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Diocese of Charleston News

Bishop Thomas Celebrates Feast Day with St. Mary, Hunt Valley, MD

September 8 is always a very special and blessed day for our parish, St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church of Hunt Valley, MD, in which we celebrate the Nativity of our Mother and the Mother of the Lord.  This year, 2015, we were even more blessed by the visit of our beloved Bishop Thomas. Together, we moved to our new church building.  

Moreover, together we shared the joy of our newly purchased nineteen-acre lot surrounding our current six-are lot, which was graciously donated by four of our friends: Mr. Nick and Jeanne Tsakalos, and Dr. George and Anna Lazar.  This lot will open the door for a new era in the life of St. Mary.  

All the glory be to the Lord, our dear Archdiocese, and our beloved parish.

Registration is Open for OCF Winter College Conferences

The Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) College Conferences 2015 will be held from December 28-31st at both the Antiochian Village in PA, and St. Nicholas Ranch in CA. The Keynote Speakers are Rev. Fr. Apostolos Hill (West) and Sr. Vassa Larin (East). Registration is now open for the conferences. In 2015, $100.00 scholarships are being offered to those students in need.

College Conference
College Conference East 2015
College Conference West 2015
Scholarship Application

Invitation to Attend Vigil at St. Thekla Antiochian Orthodox Monastery, Glenville, PA

September 10, 2015

Beloved and most Reverend Fathers, Mothers, and Friends of St. Thekla's Monastery,

God be with you all.

The Lord is Wondrous in His Saints.
St. Thekla Antiochian Orthodox Monastery in, Glenville, Pa, will be celebrating an all night vigil for, St. Thekla, on the 25th of September, at 8:00pm. We would be greatly blessed by your attendance and prayers.

Please, refer to the following contact information, so that we have an idea of how many may be coming:

Email: protomartyrthekla@hotmailcom
Land line: 717-630-8298
Cell: 443-244-0207

Keep us in your prayers.

Your unworthy servant in Christ,
Mother Justina

Bishop Thomas Visits St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church

Bishop Thomas visited St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church in Wilkes-Barre, PA, over the weekend of August 22 and 23, 2015. During his visit he presided over Great Vespers which was followed by a covered dish dinner provided by the parishioners. On Sunday he served the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy which was followed by the annual Parish Picnic.

During the visit, His Grace connected with many of his cousins from Wilkes-Barre. He dined at Abe's Restaurant, where he enjoyed hot dogs served by his cousin, as he and his family had done many times from the time that he was a young man. During his visit Sayidna had the opportunity to think about many of the good times that he spent in Wilkes-Barre.

Village to Host Annual Clergy Wives Weekend: October 23-25, 2015

Mother Christophora, speaking at a previous Clergy Wives RetreatMother Christophora, speaking at a previous Clergy Wives RetreatThe 2015 Clergy Wives Weekend will take place October 23-25, 2015 at Antiochian Village. This pan-Orthodox gathering was established in memory of Kh. Joanne Abdalah, who was concerned about the well-being of women married to clergy. A balanced life was how she envisioned the best way to live in God's grace through all that life brings to clergy wives and their families. In that spirit, the Weekend seeks to provide time for fellowship, time for prayer, time for leaning, and time to just relax.

We are very happy to be welcoming back this year's speaker: Mother Christophora, the Abbess of the Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration in Ellwood City, PA.

The information sheet and Registration Form can be downloaded here. Questions can be directed to Kh. Stefanie Yazge, by sending email to

Pastoral Greetings from Bishop Thomas at the Start of the Ecclesiastical New Year

Blessings be upon you all.

Tuesday, September 1, marks the beginning of the Ecclesiastical New Year, when the cycle of liturgical commemorations begins anew. The existence of this separate New Year’s commemoration, distinct from the civil New Year on January 1, serves as a reminder both to Christians and to the World. The Church, it proclaims, is not bound to the institutions of this world, but rather stands apart from them. The Church, existing in the world but never being of the World, celebrates according to its own calendar and its own traditions, and not according to the World’s schedule. It is, thus, fitting, that on this same day the Church commemorates Saint Symeon the Stylite, a fifth-century ascetic who confounded the World by setting up his hermitage on top of a pillar in the middle of the market in Aleppo. By publicly living a vigorously Christian life, separate from the worldly conception of success and prosperity, Saint Symeon gave powerful witness to the Gospel, especially of the command “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”(Matt. 16:24)

May this coming year bring boundless opportunities to bear witness to the truth of the Gospel in our increasingly anti-Christian and worldly society. Let us also resolve, with God’s aid, to increase our personal spiritual striving, in prayer, fasting, and repentance.

Yours in Christ,

Rt. Rev. Bishop THOMAS (Joseph)
Auxiliary Bishop, Diocese of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid-Atlantic

Khouria Gigi Shadid Leads Retreat at St. George Cathedral

Retreatants at St. George: Kh. Gigi, Bishop Thomas, and Fr. Christopher are seatedRetreatants at St. George: Kh. Gigi, Bishop Thomas, and Fr. Christopher are seatedOn Saturday August 8, 2015, Khouria Gigi Shadid led a Sunday school retreat at St. George Antiochian Orthodox Christian Cathedral. The retreat was directed towards new horizon for new generation of teachers and Sunday school children. Khouria Gigi is the wife of Fr. James Shadid of St. George Orthodox Church in Houston, TX. She is a mother of three, a school teacher, and former youth director. Her passion is teaching with music, and she has produced five educational music CDs to date. Khouria Gigi enlightened the members of St George Cathedral with her gifts and many decades of experience of youth work and teaching. She shared her music with us, and the hand moves that she had used to teach the Orthodox faith to children. She also instructed our teachers in successful and proven tools and methods to equip and strength the Sunday school staff.

Assembly of Bishops to Host September Youth Gathering in Conjunction with Chicago Meeting

His Grace Bishop Thomas, Diocese of Charleston, Oakland & the Mid-Atlantic, writes:

A Youth Gathering will take place on Tuesday September 15, 2015, during the Assembly of Bishops Meeting in Chicago. Please pass the word – All young people are invited.

When: Tuesday evening, September 15, 2015
Where: Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Cathedral - 5701 North Redwood Drive - Chicago, IL 60631
Who:  High school and college students from the Greater Chicago area with the bishops of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox bishops of the United States
What:  A dialogue between our Orthodox youth and the bishops of the Assembly

As of now I believe there will be:

1. A service – led by the Assembly of Bishops
2. Perhaps a discussion with the youth prior to the service to gather questions and prepare them for the event and help them to get to know each other
3. A Question and Answer period with a panel of bishops and the high school and college students
4. Food to follow

Please get this news out, and bring your young people to this event.

2016 Diocese of Charleston/New York Parish Life Conference

The 2016 Diocese of Charleston and Diocese of New York Parish Life Conference will be hosted by St. Mary Church (Johnstown, PA) and St. Michael Church (Greensburg, PA), and will be held at the Antiochian Village. Dates are Wednesday to Sunday, June 29-July 3, 2016.

Please check back for more information.

Statement from Bishop Thomas Regarding Same-Sex Marriage

His Grace Bishop Thomas writes:

June 28, 2015
Feast of Ss. Cyrus and John

Beloved in Christ,

May God bless you always. 

On June 26, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down a decision that effectively defines "marriage" as legal between any two consenting adults throughout our country, regardless of their biological sex, a decision that will no doubt have sweeping effects in our society, not just for these couples but for children, families, churches, other religious organizations and all people of faith.

This action by the Court attempting to redefine marriage is deeply wrong, but it gives us an opportunity to reiterate for ourselves and also for our whole country the unchanging, timeless teaching of the Holy Orthodox Church regarding marriage and sexuality.

With the creation of marriage by God for Adam and Eve, the first human bond was instituted. This bond preceded all the other social bonds of humanity, including not just governments but even the covenants that He Himself instituted. It is fundamental to human nature that marriage consists of one man and one woman in a lifelong, exclusive bond. Marriage is therefore not about private desire but about the complementary, conjugal bond of family, as created by God and blessed by Him.

It is only within that blessed bond that sexuality finds its proper expression. All other sexual behavior—whether between a homosexual couple, an unmarried heterosexual couple, multiple people, a person by himself, or anything else—is sinful, meaning that it distorts our relationship with God, each other and ourselves. Yet such actions, including their sanction by entering into one of these new legal unions, which are not truly marriages, can always be repented of. No one is a lost cause. No one is our enemy.

Metropolitan Joseph Condemns Charleston Slayings, Calls for Prayer

The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America issued a statement yesterday condemning the racially-motivated shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 17, in historic Charleston, South Carolina. His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph expressed his great sorrow and offered his prayers for the nine victims, their families, and the entire community.

"I learned of this tragedy from across the ocean in Lebanon, and am deeply saddened that, in this land of freedom and opportunity for all people, we still find such hatred and racism," noted His Eminence. "May the sacrifice of the nine victims who gathered to do nothing more than pray to the almighty God and study the scripture, inspire all of us to work to eradicate racism from our great nation."

Ready, Set, Go! Village Kicks off First Camp Session

Staff training week at the Antiochian Village in Bolivar, PA, is complete, and Session One has started! Meet the 2015 summer staff on the Village's website. 

The Village's Facebook page reported on Day One this way:

Three words to describe Monday's weather: hot, humid, and rainy. But such could not dull the spirit of our campers, as they were active as ever. We started off the morning with breakfast, giving everyone an extra hour to sleep in. This provided them with the energy they needed to remain attentive in their first sessions of morning program! Some attended "Ask Abouna," doing a Q & A with our lovely session priests, Abouna James King from St. Mary in Livonia, MI, and Fr. Noah Bushelli from St. Philip in Souderton, PA. Our chanting cabins went to the Conference Center for their morning practice, and the rest of the campers were scattered about the camp, and the challenge course.

Bishop Thomas Visits St. George Church in New Kensington, PA

Over the weekend of May 15-17, 2015, St. George Church in New Kensington, Pennsylvania was blessed with a visit from His Grace Bishop Thomas. The parish's church organizations gathered in fellowship with His Grace on Friday evening.

Several church school children enjoyed time with the bishop on Saturday morning as they asked him questions and answered questions he posed to them. Bishop Thomas encouraged the children to pray before all activities each day, to regularly partake of the sacraments, and to learn about and ask for intercessions from their patron saints who are model examples of our faith.

After a beautiful Saturday Vespers service, Bishop Thomas, the Parish Council and Order of St. Ignatius members and their guests met with the His Grace at “Tables on the Green” at Brackenridge Heights Golf Course.

30th Anniversary of the Sacred Music Institute

The Department of Sacred Music is thrilled to announce the Thirtieth Anniversary Sacred Music Institute (SMI), which will be held at the Antiochian Village from July 8-12, 2015. This year is promising to be the best ever! Whether you love Byzantine or 4-part choral music, there is something for everyone, from theoretical classes to private lessons in voice, chanting, conducting and vocal technique; instruction in Byzantine chant and choral conducting; special presentations and concerts from the Sacred Music Chamber Choir and the Sacred Music Byzantine Chamber Choir; and even our 30th Anniversary Musical Review!

The Sacred Music Institute has it all. This very special and memorable weekend will be attended by our Keynote Speaker His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph.

2015 Dioceses of Charleston and New York Parish Life Conference

The 2015 Dioceses of Charleston and New York Parish Life Conference will be hosted by St. John the Baptist Church of Levittown, New York. Dates are Thursday to Sunday, July 1-5, 2015.

Early bird registration deadline: Extended to May 13th!
Download Flyer (PDF, Rev. 4-15)
2015 Diocese of NY PLC on Facebook

Accomodations are at:
Upsky Long Island Hotel
110 Motor Parkway
Happauge, NY
Deadline for group rate reservations is May 20th.

To register for the PLC, purchase PLC event tickets, to place a message in the Souvenir Journal and for Sponsorship any of the events go to

For more information, please contact Father Boulos 516-457-5451, Chairperson Ramzi Kaywood 631-796-3844 or Vice Chairperson Imad Farhat 516-984-9047 or email:

Mission Potential—Franklin/Floyd Counties, VA

His Grace Bishop Thomas has requested that the diocese be notified about this mission opportunity. Contacts have been made with individuals living in the vicinity of Roanoke and Salem, Virginia, concerning the possibility of an Antiochian mission effort for the surrounding area which would include Franklin and Floyd counties at a minimum. Familiarity with the Roanoke Valley area could include the possibility of widening the mission effort to include the Blacksburg/Christiansburg area (home of VPI—Virginia Tech), centering the mission effort along I-81 between Roanoke and Blacksburg.

It is hoped that an initial meeting with be held with interested families within the next few weeks. Estimation of the number of people involved at the moment is around twenty (20). Fr. Olof Scott, Dean of St. George Cathedral in Charleston, WV, is the primary contact for the diocese. He can be reached at and by phone, 304-346-0106 (office); 304-925-0101 (home); 304-552-5545 (mobile).

The local contact for this effort at the present time is: Reinhold (Ron) Basil Winnemuth, 9543 Sugar Run Road N.E., Copper Hill, VA 24079; phone 540-524-8452; Anyone with contacts in the target area or with roots in that area of Virginia should notify Fr. Olof.

Pascha 2015 at St. George Cathedral, Oakland, PA

Photos courtesy of Christopher Humphrey Photography.

2015 Paschal Greetings from Bishop Thomas

His Grace Bishop Thomas writes:


Beloved brother Hierarchs, Reverend Clergy, God-fearing Monastics, and all my Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ our True God:

Christ is risen! Indeed, He is risen!

There is nothing after Christ and nothing other than Christ. If you are not an extension of Him or an expression of Him, then you are nothing. At Pascha, I become Him or I am nothing. If I have loved Him, then I grow through Him and I grow in Him. I do not want anything in His place because He is everything. All the saints are in Him and unto Him, and if you look at their faces, do not look for them. Search for the face of Jesus traced upon them. How should I conduct myself at Pascha? My only affair with my soul is to bring it to the Lord. With Him it comes into existence. The Father is the beginning and the end and in Him the Christ of history pours forth. I am nothing if I do not become a person of Pascha, one who looks to the Father, the end point.
– Metropolitan Georges (Khodr) of Mount Lebanon, "Who Shall I Be at Pascha?"

As we celebrate Holy Pascha, we also each ask, "Who shall I be at Pascha?" This feast defines who we are, not just as a climax or triumph of the liturgical year, but as the very core of our life and, indeed, not just the core, but the whole of our life. Our task as Christians is to become an "extension" or "expression" of Christ, to become so like Him in communion with Him that the face of Jesus is also traced upon us.

Warming to our Calling: St. Philip Church, Souderton, PA

Father Noah Bushelli of St. Philip Church, Souderton, PA writes:

"Bless the Lord, you winter cold and summer heat, sing and exalt Him unto all ages!" (Song of the Three Holy Youths, Daniel 3:67)

As our diocese thaws from the brutally cold and snowy winter of 2015, the hearts of Orthodox Christians at St. Philip's, Souderton, PA are continuing to warm to the great calling of our life in Christ! "We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works!" (Ephesians 2:10). Here's a little glimpse of the flowers opening up to bloom in God's garden in South Eastern Pennsylvania.

Memory Eternal! + Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko

Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko, 75, dean emeritus of St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, Crestwood, New York, and noted Orthodox Christian priest, theologian, preacher, and speaker, fell asleep in the Lord on March 18, 2015.

Father Thomas was the beloved husband of Matushka Anne [Schmemann] Hopko. They were married on June 9, 1963. Together, Fr. Thomas and Anne are the parents of five children, sixteen grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

"Father Thomas was a good friend of the Archdiocese," reflected Vicar-General and St. Nicholas Cathedral Dean Fr. Thomas Zain. "He helped educate many of our clergy over the years, and often gave lectures and led retreats in our parishes throughout the country."

Bishop Thomas Delivers Guest Homily in North Port, FL

His Grace Bishop Thomas delivered a guest homily at St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church in North Port, Florida on Sunday, March 15, 2015.

Annual Orthodox Homeschooling Conference at the Village is April 23-26

Homeschool conference attendees from a previous yearHomeschool conference attendees from a previous yearAnother year has rolled on by and it's time, once again, for the St. Emmelia Orthodox Homeschooling Conference, hosted by Antiochian Village. The 2015 conference dates are set for April 23–26, and registration materials are available on the Village's website.

The evening Keynote Speaker is Fr. Andrew Steven Damick, pastor of St. Paul Orthodox Church of Emmaus, PA, author of Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy and An Introduction to God, and host of the "Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy" and "Roads from Emmaus" podcasts on Ancient Faith Radio. Other distinguished speakers and workshop leaders are: Lori Peterson Branch, professor of English at the University of Iowa; Theodore (Ted) Federoff, homeschooling dad and a board certified emergency medicine physician currently working in Jersey Shore, PA; Shell Keim, experienced homeschool mom and the Director of Education at All Saints Orthodox Church in Raleigh, NC; Andrew Kern, founder and president of the CiRCE Institute; Charlotte Riggle, of Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church, Tacoma, WA and seasoned home educator; Dr. Christopher and Anna Veniamin from St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary and Mount Thabor Publishing; and Barbara Shukin, art professor and gallery director.

View the list of topics and download the reservation form.

Eastern Dioceses Fellowship of St. John the Divine Scholarship

The Eastern Dioceses Fellowship of St. John the Divine offers scholarships to qualified college students from parishes in the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland and the Mid-Atlantic, and the Diocese of New York and Washington D.C.  For more information, contact Maria Abdalah at:

Send all completed applications to:
Maria Abdalah
2 Lydia's Path
Westborough MA 01581

Deadline for all materials: June 1, 2015

For questions on this application:
Call 412-916-4772

Download the 2015 Scholarship Application (PDF)

On the New Martyrs of the Middle East: An Orthodox Christian View

“The Decent into Hades” or, “The Harrowing of Hades”. The artist is unknown. Tempera on wood, from the Novgorod School of Russia and thought to be painted in the 13th century. The Icon is provided by Uncut Mountain Supply“The Decent into Hades” or, “The Harrowing of Hades”. The artist is unknown. Tempera on wood, from the Novgorod School of Russia and thought to be painted in the 13th century. The Icon is provided by Uncut Mountain Supply www.uncutmountainsupply.comby His Grace Bishop Thomas (Joseph), Ed.D., The Word, May 2015

In recent months, images and stories of Christians being killed for their faith in the Middle East have flooded our news sources and dominated our social media. We see beheadings and shootings, sometimes available as gruesome videos on the Internet that are intended by their makers to inspire some to join their cause and others to cower in fear. We have seen bishops kidnapped, priests shot in the street as they ministered to the suffering, and innocents lined up and had their heads sawn off with knives.

Christians are not the only ones suffering in the Middle East—Muslims, Druze, Yazidis and others are also being targeted by the armies of takfirism. They are also dying for their faith, and even though we Christians do not share their religion with them, we still suffer with them in solidarity, because Christ still died and rose from the dead for them, even if they do not believe it.

We ask God, "Why?" We ask each other, "What can be done?" We wonder what kind of response there can be to this horrifying new reality, the spirit of takfirism, the mindset that makes religious accusation of others into a way of life, enforced by death and suffering for those who do not measure up to the ideology of these armies that sweep across that ancient, sanctified land.

How are we to understand what is happening? There is no shortage of analysis in the news and debate among our political leaders. But their answers do not satisfy, do they?

Christians who belong to the Orthodox Church are well acquainted with martyrdom, even if we ourselves do not live in places where our family and friends are being killed for Christ. Martyrdom forms the whole narrative shape of our history. Our calendar of saints is filled with thousands of martyrs' names, and there are millions more whose names we do not know. It was martyrdom itself which gave rise to our whole concept of having publicly venerated saints.