendance for several of the events.
The Orthodox Christian faith is growing on our continent and, with it, awareness of the challenge of raising and educating our children in a way that is shaped by that faith. On many occasions I have been asked my opinion, as both a hierarch and as an educator, as to my preferred educational option, whether parents ought to favor public schools, private schools, homeschooling or some other approach.
It has become clear to me, though, that there can be no "one size fits all" approach; each circumstance requires careful and prayerful consideration and exploration of options. Parents must decide based on their particular situation what will be the best preparation for the Kingdom of Heaven for their children, how their children's schooling can be not only educational, but sanctifying. "Sanctified Schooling," as I've come to call it, means finding the best educational fit for students and their families to grow in sanctity as they grow physically, intellectually and emotionally.
The Patriarch Tikhon Choir, a unique choral ensemble made up of professional singers from Russia and North America, under the direction of renowned Moscow conductor Vladimir Gorbik, will perform a premiere concert of Orthodox sacred choral works entitled "Their Sound Hath Gone Forth," Monday, September 16, 2013, at St. Malachy's Roman Catholic Church: The Actor's Chapel, 239 West 49th St., The Actor's Chapel, in New York City, at 7:30pm. Tickets (General: $35, Students: $15) can be purchased in advance and at the door.
The program includes works from the Orthodox All-Night Vigil and Divine Liturgy ranging from austere, centuries-old Znamenny Chants to sumptuous polyphonic works by such Russian masters as Dmitry Bortniansky, Alexander Kastalsky, Pavel Chesnokov, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Sergius Trubachev. Also featured on the program are compositions and arrangements by contemporary American Orthodox composers; several will be concert premieres. In keeping with the choir's multi-cultural approach, the program will be sung in both Church Slavonic and in English.
The city of Houston, and Fr. James Shadid and the parish of St. George Orthodox Christian Church, are hosting the Antiochian Archdiocese Convention this week at the Hilton Americas hotel. The largest legislative body of the Archdiocese, the General Assembly meets in convention biennially. In addition to the business meetings, liturgical celebrations, exhibits, youth activities, and department meetings are central to each convention as well.
There will also be special events that emphasize the uniquely Southern character of this year's gathering. Families will enjoy the Country Western Dinner and Dance on Thursday evening, while on Friday evening convention goers can attend the Mardi Gras Masquerade Dinner/Dance; visits to several of Houston's tourist venues are planned. The culmination of the week is the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy on Sunday with Metropolitan Philip and all eight Auxiliary Bishops of the Antiochian Archdiocese presiding.
It is with saddened hearts that we inform you of the passing of our sister and aunt, Helen Thomas. Surrounded by family and friends, she died peacefully in her Washington, D.C. home Saturday morning, July 20, 2013.
Helen Thomas devoted her nearly 70-year career in journalism to the pursuit of the public's right to know. She was a champion of the First Amendment, fervently advocating for the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press. For years, she proudly occupied her front row seat in the Press Briefing Room at the White House, considering it the people's chair in the people's house. She always acknowledged the privilege of being the eyes and ears of the public, and she boldly and unabashedly asked the hard questions to hold our leaders accountable.
Antiochian Village announces that "Session One of camp is underway and the campers are loving it...all thanks to God. This year we are using a new website for our photography and we are excited to provide the campers and parents, per request, with many more photos from every day this summer! At present we have our 2013 Family Camp album and our Staff Training Week album full uploaded. The Session One Album is up and running and we are keeping it updated with hundreds of pictues every day!"
Beloved in Christ,
May God grant you many years!
I wanted to remind you about some excellent Orthodox educational opportunities that are presently available to you and the beloved of your dioceses. Next week there will be a Parish Life Conference in Eastern Pennsylvania. I strongly recommend that you pass this on to the faithful. If they have the opportunity to participate, they will never regret it.
Secondly, there are a number of Orthodox parochial schools and camping programs that are available to your young people in the United States. The number is surprising. If you're interested in looking into this in the future, a list can be secured from Fr. Joseph Purpura (email@example.com) or through the Department of Camping.
The Antiochian Heritage Museum welcomes two new exhibits this summer! Gracing the center wall of our museum is "Sacred Illuminations," a colorful exhibit inspired by Byzantine and Slavic manuscript design and the Bulgarian heritage of the artist, Tatiana Nikolova-Houston. Inspired by the elaborate and colorful designs of Slavic and Byzantine illuminated manuscripts, as well as the folk art of her native Bulgaria, Nikolova-Houston's artwork is rich in spiritual and cultural tradition. A scholar of religious studies and library science, Tatiana earned both a Master's degree and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a member of St. Elias Antiochian Orthodox Church in Austin, Texas, where she lives with her husband and daughter. After discovering little-known fourteenth-century manuscripts deteriorating under poor conditions in a monastery in Sophia, Bulgaria, and thanks to a generous grant from the Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Tatiana was able to spend a year there, working to preserve these rare treasures.
Serve the LORD with gladness; Know that the LORD, He is God! (Psalm 100: 2-3.) The Faithful of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Beckley, West Virginia welcomed His Grace Bishop Thomas during the weekend of May 17 – 19, 2013 for his annual pastoral visit. The weekend was marked by glorious worship to our Lord with His Grace presiding, and many opportunities for meaningful fellowship.
After dinner on Friday evening, Sayidna Thomas met with the members of the Parish Council in the parish conference room. During the meeting, there was an important and informative discussion in which Sayidna provided an update on his activities in the diocese and a very informed perspective of the situation in Syria and our suffering Antiochian Patriarchate. The Parish Council members updated His Grace on the various activities of the parish, parish council and especially the charitable outreach activities of the Women of the Holy Myrrhbearers. Other topics of interest to the local parish were also discussed, as Sayidna answered questions from each of the Parish Council members.
Doreen Essey + June 8, 2013
Doreen E. Essey, of Monessen PA, died June 8, 2013, at the age of 77. She was the daughter of the late George and Eva Nyrhinen Stofka. Doreen is survived by her husband of 58 years, George Essey, the choir director and cantor at St. Michael Antiochian Orthodox Church: a son, George (Marian) : daughters Lori and Susan: eight grandchildren: eleven great-grandchildren: sister Donna Dudas (Richard): brother-in law Samuel Essey (Elmunda). Besides her parents, she was preceded in death by her in-laws, Esper and Rashida Essey: brothers-in-law Norman and Gerald Essey: niece, Linda Essey.
After graduation from Monessen High School with the Class of 1953, Doreen worked in the Darling Shoppe and then became a full time homemaker. She loved and adored her children, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and excelled in the art of Syrian cooking until her stroke in 2005. Mrs. Essey was very active in her church, St. Michael Antiochian Orthodox Church of Monessen, PA, serving as secretary and treasurer of the Ladies Society, and a member of the Parish Council during the purchase of the present church on Patton Ave. Friends were received at the Robert Billick Funeral Home, Monessen, on Tuesday, June 11. Trisagion services were held at 7:30, with The Rev. Fred Pfeil officiating. Funeral services were held at St Michael AOC. 1201 Patton Ave., Monessen, Wednesday, June 12, at 10:30 AM.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggest that memorial donations be made to St. Michael Antiochian Orthodox Church, c/o 189 Pacific Blvd, Monessen, PA 15062.
One of the early pioneers of Antiochian Village, Eddie Joseph, or "Cuz" as he was affectionately known, fell asleep in the Lord on June 12, 2013. Eddie was the athletic director (now known as the Afternoon Program Coordinator) for many years in the early years of the camp. A lifelong member of St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church in Johnstown, PA, Eddie sang in the choir and was a member of Order of St. Ignatius
Service information is as follows: Friends will be received from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday, June 14, at the Frank Duca Funeral Home, Westmont Chapel, 1622 Menoher Blvd., Johnstown, where Trisagion prayers will be sung at 7 p.m. Trisagion prayers will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at the funeral home with the funeral service following at St. Mary’s Antiochian Orthodox Church with The Very Rev. Father Donald E. Shadid officiating. The Joseph family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Antiochian Village Camp as part of the Edward Joseph Memorial Scholarship Fund.
There is still time for you to register for your diocese's "family reunion" this summer, your regional Parish Life Conference (PLC)! The theme for this year, "The End of History...The Last Judgment," will be the focus of the Creative Festivals, a highlight of the conferences. Youth and organizational meetings, spiritually edifying speakers and services, and social events for kids and adults alike, all make the PLCs one of the Archdiocese's most established and popular traditions. Visit the Conventions and Conference Planning page for full information.
First up is the Diocese of Wichita PLC, kicking off on June 5 in Kansas City. St. Basil Orthodox Church hosts the PLC at the Westin Kansas City Hotel in downtown Kansas City, "one of America's Best downtowns" according to Forbes magazine.
Fr. Patrick Cardine of St. Patrick Church in Warrenton, Virginia writes:
Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
Work on the new building has commenced, the foundation trench has been dug and we are proceeding onto the next phase. Also the Fauquier Times Democrat ran a nice article in the paper today. Part of the article may be viewed at www.fauquier.com/news/article/fauquier_parish_breaks_ground_for_new_church.
Below are some pictures of the site blessing. It was a wonderful day and we missed all who could not be with us.
God Bless you,
St. Patrick Church's original building was burnt to the ground in July 2012 in a fire set by an arsonist. For more information on the parish's building project or to make a donation, please visit the St. Patrick Orthodox Church Building Project web page.
Construction is underway on a new Byzantine-style temple for St. Mary Church in Hunt Valley (Baltimore), Maryland. From the St. Mary Church Website:
There is soon to be a new light of Orthodox Christianity in Hunt Valley, Maryland. The parish family of St. Mary’s Antiochian Orthodox Church are struggling to build a church that will be connected to the existing hall in which they currently celebrate all Liturgical services and social events. The new St. Mary’s Church will be fashioned in ancient Byzantine style and will be endowed with emblematical notions all carefully crafted to glorify our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. All aspects of the architectural design are deeply and religiously symbolic, inspired by a desire to create a spiritually tangible testament to the beauty of our Lord and His creation.
His Grace Bishop Thomas writes:
GREAT AND HOLY PASCHA 2013
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!
When Christ had risen from the dead on the third day and had shown Himself alive to His disciples, He ascended into heaven. He remained immortal and bestowed on us, with complete assurance, resurrection, immortality and truly blessed, eternal, incorruptible life in heaven. By means of the one death and resurrection of His flesh, He healed our twofold death and freed us from the double captivity of soul and body.
~St. Gregory Palamas, “On Holy and Great Saturday”
The feast of Christ’s glorious resurrection is now finally here, and we experience the greatest of joy possible for human persons not only because the Founder of our faith has risen from the dead, but because of what the resurrection means in terms of His incarnation. Because He is man, He was able to die. And because He is God, He rises from the dead.
Holy Cross Antiochian Orthodox Church in Linthicum, Maryland will celebrate its 20th Anniversary on its Patronal Feast Day, September 14, 2013, and you are cordially invited to join us. AND, in addition, we are honored and privileged to be hosting the Celebration of His Grace, Bishop Thomas' 25th Ordination Anniversary at the same time!
We are very excited about this and know you will be also. Both events will be rolled into one celebration, including Saturday morning Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, followed by a Celebratory Banquet at a local hotel. Rooms will be available at both the Ramada, near BWI airport, and the Pier Five (Inner Harbor) Hotel, in Baltimore. Details regarding the full schedule, banquet tickets and hotel reservations will soon follow, but we know you will want to make note of the date of this important observance now!
We hope you will be able to join us in these wonderful celebrations!
Fr. Gregory Mathewes-Green, the Parishioners of Holy Cross Church, and the 20/25 Committee
New relationships and unity among Orthodox Christian youth workers are the result of diligent efforts by the Committee for Youth, one of the very active committees of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America.
The committee’s members are Bishop Thomas (Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese), Metropolitan Alexios (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese) and Bishop Irineu (Orthodox Church in America). As with all of the Assembly’s committees, clergy and lay consultants support the work of the committee. The Committee for Youth has more than sixty consultants with extensive experience and knowledge of Orthodox youth and youth programs.
One of the fruits of the committee’s efforts has been new relationships and increased collaboration among jurisdictional youth directors. “Prior to the committee’s formation, a handful of jurisdictional youth directors would meet occasionally,” says His Grace Bishop Thomas, the chairman of the committee. “Now there are 17 who meet in person and by phone, representing every jurisdiction in the Assembly.
March 22, 2013
South Canaan, PA: The Board of Trustees of Saint Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, South Canaan, PA announces a vacancy in the office of Dean, to be filled effective July 1, 2013. Applications, nominations, and expressions of interest for the position of Dean are now being accepted.
Saint Tikhon’s Seminary is an institution of professional Orthodox Christian theological education, affiliated with the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), chartered by the Department of Education of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and nationally accredited by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada. St. Tikhon’s Seminary offers the Master of Divinity degree, as well as the Bachelor of Arts in Theology degree, and a certificate in diaconal formation studies.
The primary purpose of the Seminary is to provide the necessary theological, spiritual, and moral foundation for Orthodox men to become good shepherds of Christ’s Holy Orthodox Church and for others to pursue advanced theological study and personal enrichment.
(Adapted from The Word, March 2013)
Last fall, the Antiochian parish of St. Mary in Chambersburg, PA, began its fourth year of service to the surrounding community through the St. Seraphim Orthodox Center (SS OC). Affiliated with the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve (FOCUS), the ministry serves lunch to some 35 to 45 guests on Thursdays and Saturdays, complimenting the lunch schedule of the local Salvation Army.
During his August 2012 visit to St. Mary Orthodox Church, His Grace Bishop Thomas repeatedly stressed the importance of the parish’s work at the Center in the downtown area, and urged parishioners to continue and extend this ministry to the wider community.
“Our Roots Run Deep” was the theme for St. George Orthodox Church’s 100th Anniversary Celebration which was celebrated with much joy and enthusiasm on the weekend of November 3, 2012.
The 100th anniversary celebration actually had kicked off a year prior, on November 5, 2011, with our Fourth Annual Sacred Arts Festival (see article on p. 28 in May 2012 issue of The Word magazine). It was a successful event and a great opportunity to share our Orthodox faith and Syrian heritage with the local community. The event included speakers, iconographers, vendors, our own bookstore, and a Byzantine choir concert.
Next, we remembered our heritage at our annual St. George Day Brunch held on May 12, 2012. At this annual feast day celebration, we recognize church school students, altar servers and high school seniors. Additionally, we recognized a couple of parishioners who were nominated for having admirably served the church.