Bishop Thomas Visits Holy Ascension Church + West Chester, PA
Over the weekend of October 19-21, 2012, His Grace Bishop Thomas, visited Holy Ascension Church in West Chester, Pennsylvania. His stay began with prayers at Daily Vespers on Friday evening, followed by a fine Mediterranean dinner at a local restaurant with our parish council. There, the parish council invited His Grace to come back next Spring for a proposed “ground-breaking” prayer service and ceremony to kick off our expansion project. That project includes growing our existing place of worship, in addition to adding more classes for Sunday School, a new kitchen, and a modest size parish hall. His Grace blessed the idea and has scheduled to visit our parish March 23-25, 2013. He also challenged the parish to plan for a Pan-Orthodox Vespers service to be held at one of our local Orthodox parishes for that Sunday evening, which happens to be the Sunday we commemorate the Triumph of Orthodoxy, and is the Vespers service for the Great Feast of Annunciation. Excitement is growing over this idea as our parish desires to come more fully to know our Orthodox clergy, brothers and sisters of our surrounding parishes.
On Saturday morning, which was a Soul Saturday, His Grace presided for an Akathist for the Departed. A good number of our parishioners supplied a list of their departed loved ones to be remembered by name during the Akathist. Afterward, Bishop Thomas visited with several parishioners over coffee and donuts. He returned that evening for Great Vespers, and after an encouraging homily, he met with our Teen SOYO for a Q & A session. His Grace quizzed our teens on their recent studies in Sunday School, and ended the evening with pizza.
The following morning, Orthros was chanted by our choir and His Grace served the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy. During his homily, Bishop Thomas pointed out the necessity of Holy Ascension's outreach to the local community. This outreach begins with a change in our hearts, which is cultivated through prayers at the divine services. Our parish is the only church of any confession in the entire township. This provides a unique opportunity for us not only to invite members from our local community, but also to become involved in community events as representing the church in the township. Following the divine services, His Grace was treated to a very fine potluck luncheon offered by our women and arranged by our women's group, the Sisterhood of St. Thekla. Bishop Thomas took time to speak with all of our children in the presence of the rest of the parish. Children were able to ask questions and answer some of Sayedna's questions, which provided a very memorable event in the life of our parish.
We are very grateful for his great love and support of our people as our father in Christ. God grant many years to Sayedna Thomas!