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.
Fr. Noah Bushelli writes:
October 18th, 2011
Feast of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke, the Beloved Physician
Glory to God!
We are so blessed to be living in Christ as members of His Body, the Holy Orthodox Church. Sometimes we feel this great blessing more fully than others. Thanks to a recent visit by Bishop Thomas Oct 1st - 6th, we are refreshed in the joy, peace, and vitality of serving God in this God-protected Antiochian Archdiocese and reaching out to this beautiful country of ours. We are Grateful for our Fathers-in-Christ, Metropolitan Philip and our Bishop, Thomas, for the loving, intensely mission-minded tone they have set and we are working very hard to bear fruit worthy of their examples. His Grace came for his annual archpastoral and gave us the challenging and joyful message of following Christ robustly and bringing people into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Project Mexico & St. Innocent Orphanage is a pan-Orthodox ministry that operates with the blessing of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops. Our orphanage for teenage boys is based in Rosarito, Mexico and is currently home to thirty-one boys who have histories of abuse and abandonment. During the summers, our homebuilding ministry builds sturdy, weather-proof homes for impoverished Mexican families in the area surrounding our orphanage.
This past summer over 300 volunteers from all over the U.S. and Canada built 14 homes for needy families in our area. Many came to serve the poor, yet received far more in return than that which they gave, calling their trip "life-changing" and "spiritually rejuvenating". We are currently planning our trips for next summer, and we ask that your parish consider participating in a homebuilding trip with our ministry. We can accomodate groups of any size and welcome high schoolers and college students as well as adults.
Almost a year ago now, an opportunity like no other was presented to a small group of people. An e‐mail message sent by the then Parish Council President of St. James the Apostle (in Westminster, MD) was received by its parishioners stating that a change in leadership at St. James was imminent.
What was not exactly clear at that time was how imminent. Within the next 24 hours, that message had become a reality. St. James was without a priest.
Living in our high-tech world, what followed immediately, and what seemed like for days, was a flurry of email activity amongst the parishioners. Some expressing anger, some expressing sadness, others asking, "What do we do next?"
That following Sunday, the church was full of emotion. Our little sanctuary was full with parishioners seeking answers.
The First Annual Bible Lecture Series, featuring Fr. Paul Tarazi (firstname.lastname@example.org), will be hosted at by Fr. Aaron Warwick (email@example.com) and the congregation of St. Mary Orthodox Church in Wichita, Kansas, Friday and Saturday, October 28th and 29th.
Fr. Paul is a renowned author and speaker, and is Professor of Old Testament at St. Vladimir's Seminary in Crestwood, New York.
The topic will be The Epistle of the Holy Apostle Paul to the Ephesians. For details view the lecture series flyer or contact the office at St. Mary Church (firstname.lastname@example.org). The flyer explains, "The epistle functions as a farewell speech similar to the one he gave to the elders at the Ephesus Church before heading towards his death. As both a final testament and universal letter to all the Pauline Churches, Ephesians is rich in content and addresses all major issues related to Paul's mission to the Gentiles."
The Department of Statistics and Credentials reminds parishes that a significant portion of the funding that is required by the Archdiocese comes from the assessments and Special Trays which are paid by each parish to the Archdiocese on an annual basis. The final Special Tray Offering should be conducted on one of the Sundays in October, and is slated to collect financial contributions for the three Orthodox Seminaries who help to prepare future Antiochian priests. We ask that you contribute generously to support these seminaries and their most important role in the training of our future priests. Please note that the third Sunday in October is designated as Special Olympics Awareness Day, and our teens make a collection to support Special Olympics. Therefore the special seminary tray collection should not take place on the third Sunday of October.