Diocese of Charleston News


Bishop Thomas' Pastoral Visit to St. Elias, New Castle, PA

His Grace Bishop Thomas visits St. EliasHis Grace Bishop Thomas visits St. EliasHis Grace, Bishop Thomas visited Saint Elias in New Castle, PA on the weekend of August 19-21. Sayidna made pastoral calls with Father Kevin Gregory to see a couple of parishioners. He also visited with the children of the parish, ate a meal in the parish hall with the parish council and some guests, and went to nearby Holy Transfiguration Monastery and visited with the nuns there.

The kids sang a song that they learned while attending Vacation Church School the week prior to His Grace's visit. While visiting with him, the kids were given the opportunity to ask Sayidna questions.

One of the high points of the visit was the hierarchical Divine Liturgy. Bishop Thomas' sermon was inspiring, challenging us all to take our faith seriously and to bring our friends and family to the faith.

Fr. Kevin Gregory Long and the parish community are thankful to Bishop Thomas for his prayerful and paternal love and care for us. We eagerly look forward to his next visit with us.

Bishop Thomas to Speak at Ancient Christianity and African-American Conference

Clergy at 2011 Ancient Christianity African-American ConferenceClergy at 2011 Ancient Christianity African-American ConferenceHis Grace Bishop Thomas will be speaking at the Brotherhood of St Moses the Black's 19th Annual Ancient Christianity and African-American Conference on May 25-27, 2012 at the Antiochian Village.

The annual conference of the Brotherhood of St Moses the Black, the Ancient Christianity and African-American Conference offers an opportunity to explore the ancient African roots of Christianity as well as discuss the Orthodox Faith in relation to the African-American experience.

The Brotherhood of St. Moses the Black is a Fellowship of Orthodox Christians seeking to first bring ancient Orthodox Christianity to African-Americans. Secondly, the brotherhood attempts to root and nourish African-Americans in the martyric experience of their righteous Christian forefathers and foremothers, both in Africa and America.

Bishop Thomas Encourages Preparation for 2012 Creative Festivals

A message from His Grace, Bishop Thomas, about the 2012 Creative Festivals:

The Bible Bowl for 2012 will be centered on the Epistle to the Romans. Materials to help prepare your teams can be obtained here. Please remember, all Bible Bowl questions will come directly from the text and not from the website.

Please also encourage your senior and junior SOYO members to participate in all of the festivals of the conference. Please go to the Festivals web page for additional information on the festivals contests, which will be added to the site in the coming weeks.

Lastly, please talk to your church school directors, youth directors and Teen SOYO advisers, and encourage them to include time in their activities to prepare for the Oratorical, Creative Arts, Photo, Writing and Poetry contests for the upcoming church year.

On behalf of the Metropolitan, thank you for your cooperation in making next year’s PLC a success!

Yours in Christ,

+Bp. THOMAS

Memory Eternal! + Fr. James Deep

His Grace Bishop Thomas writes:

Beloved in Christ,

Your prayers are requested for the repose of the soul of the servant of God the Archpriest James Deep. Fr. James is retired and the former pastor of St. Anthony Church in Butler, Pennsylvania. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Bishop Thomas Celebrates St. Mary Church's Nameday in Chambersburg, PA

After the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy.  Flanking Bishop Thomas, Fr. Ted Pulcini and Dn. Evangelos Prieston.  In the front row: altar servers Herman Makosky, Kosta Sideras, and Nicholas Kauffman; Sbdn. Joseph MerlinaAfter the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy. Flanking Bishop Thomas, Fr. Ted Pulcini and Dn. Evangelos Prieston. In the front row: altar servers Herman Makosky, Kosta Sideras, and Nicholas Kauffman; Sbdn. Joseph MerlinaAs the parishioners of St. Mary Church in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania were concluding their observance of the Dormition Fast in preparation for the Great Feast of the Dormition, their parish nameday, Bishop Thomas arrived in Chambersburg to celebrate with them.

Fr. Ted Pulcini, St. Mary’s pastor, drove His Grace into Chambersburg during the afternoon of Friday, August 12. That evening Bishop Thomas presided over the final Paraklesis service of the fast, leading a group of parishioners in their supplications to the Mother of God.

The next morning, Fr. Ted accompanied Sayyidna to the St. Seraphim Center, a FOCUS-affiliated ministry conducted by the parish to feed the needy in the Chambersburg area. The Center serves lunch to some 35 to 45 guests twice a week (on Thursdays and Saturdays), complementing the lunch schedule of the local Salvation Army. The Center will be observing its second anniversary this fall and is now well recognized as a welcoming community center in the Chambersburg area. Since last fall, the Center has also offered recycled articles of clothing, free of charge, to men, women, and children who need them. Bishop Thomas commended the work of the Center and gave his enthusiastic blessing to its continued efforts.

"Conversations With Our Bishops" Series Debuts on Assembly Website

Antiochian hierarch His Grace Bishop Thomas is among a group of five bishops whose audio interviews have been posted in a special feature on the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America's website. More interviews are planned as the series unfolds over the coming months.

The Assembly site explains that the twelve-member Secretariat of the Assembly, led by His Grace Bishop Basil, initiated these conversations, "a series of audio interviews of the Assembly's fifty-three member hierarchs by Archpriest Josiah Trenham (proïstamenos of St. Andrew Church in Riverside, CA and director of Patristic Nectar Publications) for the purpose of providing a broad swath of perspectives to the Church-at-large on the significance and work of the Assembly."

Along with His Grace Bishop Thomas, the other bishops featured in this first set of MP3 interviews are: Bishop Daniel, Western Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, Bishop Maxim, Western American Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church of North America, Archbishop Nicolae, Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in the Americas, and Bishop Ilia, Albanian Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

Listen to all five conversations here.

Annual St. Thekla Pilgrimage, September 23-25

Please join us at the Antiochian Village from September 23-25, 2011 for the Patronal Feast of St. Thekla Convent. This is the 33rd Annual Pilgrimage at the Village and the 3rd since the founding of the monastery.

As Orthodox Christians, our lives are a type of pilgrimage, so why set time aside to attend the St. Thekla Pilgrimage? The key is in "setting aside." We invite you "to set aside all earthly cares" and to join us in refocusing and refreshing ourselves in our Orthodox life. Like St. Thekla, Protomartyr and Equal to the Apostles, together we will pray at the Divine Liturgy and services, obtain guidance and direction from the Gospels for our lives at home, and enjoy fellowship with other pilgrims.

Through the intercession of Saint Thekla, may this Pilgrimage be blessed!

Speakers and Workshops

The speakers for the weekend are His Grace, Bishop Thomas, who is our guest Hierarch and Mother Alexandra, who will offer a talk on prayer.

There will be four workshop sessions offered concurrently:

Orthodox Family Life

This session will discuss the daily Pilgrimage of Orthodox life in our homes, how faith directs us and how the love of God binds us.

Relive Memories of Camp Through Photos

Are you or your children homesick for the friends, and counselors and clergy from camp? His Grace Bishop Thomas notes that camp photos for viewing are up on the Antiochian Village website now.

Bishop Thomas Celebrates Patronal Feast with St. John the Baptist Parish

His Grace prays over newly tonsured Reader Jude HobbsHis Grace prays over newly tonsured Reader Jude Hobbs

On Friday, June 24, 2011, on the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, Bishop Thomas, the bishop of the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid-Atlantic, made an episcopal visit to the faithful at St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church in Lewistown, Maryland. St. John the Baptist Mission is the only Western Rite church in Maryland, and is one of only four Antiochian Orthodox churches in the United States that has taken the Forerunner of Christ for their name and patron saint. Bishop Thomas’ visitation coincided with the mission’s celebration of their annual patronal feast.

The celebration began with evening Vespers, followed by the tonsuring of Reader Jude (Marty) Hobbs by Bishop Thomas. The fact that Marty keeps a shaved head gave occasion for a bit of levity as Bishop Thomas took up the scissors, looked at Marty’s head, and proclaimed, “We’ll see what we can do here!” A bit of Marty’s goatee was sufficient for the ritual tonsuring, and with the prayers of consecration said by His Grace, the newly tonsured Reader Jude chanted his first epistle reading from Philippians 2 before Bishop Thomas and the people of St. John the Baptist.

Camp Season is Here!

Children enjoying Antiochian Village, 2011Children enjoying Antiochian Village, 2011Now that summer is in full swing, His Grace Bishop Thomas reminds all families that camp season is here! Urges His Grace, "Visitors to Antiochian.org should be linking onto the Camp website in order to see the children of their Diocese enjoying the Antiochian Village Camp."

Go here for regular Camp updates and new photos.

Creative Festivals Winners Announced + June 25, 2011

Message from Donna Starke, Creative Festivals Coordinator:

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

As the coordinator of the Eastern Diocese, I would like to thank you, your Church School Coordinator and your young parishioners for participating in the Festivals. As you know this year’s theme is “Be mindful O Lord of the Priesthood, the Deaconate and every Priestly rank.” I am sure you will be pleased to see some of the artwork they have done and read some poems and essays showing how much of an impact you have on them! Attached you will find the list of winners for the 2011 Creative Festivals.

All students who participated will receive a ribbon, and winners in grades 1 through 12 will receive an icon in July at the Parish Life Conference from His Grace, Bishop Thomas. Please encourage winners from your parish to attend the awards ceremony. It is a lovely way for them to have their talents and efforts recognized.

At this time I ask that you make arrangements with someone in your parish to arrange to pick up all creative festival entries and prizes from the hotel at the close of the awards ceremony on Saturday, July 2.

If you have any questions, please contact me by email at or on my home phone.

Thank you again for your ongoing support.

In Christ,

Donna Starke

Creative Festivals Coordinator

Donna_starke@comcast.net or (609)426-0429

Bishop Thomas Visits St. Nicholas Church + Beckley, WV

His Grace chats with the St. Nicholas communityHis Grace chats with the St. Nicholas communityWith great joy the congregation of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Beckley, West Virginia and its priest, Fr. Samuel Haddad, were pleased to receive His Grace Bishop Thomas for a visit to the parish on the weekend of the Fourth Sunday of Pascha, May 13–15, 2011.

The busy weekend schedule got underway Friday evening when Sayidna met with the parish council. Members had the opportunity to tell His Grace about progress that St. Nicholas has made during the previous year, including the installation of a beautiful Christ Pantocrator icon written by iconographer Matthew Garrett, new carpeting for the church, and continued growth of the congregation. Parish council members also discussed the ongoing work of various parish organizations, including the Women of the Holy Myrrh Bearers. The women’s group operates a soup kitchen called Carpenter’s Corner on the first Monday of each month, offers financial support to the local crisis pregnancy center, helps gather food for a nearby food pantry, and undertakes many other charitable endeavors, seeking whenever possible to provide assistance to those in need. In addition, the Myrrh Bearers contribute substantially to the Parish Building Fund and support all these efforts through organizing and leading the parish’s annual baklava baking project.

An Orthodox University: Higher Education for Orthodox Christians

by the Right Reverend Bishop Thomas (Joseph), Ed.D.

If we were to survey the Orthodox Christian private grammar schools that currently exist in our country, we would discover that they exist for one of two reasons. The first, and probably the more common, is that parents want a place for their children that is safe from the evil influences found in the secular schools that will also give to them an adequate academic education. Such schools do not particularly exist as Orthodox schools for the sake of Orthodoxy, but rather as safe havens, sheltering students reassuringly under the preferred religious branding.

By contrast, the other kind of Orthodox Christian school that exists in our country is dedicated to immersion in the Kingdom of God. Their purpose is not to provide a shelter from the world that happens to give a decent education, but rather it is to use education sacramentally to unite students mystically with Jesus Christ. Indeed, far from providing a shelter, we may think of such places as a barracks or as a training camp, raising up soldiers for Christ’s mystical army. Such schools have one purpose: the salvation of students and of the world. For them, education can become a mystery of the Church.

The Pascha Homily of St. John Chrysostom

If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast.
If any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord.
If any have labored long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense.

 

If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward.
If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast.
If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; because he shall in no wise be deprived therefore.
If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing.
If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first; he gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the first hour.

Paschal Greetings from Bishop Thomas

GREAT AND HOLY PASCHA 2011

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!

We are again drawn to contemplate and stand in awe at the holy Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the God-man and our Savior. This year, I pray that we will not mark Pascha as a mere remembrance on the calendar, a happy annual festival that is anticipated and enjoyed but whose power does not provoke us to a radical change in ourselves, a challenge toward holiness and perfection in the Holy Trinity. Indeed, I think many times we enjoy these delightful feasts but have so “institutionalized” them within ourselves that we do not actually let them touch us.

Fundamentally, Christ’s Resurrection is a cataclysmic event. It marks not merely the beginning of a religious movement, but truly the utter reversal of history, the moment that death itself was turned back, when the ultimate catastrophe befell the powers of darkness and bright hope came again into the world. When the God-man died, as St. Basil tells us, “the Author of life could not be held by corruption.” And so He rose again! And so we can be saved from death and from all corruption.

May we ourselves be not simply emotionally moved or cheered by this Gospel; may we never be the same! If even time and history could not stand to remain as they were, how can we ever be content with a mere recollection of past events? Let us once again shout out in victory to the Conqueror of death, casting aside all of our earthly entanglements and entering with Him into that glory that will never fade.

Yours in Christ,

Bishop Thomas Visits St. Patrick’s Mission + Warrenton, VA

On March 19, 2011, His Grace Bishop Thomas visited the congregation of St. Patrick’s Western Rite Orthodox Mission in Warrenton, Virginia. Since the establishment of the mission, Sayidna Thomas has been a great encouragement, always offering his time, guidance, and love. He is a true shepherd and spiritual father of the community. After greeting and giving his blessing to a group of smiling children, Bishop Thomas prayed alongside Fr. Patrick Cardine during Solemn Vespers. In the midst of worship he spoke with ardent love about our Most Holy Mother’s betrothed husband, St. Joseph. As though recounting the life of a dear and close relative, Sayidna told the story of St. Joseph’s deep faith, humility, and trust in God. His words could not have painted more clearly the reality that our Holy Church is truly one large family. Indeed, “we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses”! 

2013 Eastern Dioceses Fellowship of St. John the Divine Scholarship

The Fellowship of St. John the Divine in the Eastern Dioceses of Charleston and New York is offering college tuition scholarships for Antiochian students. Watch for the updated 2013 application form, coming soon! If you have any questions, call scholarship administrator Maria Abdalah at: 412-916-4772, or email her at laxg25@aol.com.

The completed form will be due June 1, 2013.

One (1) scholarship (each) of $1,500.00 and $1,000.00 will be awarded, along with four (4) scholarships of $500.00 each. The awards will be presented at the Annual Eastern Dioceses Parish Life Conference.

All scholarships are made possible by endowments created by concerned individuals from the parishes of our Eastern Dioceses and fund-raising programs held by the Fellowship of St. John the Divine.

We wish you all God’s blessings and look forward to submitting your application to the evaluation committee. 

Bishop Thomas Celebrates Sunday of Orthodoxy in Johnstown, PA

His Grace Bishop Thomas celebrated the Sunday of Orthodoxy at St. Mary Church in Johnstown, Pennsylvania on March 13, 2011. In addition to Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning, His Grace also celebrated the Pan-Orthodox Vespers service. At the close of Vespers, a memorial service was held for the recently reposed Metropolitan Nicholas of the Carpatho-Russian Church.

FOCUS North America, Polamalus Join Together to Celebrate New Pittsburgh Center

Click here to view many more photos from the event

PITTSBURGH, PA (Jan. 25, 2011)—Speaking to over 450 people at the Jan. 25 FOCUS Pittsburgh fundraising dinner, Theodora Polamalu challenged those present to put their hope and desire to help those in need into action.

Theodora and her Super Bowl-bound Pittsburgh Steelers husband, Troy Polamalu, are committed to caring for those in need. Theodora, FOCUS North America Advisory Board Member, said during her address to the crowd, “to treat every person as an icon of Christ is the foremost principle of FOCUS, the heart of its mission.”

Seeing that mission realized is what brought such a large crowd to the event, which was hosted by Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church’s Philoptochos Chapter and sponsored by the Pittsburgh Clergy Brotherhood. Through tickets sales, auction items, sponsorships and general donations, the event raised nearly $65,000 to further the good work of serving those in need.

Bishop Thomas Visits St. Andrew the Apostle

His Grace, Bishop Thomas made his annual visit to the mission of Saint Andrew the Apostle in Lewes, DE the weekend of November 21st.

On Saturday a group of parishioners along with our Pastor, Father Boniface Black, accompanied Sayidna to the property where, God willing, our Church will be built. With appropriate prayer, a cross was planted on the land.

The Feast of the Entry of the Theotokos was celebrated with Vespers, Matins and Hierarchical Divine Liturgy. Subdeacon Adrian Budica, a son of Saint Andrew and recent Masters Degree graduate of Saint Vladimir's Seminary was ordained Deacon. Archpriest Thomas Zain, Dean of the Saint Nicholas Cathedral in New York joined us for the weekend.  

Christmas at St. George Cathedral

December was filled with tidings of great joy at St. George Cathedral in Charleston, West Virginia.  We welcomed home for the holidays His Grace, Bishop Thomas, who served the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy for the Feast of the Nativity and was in attendance for several of our holiday presentations.

On December 5th, after Divine Liturgy, our teen group served their annual pancake breakfast with all the toppings.  On December 6th, 8th, and 10th, the Antiochian Women/Ladies Guild, St. Ignatius, and the Young Adults held their Christmas Dinners and end of year meetings.

HARK!  The voices of angels were heard on Sunday, December 12th, and fourteen members of our Junior Choir performed solos and duets of traditional Christmas carols for the congregation, after Divine Liturgy.  Under the direction of our choir director, Lexie Damous, and accompanied by Michael Barnhouse, this was truly a gift of the season.

Nativity Greetings from Bishop Thomas

Beloved in Christ,

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

As we turn our thoughts once more to the birth into this world of the God-man Jesus, let us consider what God has given us to witness. While His conception at the Annunciation to the Virgin was in secret, His birth reveals Him openly. And what is revealed?

It is that our God, the Maker of all things, eternal, invisible, untouchable and incomprehensible to mortal man has now become one of us, a member of the human race. He retains His eternality while stepping into time. He remains the invisible God while becoming visible. He is beyond touching yet is now touchable. And though His essence as God is forever incomprehensible to us, in His incarnation as man, He has become truly knowable.

The King's Jubilee Ministers to the Homeless of Philadelphia

Cranford Joseph Coulter and Fred Benjamin of The King's JubileeCranford Joseph Coulter and Fred Benjamin of The King's JubileeSince 1989, The King’s Jubilee ministry has been serving the poor and homeless people of Philadelphia. In addition, Jubilee workers have also been able to encourage and mentor others who have followed their model and developed programs in their own communities.

At the heart of this effort is Cranford Joseph Coulter and the community of St. Philip Antiochian Orthodox Church, shepherded by Fr. Noah Bushelli. Explains Coulter, “Our vehicle leaves St. Philip’s parking lot every Thursday (and some Tuesdays) at 7 pm full of sandwiches, fruit, clothing, toiletries and goodies to share. Some parishioners ride together and more meet us downtown where we serve on the street. Three times, we have received grants from Food for Hungry People and the local members of the Order of St. Ignatius helped us buy a van.”

St. George of Orlando Parish Feeds Hundreds During Weekly Outreach

St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church of Orlando, Florida was founded in 1968. During the V. Rev. Fr. John Hamatie's thirty-seven year tenure the parish purchased and remodeled their church building, and also bought the office building and parking lot behind the Church. The parish has been a presence downtown since 1974, when the community established the annual tradition of Diving for the Cross in Lake Eola Park. Then in 1976 the parish celebrated their first liturgy in the church downtown, on the Fourth of July.

In 2009 in conjunction with the Ephraim Project, Fr. John began to put St. George's parking lot to good use during the week, when he established a weekly feeding for those he calls "our homeless brothers and sisters." Volunteers arrive earlier in the day to prepare food for between 150 and 200 people every Friday; meals are served in the outdoors in the same place that parishioners park on Sundays. "The Blessings deriving to us for over the last year of feeding 200 homeless men, women and children every Friday behind the Church is perhaps one of our greatest spiritual 'highs.' To be actually fulfilling a command of the Lord to love those closest in proximity is a wonderful thing."

Bishop Thomas Visits St. Raphael of Brooklyn Mission

On October 30-31, 2010, the congregation of St. Raphael of Brooklyn Orthodox Church, located in Chantilly, Virginia, and its priest, Fr. Thomas Palke, gratefully received His Grace Bishop Thomas.  Bishop Thomas' visit was his first to the mission since the mission's move to Chantilly from nearby Centreville, Virginia, where we had met for four years.  Sayedna Thomas presided at Great Vespers on October 30, during which he offered words of instruction, admonition, and encouragement to the congregation.  Afterward, the congregation enjoyed dinner and a mini-concert from violinist Michael Munayer, a member of St. Raphael's.  Over dessert, Sayedna spoke briefly and opened the floor for questions from the faithful.  Among other topics, he discussed with the faithful the prospect of administrative unity among the Orthodox churches in America.  Joining the mission for the evening's events were Fr. John Anderson, attached priest of St. Raphael, Fr. Patrick Cardine of St. Patrick's Orthodox Church in Warrenton, VA, Fr. Nicholas Aflord of St. Gregory the Great Orthodox Church in Washington, D.C., and Deacon Peter Maris of Holy Cross Orthodox Church of Linthicum, Maryland.