Interviews from Antiochian.org
"Icons: Windows to Heaven"
Getting To Know the Iconographers
Cheryl Ann Pituch and Niko Chocheli will be presenting workshops at Antiochian Village for the event, “Icons: Windows to Heaven,” November 4–7, 2010. Vasiliki Oldziey, Christian Education Coordinator for the Diocese of Wichita and the Midwest, interviewed them this summer. The Department of Christian Education sponsors the annual Orthodox Institute, and the theme of this year’s event is iconography. The Institute will include several courses on iconography and provide participants an opportunity to learn how to write icons (“Utilizing Crafts”). Teacher-training courses and the Church School Director Seminar are also scheduled for the Institute. Amateur or professional iconographers are encouraged to bring an icon for our “Festival of Orthodoxy” display. If you love icons, don’t miss this opportunity! For more information or a brochure, please e-mail the department at email@example.com, or visit our website.
Cheryl Ann Pituch
Cheryl Ann has been married for thirty-eight years to Eugene Pituch and is the mother of four children and the grandmother of two. She currently resides in Davidsville, Pennsylvania, a small town in the Laurel Mountains, 92 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. Her icons are featured in the current Icon Calendar from Conciliar Press.
1. Icons were not part of your early life. Tell us how icons have changed your life.
I grew up in the Presbyterian Church and was taught that any statues or “pictures” were never to be kissed or prayed before in any way. I struggled to understand icons, in order to embrace the faith. I have been an Orthodox Christian for 32 years and have been painting for about 26 years. Now, I can’t imagine life without icons. The most dramatic change in my life with icons is prayer. Icons open constant opportunities to pray. They have changed my life just by being visible and witnessing (in their silence) their love for God, and stirring my heart to do more.
Some of the busiest people in Antiochian parishes currently, are teachers and church school directors preparing to kick off the 2010/2011 Sunday School year. Supporting all of this activity is the Department of Christian Education, headed by experienced educator Carole Buleza. Antiochian.org was able to catch up with Carole and find out about how her department is making a difference in the lives of teachers and children in parishes all across the country. Last summer in a groundbreaking presentation at the Clergy Symposium at Antiochian Village, Carole outlined "a new way thinking about Orthodox catechesis."
1. Can you articulate for us your philosophy of Orthodox Christian Education, as it has developed over your years of experience?
My philosophy of successful Orthodox Christian Education developed first of all from my childhood. I was raised in a home where Sunday was for church and visiting, the holy days meant going to church, and the very special holy days involved special meals. I saw my mother pray the Divine Liturgy when she could not make it to church, and my dad read the Bible.
Recently, the editors at Antiochian.org interviewed His Grace Bishop THOMAS of the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid-Atlantic. This will be the first of a series of interviews with our bishops to be published in the coming months. (Read His Grace's biography here. Bishop THOMAS also selects a weekly reflection, collected under Notes from Bishop THOMAS.)
1. Your Grace, you attended the recent Episcopal Assembly in New York. Do you have any thoughts for our readers on this historic gathering?
Given the mutual isolation of our various jurisdictions for so many years, I found it especially encouraging that fifty-five bishops of Orthodoxy on this continent were able to come together, speak the same language together, and begin getting about the business of working out a common Church life together. This is what unity actually consists of, that we live together as brothers and sisters in Christ.
The editors of Antiochian.org recently launched a newly improved Liturgical Resources section, accessed on the menu bar of the website's home page. One of the site's most popular destinations, the Resources page now features categories such as "Articles," "Music Resources," and "Podcasts and Audio." An aggregation of the most critical liturgical tools required by chanters, choir directors, deacons and priests, the page is also helpful to laypeople involved in Bible study groups or choir. Browsers can download music, an Akathist, even the Antiochian Archdiocese's well-loved "Little Red Prayer Book."
Recently, Antiochian.org spoke with the Very Rev. Fr. David Barr, respected Antiochian liturgist and Director of the St. Romanos Chanter's Training Program, about the importance of liturgy and music in the life of the Church.
1. Generally speaking, do parish musicians usually need formal training to chant in church? Why/why not? What would you recommend for that musically inclined parishioner who might be interested in chant, but shy?
To chant properly using Byzantine chant, one needs some formal training. Even though a great deal of Byzantine music exists today in western notation, it is important to understand the ethos.
"There is an actual Orthodox Church in Afghanistan. Let me say that again. There is a Church- not just a chapel – here in Afghanistan, which is to our knowledge the only free-standing, permanent Church structure of any kind in the entire country."
Fr. David Alexander, Antiochian Orthodox priest and chaplain described this and other amazing discoveries in his post-Paschal letter to his home parish, St. Anthony's of Bergenfield, New Jersey. "I nearly broke down in tears while reading the sermon of St. John Chrysostom, and again while giving communion to a newly chrismated member of my Battalion for the first time," wrote Fr. David describing his Pascha at Camp Leatherneck.
Recently Antiochian.org interviewed Fr. David, who also reflects on his unique and challenging life in his AFR podcast In the Valley of the Shadow of Death.
1. Can you give us a thumbnail sketch of how you ended up as an Antiochian Orthodox Christian, serving as a chaplain in the middle of the conflict in Afghanistan?
Well, I am a priest of the Antiochian Archdiocese serving on active duty as an officer in the Navy Chaplain Corps. Because the Marine Corps is under the Department of the Navy, they have Navy chaplains, doctors, and combat corpsmen (medics) serving with them all over the world.
Conciliar Press has announced a new release of their most popular book, Becoming Orthodox, by Fr. Peter Gillquist. This edition of the best-seller includes an epilogue, "Coming Up on Twenty-Five Years," and will be featured soon as Conciliar's first audio book, read by the author himself. Additionally, the Press is moving into the world of digital publishing and has released their first Kindle book, Dimitri's Cross, the story of Fr. Dimitri Klepinin, an Orthodox priest serving in Nazi-occupied Paris.
Additionally, the two journals, The Handmaiden and AGAIN, will gain a second life in the new Conciliar reading room currently under construction. The Press also plans to provide online periodicals in the future, as CEO John Maddex explained in a recent interview.
1. Recently Conciliar held its annual editorial board meeting. How does your leadership plan to navigate all the changes taking place in the greater publishing world?
This is both an exciting and challenging time for all publishers including Conciliar Press. Exciting in terms of opportunities to harness new technologies to disseminate the life giving message of the Orthodox Faith.
Growing up in the Antiochian Orthodox Church, Matthew Namee learned to love the faith, and as he grew older and began to research the Church's history in America, he eventually decided to join with other historians to form the Society for Orthodox Christian History in the Americas (SOCHA). Readers of SOCHA's website, OrthodoxHistory.org, will encounter fascinating articles about, and see archived photos of, events of great interest to Antiochian Christians, such as St. Raphael's consecration, and Metropolitan Antony Bashir's ministry in the early to mid-1900's. They will also discover essays, primary sources, links to podcasts, book reviews, and tidbits discovered in the course of research, that all tell the story of the early years of Orthodoxy in America. Namee also now hosts a podcast with Ancient Faith Radio, titled American Orthodox History.
Recently, Antiochian.org chatted with Matthew Namee about SOCHA's historical sleuthing.
1. Tell us about the Society. What is your mission and purpose?
I’ve been doing research on American Orthodox history for a number of years now, and I noticed early on that there were others like me, doing similar research, but without any knowledge of each other.
Recently, the editors at Antiochian.org spoke with Fr. Christopher Metropulos, the Executive Director of the Orthodox Christian Network, about several new initiatives OCN is introducing at the start of Great Lent.
1. OCN is launching a new all talk internet radio station called "The Anchor." Who will be hosting this, what is his/her background, and what kinds of topics will you be addressing? We understand that both the host and the programmer are members of the Antiochian Archdiocese.
Yes, we are launching the Anchor Internet Radio Station. Our new talk stations will have a multitude of programs around this sacred time of the year encouraging and inspiring the faithful on their spiritual journeys. We welcome Konstantin (Kosta) Rysyanin as the new Program Director, and Scott Allen Miller as the host of the station, to our OCN staff. Both are members of the Antiochian Archdiocese.
In a recent virtual conversation, Antiochian.org asked several Antiochian mission priests to talk about their experiences in mission building. Responding are:
- Fr. John Oliver, St. Elizabeth Mission, Murfreesboro, Tennessee
- Fr. Ignatius Valentine, St. Raphael of Brooklyn Mission, Iowa City, Iowa
- Fr. Boniface Black, St. Andrew the Apostle Mission, Lewes, Delaware
- Fr. John Atchison, St. Nicholas Mission, Springdale, Arkansas
- Fr. Gregory Horton, Holy Myrrh-Bearing Women Mission, Bonners Ferry, Idaho
- Fr. Christopher Rigdan-Briscall, Christ the Savior Mission, Waterloo, Ontario.
1. In your experience, what types of outreach have been the most effective in bringing people to the mission so as to grow (i.e. newspaper advertising, website, word-of-mouth, scheduled seminars, radio/TV, etc.)?
Fr. Gregory: By far it has been word of mouth. People who are excited about the Faith and bring other people to the church services and activities are the greatest single evangelical asset available to the parishes today. We have had some limited success in identifying newspaper, yellow pages and website contacts (especially first contacts) with potentially interested persons, but the effectiveness has proven somewhat limited. Newspaper ads, for instance are GREAT when highlighting specific events but lose their punch when repeated for many weeks and months in a row. Websites can be used in a variety of ways and I know this medium to be effective for "general community interest" in the Orthodox Church when people that meet us might be curious as to who we are. But, let me stress again, there is NOTHING that beats personal contact and enthusiasm...word of mouth...that is the gauge for how excited parish members are about their church home.
Recently, Antiochian.org caught up with busy Conciliar Media Ministries CEO John Maddex, to get his perspective on the recent Conciliar warehouse move to the Chicago area.
1. Over the holidays, Conciliar Press moved to a new warehouse location. Tell us first of all, where you are now, and how things are coming along as you resettle your books into a new space.
Maddex: We have relocated to the Chicago area using the services of a professional fulfillment center which serves dozens of publishers. We began filling orders from the new location on January 4 and officially shut down operations in Ben Lomond, CA on January 15. I want to add here that our faithful staff in Ben Lomond worked valiantly with wonderful attitudes to help prepare for the transition all the way to the last day when the truck left for Illinois. They are a wonderful group of people.
2. Can you give us a little background as to why Conciliar decided to relocate?
Maddex: As part of our long term strategy for streamlining and efficiency, it made sense to get out of the fulfillment business and allow a service who does nothing but fulfillment to better serve our customers. This translates into longer hours, savings from the economy of scale on things like packaging materials, picking and packing, large scale relationships with the major shipping companies and a more centralized part of the country to ship to and from.