“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16)
St. Mary’s Church was founded in Iron Mountain, Michigan in the mid 1930’s by immigrants of many nationalities. It is a jewel of the north, in what the Archdiocese could call “America’s Midwest Alaska.” It was visited by St. Raphael himself on regular occasions. It has deep snowy winters, scenic wilderness, unlimited wildlife and short picturesque summers. Our church serves people of all backgrounds and nationalities in a 48,000-square-mile area. Michigan's Upper Peninsula contains almost one-third of the state's land area, but just three percent of its total population. Parishioners travel as far as 100 miles on any given Sunday (even in deep snow) to attend Liturgy.
The Mission of St. Andrew the Apostle, Lewes, Delaware was blessed by a visit from His Grace Bishop THOMAS the weekend of December 5th–6th.
At Vespers Saturday evening Sayidna encouraged us to continue to reach out to our community with the message of Orthodoxy. We had several visitors with us at Vespers and for refreshments following.
Sayidna celebrated the first Hierarchical Divine Liturgy for St. Andrew Sunday morning with a full Church (the Grange Hall) and beautiful choir. Subdeacon Joseph Kavchok of St. Philip, Souderton, Pennsylvania and Subdeacon Jason Flowers of Holy Ascension, Frazer, Pennsylvania assisted. Our seminarian from Saint Vladimir's, Adrian Budica, was elevated to Subdeacon. Our parishioner Jack Berberian became a Reader. Refreshments for all followed at noon at the home of parishioners. After the mealtime, the youth gave an enthusiastic presentation on the life of St. Nicholas for all attending.
On Sunday, December 6, 2009, St. Nicholas Day celebrations at St. John Chrysostom Church in York, Pennsylvania were featured in the York Daily Record. The article highlights the local tradition of the parish's children commemorating the feast day through charitable giving:
...at a local church, children swapped roles with the beloved saint Sunday, presenting him with gifts instead -- gifts that will ultimately be distributed to needy families by Access-York and the Victim Assistance Center.
"I can see you've been teaching the children to love others by giving to the poor," St. Nicholas told the Rev. Peter Pier, pastor of St. John Chrysostom Orthodox Church in Springettsbury Township...
A member of St. John Chrysostom church suggested the idea of children giving gifts to St. Nicholas years ago.
"It is definitely a good message to the children because they so often hear Christmas is about getting, getting getting," said parishioner Mike Buleza.
After much anticipation, Fr. Daniel Bethancourt and the faithful of St. Nicholas Church in Shreveport, Louisiana, were blessed and honored to have His Grace Bishop BASIL consecrate their Holy Table on Sunday, September 27, 2009. The parish also welcomed other distinguished guests from near and far, including Archimandrite Daniel Keller, the local dean, as well as Fr. John Morris, former pastor at St. Nicholas, along with his wife Kh. Cheryl. Fr. John Bethancourt and his wife, Kh. Photina came from Holy Trinity in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Also attending was Kh. Michelle Burke from St. Anthony’s in Spring, Texas, who, along with her husband Fr. Stephen Burke, made the generous donation of the holy table in memory of Kh. Michelle’s parents. The community of St. Nicholas is deeply grateful to them for that gift.
On Saturday evening, before the service of Great Vespers, the relics of the Holy Hieromartyr, St. Blaise, were processed into the church by His Grace. At the end of the Great Vespers service, everyone was able to walk behind the iconostasis to see the holy table as it was before the consecration. This was the one and only time most of those present would enter the altar area, and the last opportunity to see the table in its uncovered and pre-consecrated state. We were able to see the cavity in the table where Bishop BASIL would place the relics of St. Blaise as well as a list of all the founders and members of the church. It was humbling and awesome for those present to think of their names remaining inside the holy altar until the day of our Lord’s return!
The Parish of St. Philip was blessed recently to welcome Bishop THOMAS on our patronal feastday, November 14th. Fr. Joseph Butts and Fr. Andrew Damick concelebrated with me and Dn. Herman for the Matins and Divine Liturgy. At the end of the Liturgy, Bishop THOMAS gave to our humble parish a relic of St. Raphael of Brooklyn. By God's mercy the rain was stayed and we processed around the church with the relics. Bishop THOMAS encouraged us strongly in our daily evangelistic work, to be disciples of St. Philip and invite people to church by saying, "Come and See." Fr. Andrew spoke briefly about St. Raphael's life and continuing presence with us after his death. The parish is commissioning an icon of St. Raphael in which to have the relics embedded. We are moving forward with mission work and feel very blessed to have the protection and physical presence of St. Raphael, the Good Shepherd of the Lost Sheep in America.
The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Mission of Midland and Odessa was featured in a recent edition of the Odessa American newspaper:
The new church gives Odessa a taste of the Middle East.
Since October 2008, the group of church members has met for a full communion service once or twice a month with traveling priest the Very Rev. Michael Keiser, who lives in Florida. The other weeks, a Bible study and smaller prayer and singing services are scheduled, including the practice of traditional Byzantine chants...
One man’s spiritual journey ends with a congregation’s conversion
Lewistown is now home to Maryland’s first Western Rite Orthodox church
by Ron Cassie of The Frederick News-Post
It was a moment Hamrick’s congregation in Lewistown has been waiting for since early spring. On April 10, his small flock at the former Charismatic Episcopal Lamb of God Church converted en masse to the Antiochian Orthodox faith, which includes both Western Rite and Eastern Orthodox churches.
At Hamrick’s urging, the 40-member congregation, which worships in a church built in 1883 by Methodists, was officially accepted as an Orthodox mission in March. After preparation, members went through the sacramental rite of chrismation into the Antiochian Orthodox faith. Further highlighting their transformation, the congregation adopted a new name: St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church.
This weekend, Hamrick will lead an Orthodox Sunday Mass for the first time at the church, marking the final step for the 45-year-old priest and his congregation as Maryland’s first Western Rite Orthodox church.
“For the people who have endured a rather long and difficult journey, this doesn’t mark the end, but a fresh new beginning,” Hamrick said. “We’re excited about what God is doing — about being pioneers and evangelists, about bringing Holy Orthodoxy which is the faith of the Apostles and the ancient Church to the people of Frederick County living in the 21st century.”
On Sunday, August 23, 2009, Bishop THOMAS (Joseph) ordained James K. Hamrick to the Holy Priesthood in the Orthodox Church, Antiochian Christian Archdiocese. The ordination ceremony was conducted during the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy at Saint Basil the Great Orthodox Church in Poquoson, Virginia (near Newport News). The host priest and pastor of the church, Father Gregory MacGregor, was one of Hamrick’s three priest sponsors. Father MacGregor had introduced Hamrick to Holy Orthodoxy three years earlier during a family vacation to Williamsburg, VA. At that time Hamrick was a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church and had just planted a new mission in Lewistown, Maryland named Lamb of God Church—all of this after having previously served as a United Methodist pastor for six years in the Harpers Ferry, WV area.
Hamrick’s other two priest sponsors for his ordination were present and included Father Patrick Cardine, pastor of St. Patrick Orthodox Church in Warrenton, VA; and Father Nicholas Alford, pastor of St. Gregory the Great Orthodox Church in Washington, DC, both of whom were also the catechists for Hamrick’s congregation when they made a decision to become Orthodox last year.
St. Mary's Patronal Feast was a joyous weekend. His Grace Bishop THOMAS arrived on August 14, 2009 for the celebration of a Vesperal Divine Liturgy. On the following morning, His Grace blessed the beginning of the festival which drew in faithful and neighbors from Johnstown and beyond for food, fellowship and Church tours throughout the day, ending with Vespers. On Sunday morning, His Grace celebrated a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy followed by a presentation of awards to children who participated in the Creative Arts and Oratorical Festivals and brunch with a question and answer session.