Samira, 32, was eight months pregnant when she was forced to flee her home in Syria with her six small children. After a grueling 12-hour journey, Samira and her children arrived at a settlement in western Lebanon's Bekaa Valley with nothing other than her identity papers. They now live in a crudely constructed tent of wood and billboard vinyl, with a small diesel heater that does little to keep out the cold and damp. "I am not comfortable here," Samira says. "The situation is very bad for my children. I am worried about their health." Samira's youngest child, Ahmed, just a few weeks old, is underweight.
Expectant and new mothers are among the most vulnerable refugees fleeing Syria, faced with great risk to their own health and uncertainty about their newborn's survival under such precarious conditions. International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), a member of the ACT Alliance, is working to help protect the well-being of displaced Syrian mothers and infants by providing prenatal care for expectant mothers living in the harshest conditions, providing access to hospital deliveries in Bekaa, and following up with post-natal care. More than 150 expectant mothers have received healthcare support from IOCC, and 100 refugee women have delivered their babies with assistance from IOCC and local relief partners.
On Sunday, February 24, 2013, the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Bulgaria elected His Eminence Metropolitan Neofit of Ruse to succeed His Holiness the late Patriarch Maxim, who reposed at the age of 98 in November of last year. Immediately following his election, Patriarch Neofit and the other members of the Synod processed to Sofia’s Saint Alexander Nevsky Cathedral for his Enthronement.
Born Simeon Dimitrov, the 67-year-old bishop enjoyed a close relationship with the late Patriarch Maxim, a hierarch who led the Bulgarian Church through the turbulent transitional years prior to and after the fall of Communism. A skilled church musician, Patriarch Neofit specialized in liturgical music at the Moscow Theological Academy, and later served as conductor of the Theological Academy Choir in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Tonsured in 1975, subsequently ordained and then consecrated to the episcopacy in 1985, the Patriarch held several key posts in the Bulgarian Church, including Rector of the Theological Academy, Dean of the Theological Faculty of Sofia University, Secretary of the Holy Synod, Metropolitan of Dorostolski Cherven and finally, Metropolitan of Ruse. "He is generally acclaimed as an erudite man and one of the best diplomats of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church," noted the Global Post.
The Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) has been commissioned by the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America to help Orthodox Christians to make disciples of all nations. Among the Turkana of Northern Kenya, OCMC's ministries have helped welcome hundreds of people into the Body of Christ. A new video, "A Journey of Faith," tells the story of how missionaries have supported and encouraged the growth of the Orthodox Church in the previously unreached Turkana people group. A recent mission team that served in Kenya is depicted in the video; members of Antiochian parishes from various regions of the United States participated in the team, which visited the Turkana in the summer of 2012 to offer practical and spiritual help.
For more information please visit OCMC's website or call the Mission Center at 1-877-GO-FORTH.
The Assembly of Bishops Research Coordinator, Alexei Krindatch, has prepared a range of reports on Orthodox Christianity in America. Along with the summaries of the research, the full reports are available in PDF format on the Assembly's website. The reports are titled:
- Ten Facts about Geographic Patterns of the Orthodox Church Life in the United States
- Eight Facts About Church Attendance in US Orthodox Christian Churches
- Usage of English Language, Ethnic Identity and Ethnic Culture in American Orthodox Christian Churches
- Holy Toll: The Impact of the 2008-2009 Recession on US Orthodox Christian Churches
- Five Interesting Facts about Orthodox Church Geography and Demography in the US
- Fast Questions and Fast Answers about US Orthodox Churches
To prepare for Lent and the season of preparation for the Creative Festivals, the Department of Christian Education has posted new resources online for youth leaders and Sunday School teachers. This year’s Creative Arts Festival theme is “The End of History…The Last Judgment.” The Scripture quotation that accompanies the theme is “I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.” (Matthew 25:35-36)
Notes the Christian Ed website, "Because this is a very tangible theme, there are many ways in which students can express themselves in art, photography, creative writing, and poetry. The most natural way to inspire creative expression relating to this theme would be to get the students involved in service projects in your parish or community. Suggestions for service projects can be found on the Creative Festivals webpage."
In addition, many Lenten resources are available from Christian Education as well, including recently added content for use in the classroom. February's Featured Resources list links which tie in with a Festival and Lenten theme, and a new Letters from The Holy Land section highlights the work of Dr. Maria C. Khoury in Taybeh.
The Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America's Youth Director Erin Ghata, member of St. Elijah Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church, Oklahoma City, OK, recently reported to the St. Raphael Clergy Brotherhood, that the Diocese of Wichita's annual SOYO Winter Camp from February 15-17 exceeded all expectations. "Your blessing!" wrote Ms. Ghata. "Thank God, by your prayers, we had a wonderful time this past weekend at Winter Camp! More than 120 DOWAMA teens and chaperones gathered at Camp Saint Raphael (YABOY!) for a weekend of prayer, fellowship and learning. It was the biggest Winter Camp we have ever had!
"Father James Shadid did an amazing job as our speaker," she continued.
The Mariam Center, located on the campus of St. Mary Orthodox Church in Livonia, MI, is hosting a public Parenting Seminar, "Meeting the Critical Challenges of Effective Parenting," on March 2, 2013, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.
The keynote speaker is Dr. John Chirban, a well-known expert and author of several books on the topic. Dr. Chirban maintains special interest in integrative studies of medicine, psychology, and religion and serves as clinical instructor in psychology at Harvard Medical School at The Cambridge Health Alliance. In 2003, he was named Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard University. He also serves as professor of psychology and chairman of the Human Development Program at Hellenic College. Dr. Chirban serves as Director of Cambridge Counseling Associates and Director of the Institute of Medicine, Psychology, and Religion in Cambridge, MA.
There is a $10 registration fee that includes lunch. Register online, or contact Fr. Jim King at 734-422-0010 for more information.
Saint George Cathedral of Coral Gables, FL, is presenting their Annual Middle Eastern Festival Friday, February 22—Sunday, February 24, 2013. The Cathedral began celebrating its 60th anniversary in November of 2012, and continues with this event. Saturday, February 23 will coincide with the actual and exact 60th anniversary of the parish's founding. The Festival will feature Middle Eastern delicacies and American classic cuisine, a petting zoo and kids corner, live entertainment and a raffle.
"The community is very excited and working hard for this," noted Fr. Fouad Saba. "Many new families are joining and attending now, and our children are excited about this day. Therefore, a time capsule will be sealed on that day during the Festival, with all the children participating."
Added Fr. Fouad, "St. George Cathedral is now on Facebook. Please find and 'like' St. George Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral in Coral Gables, Florida, to receive news and updates on our latest events!"
The Treehouse in Wichita, Kansas, is looking for an Executive Director. Created in 2002 to fill a unique niche, helping economically challenged moms and children with basic necessities and programs, the Treehouse is a Christian-based, not-for-profit organization. The Executive Director is responsible for providing strategic leadership for The Treehouse by working with the Board to establish long-range goals, strategies and policies. The Executive Director is responsible for the administration of the comprehensive Treehouse program, leading its public relations, community relations, and fundraising efforts.
The Treehouse offers compassionate physical and emotional support and positive Christian relationships. It is a special place, created by members of the Orthodox Christian community, especially for moms to receive education guidance and support after their baby is born. Parenting education, spiritual support, diapers and formula, and an inexpensive thrift store with books, toys and clothes are just a few of the resources. The Treehouse provides to women referred to our organization from our approved partners.
A Connecticut couple, lifetime members of the Antiochian Archdiocese, have been named the longest married couple for 2013 by Worldwide Marriage Encounter, a Christian group based in San Bernardino, CA. John (101 years) and Ann (97 years) Betar shared their story with the Hearst Connecticut Media group: how they eloped and married in New York when Ann's father arranged for her to marry another man, and how they subsequently sustained their long and happy marriage.
John and Ann had already celebrated their 80th anniversary at St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church, in Bridgeport, CT on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012. Additionally, the Worldwide Marriage Encounter Group presented them with a plaque and other gifts at their granddaughter's home in Fairfield on Saturday, February 9, 2013.
A photo gallery of the couple, along with the news post, can be found here.
The Orthodox Christian Network (OCN), emphasizing the theme of Prayer in their flagship program "Come Receive the Light," featured two distinguished Antiochian authors in their February line–up. Khouria Frederica Matthewes-Green, a frequent speaker as well as author, shared her thoughts about keeping a personal prayer rule with OCN Executive Director Fr. Christopher Metropulos. The writer of The Illumined Heart, a book about Orthodox spirituality, Kh. Frederica offered helpful tips on starting and maintaining a personal prayer rule, and outlined advice on how to build up the prayer life of the entire family. "When you stop and actually face the Lord, and remember that everything begins and ends in Him," noted Kh. Frederica in the OCN podcast, "I've found that it was the most transformative thing I ever did, to change my prayer life."
A second podcast on "Come Receive the Light" hosted guest Antiochian theologian Dr. Bradley Nassif, professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at North Park University. He and Fr. Chris discussed the importance of not just reading scripture, but memorizing it. "It was important for the Son of God to know Scripture when He was on earth...you can review verses and chose topics that will help you live the Christian life," noted Dr. Nassif.
View Featured Author pages for:
Lorraine K. (Deban) Laham, a life-long parishioner of St. George in Boston, Massachusetts, passed away peacefully at her home surrounded by her loving family on February 8, 2013. She was 84 years old.
Lorraine was born in the Brighton neighborhood of Boston as the youngest of nine siblings. She is preceded in death by all of her siblings; the late Freda Hanna, Helen Zahlaway, Mathilda Teebagy, Nellie Laham, Frederick Deban, Margaret Resha, Elizabeth Weinstein and Edith Eouse. She is survived by her husband of 66 years, Herbert Laham. Lorraine and Herbie had two loving sons, Antiochian Archdiocese Board of Trustees member Gregory Laham and the late Jeffery Laham. When Jeff passed away in 1995 it was an especially difficult time for the family. Fortunately, Lorraine was comforted by her family and by the monks at Holy Transfiguration Monastery and the nuns Holy Nativity Convent in nearby Brookline, MA. They became lifelong friends and were always there for her.
She remained a homemaker for most of her adult life, until the family purchased Sullivan's Pharmacy in 1976. She worked at Sullivan's Pharmacy for the next 25 years. She helped Sullivan's grow into a thriving business until she finally retired in 1998. However, her whole life centered around her family. Greg and his wife Debbie have two grown sons, Keith and James. But few things brought more joy to Lorraine than spending time with her great-grandsons, Junior and Jordan.
The Orthodox Center for the Advancement of Biblical Studies (OCABS) recently released a new title in The Chrysostom Bible Commentary Series. Joshua: A Commentary is authored by The Very Rev. Dr. Paul Nadim Tarazi, professor of Biblical Studies and Languages at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary. Books in the Chrysostom Series are not so much written in honor of John Chrysostom as they are published to continue and promote his legacy as an interpreter of the biblical texts for preaching and teaching God's congregation.
In this newest volume, Fr. Paul explains that Joshua, like most of Scripture, has been "plagued by the proof texting approach of classical theology....Instead of asking the simple question, 'What is the book saying?'" most of us, Tarazi contends, "have been programmed to ask, 'What is the book saying concerning a certain topic?'...the 'topic' we are interested in is already defined in our minds...by merely asking the question, we are already straightjacketing Scripture."
Father Paul is also the author of a three volume Introduction to the Old Testament, a four volume Introduction to the New Testament, and the Chrysostom Bible Series. His Audio Bible Commentaries on the books of the Old and New Testament are available on the OCABS website.
On February 8 and 9, 2013, Fr. Constantine Nasr, pastor emeritus of St. Elijah Orthodox Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and the author of Mastering the Art of Marriage published by Conciliar Press, conducted a marriage preparation seminar at the Antiochian Orthodox Basilica of St. Mary in Livonia, MI. The event was sponsored by the Mariam Center of Marriage and Youth Development, and the audio of all three sessions has been posted to Ancient Faith Radio (AFR).
The Assembly of Bishops has released minutes from its most recent meeting (Assembly III), held in Chicago from September 10-12, 2012. Though the final minutes will not be approved until the next meeting of the Assembly, scheduled for the Fall of 2013, the Assembly presents these as summary minutes.
Some of the chief concerns of the last meeting, as reflected in the minutes, were: the creation of a budget, the completion of the By-Laws, a review of the work of the Committee for Canonical Regional Planning, and the drafting of a statement.
Posted with these minutes are Articles of Incorporation, filed by the Assembly with the federal government in October of 2011. This was a first step towards the Assembly's legal incorporation. Since incorporation requires the creation of By-Laws, these were, as mentioned above, a chief agenda item at Assembly III. Having been completed there, they are now awaiting final approval. Once approved, the Assembly will post them here on the website.
Also included in this posting is the proposed budget for the 2013 fiscal year, approved at the last meeting.
Antiochian priest The Very Rev. Dr. Alexander Atty, former rector of St. Michael the Archangel Orthodox Church in Louisville, KY, has announced his immediate retirement as Dean and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary (STOTS) in South Canaan, PA. Father Alexander, who has served the past three years in that position while giving particular attention to the renovation needs of the STOTS campus, cited health reasons in a statement posted on February 6, 2013.
“I feel at this time that my physical struggles make it impossible for me to devote the time and energy necessary to the Seminary and, most importantly, to the student body,” Fr. Alexander wrote in his statement. He continued his remarks with a description of the great blessings he had received in serving the students of the Seminary, and asked for the community’s prayers for both him and his family.
Father Alexander holds a B.S. in engineering from Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science. After earning his M.Div. at St. Vladimir’s Seminary in 1979, he was ordained a priest on December 9, 1979 at St. Nicholas Cathedral, Brooklyn, NY. Fr. Alexander was elevated to the rank of archpriest in 1988, and later went on to study at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, earning his D.Min. in 2008.
On a sunny February afternoon in the Gerritson Beach section of Brooklyn, NY, the Vicar–General of the Antiochian Archdiocese The Very Rev. Thomas Zain and Mrs. Aida Nicolaou, a parish council member of St. Nicholas Cathedral, joined State Senator Martin Golden in one of the neighborhoods devastated by Hurricane Sandy. There, on behalf of His Eminence, Metropolitan Philip, Fr. Thomas distributed $5000.00 worth of Home Depot gift cards to several families who sustained major damage to their homes and are trying to rebuild.
"Many people are still facing difficulties as they try to rebuild their homes and lives after the devastation wrought by Sandy last October, 2012," noted Fr. Tom. In addition to the financial distress and cold weather, many are facing bureaucracy from insurance companies, the government and private institutions. People in the community eventually requested help directly from Senator Golden, who has been working tirelessly as an advocate for his constituents, including the Gerritson Beach neighborhood.
Dear Young Adults,
With the blessing of His Grace Bishop Anthony, we are very excited to announce the 2nd Annual Midwest Young Adult Retreat to be held April 5-7, 2013 at the Maranatha Retreat Center in Muskegon, MI, on beautiful Lake Michigan. This year, we welcome Fr. Michael Nasser, the Pastor of Holy Apostles Mission in Bowling Green, KY, as our guest speaker for the weekend. Many of our young people remember him for his many years of service as the former Camp Director at the Antiochian Village and his mission work at Project Mexico. Fr. Michael is a dynamic speaker, whose talks will surely challenge and inspire us in the faith.
The Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve (FOCUS) has announced that St. Herman's Orthodox House of Hospitality, a shelter for homeless men in Cleveland, OH managed by newly appointed Director Paul Finley, is now part of FOCUS North America. In addition to providing housing, jobs and support services to homeless men, St. Herman's House offers three free meals a day, year-round.
Accommodations for up to 25 men to stay overnight are available; guests are accepted after completing an intake process and agreeing to abide by the Rules of Conduct. While staying at St. Herman's, guests are assigned responsibilities in the house to aid the house in running smoothly. These include cleaning the house, preparing, serving and cleaning up after meals, maintaining the flower garden and completing projects within the Ohio City community.
The Board of Directors of the Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) met in Ft. Lauderdale, FL at the network’s headquarters in St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church on January 26, 2013. His Grace Bishop Peter, the official episcopal liaison of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and South America, attended the meeting and opened the proceedings with prayer.
Executive Director Fr. Christopher Metropulos noted that OCN and affiliated radio stations are now heard by over 2.6 million listeners in over 200 countries. He also cited the working relationships established between OCN and all of the Orthodox Christian jurisdictions of the Assembly of Bishops, which enables news and edifying podcasts, videos, and blogs to be shared with the faithful through multiple OCN delivery platforms.
After the meeting, the Board of Directors announced the following initiatives:
- Starting in February, listeners will be able to hear broadcasts of "Come Receive the Light" in Greek, Spanish, and Russian. In addition, launch of OCN’s iPhone app is now complete and a new Android app is now available.
- OCN has launched the OCN Webstore; purchases will benefit OCN’s worldwide ministry at no additional cost to the shopper.
- A new podcast, “Our Life in Christ and in America,” will be hosted by Antiochian Orthodox Christian Bill Hinkle, former Minority Whip in the Washington state legislature, and Fr. Constantine Papademos, pastor of Saint Katherine Greek Orthodox Church in Elk Grove, CA and the longest serving chaplain of the California State Assembly in its history.
By Cindy George
When I was asked to say something about our work in the St. Stephen’s Program of the Antiochian House of Studies, words from St. Paul’s Letter to Romans came to mind. In Chapter 12, Verse 2, St. Paul encourages us and the Romans to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This describes what the St. Stephen’s journey has been for me.
After spending my life worshipping in Protestant churches, running in Protestant circles, participating in the mission field with my Protestant friends here and abroad, and educating my mind with Protestant doctrine in Protestant universities, you can imagine my astonishment when God called me completely out of my comfort zone to enter the Orthodox Church. I did not come gracefully.
My story is not one told by many who have been blessed to walk through the doors of an Orthodox Church to the sound of chanting, to the smell of incense, the beauty of the icons, the reverence and holiness of the Liturgy, ones who knew immediately that they were in the presence of the True God. I came kicking, screaming, crying and protesting; questioning every little thing. I asked: Why does everything have to be sung? Why does the priest dress like that? Who are those people lighting candles and kissing paintings? Why do they kiss a cross? Why is the priest lifting up the bread? Why do you have bread in Church anyway? How can you honestly believe that the bread and wine magically turn into the Christ’s body and blood?
Since 1998, International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) has offered an internship program to undergraduates and recent college graduates interested in careers in international relief and development. The IOCC Internship Program provides a unique opportunity to gain firsthand exposure to the operations of an Orthodox Christian international humanitarian aid and development organization.
The deadline for the 2013 Internship Program applications is February 28, 2013.
IOCC internships typically require a 10 to 12 week full-time commitment during the months of May – September. In 2013 IOCC is currently offering 2-3 opportunities for US-based interns, but there is a possibility for an overseas internship that would be posted by the end of February. Current US Internship possibilities are:
- Finance intern at our Baltimore headquarters;
- Communications intern at our Baltimore headquarters;
- US Program intern at our Minneapolis field office with travel to home build sites in New Orleans, Houston, Minot, ND, and NY/NJ area.
- US-based interns in 2013 will receive a stipend, BUT will need to find their own housing in the Baltimore area or Minneapolis area.
"Glory be to Thee Who hast shown us the light!" On Wednesday, January 30, 2013, the booming voice of His Grace The Right Rev. John Abdalah, bishop for the Antiochian Archdiocese's Diocese of Worcester and New England and the longtime editor of The Word magazine, announced the Feast of the Three Great Hierarchs. Saints Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom are the patrons of the St. Vladmir's Seminary (SVOTS) Three Hierarchs Chapel in Yonkers, New York.
The three hierarchs presiding over the Divine Liturgy included Bishop John (SVOTS Class of '84), His Grace The Right Rev. Bishop Nicholas, auxiliary bishop of Brooklyn for the Archdiocese, and His Grace The Right Rev. Maxim, bishop of the Western Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America.
On Tuesday January 22 and Wednesday January 23, the Secretariat of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America convened for its annual face-to-face meeting. This year's meeting was hosted by His Eminence Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America (ROCOR) at his Holy Virgin Cathedral - Joy of All Who Sorrow in San Francisco, CA, home to the relics of St. John Maximovitch of Shanghai and San Francisco.
Attendees at the meeting included: Assembly Secretary Bishop Basil of the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America (AOCA), Bishop Maxim of the Diocese of Western America (SOC), Bishop Andonios of Phasiane (GOA), Fr. Mark Arey, Fr. Nicholas Ceko, Fr. Josiah Trenham, Hdn. Benedict (Armitage), Pdn. Peter Danilichick, Mr. Alexei Krindatch, Mr. Alex Machaskee and Mr. Eric Namee. Also attending was Ms. Chrysanthe Loizos, the newly-appointed communications officer for the Assembly, and Archimandrite Irenei (Steenberg), director and dean of students of the Sts. Cyril and Athanasius Institute for Orthodox Studies. Headquartered in San Francisco, the Institute coordinated all aspects of the two-day event.
On Sunday, January 27, 2013, His Beatitude the Most Blessed Tikhon, archbishop of Washington and metropolitan of All America and Canada, was enthroned at St. Nicholas Cathedral, the primatial cathedral for the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), in Washington, D.C. His Beatitude was elected at the OCA's 17th All-American Council held in Parma, OH on Tuesday, November 13, 2012.
The members of the OCA’s Holy Synod of Bishops and hierarchs from other Orthodox communions in North America and overseas participated in the events of the Enthronement, which included Vespers the evening before and a banquet which followed Sunday's Divine Liturgy and Enthronement. His Grace The Right Rev. Bishop Nicholas of Brooklyn represented His Eminence The Most Rev. Metropolitan Philip of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America, at the weekend's events.