Over the weekend of October 19-21, 2012, His Grace Bishop Thomas, visited Holy Ascension Church in West Chester, Pennsylvania. His stay began with prayers at Daily Vespers on Friday evening, followed by a fine Mediterranean dinner at a local restaurant with our parish council. There, the parish council invited His Grace to come back next Spring for a proposed “ground-breaking” prayer service and ceremony to kick off our expansion project. That project includes growing our existing place of worship, in addition to adding more classes for Sunday School, a new kitchen, and a modest size parish hall. His Grace blessed the idea and has scheduled to visit our parish March 23-25, 2013. He also challenged the parish to plan for a Pan-Orthodox Vespers service to be held at one of our local Orthodox parishes for that Sunday evening, which happens to be the Sunday we commemorate the Triumph of Orthodoxy, and is the Vespers service for the Great Feast of Annunciation. Excitement is growing over this idea as our parish desires to come more fully to know our Orthodox clergy, brothers and sisters of our surrounding parishes.
On Oct. 12-14th, 2012, the Basilica of St. Mary in Livonia, Michigan celebrated a historic weekend commemorating 40 years of dedicated ministry and service to the greater southeastern Michigan area. The theme for this Ruby Jubilee celebration was “Dare to Dream.” The weekend was filled with moments of joy, reflection, and fellowship, as the community remembered the milestones that had been reached throughout the church’s history. However, it was also a time dedicated to the anticipation of what the future holds for the parish, as we heard from the youth, regarding their hopes and dreams for what lies ahead for this blessed community. Presiding over the event was His Eminence Metropolitan Philip (Saliba), Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of All North America, as well as His Grace Bishop Anthony (Michaels), Bishop of Toledo and the Midwest.
On the weekend of October 14, 2012, Sayidna Thomas visited St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Sayidna arrived on Friday afternoon and that evening had dinner with the Parish Council and their families. Suanne Moses, the President of the Council, welcomed Sayidna and hoped that he would have a good visit at St. Mary’s. During the meal they spoke about the life in the parish and about the economic growth in the area which is connected mostly to the service industry. Sayidna noted that there were several new hotels in the area and stated that they would provide an opportunity for interested Antiochian Orthodox to find work in this area. He particularly noted how in Pennsylvania the price for housing is relatively inexpensive compared to other metropolitan areas. He hoped that this would be attractive to people looking for a less expensive life in a beautiful geographic area who could become viable members of our Orthodox parish.
In 1987, in the beautiful Pennsylvania borough of Emmaus in the Lehigh Valley, the third largest metropolitan area in Pennsylvania, the mission church of St. Paul was officially founded as a mission of the Antiochian Archdiocese with the blessing of the parish constitution by His Eminence, Metropolitan Philip. Over the past twenty-five years, the parish was led by its founding pastor, the V. Rev. John Kahle of blessed memory (1987-1999), the V. Rev. Theodore J. Mikovich (1999-2009), and the current pastor, the Rev. Andrew Stephen Damick (2009-present).
During its time in the Lehigh Valley, St. Paul Church has been a haven for English-language Orthodox Christian spiritual life and is known both locally and beyond for its love and hospitality to visitors of every background. On the weekend of Oct. 5-7, 2012, St. Paul’s celebrated twenty-five years of this witness, including a full two days of liturgical services (Great Vespers, Matins and Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, two days in a row), celebrating not only the regular Sunday services but also on Saturday the feast of the Apostle Thomas, the nameday of His Grace Bishop Thomas, who presided over the weekend celebrations. The anniversary weekend also included a brief and challenging retreat led by the V. Rev. Dr. Alexander Atty, Dean of St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary.
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:
On Saturday, September 15, 2012, the community of St. George Antiochian Church of Montreal, Quebec, hosted a celebration of 50 years of holy priesthood for their pastor, Economos Antony Gabriel. His Eminence Metropolitan Philip presided over an entire weekend of festivities which culminated in the banquet held at Le Westin in Montreal on Saturday evening.
The weekend began with His Eminence Metropolitan Philip’s arrival to the Montreal airport on Friday, September 14, 2012. Joining His Eminence were His Grace Bishop Antoun, His Grace Bishop Nicholas, and Archdeacon Hans Elhayek. His Grace Bishop Alexander and the priests of Montreal and Ottawa greeted the bishops upon their arrival in a special VIP room at the airport. After we sat, relaxed and enjoyed good conversation with our beloved bishops, the hierarchs were taken to the Westin Hotel via limousine, where they would stay while in Montreal.
St. Athanasius Orthodox Church in Santa Barbara, California, is hosting their second annual Liturgical Arts Festival on Friday, October 19, and Saturday, October 20, 2012.
The Presenters Scott Cairns—Poet, Author, 2006 Guggenheim Fellow, and Professor; and the Rev. Fr. Andrew Cuneo—C.S. Lewis Scholar (D.Phil, Oxford University), and Professor of English Literature at St. Katherine College, will speak both Friday and Saturday.
The parish will also host an icon exhibit and tours of the church, and both evenings will end with a reception and book-signing offered by the featured speakers.
The festival is produced with the blessing of His Eminence, Archbishop Joseph of the Diocese of Los Angeles and the West.
On June 23, 2012, His Grace Bishop Thomas was solemnly received at Vespers by Fr. Alban Waggener and the members of Holy Trinity Western Rite Orthodox Mission in Lynchburg, VA. We were doubly blessed to have Fr. Olaf Scott, the Dean of the Virginias, and Kh. Eva in attendance. The Scotts' daughter Lisa and family are members of Holy Trinity. After Vespers, His Grace spoke to the congregation about supporting their priest and encouraged them to seek out ways to be of assistance within the mission. His Grace then joined the mission council for dinner at the Waggener home, where he discussed many topics, including the present situation in Syria.
On Saturday August 18, eight Orthodox clergy, future residents and their families, and friends of the Sheltering Tree gathered in an open lot in Bellevue, Nebraska--despite the threat of rain--to pray with His Grace, Bishop Basil of The Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America, as he blessed the building site for The Sheltering Tree I, a communal residence for developmentally disabled persons.
The Sheltering Tree I is the result of much faith and prayer and hard work. This first Sheltering Tree will be a home for 10 developmentally disabled persons who will enjoy independence in their own distinct apartments, surrounding common areas for community life. Live-in managers will provide support for the residents. The two-acre site was secured with funding via a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant, The Topeka Federal Home Loan Bank, and many personal offerings--totaling over $2 million.
God’s presence was evident at the blessing when the rainy clouds dispersed and warm rays of sunshine accompanied His Grace’s arrival at the site.
On the weekend prior to the commemoration of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist (August 29, 2012), His Grace Bishop Thomas made an episcopal visit to the faithful at St. John the Baptist Church in Lewistown, Maryland. His Grace presided at Vespers on Saturday, August 25th and at Matins and Divine Liturgy on Sunday, August 26th. The visit marked the fourth time that Sayedna Thomas had visited the mission since it was established by His Eminence Metropolitan Philip on March 20, 2009. St. John the Baptist Mission, located about 65 miles from Baltimore and Washington, is the only Western Rite Antiochian Orthodox church in Maryland.
During the weekend celebrations, Bishop Thomas shared with the people how the commemoration had personal significance for him since he had served his first Divine Liturgy as a newly ordained priest on the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist. His Grace proclaimed that the patron of the mission was not one who was politically-correct, but was rather one who was bold in the faith—who had “guts” and was willing to stand for the truth — and who, like the Theotokos, was willing to say “yes” to God, no matter the cost. Bishop Thomas encouraged the people of St. John the Baptist to follow the example of their patron, the Forerunner of Christ.