Readers of antiochian.org are encouraged to remember that each week, His Grace Bishop Thomas posts a new article to edify and exhort the faithful of the Archdiocese. As Bishop of the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland and the Mid-Atlantic, His Grace has long provided his flock with appropriate weekly teachings selected from his treasured collection of essays, articles, homilies and more, including many rare pieces from earlier decades of The Word. This week's essay, for example, was first published in 1966, and yet its message of the need for parents to put "First Things First" as they nurture their children, is as timely today as it was when it first appeared in The Word. Read this piece and many others, published and archived here.
The evening of August 12th, 2010 will go down in history as another leap forward in the journey towards Orthodox unity in North America. Over a hundred clergy and lay people from seven Orthodox Churches in the greater Oklahoma City area came together to pray the Paraklesis service to the Mother of God, which was chanted by the teens of St. Elijah Church, followed by a Town Hall Meeting to discuss the future of Orthodoxy unity in America. This was the first such Town Hall Meeting to take place since the historic Episcopal Assembly.
The first part of the Town Hall Meeting was dedicated to watching the video of His Grace, Bishop BASIL’s address at the 2010 DOWAMA Parish Life Conference, hosted by St. Elijah, Oklahoma City. His Grace, who was elected at the Episcopal Assembly as Secretary, explained to all of the clergy and laity some of the progress that the fifty-five Hierarchs who met had accomplished, and the next steps in preparing North America to be united administratively.
His Eminence Metropolitan Philip will depart today, August 9, for the Middle East, where he will attend the upcoming meeting of the Holy Synod of Antioch which is scheduled to begin on August 17th, 2010.
We ask all of the faithful to pray that His Eminence will have a safe and productive journey. We also ask for prayers for all of our beloved hierarchs of the See of Antioch as they gather together in brotherly love to do the work of the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit.
A selection of more than 30 recorded homilies by V. Rev. Fr. Jon Braun have been made available on the website Prudence True. Fr. Braun is Pastor Emeritus of St. Anthony the Great Antiochian Orthodox Church of La Jolla, CA. He also serves as dean of the Southern California Deanery of the Diocese of Los Angeles and the West.
Click here for Fr. Braun's homilies. We particularly recommend the sermon, "Today's Meaning of Antioch," which highlights the Church of Antioch's roots as a mission-minded, multicultural Church born from persecution.
FOCUS North America volunteers, through local affiliates, have been busy this summer! In Orange County, southern California Orthodox Christians bagged food for some of the 20,000 children that are homeless county-wide. In the meantime, thirty volunteers from the Kansas City area drove nearly one thousand miles to North Carolina to work for needy families in the Bakersville region. In San Diego, in the shadows of the wealthy community of Coronado at the Coronado Island Bridge, twenty eight people from six parishes served meals to the homeless in an effort that will be ongoing on Wednesday nights. In a sweltering midwestern heat wave, FOCUS Minnesota served a meal at the end of July as they looked forward to the launch of their new center on Lake Street in Minneapolis; their doors are slated for opening on August 14, the day before the Feast of the Dormition.
Click here to read all the news from FOCUS.
The evening was chaired by Economos Antony Gabriel. Following are his remarks. There was also a slide presentation by Rt. Rev. John Abdalah and remarks by both Very Rev. Joe Shaheen and Very Rev. George Rados.
Metropolitan Philip and Metropolitan Ephraim
Hierarchs of the God-protected Archdiocese
Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
This evening I was tempted to recall all the humorous episodes in our life that we shared with you.
However, it is “serious” business to salute you on the occasion of your 50 consecrated years in God’s holy Priesthood. Few among this audience know of the Antoun we met in 1959 and the suffering you endured in your early years in North America, miles away from family and friends in a different culture and attending St. Vladimir’s Seminary in New York City with professors who at times were difficult to understand with their various accents, living with complete strangers who barely spoke English.
Your prayers are requested for the repose of the soul of Archpriest Matthew MacKay, 54, proistamenos of St. Joseph Church in Houston, TX, Dean of East Texas and member of the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America Council of Presbyters, who fell asleep in Christ yesterday morning, July 26th. Fr. Matthew is survived by his wife Khouriya Lynn and their sons Patrick and Sean.
It was with great shock and with sadness that I heard of the passing of Fr. Matthew. Fr. Matthew and I have been good friends since he was assigned to St. Joseph’s. For a good period of time, he heard my confession. He shared the altar with me at St. Joseph’s for many Fridays during Great Lent as we celebrated the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts. We renewed this practice during this past Great Lenten period when I visited Houston and once again celebrated the Presanctified Liturgy with him on Friday morning.
Fr. Matthew was a priest who loved the holy Orthodox Church with his whole body and his whole soul. He celebrated the divine services diligently and with great joy. He loved God, and he loved the parishioners God gave him to minister to. I can remember many times when we visited together he talked about the concern that he had for the salvation of the parishioners of St. Joseph.
He was a man of great courage. He was not afraid to speak the truth, even if it meant that he would personally suffer because of it. The most important thing to him was that he did what God wanted him to do. In my humble opinion, he ministered faithfully and diligently, always seeking to do God’s will.
Ah, sweet summer! Another eventful, fun-filled camping season is winding down in some dioceses, while the August Session is still to come in several camps.
Due to the generosity of the Order of St. Ignatius, $175,000.00 filled camp scholarship coffers, enabling children of all backgrounds and ages to attend sessions at Antiochian Village, Camp St. Nicholas in California, Camp St. Thekla in South Carolina, St. John Summer Camp in Alaska, St. Mary of Egypt Camp in Washington, Camp Transfiguration in Quebec, Canada, Camp St. George in Iowa, and Camp St. Raphael in Oklahoma.
At Camp St. Nicholas, August campers will enjoy this dance: "Week 3: Out Of This World--Get ready to reach for the stars and LAUNCH into a dance that is out-of-this-world. Dress up as your favorite outer space characters from Star Wars, Star Trek, etc. Or come dressed as an astronaut, star, or planet! The possibilities are endless - just like outer space!" Meantime, in Quebec, Canadian Antiochian children will enjoy "...the Afternoon program, which includes sports, waterfront activities, carpentry, rock climbing, archery, riflery, and more....After dinner, the camp community comes together again for daily Vespers. Each night there is a different program such as a hafli, scavenger hunt, serenade night, campfire, or some activity that the whole camp participates in together."
To view a photo gallery of camper fun and fellowship, click here.
In May of this year, Greek Orthodox priest Fr. John Peck, with the help of Antiochian priest and American Orthodox Institute Director Fr. Hans Jacobse, launched the outreach website Journey to Orthodoxy. Knowing how difficult the inquirer's search for historic Christianity can be, Fr. John and Fr. Hans also premiered the "Welcome Home" network, which connects web readers in real time to other Orthodox who at one time traveled the same journey of discovery and struggle. In its short existence, the website has already run the gamut of stories; a quick glance at the home page reveals stories from former Amish, Catholic, evangelical, and Episcopalian converts who hail from Tanzania, Illinois, Australia, and points in between. Antiochian.org interviewed Fr. John Peck about the website and its impact.
1. What was the inspiration for your new website, Journey to Orthodoxy?
There is a large gap (several actually) in the outreach and evangelism of the Orthodox Church in the United States, and indeed, around the world.
Fr. Joseph Purpura and the Department of Youth MInistry have announced a major new initiative to help teens and their families. The Orthodox Christian Coalition for Healthy Youth (OCCHY) plans to form groups in each diocese to deal with the risky behaviors that threaten the health and safety of youth. A 2007-2008 Archdiocesan study revealed, for instance, that in the previous year, nearly half of the high school teens and even a quarter of the 13-15 year olds surveyed, had used alcohol.
The seven page action plan explains the approach: "The purpose of the coalition is to help educate pre-teens, teens, young adults and parents towards living healthy Orthodox Christian Lives and enabling our youth to live drug free. We will also include education and other eﬀorts towards delaying the onset of sexual activity in youth with the intent of preparing young people for marriage or monasticism and work to assist parents in this endeavor. We seek to do this work in an Orthodox Christian manner and to develop an Orthodox model to be used by other Orthodox parishes and jurisdictions."
In some cases, federal funding may be available to help further the efforts of coalitions. To date, four parishes in three dioceses have come forward as coalition hosts. Fr. Joseph hopes to establish a group in each diocese. For more information, email: FrJoseph@orthodoxyouth.com, or read the action plan here.
Bishops, priests and deacons from across North America, led by His Eminence Metropolitan Philip, are gathering the week of July 19 at Antiochian Village for the Sixteenth Biennial Clergy Symposium. The time of communal worship, fellowship and education brings great renewal to our clergy. Fr. Joseph Allen, Symposium Chairman, opened the gathering with an introduction to the meeting's theme: "The Priesthood: Diakonos, Presbyteros, Episcopos."
In addition to a range of electives, the clergy will hear from three featured speakers over the course of the week: Fr. Dn. John Chryssavgis, on the Diaconate; Fr. Nicholas Apostola, on the Presbyter; and His Grace Bishop Michael Dahulich, on the Bishop. Also giving a special presentation is His Eminence Metropolitan Ephraim Kyriakos, on The Mission of the Church Today: The Priest and His Service.
On Thursday evening, September 2, the Antiochian House of Studies will be kicking off their First Inaugural Alumni Reunion with a banquet and keynote address by His Eminence, Metropolitan Philip. The educational program in applied theology is gratefully celebrating thirty years of offering a unique long-distance forum for all the theological and pastoral education activities of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America.
Reunion attendees will also be able to participate in a variety of events over the course of the weekend of September 3-5, including liturgical worship, tours, golfing, and fellowship. The weekend keynote speaker will be the renowned sociologist and author Kyriacos C. Markides, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology at the University of Maine, and author of many books including The Mountain of Silence and Gifts of the Desert.
The Antiochian Village, site of the ongoing House of Studies classes, will host the reunion, and will announce further details on their site soon. For more information or to make reservations, contact them at 724-238-3677, or email the village at: events@AntiochianVillage.org.
For the Dioceses of Toledo, Ottawa, Charleston and New York, and Los Angeles and Eagle River, the Fourth of July holiday weekend ushered in the long-planned for Parish Life Conferences. With the Creative Festivals, liturgical worship, fellowship, and special speakers as the reward, the faithful of each diocese traveled long distances to convene over the holiday weekend. In Tucson, Arizona, the Diocese of Los Angeles and the West met at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort and Spa, thanks to the hard working parishioners of Fr. Philip Nixon's parish, Holy Resurrection. Attendees were also able to sign up for day tours to two sacred Arizona sites, St. Anthony's and St. Paisius' Monasteries.
Beginning July 5, Orthodox Christians can access "real life," a series of free multimedia studies from Jason Barker and Ancient Faith Radio. The audio and written series examines the way in which life can be transformed through one's relationship with God and others.
The first study is "Joy," focusing on what joy is and how it can be developed. There will be three new podcasts associated with "real life:" "real life" and "real life for teens," which provide podcast versions of the material covered in the units for each study; and "real life minute," a daily one-minute podcast with advice from a saint or Orthodox teacher on daily life. All of the studies will be available in two versions: one for adults, another for teens. The series is similar in concept to the studies, Worship & You.
Jason Barker creates resources for AFR, the Department of Youth Ministry of the Antiochian Archdiocese, OCN and other Orthodox groups. His emphasis is on how we can live and grow as Orthodox Christians in the modern world. Jason has an M.A. in Applied Orthodox Theology from the University of Balamand / Antiochian House of Studies, and a B.A. in Communication from Washington State University.
We are pleased to announce that on June 19th the Antiochian Village Bookstore and Gift Shop went “live” with its new online store. Our ability to offer this has been made possible in large part by the efforts of Mother Alexandra of the Convent of St. Thekla, and fulfills a vision for our store which has been discussed for the past few years. Through her efforts, and with the help of Adam Henderson (a parishioner at St. Mary Church in Johnstown, PA), our store has entered the 21st century. Applying their computer expertise and hard work, all the product in the “brick and mortar” store at the Heritage and Learning Center is being managed and maintained by a retail management software program thus making the launch of the online component possible. Many hours went in to writing descriptions, photographing and weighing product for display on the store website.
Recently, the editors at Antiochian.org interviewed His Grace Bishop THOMAS of the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid-Atlantic. This will be the first of a series of interviews with our bishops to be published in the coming months. (Read His Grace's biography here. Bishop THOMAS also selects a weekly reflection, collected under Notes from Bishop THOMAS.)
1. Your Grace, you attended the recent Episcopal Assembly in New York. Do you have any thoughts for our readers on this historic gathering?
Given the mutual isolation of our various jurisdictions for so many years, I found it especially encouraging that fifty-five bishops of Orthodoxy on this continent were able to come together, speak the same language together, and begin getting about the business of working out a common Church life together. This is what unity actually consists of, that we live together as brothers and sisters in Christ.
The Diocese of Miami, the Diocese of Wichita, and the Diocese of Worcester all launched the season for Parish Life Conferences over the long weekend of June 16-20. St. George of Jacksonville, Florida, hosted the southern conference with the keynote speaker The V. Rev. Fr. Paul Tarazi featured at the Saturday evening banquet. In the meantime, in Oklahoma City, the faithful of DOWAMA met for their "family reunion" at the Marriott; significantly, the Diocese host parish of St. Elijah was celebrating its 90th Anniversary as a community. In a young ladies' sweep, Nora Haddad won the junior division and Melissa LIkiardopoulos won the senior division in the Oratorical Festival. Back east, St. George Cathedral in Worcester hosted a busy schedule at the Sturbridge Host Hotel in the historic city of Sturbridge, Massachusetts, in honor of the two new mission parishes that had joined the Diocese in the previous year, Emmanuel Church of Warren, MA and St. Stephen Church of Springfield, MA. See the Archdiocese calendar for information on other parish life conferences coming this summer.
Recently, Bishop Basil spoke with AFR correspondent Matthew Namee about the historic assembly of bishops which took place in the week following Pentecost. His Grace was elected Secretary of the Assembly. Below are excerpts from the interview, which can be found here in full:
"The bishops delighted in being together and doing the work of the Church."
"The ultimate task was to prepare the Orthodox (Church) of this region...to constitute itself as a canonical, single Church.…It is a huge task, one that a vast majority of Orthodox Christians in America have been praying for, hoping for, talking about, for a long, long time."
"It’s as if the Mother Churches have said to us, ‘Look, you have been asking for this. Before we give it to you, we would like to know, what is your plan?’"
"We were blessed by the work of SCOBA….the work of the Episcopal Assembly was made quite easy by the 50 years of preparation."
"The Episcopal Assembly is comprised of every Orthodox bishop, not just the primates. We had 55 in attendance, (in New York) where the maximum of SCOBA members would have been 8."
Ancient Faith Radio has also posted an extensive interview with Fr. Mark Arey, General Secretary of SCOBA, titled Unraveling the Episcopal Assembly. Additionally, Antiochian.org has compiled a summary of online Assembly articles.
The weekend of June 4th through the 6th proved to be a joyful and historic event for the community of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church, Bridgeville, Pennsylvania. Starting with the arrival of His Eminence Metropolitan PHILIP, His Grace Bishop THOMAS and Archdeacon Hans on Friday, June 4, a weekend of celebration was set in motion for the groundbreaking of the new St. George Church.
On Saturday, June 5, our beloved Hierarchs began the day by meeting with some of the parents, teachers and children of our parish. The morning consisted of a dialogue between Metropolitan PHILIP and our children, and a special arts and crafts project. The groundbreaking Ceremony was celebrated at 11:30 a.m. on the land where the new St. George Church will be constructed. Metropolitan PHILIP and Bishop THOMAS blessed and planted a wooden cross on the land where the church will be built.
Reprinted from The Word, June 2010
The very words of Christ Himself proclaim, “Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called the Children of God,” but all too often we see the very children of the Church embroiled in destructive conﬂict and controversy. Who has not been to a Parish Council meeting or an Annual Parish Assembly where there has been conﬂict or controversy? Who has not experienced strong differences of opinions within families or with siblings? Who cannot say that they know people who have gone through messy divorces in their Church communities? As a matter of fact, a cottage industry has emerged on the Internet now populated with numerous websites and blogs speciﬁcally dedicated to exploring the question of just how we are dealing with conﬂict in the Church. Perhaps one might conclude generally that conﬂict is “normal” to the human condition, and, by extension, to the Church, and we just have to do our best to survive it. But the reality is that, all too often, conﬂict leaves in its wake a myriad of severed relationships and broken ties that ultimately do harm to the very members of the Church that produce it.