On the weekend of December 17-19, 2010, His Grace Bishop Thomas made a pastoral visit to the Basilica of St. Mary in Livonia, Michigan. On Friday evening the Bishop's dear friends, Ken and Kathy Harb, hosted a gathering at their home to officially welcome His Grace to the Detroit area. On Saturday morning, Fr. George Shalhoub hosted a brunch for the area clergy in the St. Mary Cultural Center, and Fr. James King and his family hosted a dinner for the Bishop prior to Great Vespers.
The highlight of the weekend was the Divine Liturgy on Sunday Morning, where Bishop Thomas, on behalf of His Eminence Metropolitan Philip, ordained Fr. James King to the Holy Priesthood. This was the first time in the forty year history of the Basilica that anyone had ever been ordained to the priesthood, and the community came out in full force to witness the event. At the conclusion of the Liturgy, His Grace inducted twelve new members into the Order of St. Ignatius. Following the Liturgy, a special banquet was held in the St. Mary Cultural Center in honor of the newly ordained Fr. James, his wife Audrey, and their children. The banquet was generously attended by the entire Basilica of St. Mary community.
We wish to thank all those who helped to make the weekend such a special occasion for the community, and especially Bishop Thomas for his love, spiritual guidance, and for blessing us with his presence.
With all eyes and hearts focused on Jesus Christ, a pan-Orthodox gathering of clergy and their parish councils came together for a common meal in Oklahoma City, OK. With this being the third annual gathering on February 13, 2011, a solid tradition is being established for Orthodox unity in central Oklahoma.
St. Elijah (Antiochian), St. George (Greek) St. Mary’s (Ukrainian) and Holy Ascension (Antiochian) all had a chance to share what the Lord is doing in their midst. Mr. and Mrs. Kory Warr were our hosts and The Very Rev. Constantine Nasr was our emcee. Father Jeremy Davis, of St. Elijah, shared about a successful seminar that will be implemented annually at St. Elijah called, “Sex as God Intends.” That is a two-day seminar for middle-school and high-school students with presentations made by the clergy, medical personnel and laity. By sharing this, it helped to spark the interest in duplicating that ministry for the other Orthodox congregations.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, February 1-2, 2011, His Grace Bishop Joseph visited the newly-constructed temple of Holy Resurrection Church in Tucson, Arizona. Following the service for the opening of the doors of the temple, His Grace celebrated a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy for the Feast of the Presentation. His Grace remained in Tucson on Wednesday to meet with the faithful and the parish council of Holy Resurrection.
Click here to view more photos of Bishop Joseph's visit and of Holy Resurrection's new church building on the Diocese of Los Angeles web site.
On Saturday, January 15, 2011, the first Divine Liturgy ever was celebrated in the new Holy Annunciation Chapel in Taos, New Mexico. Fr. John Bethancourt celebrated the service, the first ever in the Taos area, with the help from Subdeacon Raphael Nava and members of the choir and congregation of Holy Trinity Church in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Chapel founder Claire Brandenburg and several other local Taoseños also attended the service. Following the Liturgy, Fr. John led a presentation and discussion on the theology of Holy Icons in the attached Heavenly Ladder bookstore and coffee shop. It was a delight to see the further development of the Taos mission project and to assist the vine of the Orthodox Church as it takes further root in northern New Mexico.
Heavenly Ladder Bookstore was featured in a recent edition of The Taos News:
A recent article in the Houston Chronicle discusses Antiochian Orthodox Churches in the Houston area and explores trend of American conversion to Orthodoxy:
Like many of his parishioners, Father Richard Petranek came to the Orthodox church in search of the past.
After 30 years as an Episcopalian priest, Petranek converted to the Antiochian Orthodox Church and leads a new but growing parish in west Houston, filled almost entirely with converts to the ancient faith.
"Most people come for the stability," he said. "The same thing that is taught today in the Orthodox church was taught 500 years ago, was taught 1,000 years ago, was taught 1,500 years ago."
At a time when most mainline Christian churches are losing members, Eastern Orthodox churches — which trace their beliefs to the church described in the New Testament - are growing, both in Houston and across the United States.
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.
The Theophany celebrations of Holy Apostles Mission in Bowling Green, Kentucky were recently featured in the local newspaper, the Bowling Green Daily News:
A centuries-old ceremony was performed in Bowling Green on Thursday as members of the Holy Apostles Orthodox Mission gathered on the banks of the Barren River to participate in the Blessing of the Waters.
“We come here today to celebrate the Blessing of the Waters and in so doing, we join with our brothers and sisters around the world,” said the Rev. Michael Nasser, pastor of Holy Apostles....
“What we’re celebrating is the baptism of Jesus,” Nasser said. “For us, it’s not just an event that happened 2,000 years ago. It still affects us.”....
“This beautiful service reminds us that as Christ was a blessing to the waters of the Jordan and to the whole world, we should also be a blessing to our planet and not a curse, and especially to that part of the world right around us,” Nasser said.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13: 34-35.)
St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church is located in Berkley, MI. We are a small community known for welcoming others. We are a family, and as a family care about each other, and are very supportive of one another. For the past fifteen years St. Mary's has been blessed with the ministry of Father George Baalbaki and his wonderful wife, Khouriye Iman. During their ministry the church has grown and been energized.
Immediately following Bishop Basil's visit in late October, a team of five Russian artists, led by Dmitri Shkolnik, arrived at Holy Trinity Church in Santa Fe, New Mexico to begin work on the temple's iconography. Working all day and into the night six days a week, the team managed to complete the church's dome and apse before returning to their families for the holidays three weeks later.
The choice of icons in the apse was driven by the parish's history and patronal feast. Fr. John Bethancourt has long felt a special guidance from the Mother of God in his efforts to build a mission and grow a parish community over the years. Therefore, the icon of the Mother of God Platytera, "More Spacious than the Heavens," was chosen to preside over the altar space. Above the altar is the icon of Pentecost, Holy Trinity's patronal feast. Towards the ceiling is the icon of the Annunciation, divided by the Holy Trinity at Abrahams table. Together with Pentecost, these icons depict three manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Fr. John also points out that the unusual juxtaposition of the Holy Trinity and Annunciation icons is full of meaning. This icon of the Trinity depicts the visitation of Abraham and Sarah, when the Lord promised to Abraham that he "shall surely become a mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him" (Genesis 18:18). This promise finds its ultimate fulfillment in the Annunciation, through which Jesus Christ comes into the world to save all.
"ALF MABROUK! A THOUSAND BLESSINGS! The central dome was raised today atop the new church temple being built by the congregation of St. Anthony the Great Church in Spring, Texas where Fr. Anthony Baba is proistamenos."