Susie Sobchak, St. George Orthodox Church Church School Director in Houston, Texas, reports on their successful VBS program:
St. George Orthodox Church in Houston, has been working with Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral to plan Vacation Bible School for the last ten years at least and possibly even longer than that. My first year helping out was when my daughters were four years old and they're fourteen now. Irene Cassis, their religious education director had worked with Gigi Baba, our then youth director (now Kh. Gigi Shadid) in the earlier years. I helped with the preschool grades early on.
About seven years ago, Irene and I started working together as co-directors. It has become a tradition between our two churches. This is a collaborative effort each summer. We take turns hosting between the churches. One year Annunciation picks up all the costs and hosts the program at their facility and the next year St. George hosts it at our church and pays for all the expenses. We pool our volunteers and invite all the Orthodox churches in our greater Houston area to assist and to participate. We even have our children invite their non-Orthodox friends to join us for the week and I'm happy to say we have some 'neighborhood' non-Orthodox that return each summer to attend and even move into leadership roles.
This special video was recorded in Oklahoma City, June 17, 2010, at the Parish Life Conference of the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America. In this 45 minute address, His Grace Bishop Basil explains for the gathered faithful the historic importance of the May meeting of American canonical bishops from all the Orthodox jurisdictions in New York City, and the path forward for all the Orthodox Christians of this land.
K. James Kallail, Coordinator of The Hauran Connection, writes, "His Grace Bishop BASIL has designated Sunday, July 25, as St. Timon Sunday. For the third year, we offer our prayers as one community to St. Timon, patron of the Archdiocese of Bosra-Hauran, so that he may intercede with Christ our God on behalf of the clergy and people of our sister diocese. We ask that each parish remember Metropolitan Saba, his priests, their families, and all the faithful of the Archdiocese on this day (His Eminence, Metropolitan SABA, Fr. Paul, Fr. Peter, Fr. George, Fr. Peter, Fr. Philip, Fr. George, Fr. Samaan, Fr. Elia, Fr. Timon, Fr. Isaac, Archimandrite Seraphim, and Subdeacon Majd). We also ask that you take this opportunity to raise funds for our sister diocese. Some will hold special fund raisers. Some will take special collections. Some will sell St. Timon icons. Ideas can be found here. On the web site, you also will find many resources to inform your parish about our sister diocese. You can print materials for bulletins, handouts, Sunday School, etc... I encourage you to use these resources to educate and inform your parishioners. For example, you may want to use His Grace's letter about the program to get historical information about the Archdiocese. Certainly, these efforts should not only be once a year, however, a special effort is asked for St. Timon Sunday. I am happy to answer questions or take your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. ALL FUNDS MUST BE SENT TO THE FOLLOWING ADDRESS:
K. James Kallail
502 Creekside Ct
Derby, KS 67037
In Christ, K. James Kallail - Coordinator, The Hauran Connection - DOWAMA Fellowship of St. John the Divine"
In the picturesque artist enclave of Taos, New Mexico, dedicated Orthodox Christians have been laboring to begin a new community that will be the foundation for a mission parish. Author and illustrator Claire Brandenburg has been working through the approval process in order to secure a rented Chapel space. Services will begin when the town allows for the Special Use designation and everything is in place. A mature parent community, Holy Trinity of Santa Fe with Fr. John Bethancourt, has offered their support as well, and the fledgling chapel is hoping to become the second Antiochian parish in the state. Antiochian.org recently interviewed Claire Brandenburg.
1. Tell us about how this effort got started.
We are a small group of three with one inquirer, all with big hopes of fishing for like-minded persons in this community. Our bookstore will offer lots of bait...good reading, gift items, cards, coffee and tea. Several of us live at a distance from Taos, as there are many outlying communities in the County, of which Taos is the hub. The group is mature in years and have felt that the need for a Church in Taos has become more pressing.
2. How are your plans shaping up, and have you been able to hold services yet?
I am planting a sign this morning in front of our "business" indicating that a process establishing "Special Use" for a Chapel has begun. Our first meeting with the Town of Taos begins on July 7th. It is followed by another meeting in August. If we are approved at those meetings we will then need to make changes in the building for ADA compliance. These changes are relatively simple, though checkbook stretchers. We anticipate that our services will start in mid-August or possibly at the beginning of the Orthodox New Year in September.
AXIOS! Deacon Ignatius Warren, a DOWAMA vocation and son of St George Cathedral/Wichita, KS who will graduate from St Vladimir's Seminary in Crestwood, NY in 2011, will be ordained to the holy priesthood this Sunday, June 27th at St George Cathedral in Wichita, KS. He and his wife Shamassy Misha Christina may be contacted at email@example.com.
The Diocese of Miami, the Diocese of Wichita, and the Diocese of Worcester all launched the season for Parish Life Conferences over the long weekend of June 16-20. St. George of Jacksonville, Florida, hosted the southern conference with the keynote speaker The V. Rev. Fr. Paul Tarazi featured at the Saturday evening banquet. In the meantime, in Oklahoma City, the faithful of DOWAMA met for their "family reunion" at the Marriott; significantly, the Diocese host parish of St. Elijah was celebrating its 90th Anniversary as a community. In a young ladies' sweep, Nora Haddad won the junior division and Melissa LIkiardopoulos won the senior division in the Oratorical Festival. Back east, St. George Cathedral in Worcester hosted a busy schedule at the Sturbridge Host Hotel in the historic city of Sturbridge, Massachusetts, in honor of the two new mission parishes that had joined the Diocese in the previous year, Emmanuel Church of Warren, MA and St. Stephen Church of Springfield, MA. See the Archdiocese calendar for information on other parish life conferences coming this summer.
Christ the Savior Mission in Jacksonville, Texas, has suffered heavy damage due to the recent rains and flooding in the nation's central regions. Reports His Grace, Bishop BASIL in his newsletter, "During the recent heavy rains here in the Heartland several of our church temples sustained various levels of flooding and water damage, but none has been damaged as severely as the Church of Christ the Saviour/Jacksonville, TX where our brother Fr. Finbar Thibodeaux is proistamenos."
Adds Fr. Finbar, "It seems than when the building next to ours was undergoing repair of its roof and renovation of its upper storeys, much of the construction debris - as well as the personal trash produced by the workers (soda bottles, cans, plastic bags, candy wrappers, newspapers, etc.) - was simply tossed on to the lower, flat roof of our church building. During the recent storms all of that debris and trash completely clogged the downspouts, gutters and drains of our building resulting in the pooling of a massive amount of water on the roof of Christ the Saviour Church. As was to be expected, the weight of the water finally proved to be too much for the structure; the water began not only to seep into our building but literally pour in, eventually causing ceilings to collapse and severe interior flooding coming from above....We continue to try to facilitate the drying of the building by running the AC units, fans and dehumidifiers. The humidity in the building remains extremely high and we continue to see more and more damage to the building. My vestments were taking on the stench of the building so I moved them to my home. The pew missals and hymnals are warping due the humidity."
Father or Kh. Linda may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recently, Bishop Basil spoke with AFR correspondent Matthew Namee about the historic assembly of bishops which took place in the week following Pentecost. His Grace was elected Secretary of the Assembly. Below are excerpts from the interview, which can be found here in full:
"The bishops delighted in being together and doing the work of the Church."
"The ultimate task was to prepare the Orthodox (Church) of this region...to constitute itself as a canonical, single Church.…It is a huge task, one that a vast majority of Orthodox Christians in America have been praying for, hoping for, talking about, for a long, long time."
"It’s as if the Mother Churches have said to us, ‘Look, you have been asking for this. Before we give it to you, we would like to know, what is your plan?’"
"We were blessed by the work of SCOBA….the work of the Episcopal Assembly was made quite easy by the 50 years of preparation."
"The Episcopal Assembly is comprised of every Orthodox bishop, not just the primates. We had 55 in attendance, (in New York) where the maximum of SCOBA members would have been 8."
Ancient Faith Radio has also posted an extensive interview with Fr. Mark Arey, General Secretary of SCOBA, titled Unraveling the Episcopal Assembly. Additionally, Antiochian.org has compiled a summary of online Assembly articles.
Fr. Paul Hodge, Antiochian pastor of St. Thomas Orthodox Church in Sioux City, Iowa, recently republished a fascinating account of the life and times of Fr. Nicola Yanney, the first Antiochian priest to serve in mid-America. Born in 1873 as the son of Elias Yanney in Fi’eh al-Koura, north Lebanon, Fr. Nicola and his young bride Martha George al-Baik of Qilhat, immigrated to America shortly after their wedding, where they led the life of homesteaders in a sod house. Sadly, after happy years spent farming in the Kearney area, Martha and the Yanneys' second daughter Catherine, reposed in 1902. Following this loss, St. Raphael of Brooklyn ordained the widower to the priesthood, as Bishop BASIL recounted in his own Enthronement remarks on December 15, 2004: "Father Nicola’s parish stretched from the Canadian border in the north, to the Mexican border in the south, and from the Mississippi River in the east, to the Rocky Mountains in the west. It is Fr. Nicola who, as a circuit riding priest headquartered in Kearney, followed the example of his Father-in-Christ, St. Raphael, and visited Orthodox Christians in the scattered towns, villages and isolated farm lands throughout America’s Heartland."
Read the full account here.
At the Episcopal Assembly recently concluded in New York City on Friday, May 28, His Grace Bishop BASIL was elected Secretary of the Assembly. Reports His Grace, "I was nominated by Archbishop DEMETRIOS of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (Chair of the Episcopal Assembly), and Metropolitan PHILIP (First Vice-Chair of the Episcopal Assembly) seconded my nomination. I was then elected by acclamation by the 53 other bishops present at the Episcopal Assembly. I will head the Secretariat of the Episcopal Assembly which will be headquartered in the center of America's Heartland -- Wichita, Kansas."
By decision of the Assembly, all organizations and joint action projects such as International Orthodox Christian Charities which operate under SCOBA, will function now under the auspices of the Episcopal Assembly. Newly formed committees will meet at regular intervals to discuss issues of common interest to all Orthodox Christians.