In the last two years St. John the Evangelist Antiochian Orthodox Church in Orinda, CA has engaged in several new forms of outreach to needy people. In each case we have learned that when we respond to God’s love shed abroad in our hearts by Christ (Rom. 5:5), we receive back both anticipated and unanticipated dividends from the Lord Himself… and those we serve!
1. Project Mexico: For two summers in a row teams of adults and kids from our parish have spent a week at St. Innocent Orphanage and built a simple new home for a poor family.
On February 24 and 25, St. Michael Antiochian Orthodox Church in Louisville, Kentucky will host the 2012 Climacus Conference, titled "Byzantium, You Are Not Forgotten." Authors, academics and broadcasters will speak to the enduring legacy of Byzantium and its continuing impact on the Church today.
The conference is billed as "a pan-Orthodox event featuring scholars and voices across the fields of Theology, Philosophy, Patristics, Classical Education, Literature, and History/Politics." The flyer explains, "It is unique in that it provides an opportunity for people to be enriched by thinking well across disciplines. It furthers the life of the mind through scholarly engagement with the classic liberal arts, but achieves such by placing the mind in the noetic heart, where freedom, knowledge, and vision exist, enabling our ascension 'of the ladder'."
On Share the Light Sunday, January 15, 2012, the Orthodox Christian Network is encouraging parishes to announce that in 2012, OCN will be honoring its first ever hero. This person must be nominated by someone other than a family member and must have distinguished him or herself in Christian love and service to others. Any of our listeners around the world will be able to nominate candidates online during the year of 2012. The Board of Directors and staff of OCN will review and select 10 candidates to be put before our international listening audience, who will then choose the winner. The winner will be a special guest on Come Receive the Light and will receive a free cruise.
Recently, the St. Romanos Chorale gave a concert at St. Joseph Orthodox Church in Houston, Texas. Titled "God With Us," the concert was recorded and is now featured on AFR as a Christmas special.
The St. Romanos Chorale takes its name from the Syrian religious poet and hymnographer of the Orthodox Church, St. Romanos, who is considered to be the greatest of the Byzantine melodist-poets. The Chorale is composed of singers from Orthodox Christian churches in the greater Houston area, including many Antiochian Christians. The music is sung a capella in both Byzantine and Slavonic styles, predominantly in English, but also in Greek, Arabic, and Slavonic. The Chorale has presented beautiful Orthodox Christian music to audiences throughout Texas and neighboring states at venues including major colleges and universities.
The pan-Orthodox chorale is directed by Dr. William Attra, who directed the choir of St. George in Houston for many years.
St. John Chrysostom Church in York, Pennsylvania welcomed His Grace Bishop Thomas on the occasion of its annual patronal feast day celebration over the weekend of November 11-13, 2011. Sayidna Thomas began the weekend festivities by attending a dinner with the parish council members and their spouses on Friday evening.
On Saturday morning, His Grace blessed the icons in the dome which were written this past Spring. He was accompanied by the Reverend Fr. Peter Pier, pastor of St. John Chrysostom, and Dn. Jerome Atherholt. Following the blessing, the children learned about the Prophets in the dome from Kh. Pam. Great Vespers was then concelebrated by Fr. Peter, Fr. Joseph Butts and Fr. Theodoros Daoud of St. Mary’s in Hunt Valley, Maryland, with Bishop Thomas presiding. Following Great Vespers, a gala banquet was held at the Golden Stories Restaurant in Columbia, Pennsylvania.
The mission community of St. Andrew the Apostle in Lewes, Delaware welcomed His Grace Bishop Thomas for a most blessed weekend on November 19th and 20th, 2011. Also joining in the very special weekend observances was Fr. Nicholas Alford of the Church of St. Gregory in Washington, D.C., along with the Deacon Raphael Garcia and a number of parishioners from D.C. Also coming for the weekend were Fr. Adrian Budica and Kh. Viktoriia from the St. Nicholas Cathedral in Brooklyn, NY. And also present were Subdeacons Joseph Kavchok from St. Paul, Emmaus, PA; Jason Flowers from the Holy Ascension Mission, West Chester, PA; and Benjamin Daniel of St. Philip, Souderton, PA. A very delicious supper was furnished by the Antiochian Women of St. Andrew following the Vespers Saturday evening.
St. George Church in Altoona, Pennsylvania was delighted to be able to welcome His Grace Bishop Thomas (Joseph) for his annual parish visit over the weekend of December 9-11, 2011. Due to Sayedna’s additional duties as locum tenens for the Diocese of Toledo, the original plans for an October visit had to be postponed. In addition to celebrating the usual cycle of services from Great Vespers to the Divine Liturgy, Sayedna joined the Fr. Stephen Lourie, pastor of the parish, and the Dn. Gregory Roeber and many parish families for an Advent meal hosted by the Ladies’ Society. Sayedna singled out the Society and especially its officers Lydia Kachur and Rebecca Edmiston for praise for the dinner, program for the children, and recognition of the other hard-working women of the parish.
St. Athanasius Church in Goleta, California hosted its first Liturgical Arts Festival on October 21-22, 2011. This year's festival focused on the theology, history, meaning and technical process of writing icons. Visitors from throughout the county and the central California coast attended three different lectures by iconographer and wood carver, Fr. Jerome Sanderson from Nashville, Indiana (and a priest in the OCA Bulgarian Diocese). Guests also viewed the dozens of hand-crafted icons which hang in the sanctuary of St. Athanasius Church, nearly all of them written in the late 1980s by renowned iconographer Jan Isham. In addition, an exhibit of rare and unusual icons on loan from private collectors was presented in the church's fellowship hall. The Central California Guild of Iconographers presented a fascinating and educational display demonstrating each part of the process of writing an icon, from preparing the board to putting on the final protective coating of oil. On Friday, October 21 during the day, groups of local high school students attended separate sessions taught by Fr. Sanderson and Fr. Nicholas Speier, the Senior Pastor of St. Athanasius parish.
“The last one out of Oklahoma, Turn out the lights.” That’s what the T-shirt said. It was 1982. The collapse of the Penn Square Bank in Oklahoma City had set in motion a domino effect. What the whole country would experience with the collapse of the housing loan market in 2009, Oklahoma faced in 1982. Banks failed. Businesses and stores closed. Many lost their jobs.
Times were tough in Oklahoma. Times were tough at St. Elijah Orthodox Church in Oklahoma City. Church attendance had dwindled and along with it—the offering. Discouraged and disheartened—it was easy to complain and be divided.
It was 1982 when Fr. Constantine Nasr arrived with his wife, Sharon, and their young sons, Constantine and Philip. Fresh from their successful years at St. George in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, they found themselves in a raw, young state three months short of its 75th birthday. It was a state hardened by the frontier and toughened by tornadoes, the Dust Bowl years, and the changing price of oil and cattle.
His Grace Bishop Thomas made his annual visit to Holy Ascension Mission in West Chester, Pennsylvania on the weekend of October 7th–9th, 2011. Sayedna Thomas celebrated Great Vespers on Friday evening followed by dinner with the parish council. The dinner featured dialog on the growth of Holy Ascension as well as stories from Bishop Thomas’ experiences as a young priest. On Saturday the day began with a Divine Liturgy commemorating St. Pelagia the Righteous, with the baptism of Paul Meyer, Fr. Daniel’s son, immediately following. His Grace administered the sacrament with the assistance of the Fr. Andrew Damick of St. Paul Church in Emmaus, Pennsylvania. Following the divine services, the Women of St. Thekla Group hosted a light meal in a beautifully decorated hall.