Diocese of Charleston News
On April 17-18, 2010, Bishop THOMAS made his annual pastoral visit to Holy Spirit Church in Huntington, West Virginia. Sayidna THOMAS was consecrated bishop of the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland and the Mid-Atlantic in 2004, and this was his first visit to Huntington that did not involve discussions of building planning and construction.
In 1999, our parish made the decision to sell our church building, which had been our home since the early 1970’s, and move to a new location. Being a community of fewer than 100 members, it was a huge challenge. The existing property, however, was in need of significant renovations and concern was raised over the decline of the surrounding residential neighborhood. The church property was placed on the market for sale and a committee was established to raise funds and search for a suitable location. In a surprising move, a buyer was found for the current church building before a new location could be agreed upon. In the spring of 2000, the parish voted to accept a purchase offer and moved into temporary quarters that were graciously provided by Fifth Avenue Baptist Church. The parish utilized this chapel for the next three years.
In 2001, in order to encourage the parish to move ahead with planning and free up additional funds for construction, parishioner Richard Dixon was ordained to the Holy Priesthood, taking the name of John. He would continue his secular employment until the parish could once again afford a full-time priest. On August 1 of that year, he was assigned as pastor of Holy Spirit. That same month, parish Deacon Mark Hagan was ordained to the priesthood and assigned as pastor of St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church of Iron Mountain, Michigan.
Beloved in Christ,
Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
It is with great joy that I greet you this year in celebration of the Holy Resurrection of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ!
Christ has broken down the gates of Hades by freely submitting to a death which could not contain Him. We rejoice, for death has been swallowed up by His glorious death and third-day resurrection.
Today, Life springs from the tomb, the door to the Kingdom of Heaven is opened, and the Light of Christ that illumines all shines forth brilliantly!
Jesus Christ is our Life. He is our Resurrection. He is our Pascha.
We rejoice, because this is God's gift to us.
May you enjoy a blessed Paschal season this year.
Yours in Christ,
Rt. Rev. Bishop THOMAS
Bishop of Charleston/Oakland and Assistant to the Metropolitan
On March 9, 2010, His Grace Bishop THOMAS visited St. Paraskevi Monastery in Washington, Texas for the feast day of the Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebaste. It was His Grace's first visit to the Monastery. Fr. Joseph Huneycutt, who serves at St. George Church in Houston, Texas, accompanied His Grace.
For more pictures, please visit Fr. Joseph Huneycutt's blog.
In the afternoon of Sunday, Feb. 21, 2010, His Grace, Bishop THOMAS, celebrated the Sunday of Orthodoxy service with His Grace, Bishop TIKHON of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania (OCA) at the Church of St. Nicholas (OCA) in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Numerous area clergy and laity celebrated this service together, including a proclamation of the common faith of the Orthodox Church, as well as the traditional anathemas which Orthodoxy levels against dangerous, heretical doctrines. Five different SCOBA jurisdictions were represented among the clergy, including (besides the two bishops) eighteen priests and five deacons.
Sayidna THOMAS presented a homily before the service in which he stressed that Orthodox Christians are icons of Christ, that each of us is an ambassador of the Kingdom of God in this world, no matter our circumstances. After the liturgical service, the clergy and faithful heard a short presentation on the work of the Lehigh Valley Orthodox Clergy Brotherhood which sponsored the event and then together shared a Lenten meal.
The Mission of St. Andrew the Apostle, Lewes, Delaware was blessed by a visit from His Grace Bishop THOMAS the weekend of December 5th–6th.
At Vespers Saturday evening Sayidna encouraged us to continue to reach out to our community with the message of Orthodoxy. We had several visitors with us at Vespers and for refreshments following.
Sayidna celebrated the first Hierarchical Divine Liturgy for St. Andrew Sunday morning with a full Church (the Grange Hall) and beautiful choir. Subdeacon Joseph Kavchok of St. Philip, Souderton, Pennsylvania and Subdeacon Jason Flowers of Holy Ascension, Frazer, Pennsylvania assisted. Our seminarian from Saint Vladimir's, Adrian Budica, was elevated to Subdeacon. Our parishioner Jack Berberian became a Reader. Refreshments for all followed at noon at the home of parishioners. After the mealtime, the youth gave an enthusiastic presentation on the life of St. Nicholas for all attending.
On Sunday, December 6, 2009, St. Nicholas Day celebrations at St. John Chrysostom Church in York, Pennsylvania were featured in the York Daily Record. The article highlights the local tradition of the parish's children commemorating the feast day through charitable giving:
...at a local church, children swapped roles with the beloved saint Sunday, presenting him with gifts instead -- gifts that will ultimately be distributed to needy families by Access-York and the Victim Assistance Center.
"I can see you've been teaching the children to love others by giving to the poor," St. Nicholas told the Rev. Peter Pier, pastor of St. John Chrysostom Orthodox Church in Springettsbury Township...
A member of St. John Chrysostom church suggested the idea of children giving gifts to St. Nicholas years ago.
"It is definitely a good message to the children because they so often hear Christmas is about getting, getting getting," said parishioner Mike Buleza.
The Holy Ascension Orthodox Mission in Frazer, Pennsylvania was blessed to have Bishop THOMAS present with us for his annual visit on the weekend of November 14-15Th, 2009.
The Sisterhood of St. Thekla sponsored a dinner for His Grace following Vespers, and we celebrated a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy on Sunday. During the sermon, Bishop THOMAS commanded the founding of Holy Ascension Parochial School, The Academy of St. Raphael, which will serve as a spiritual education foundation for our parish. His Grace motivated our parish to begin building our permanent home and he spoke candidly about families making sacrifices to help raise money toward this goal.
November 24, 2009
Beloved in Christ,
God bless you.
As I promised you a couple of days ago, we are forwarding you information on the Orthodox approach to issues that have been recently addressed in the Manhattan Declaration. Below I offer a few comments on subjects relevant to that document:
Bergenfield, NJ, December 6, 2009 – The Spirit of Orthodoxy Choir, under the direction of Maestro Aleksei V. Shipovalnikov, will present A Star Shines in the East: Eastern Orthodox Lessons and Carols for the Christmas Season on Sunday, December 6, 2009 at 4:30PM at Saint Anthony Orthodox Church, 385 Ivy Lane, Bergenfield, NJ. The multi-media performance will include scripture readings, traditional American and Slavic Carols and choral gems from the various Orthodox Christian traditions. Works by various Slavic masters, including Bortniansky, Allemanov, Kastalsky and Degtiarev will also be featured accompanied by breathtaking seasonal images from the Holy Land and other Christian sites. A reception to meet the artists will follow. Tickets are $12.00 for adults and $8.00 for children and Senior Citizens.
The Spirit of Orthodoxy Choir was formed in 1997 as a missionary and educational group and draws its members from choir directors and singers from Orthodox parishes of various jurisdictions in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. The Choir’s music witnesses to the range of the liturgical life of the Orthodox Church and is representative of the major stylistic periods of Russian Church music. In its 12-year existence the choir has established a reputation, both within and outside the Orthodox Church community, for outstanding interpretation of Orthodox liturgical music in the English language, as well as Church Slavonic and other languages. As is the tradition of the Orthodox Church, all music is unaccompanied by instruments.
“Today is born of the Virgin Him Who holdest all creation in the hollow of His hand. He Whose essence is untouchable is wrapped in swaddling clothes as a babe. The God Who from of old established the heavens lieth in a manger. He Who showered the people with manna in the wilderness feedeth on milk from the breasts. And the bridegroom of the Church calleth the Magi. And the Son of the Virgin accepteth gifts from them. We worship Thy Nativity, O Christ.“
On behalf of myself and the entire Diocese of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid-Atlantic, we wish you a blessed Nativity Fast and a glorious Feast of the Holy Nativity of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ.
His grace, Bishop THOMAS, visited St. John Chrysostom Church in York, PA on the occasion of their patronal weekend, November 6-8, 2009. Sayidna had dinner with the clergy, parish council members and their spouses on Friday evening. On Saturday afternoon he met with Teen SOYO for an “Ask Sayidna” session. Bishop THOMAS presided at Great Vespers with Litia and Artoclesia and was the honored guest at a banquet attended by the congregation. On Sunday, Divine Liturgy was celebrated and a parishioner was inducted into the Order of St. Ignatius. The children of the parish sang a Troparion for Sayidna and a reception followed in the social hall.
The Parish of St. Philip was blessed recently to welcome Bishop THOMAS on our patronal feastday, November 14th. Fr. Joseph Butts and Fr. Andrew Damick concelebrated with me and Dn. Herman for the Matins and Divine Liturgy. At the end of the Liturgy, Bishop THOMAS gave to our humble parish a relic of St. Raphael of Brooklyn. By God's mercy the rain was stayed and we processed around the church with the relics. Bishop THOMAS encouraged us strongly in our daily evangelistic work, to be disciples of St. Philip and invite people to church by saying, "Come and See." Fr. Andrew spoke briefly about St. Raphael's life and continuing presence with us after his death. The parish is commissioning an icon of St. Raphael in which to have the relics embedded. We are moving forward with mission work and feel very blessed to have the protection and physical presence of St. Raphael, the Good Shepherd of the Lost Sheep in America.
During the weekend of October 24-25, His Grace Bishop THOMAS made a pastoral visit to St. Mary Church in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. After arriving in town, His Grace met with the pastor, Fr. Theodore Pulcini, as well as Deacon Evangelos Prieston and Subdeacon Joseph Merlina. Fr. Ted presented Sayyidna with a copy of the St. Mary’s “Five-Year Plan,” which outlines the congregation’s aspirations and intended course of action for the future.
Preparations were then made for Vespers, which was celebrated that evening with some fifty parishioners in attendance who sang the service congregationally. Afterwards, the Parish Council hosted Sayyidna for dinner at the Copper Kettle Restaurant in Chambersburg, during which he responded to a number of questions, especially regarding the growth of parishes in our Diocese. Bishop THOMAS noted that when he first came to the Diocese, he had no Western-rite parishes under his omophorion; now there are three, with a number of other groups expressing interest in embracing Orthodoxy.
Fr. Noah Bushelli, of St. Philip Church in Souderton, PA, writes:
Recently, 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.
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.
“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
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.
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
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.”
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 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.
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.