Bishop's Visit Crowns Another Fruitful Year at St. Philip Church + Souderton, PA
Fr. Noah Bushelli of St. Philip Church in Souderton, Pennsylvania writes:
It is always a blessing to be Orthodox and to be laboring in God's Vineyard, but this blessing is highlighted with an archpastoral visit. Bishop Thomas's stirring sermons, practical wisdom and common touch inspire us to bear greater fruit to God's glory. We are laboring day and night to building up our parishioners in ministry and also to build up our parish through outreach efforts. Glory to God! Here are some of our efforts:
- We recently hosted our first "International Food Festival", with the primary objective of "raising the profile" of our parish in the community. Thanks to God and the good planning and diligence of many parishioners, 1000 people came and enjoyed various ethnic food. This helped us support a local philanthropic organization. We had about 250 who enjoyed and were engaged in tours of our icon-rich sanctuary. God willing, some of them will come back as inquirers! The festival also occasioned an excellent and prominent article in a local paper, besides other publicity. Of course, the "word of mouth" advertising was the most effective. I am grateful that we could host an event that even timid would-be evangelists would feel comfortable inviting their family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues to church!
- Our Outreach Ministry team has begun a very successful rotating monthly drive for non-food items (e.g. March: dental care, April: hair care, etc...) that are not covered by "food stamps". This has been very well supported within the parish and has lead to very positive press and impressions in the community and the media. This idea came from our daughter parish, Holy Ascension, West Chester, PA - which, by God's grace, is thriving in their new building.
- We have a sisterhood of young woman, ["Antiochian Women" in training] the Handmaidens, as we call them, who are growing in service to God. They care for the candles outside of the altar during. They get together on a monthly basis to bake Prosphora. Also, they're putting together recordings of basic hymns for Sunday School use. Likewise, during Holy Week they decorate and participate in the processions. We are on the look out for more appropriate jobs for them to do to glorify God and grow in service to God.
- St. Justin's Academy, a homeschool cooperative sponsored by the parish, is perking along keeping the homeschooling families of the parish together by monthly outreach and/or educational activities.
- Our teens had an excellent service trip into Appalachia under the auspices of FOCUS North America. The 32 people that participated all had experiences that enhanced their faith. They hope to go again next year!
- We had strong participation in the Parish Life Conference with two third place Bible Bowl Teams and a Junior Division Oratorical Winner!
- 12 young parishioners attended Antiochian Village for the 1st Session of Summer Camp and Father Noah was blessed to, again, serve as that session's volunteer priest, not a vacation, but certainly very refreshing!
- One of our teens, an alumnus of AV and, God willing, future counselor, gave a Chanting Workshop for parishioners and choir members who wanted to learn more about and practice Byzantine Chant. Glory to God, this young man, did an excellent job and is also growing as choir director!
- One Saturday a month, following Great Vespers, we have a Fellowship meal together. In the summer, these are informal Barbeque potlucks. The rest of the year, there will be an spiritual-theme paired with the indoor potluck dinner: watching and discussing a movie, learning about healthy fasting, etc...
- We are enhancing our website (www.st-philip.net) to be a more comprehensive resource for parishioners and visitors and inquirers.
- In the last year, we have several new families, and a modest crop of catechumens and inquirers.
- In addition to the regular complement of Lord's Day and Festal services, we celebrate an akathist service (on a monthly rotation) each Wednesday night as well as appropriate seasonal and special services.
- I am teaching a Bible Study on the two epistles of St. Peter.
- We undertook some needed large maintenance projects and are looking to paint the ceiling of the nave to complete its iconography and replace some worn carpet.- All of this is on top of the many, many ministries.... that make parish life not only possible but a way-station on the road to Heaven! It is exhausting, but we are all glad to be spent in Lord, have mercy!
I am convinced that God has given me the one of the best parishes because I am the most inept of priests! Thanks to God for His mercy and all the saints, especially the Virgin Mary, the Apostle Philip, and the Prophet Noah, for their intercessory support. It certainly would not be possible without the vision of Metropolitan PHILIP and the wisdom, guidance, prayers, patience, and love of Bishop THOMAS. Also, I have a marvellous "pastoral team" with Fr. Boniface Black, beloved and inestimable Pastoral Emiritus, Fr. James Thayer, newly retired from Wyoming and very energetic and helpful, and Deacon Herman Acker, my faithful and patient right hand. This is all supported by a dedicated, generous, wise, and godly Parish Council, an excellent Administrative Assistant, marvellous Sunday School Team, Choir and Director, altar boys and Subdeacons, Antiochian Women, Stewardship Team, Finance Team, Greeters, Church Cleaners, and all the other ministries. Really, there are too many people to honor for the labors for God.
Presenting all of these blessing to our Bishop Thomas fills me with the great joy of God's love that we experience in the baptismal service: Great art Thou, O Lord, and marvelous are Thy works and there is no word which is sufficient to hymn Thy wonders!
Grateful for God’s Overwhelming Grace, I remain,
Yours in Christ,
+ Fr. Noah Bushelli