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Diocese of Charleston News

Bishop Thomas Visits Saint Andrew the Apostle in Lewes, DE

His Grace Bishop Thomas was welcomed to the mission community of Saint Andrew the Apostle in Lewes, Delaware by Fr. Boniface Black and enthusiastic parishioners on the beautiful fall weekend of October 17-18, 2015.

Saturday Vespers, Sunday Orthros and the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy were well attended and the choir was outstanding. The Antiochian Women provided hospitality to parishioners and visitors after Vespers and again after the Sunday Divine Services. Among those visiting were Deacon Herman Acker and family from Saint Philip Church in Souderton, PA; and Subdeacon Jason Flowers and family from Saint John Chrysostom Church in York, PA. On Sunday morning, three new members were inducted into the Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch.

On January 1, 2016, Saint Andrew the Apostle moved forward from its "mission status" to a fully recognized church in the Archdiocese. A building expansion program is currently under way to provide more worship and classroom space, and a new kitchen and fellowship hall.

St. Tikhon's Announces New Scholarships for Antiochian Seminarians

February 11, 2016 (South Canaan, PA) — St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary has announced the creation of three new scholarships for students who attend the seminary with the blessing of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America.

“It is a great joy to announce the creation of these three new full scholarships,” His Eminence Archbishop Michael, Seminary Rector, said. “The scholarships will cover tuition, room, and board, allowing these seminarians to focus on their priestly formation and enter ministry in the Holy Orthodox Church without any debt.”

The scholarships, named in honor of three current hierarchs in the Antiochian church, are: The Patriarch John X Scholarship, The Metropolitan Joseph Scholarship, and The Bishop Thomas Scholarship.

14th Annual Orthodox Camp and Youth Workers' Conference Meets in Dallas

Over 80 clergy and lay youth and camp workers gathered in Dallas, TX for this year's Orthodox Camp and Youth Workers' Conference. This annual conference is sponsored by the Orthodox Christian Camp Association and the leaders of all the different jurisdiction's youth departments. The Orthodox Church in America hosted at their Saint Seraphim's Cathedral here in Dallas. There was a large delegation representing camping and youth ministry from the Antiochian Archdiocese led by His Grace Bishop Thomas.

New Inspirational Resources Available from the Diocese of Charleston

Thanks to His Grace Bishop Thomas and the clergy of the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland and the Mid-Atlantic, a new collection of inspirational readings is now available at The series "Spiritual Notes from the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland and the Mid-Atlantic" (formerly "Notes from Bishop Thomas"), complied by Fr. Daniel Meyer, offers teachings selected from Sayedna Thomas' treasured collection of essays, articles, homilies and more, including many rare pieces from earlier decades of The Word. "Diocese of Charleston Bible Study" is a study of scripture from Fr. Stephen DeYoung and includes weekly scripture texts, reflections on the readings, and questions for further contemplation. In "Spiritual Nuggets from the Diocese of Charleston," Fr. Noah Bushelli provides brief reflections and quotations from Church fathers as a source of concise spiritual edification.

All three series are updated weekly, and Spiritual Notes and Bible Study pieces are also available in PDF format for easy download and printing. May God reward the efforts of Bishop Thomas and his dedicated priests in providing spiritual nourishment to the faithful of the Antiochian Archdiocese and all those who seek to hear the Word of God!

2015 Nativity Greetings from Bishop Thomas


Our Saviour, dearly-beloved, was born today: let us be glad. For there is no proper place for sadness, when we keep the birthday of the Life, which destroys the fear of mortality and brings to us the joy of promised eternity. No one is kept from sharing in this happiness. There is for all one common measure of joy, because as our Lord, the destroyer of sin and death, finds none free from the charge, so He comes to free us all. Let the saint exult in that he draws near to victory. Let the sinner be glad in that he is invited to being pardoned. Let the Gentile take courage in that he is called to life. For the Son of God in the fullness of time which the inscrutable depth of the Divine counsel has determined, has taken on Him the nature of man, thereby to reconcile it to its Author: in order that the inventor of death, the devil, might be conquered.
– St. Leo the Great, Sermon 21 on the Nativity of Christ

The universality of what is begun in Christ's coming to our earth should give us all hope. He did not come only as the Messiah of the Jews, but also as the Christ Who invites all of us to life. He did not come only to give salvation and victory to the saint but also pardon and gladness to the sinner, transforming him into a saint.

Diocese of Charleston Holds Clergy Synaxis at Antiochian Village

Fr. Noah Bushelli writes:

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! (Psalm 134:1)

The priests of the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid-Atlantic enjoyed a few days of "Indian Summer" at Antiochian Village. This came at the perfect time for me, after the crown of Church's New Year and re-energizing the ministry programs after the summer.

I especially appreciated the time in discussion and fellowship with our beloved Bishop Thomas, and all our brother clergy. The Village is a perfect setting for this, with serene and scenic trails, comfortable gathering spaces, and the grounds hallowed by the relics of saints, the resting place of our beloved hierarchs, and prayers of campers. If all of this free exchange of ideas weren't enough, we "the shirts" came back to beat "the cassocks" in bocce on the back lawn!

The services were beautifully celebrated with hearty singing and punctuated with very profound sermons. I especially am grateful that in the sunset service we had in the cemetery a memorial for Metropolitan Philip and a supplication to St. Raphael.

We had our pastoral vision refocused by a presentation of Dn. Paul Abernathy about his ministry in inner city Pittsburgh's FOCUS Center. He related that all of Christian life, especially ministry, requires a step of faith. He told stories demonstrating how we must listen to people before we can help them. He reminded us that we can't be afraid to preach the truth, even in the face of our national crises, social ills, and the need to raise money.

Paul Abernathy Ordained to Holy Diaconate

His Grace Bishop Thomas writes:

Beloved in Christ, May God bless you always. May God grant many years to the newly ordained Deacon Paul Abernathy and his wife Kristina. Deacon Paul was ordained this morning at the church of Ss. Peter and Paul at the Antiochian Village. He is attached currently to St. George Church in Bridgeville, Pennsylvania.

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-acre 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

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.