Diocese of Charleston News
I. Making Decisions at the End of Life in a Post-Traditional Culture: Finding One’s Way to God
Orthodox Christianity offers orientation in the cosmos. More precisely, it leads us away from our passions and puriﬁes our hearts so that we can be illumined by the uncreated energies of God and come into union with Him.1 Contemporary man ﬁnds himself bereft of such orientation. Both his life and his death tend to be trivialized, reduced to what can make sense without any recognition, much less experience, of transcendent meaning, purpose, and obligation. As a consequence, much reﬂection on end-of-life decision-making gives priority, if not exclusive attention, to comfort care, death with dignity, and the preservation of personal autonomy until death. All of this is done without ever asking the foundational question, What was life really all about? much less the foundational spiritual question of how I should and can repent from a life that was poorly lived so as ﬁnally to turn in repentance to God. Properly directed care at the end of life is care that focuses on repentance. To talk about end-of-life decision-making and not to place centrally the urgent issue of repentance is to miss the target completely. Care at the end of life should offer a ﬁnal opportunity to the dying person to ﬁnd orientation. That is, end-of-life care must bring the dying person to repentance through a recognition of how the holy, indeed, God, deﬁnes the meaning of the right, the good, and the virtuous. Good end-of-life care cannot be the product of a secular or philosophical bioethics. It must be the proclamation of a living theology. Orthodox Christianity teaches how to become oriented in life and to achieve a good death. What is important to be said cannot be stated adequately in secular terms.
by the Right Reverend THOMAS (Joseph), Ed.D., Bishop of Charleston, Oakland and the Mid-Atlantic
My son Timothy, you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, my sufferings, what befell me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra, what persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:10-15, RSV)
We read in this passage from St. Paul’s second epistle to St. Timothy, his child in the faith, that he puts great weight on Timothy having observed his teaching, his conduct, his aim in life, his faith, patience, love, steadfastness, persecutions and sufferings. St. Paul is also quite adamant that Timothy continue in what he has learned and has firmly believed from his childhood. The assumption here is that Timothy has been acquainted with the sacred writings—that is, the Holy Scriptures—for the purpose and benefit of his salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
"On Becoming Orthodox and Being Orthodox"
On Saturday, February 21st, 2009, noted Orthodox writer and radio commentator Frederica Mathewes-Green, will speak at St. Mary Orthodox Church in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. The event will begin with lunch at 12:30 and will include two speaker sessions, a book sale and a book signing, ending with Vespers. This event is free and open to the public. Children are welcome. For more information or to register for the event by e-mail, please contact Freida Skaff at email@example.com.
Christ is born! Glorify Him!
During the Nativity season of 2008, Bishop THOMAS graced St. George Church in Allentown, PA with his presence and celebrated the Christmas Services with us. On Sunday, December 21st, Bishop THOMAS met with the Parish Council and had a wonderful dinner with them at the Holiday Inn. He spoke of his love for us and his vision for us as Orthodox Christians and as a Church. He discussed with his some of his travels specifically to Japan and spoke about Orthodoxy both in the U.S. and abroad. On Monday, December 22nd the Teen Soyo, Fellowship of St. John the Divine and some of the Ladies Aid hosted Bishop THOMAS at Fiesta Olé a local Mexican restaurant. After dinner, they went to see the Christmas “Lights in the Parkway” display and ended the evening in a spirit of joy. On Wednesday, December 24th, Fr. Anthony & Khouria Minerva Sabbagh hosted Bishop THOMAS at their home for lunch and then began preparations for Christmas Eve services. The Hours, Vespers, Orthros and Liturgy were all celebrated at St. George in Allentown. After Liturgy we spent the evening celebrating the Birth of Christ together as a family. God grant Bishop THOMAS many more years in serving Christ and the many parishes of his flock!
On December 19th his Grace, Bishop THOMAS arrived at Dulles airport where he was greeted by Mr. Robert Najjar, a parishioner of St. Raphael Orthodox Mission Church in Centreville, VA.
Sayedna presided over Great Vespers on Saturday, with assistance from Father Thomas Palke, pastor of St. Raphael; Deacon Mark O’Dell from Holy Cross Orthodox Church, Linthicum, MD; and Subdeacon Michael (Robert) Rudloff, a member of St. Raphael who lives in Norfolk, VA. Following Great Vespers a light snack was provided by members of the parish. Parishioners were given an opportunity for a question/answer period with His Grace. Bishop THOMAS spoke briefly about the Feast of the Nativity and what it means for us as Orthodox.
by Reader Herman Engelhardt and Brian Partridge
|Bp. THOMAS with Metropolitan DANIEL of Japan|
A major challenge confronting Orthodox Christians across the world is the impact of the dominant secular culture on how physicians act and patients are treated. This influence is reflected in the use of abortion and the increasing acceptance of physician-assisted suicide across the world. This secular culture and its bioethics touch the lives of patients, physicians, and nurses everywhere. We no longer live in a normatively Christian context.
To address these issues in Japan, a country that is only one percent Christian, a group of Orthodox Christians led by the Right Rev. Bishop THOMAS spent December 5th-15th of 2009 meeting with Japanese scholars and attending academic meetings concerning issues of bioethics. The group consisted of Father Iulian Anitei from Holy Protection of the Theotokos Romanian Orthodox Mission in Houston, Texas; Reader Herman Engelhardt from St. George Antiochian Church in Houston, Texas and professor at Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine; and Brian Partridge from All Saints of America Antiochian Church in Homer, Alaska and director at The Center for the Study of Culture, Ethics and the Environment. All members of the group serve in various capacities on the Editorial Advisory Board of the journal Christian Bioethics, now entering its fifteenth year of publication. Christian Bioethics is published by Oxford University Press.
His Grace Bishop THOMAS thought he would be at Antiochian Village for the College conference when he began his 4 hour drive from the Chancery in Charleston, West Virginia on December 27th. But just a few miles from the Village he recieved a message from Metropolitan PHILIP asking him to represent the Antiochian Archdiocese at the Enthronement of Metropolitan JONAH of the OCA. Bishop BASIL, who was originally scheduled to attend, was prevented by bad weather. Bishop THOMAS then drove the 4-1/2 hours to the Washington area in order to attend the Enthronement and Divine Liturgy on Sunday the 28th.
Bishop THOMAS arrived at Saint Nicholas Cathedral at 7:45 on Sunday morning and vested with around 16 other Hierarchs from the various Orthodox Jurisdictions. The occasion provided the opportunity for many of the bishops to greet one another and catch up. At one point the new Metropolitan JONAH came in and asked if Bishop THOMAS remembered attending seminary with him, which he did of course.
With the blessing of our Pastor and Spiritual Father, Very Rev. Theodoros Daoud, the Ladies Society of St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church, Hunt Valley, MD, sponsored the First Annual Pan-Orthodox Nativity Lent Retreat for Women on November 22, 2009. Twelve parishes were represented by the 55 women who attended the day that began at 10 am and ended with Great Vespers at 5 pm. The retreat leader was the Very Rev. Michael Dahulich, Ph.D., Dean of St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in South Canaan, PA.
This day of reflection was titled: “What It Means To Be An Orthodox Christian Woman In The 21st Century.” Father Michael’s lecture style is interactive and welcoming of questions, comments, and exchange of ideas. In his addresses, Father Michael encouraged the women to name the challenges that face them in the 21st century such as: a fast-paced lifestyle, media, technology, working outside the home, single parenthood, the relativity of truth, the breakdown of moral principles, and materialism.
The Feast of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker
December 6, 2008
Your Eminence Metropolitan Philip,
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Christ is born! Glorify Him!
"God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the Fathers by the Prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins set down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they." (Hebrews 1: 1-4)
Once again the Church is calling us to celebrate the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ. It is through this feast that God, who is transcendent in His very nature, condescended in humility and love and took our flesh so that we may become God by Grace. At His birth participates the whole of creation; nothing is left aside. The Kontakion of this feast, through the inspiring words of Saint Romanos the Melodist, summarizes this mystery in the most amazing manner:
Today the Virgin giveth birth to the Transcendent in essence; the earth offereth the cave to the unapproachable One; the angels with the shepherds glorify Him; and the Magi with the star travel on their way; for a new child hath been born for our sakes, God before the ages.
On October 25th and 26th, His Grace Bishop THOMAS visited Saint Andrew the Apostle Mission in Lewes, Delaware for a most blessed and wonderful weekend. A fellowship hour was held at the Grange Hall after Vespers, and following the Sunday Matins and Liturgy, parishioners were all invited to enjoy hospitality at nearby home.
Bishop Thomas encouraged all to continue to share the Good News of Christ and Orthodoxy and to "grow" the building fund, pursuing the goal of a more permanent home for the divine services.
His Grace, Bishop THOMAS, visited the Saint Philip Church community in Souderton, Pennsylvania, November 13-14 for the parish's Patronal Feast. On Thursday evening we celebrated Vespers and Artoklasia, and on Friday morning Matins and Divine Liturgy for our Patron Saint.
Bishop Thomas spoke to us about being Apostolic in our message and outreach. His presence blessed and encouraged us to follow Christ and share the Good News.
Bishop THOMAS visited St. Michael Church in Greensburg, Pennsylvania on the weekend of November 20-23. During the visit, His Grace inducted new members into the order of St. Ignatius.
Our visit with His Grace, Bishop THOMAS over the weekend of November 14 to 16th was a wonderful way to begin the Nativity fast. Our weekend began with Paraklesis prayers on Friday evening and the welcome of a new catechumen to our parish. Vespers on Saturday night was followed by a dinner hosted by our Sisterhood of Saint Thekla. On Sunday, we celebrated Orthros and the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy. We were all present to celebrate the ordination of Jason Flowers to the sub deaconate by Bishop THOMAS. The weekend concluded with a special presentation and gift by our children with a theme of "Shepherd and Sheep". Our children's choir sung our Troparion to the Ascension, Let My Prayer Arise and O Give Thanks unto the Lord.
Fr. Fred Pfeil of St. Michael's writes:
We were blessed to have our father in Christ, Bishop THOMAS, with us for our patronal feast of St. Michael the Archangel this year, November 8-9. We began the festivities with Great Vespers on Saturday evening, followed by a dinner at Rego’s Italian Restaurant in Charleroi, directly across the river from Monessen. The Parish Council with spouses, the Ladies’ Society officers, our Choir Director and Sunday School teachers shared the meal with His Grace and Fr. Fred.
Sunday morning began with Orthros and Hierarchical Divine Liturgy. Deacon Glenn McIntyre of St. Ellien, Brownsville and Subdeacon James Purdy of St. George Cathedral Oakland, served with us. We sang the Trisagion Prayers for the Departed for the V. Rev. Archimandrite John Namie and Beverly Elias.
Metropolitan PHILIP and Bishop THOMAS led the Cathedral community of St. George in Pittsburgh to celebrate their centennial, the 30th ordination anniversary and elevation of their dean to the rank of Archimandrite, the tenth ordination anniversary of their Deacon Ned, and the celebration of their dedicated church singers who have already served the Church between 50 and 75 years. This community is thankful to God for all that He has done in this community this last century.
The weekend began with Metropolitan PHILIP’s five hour journey from Englewood. Travel these days is rarely without delays and difficulties. Nevertheless, the Metropolitan arrived and offered the Cathedral leadership inspiration and encouragement. The Cathedral leadership shared their dreams and hopes for a parish center to house the Church school and develop opportunities for learning and spiritual growth. Sayidna spoke of his life’s journey and God’s successes in our Archdiocese through prayer, faithfulness and fortitude. Sayidna recognized the faithfulness of our community and our rich history as a leading community in the Archdiocese. He remembered many of our faithful clergy and laity and highlighted their contributions. The community shared some of the exciting programs and activities that we have initiated.
Over twenty strong male voices filled Ss. Peter and Paul chapel with a heavenly sound as the clergy of the Diocese of New York and Washington DC, and the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland and the Mid Atlantic gathered with Bishop THOMAS in late September for their fourth annual clergy retreat at the Antiochian Village.
The retreat’s theme was the spiritual development of our youth, as well as ministering to our parishioners with special needs. The retreat was led by the Village’s own pastor - the Very Rev. Anthony Yazge. During our first session, Father Anthony reminded us of St. Clement of Alexandria’s words that the Church must implant within each child’s soul an ability to know God from the earliest age possible. This is the activity that must animate the children’s ministries within all our parishes. Fr. Anthony also discussed the differences in how children within various age groups understand the Church, God and prayer, and what these differences mean from a pastoral perspective. The session ended with the clergy discussing the challenges and the rewards they face in establishing an environment within their parishes that nurtures the spiritual growth of their children.
A beautiful weekend was enjoyed by the St. Philip community when our Bishop THOMAS visited us October 3-5, 2008.
On Friday evening Bp. THOMAS and the teens got together for a bonfire and conversation, and Saturday morning the Parish Council hosted Sayidna for a delicious brunch. The afternoon included visitation of the sick and shut-in. Great Vespers on Saturday evening was followed by a carry-in supper.
The Sunday Matins and Hierarchical Divine Liturgy was inspiring, with a glorious choir and congregational singing, as well as a homily which encouraged us to give of ourselves and not hold back the goodness of the Gospel from a world in need. Sayidna also received a new member into the Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch:
Holy Cross Church, Linthicum, MD, was honored to host the visit of His Grace Bishop THOMAS during the weekend of our 15th Anniversary Patronal Feast Weekend (September 13-14). The festivities included Great Vespers, a Grand Banquet, and the Sunday Divine Services, at which Sayedna THOMAS presided, preached and ordained two new subdeacons:
At the conclusion of Saturday's Vespers, Sayedna blessed our newly-renovated Parish Hall and congratulated the congregation for their dedication and hard work in completing the project. In addition, Sayedna met with the ladies of the Antiochian Women for Saturday brunch and conversation. Because His Grace arrived early, we were also able to arrange visits to three OCF [Orthodox Christian Fellowship] sites: the Naval Academy, St John's College in Annapolis (www.annapoliscollegeministry.org), and the University of Maryland/Baltimore County (www.sta.umbc.edu/orgs/ocf/):
With the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan PHILIP and presided over by His Grace Bishop THOMAS, the 2008 Parish Life Conference for the Eastern Dioceses was held July 2-6 at the Embassy Suites, in Charleston, West Virginia. The conference was hosted by St. George Orthodox Cathedral, located across the street from the hotel.
On Wednesday evening, the clergy and their families enjoyed a delicious buffet dinner hosted by Phil & Gigi Michael. The meal was graciously prepared and served by members of the parish.
Our annual visit with Bishop THOMAS began with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy for the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos on August 14 and concluded with a banquet celebrating 90 years of service to our Lord in Altoona, Pennsylvania at the Holy parish of St. George on August 17.
During his arch-pastoral visit our beloved bishop met with our parish council over dinner, presided over a church picnic and outdoor Vespers, and celebrated Divine services. In addition, he met with parishioners, enjoyed an historical video presentation of the history of our holy parish and enrolled two new members into the Order of St. Ignatius.
(upper left and right: Hierarchical Dive Liturgy
left: Banquest w/Bishop THOMAS)