The evening of August 12th, 2010 will go down in history as another leap forward in the journey towards Orthodox unity in North America. Over a hundred clergy and lay people from seven Orthodox Churches in the greater Oklahoma City area came together to pray the Paraklesis service to the Mother of God, which was chanted by the teens of St. Elijah Church, followed by a Town Hall Meeting to discuss the future of Orthodoxy unity in America. This was the first such Town Hall Meeting to take place since the historic Episcopal Assembly.
The first part of the Town Hall Meeting was dedicated to watching the video of His Grace, Bishop BASIL’s address at the 2010 DOWAMA Parish Life Conference, hosted by St. Elijah, Oklahoma City. His Grace, who was elected at the Episcopal Assembly as Secretary, explained to all of the clergy and laity some of the progress that the fifty-five Hierarchs who met had accomplished, and the next steps in preparing North America to be united administratively.
Fr. Aidan Wilcoxson of St. John the Forerunner Antiochian Orthodox Church of Cedar Park, TX, was interviewed recently by the Austin Statesman newspaper. The occasion was the publication of his reflection on Orthodox parish life, Aidan's Song: A Year in the Life of a Parish Priest, available from Conciliar Press.
What gave you the idea to write this book?
While there are a lot of spiritual memoirs being written these days, most of them are by people who are either dissatisfied with their particular spiritual tradition and on their way out the door, or they are sampling a number of different spiritual traditions to try and find out what’s right for them, or they are just maintaining an ironic distance from any and all spiritual traditions. I thought that a memoir written by someone who has fully embraced a particular tradition and is finding joy in it would be unique.
A selection of more than 30 recorded homilies by V. Rev. Fr. Jon Braun have been made available on the website Prudence True. Fr. Braun is Pastor Emeritus of St. Anthony the Great Antiochian Orthodox Church of La Jolla, CA. He also serves as dean of the Southern California Deanery of the Diocese of Los Angeles and the West.
Click here for Fr. Braun's homilies. We particularly recommend the sermon, "Today's Meaning of Antioch," which highlights the Church of Antioch's roots as a mission-minded, multicultural Church born from persecution.
Fr. Athanasius Dresdow writes from St. Barnabas Mission in Columbus, OH:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!
We want to extend our most sincere thanks to all of you for your generous support of our mission through the Mission Endowment Fund. The $18,000 that we received over a period of several years has helped us to be able to get our own building which, God willing, we will eventually be able to purchase. We would also like to thank the many churches and individuals who have donated liturgical items for our use. We greatly appreciate your generosity and thank God for the blessing that you all are to us. May the Lord bless and keep you all in His loving care, and may He grant you all many years!
By early 1989, an Episcopalian priest named Father Bill Olnhausen and about twenty of his parishioners had discovered the wonders of Orthodoxy. They left their former church and, guided by Fr. Peter Gillquist, began preparations for a new Orthodox mission in the northern suburbs of Milwaukee. In September 1989, when His Grace Bishop Antoun came to chrismate us and ordain Father Bill, he looked at our little group and whispered to Father Peter, “Is this all?” But we were quickly joined by about fifteen “cradle” Orthodox, and so our Orthodox Mission began.
For five years we rented space: first at a women’s club which was sold giving us only three weeks notice to move out, then since nothing else was available, in a dingy basement in a former schoolhouse out in the country. We had to set up and take down everything each weekend; even drinking water had to be carried in. Our first thought was that we must get out of here quickly; we’ll never grow here. But we did grow. One of our members said, “This basement is more ‘church’ to me than anywhere I’ve ever attended.” During those five years, all of us learned what the Church really is - the people, not the building.
In December 1994 we purchased a spacious old former Lutheran church building in downtown Cedarburg. Saint Nicholas of Myra had been intimately involved in our founding, and as it turned out our first services in the new building were on Saint Nicholas Day. Then, to our delight, His Eminence Metropolitan Philip named us Saint Nicholas Church.
Your prayers are requested for the repose of the soul of Archpriest Matthew MacKay, 54, proistamenos of St. Joseph Church in Houston, TX, Dean of East Texas and member of the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America Council of Presbyters, who fell asleep in Christ yesterday morning, July 26th. Fr. Matthew is survived by his wife Khouriya Lynn and their sons Patrick and Sean.
It was with great shock and with sadness that I heard of the passing of Fr. Matthew. Fr. Matthew and I have been good friends since he was assigned to St. Joseph’s. For a good period of time, he heard my confession. He shared the altar with me at St. Joseph’s for many Fridays during Great Lent as we celebrated the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts. We renewed this practice during this past Great Lenten period when I visited Houston and once again celebrated the Presanctified Liturgy with him on Friday morning.
Fr. Matthew was a priest who loved the holy Orthodox Church with his whole body and his whole soul. He celebrated the divine services diligently and with great joy. He loved God, and he loved the parishioners God gave him to minister to. I can remember many times when we visited together he talked about the concern that he had for the salvation of the parishioners of St. Joseph.
He was a man of great courage. He was not afraid to speak the truth, even if it meant that he would personally suffer because of it. The most important thing to him was that he did what God wanted him to do. In my humble opinion, he ministered faithfully and diligently, always seeking to do God’s will.
Susie Sobchak, St. George Orthodox Church Church School Director in Houston, Texas, reports on their successful VBS program:
St. George Orthodox Church in Houston, has been working with Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral to plan Vacation Bible School for the last ten years at least and possibly even longer than that. My first year helping out was when my daughters were four years old and they're fourteen now. Irene Cassis, their religious education director had worked with Gigi Baba, our then youth director (now Kh. Gigi Shadid) in the earlier years. I helped with the preschool grades early on.
About seven years ago, Irene and I started working together as co-directors. It has become a tradition between our two churches. This is a collaborative effort each summer. We take turns hosting between the churches. One year Annunciation picks up all the costs and hosts the program at their facility and the next year St. George hosts it at our church and pays for all the expenses. We pool our volunteers and invite all the Orthodox churches in our greater Houston area to assist and to participate. We even have our children invite their non-Orthodox friends to join us for the week and I'm happy to say we have some 'neighborhood' non-Orthodox that return each summer to attend and even move into leadership roles.
On the 31st year anniversary of the establishment of St. John Chrysostom Antiochian Orthodox Church in Fort Wayne, IN, we were blessed to have Bishop MARK of Toledo with us to open the doors of our new church. This new church was the fulfillment of a commitment that the families of St. John Chrysostom Church made in 1979, when Sub-deacon (now Archimandrite) Michael Evans was sent to help coordinate the people into a Mission of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America.
Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the efforts of Sdn. Michael, Fr. Joseph Rahall (then pastor of St. George – Indianapolis), and several founding families, the parish of St. John Chrysostom was opened in a small building purchased from a local Presbyterian church. From the beginning, this building was referred to as our “temporary church." Our parishioners, with their own hands, tore down walls and repaired others; they replaced flooring, and duct work and electrical lines, but the building continued to fall short of the needs of the parish.
Fr. Thomas Begley offers this account of the community of St. Mary Church in Iron Mountain, MI.
Recently, I traveled to Iron Mountain, Michigan for the deanery meeting with the clergy. Our Father in Christ, Bishop MARK, was there as well. His Grace has been with us for at least one of the two deanery meetings we have each year. Having the bishop present was an honor. His wisdom helped guide our discussions giving support to our clergy and our churches. What stood out, however, was His Grace and the clergy came for an additional purpose, which was to bless the soccer field the church built for the community.
St. Mary’s is a small parish in the western part of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is an economically depressed area with city and county budgets stressed to the limit. Their priest, Fr. Mark Hagan, saw their parish losing members and unknown in the community. His answer to their dire situation was to reach out in Christ’s love to their community. Fr. Mark looked for a serious need that his church could help address in their community.
Fr. Mark discovered that there were 2,500 kids in and around Iron Mountain who were signed up for soccer. However, there were not enough soccer fields. The fields they used were in poor condition. Some of the kids played on a field given by a local company that had to have toxic gas vented out from beneath the field. Other fields were filled with rocks and had little or no grass. The church’s solution was to give property owned by the church to be leased by the soccer foundation for one dollar!
In the picturesque artist enclave of Taos, New Mexico, dedicated Orthodox Christians have been laboring to begin a new community that will be the foundation for a mission parish. Author and illustrator Claire Brandenburg has been working through the approval process in order to secure a rented Chapel space. Services will begin when the town allows for the Special Use designation and everything is in place. A mature parent community, Holy Trinity of Santa Fe with Fr. John Bethancourt, has offered their support as well, and the fledgling chapel is hoping to become the second Antiochian parish in the state. Antiochian.org recently interviewed Claire Brandenburg.
1. Tell us about how this effort got started.
We are a small group of three with one inquirer, all with big hopes of fishing for like-minded persons in this community. Our bookstore will offer lots of bait...good reading, gift items, cards, coffee and tea. Several of us live at a distance from Taos, as there are many outlying communities in the County, of which Taos is the hub. The group is mature in years and have felt that the need for a Church in Taos has become more pressing.
2. How are your plans shaping up, and have you been able to hold services yet?
I am planting a sign this morning in front of our "business" indicating that a process establishing "Special Use" for a Chapel has begun. Our first meeting with the Town of Taos begins on July 7th. It is followed by another meeting in August. If we are approved at those meetings we will then need to make changes in the building for ADA compliance. These changes are relatively simple, though checkbook stretchers. We anticipate that our services will start in mid-August or possibly at the beginning of the Orthodox New Year in September.