On April 17-18, 2010, Bishop THOMAS made his annual pastoral visit to Holy Spirit Church in Huntington, West Virginia. Sayidna THOMAS was consecrated bishop of the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland and the Mid-Atlantic in 2004, and this was his first visit to Huntington that did not involve discussions of building planning and construction.
In 1999, our parish made the decision to sell our church building, which had been our home since the early 1970’s, and move to a new location. Being a community of fewer than 100 members, it was a huge challenge. The existing property, however, was in need of significant renovations and concern was raised over the decline of the surrounding residential neighborhood. The church property was placed on the market for sale and a committee was established to raise funds and search for a suitable location. In a surprising move, a buyer was found for the current church building before a new location could be agreed upon. In the spring of 2000, the parish voted to accept a purchase offer and moved into temporary quarters that were graciously provided by Fifth Avenue Baptist Church. The parish utilized this chapel for the next three years.
In 2001, in order to encourage the parish to move ahead with planning and free up additional funds for construction, parishioner Richard Dixon was ordained to the Holy Priesthood, taking the name of John. He would continue his secular employment until the parish could once again afford a full-time priest. On August 1 of that year, he was assigned as pastor of Holy Spirit. That same month, parish Deacon Mark Hagan was ordained to the priesthood and assigned as pastor of St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church of Iron Mountain, Michigan.
Beloved in Christ,
Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
It is with great joy that I greet you this year in celebration of the Holy Resurrection of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ!
Christ has broken down the gates of Hades by freely submitting to a death which could not contain Him. We rejoice, for death has been swallowed up by His glorious death and third-day resurrection.
Today, Life springs from the tomb, the door to the Kingdom of Heaven is opened, and the Light of Christ that illumines all shines forth brilliantly!
Jesus Christ is our Life. He is our Resurrection. He is our Pascha.
We rejoice, because this is God's gift to us.
May you enjoy a blessed Paschal season this year.
Yours in Christ,
Rt. Rev. Bishop THOMAS
Bishop of Charleston/Oakland and Assistant to the Metropolitan
On March 9, 2010, His Grace Bishop THOMAS visited St. Paraskevi Monastery in Washington, Texas for the feast day of the Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebaste. It was His Grace's first visit to the Monastery. Fr. Joseph Huneycutt, who serves at St. George Church in Houston, Texas, accompanied His Grace.
For more pictures, please visit Fr. Joseph Huneycutt's blog.
In the afternoon of Sunday, Feb. 21, 2010, His Grace, Bishop THOMAS, celebrated the Sunday of Orthodoxy service with His Grace, Bishop TIKHON of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania (OCA) at the Church of St. Nicholas (OCA) in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Numerous area clergy and laity celebrated this service together, including a proclamation of the common faith of the Orthodox Church, as well as the traditional anathemas which Orthodoxy levels against dangerous, heretical doctrines. Five different SCOBA jurisdictions were represented among the clergy, including (besides the two bishops) eighteen priests and five deacons.
Sayidna THOMAS presented a homily before the service in which he stressed that Orthodox Christians are icons of Christ, that each of us is an ambassador of the Kingdom of God in this world, no matter our circumstances. After the liturgical service, the clergy and faithful heard a short presentation on the work of the Lehigh Valley Orthodox Clergy Brotherhood which sponsored the event and then together shared a Lenten meal.
The Mission of St. Andrew the Apostle, Lewes, Delaware was blessed by a visit from His Grace Bishop THOMAS the weekend of December 5th–6th.
At Vespers Saturday evening Sayidna encouraged us to continue to reach out to our community with the message of Orthodoxy. We had several visitors with us at Vespers and for refreshments following.
Sayidna celebrated the first Hierarchical Divine Liturgy for St. Andrew Sunday morning with a full Church (the Grange Hall) and beautiful choir. Subdeacon Joseph Kavchok of St. Philip, Souderton, Pennsylvania and Subdeacon Jason Flowers of Holy Ascension, Frazer, Pennsylvania assisted. Our seminarian from Saint Vladimir's, Adrian Budica, was elevated to Subdeacon. Our parishioner Jack Berberian became a Reader. Refreshments for all followed at noon at the home of parishioners. After the mealtime, the youth gave an enthusiastic presentation on the life of St. Nicholas for all attending.
Bishop THOMAS writes:
Beloved in Christ,
God bless you. A blessed Feast of the Nativity of our Lord to you.
On December 3rd, I had the great pleasure to visit The King's Jubilee, a ministry that is supported by our Church of St. Philip in Souderton, Pennsylvania and that has been supported by the Archdiocese in the past through Food for Hungry People. Attached, you will find their Christmas 2009 report. It contains a nice summary of my visit with them in December. I support this ministry and encourage you to do the same. Again, a blessed Feast of the Nativity to you and to your families.
From The King's Jubilee Christmas 2009 report:
On Thursday, December 3, as planned, we commemorated St. Nicholas by giving away at least three one dollar coins to each of our “customers”. Some also went to the children who were helping us serve. We were able to give away $300 of your money in praise of the Trinity and in honor of Holy Bishop St. NICHOLAS. May God bless you.
Another bishop visited us that evening. Bishop THOMAS had arranged to be picked up at the Philadelphia Airport by Fr. Noah and delivered directly to where we serve in center city Phila. They arrived just as we were giving out the last of the hot food. We were giving out the blankets and clothes, the last of the coins and the sandwiches.
Bishop THOMAS was so excited to witness this that he got on his cell phone and called a few people that he thought would enjoy being part of it. On the way home, we stopped at Amir’s Sunoco (formerly Sammy’s). It took him a while to get out of the van, because he was busy dictating an e-mail about TKJ to go out to all the priests in the diocese.
On Sunday, December 6, 2009, St. Nicholas Day celebrations at St. John Chrysostom Church in York, Pennsylvania were featured in the York Daily Record. The article highlights the local tradition of the parish's children commemorating the feast day through charitable giving:
...at a local church, children swapped roles with the beloved saint Sunday, presenting him with gifts instead -- gifts that will ultimately be distributed to needy families by Access-York and the Victim Assistance Center.
"I can see you've been teaching the children to love others by giving to the poor," St. Nicholas told the Rev. Peter Pier, pastor of St. John Chrysostom Orthodox Church in Springettsbury Township...
A member of St. John Chrysostom church suggested the idea of children giving gifts to St. Nicholas years ago.
"It is definitely a good message to the children because they so often hear Christmas is about getting, getting getting," said parishioner Mike Buleza.