With great joy the congregation of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church  in Beckley, WV and its priest, Fr. Samuel Haddad, were pleased to receive His Grace Bishop Thomas for a visit to the Parish on the weekend of the Third Sunday of Pascha, April 27 – 29, 2012. The congregation had especially awaited this visit with eager anticipation, as it was to mark the elevation of Fr. Samuel to the dignity of Archpriest.
The busy weekend schedule got underway Friday evening when Sayidna met with the Parish Council. Members had the opportunity to tell His Grace about progress that St. Nicholas has made during the previous year, especially focusing on the congregation’s growth in numbers. Bishop Thomas encouraged the parish council and congregation to continue in their efforts. He also took some time to explain the ongoing efforts of FOCUS (the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve). FOCUS works throughout North America as an expression of Christ’s love, serving the hungry, thirsty, naked, stranger, sick and imprisoned.
On Saturday His Grace met for lunch with the Women of the Holy Myrrh Bearers. Members of the Parish women’s group enjoyed a wonderful time of inspiration and fellowship with Sayidna. The women reviewed their own activities over the past year, and then listened eagerly as Bishop Thomas shared his thoughts concerning the ongoing crisis in Syria and how it is impacting the Orthodox Christians there. Sayidna also gave an update on the Archdiocese’s new Bishops, highlighting the many ways they are now serving in their new capacity.
Saturday evening the Parish faithful gathered with Sayidna for the service of Great Vespers. And then Sunday saw the highlight of the weekend: the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, followed by the elevation of Father Samuel to the dignity of Archpriest. Also present for this special occasion were Abbot Seraphim and Father Aaron, from the Hermitage of the Holy Cross Monastery in Wayne, WV. Immediately following the elevation, Bishop Thomas invited Kh. Loretta to come forward, at which time he thanked her for all of her hard work in the Parish and said prayers of blessing for her 30-year marriage with Fr. Samuel.
The weekend’s activities were concluded downstairs in the Parish Hall with a special luncheon honoring His Grace Bishop Thomas and the newly elevated Archpriest Samuel. Approximately 100 parishioners and guests enjoyed the delightful meal, taking time to visit with Sayidna and offer their best wishes to Fr. Samuel and Kh. Loretta. It was indeed a warm and joyous ending to a wonderful weekend.