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Parishes in Action: St. Elias Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church of Sylvania, OH

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

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On December 20, 2015, by the Grace of God and the blessings of Sayidna Anthony (Michaels), bishop of Toledo and the Midwest, the parish community of St. Elias Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church in Sylvania (Toledo), Ohio came together in a “Double Celebration” event: the consecration of the new holy utensils for the altar and the consecration of the newly constructed St. Elias Little Miracles Montessori School. Archpriest Ayman Kfouf inaugurated both projects shortly after being assigned to St. Elias as the new pastor in November, 2013. Sayidna Anthony's visit thus represented the successful culmination of over two years of hard work by the people and pastor of St. Elias’ Church. 

His Grace Bishop Anthony presided over a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy. The parishioners with friends and families joined the divine services in praises and thanksgiving. During the sermon, Sayidna Anthony affirmed that God took on our humanity out of love for us and to redeem the fallen nature of our humanity and to raise us to new and everlasting life with Him, in communion with His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and by His Holy Spirit. 

Immediately after the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, Sayidna Anthony consecrated the new utensils for the altar. The new holy utensils were acquired through the generous beneficence of members and friends of the parish. Father Ayman had already invited the faithful to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: assembling a new list of names, interned in the altar-table underneath the antimension when the new utensils were consecrated and installed.

In our Orthodox worship, we believe that God descends to us in order to elevate us and to give us a foretaste of His Heavenly Kingdom by the Eucharist. Consequently, during the Divine Liturgy, we use the most proper, precious and beautiful utensils, befitting the majesty and divinity of communion with God. The consecration of the new altar utensils was thus not only a physical renewal of the parish, but also a spiritual renewal of the parish community in Jesus Christ.

Afterwards, Sayidna Anthony led a procession to the newly constructed St. Elias Little Miracles Montessori School. He consecrated and blessed every hall and room, while the pastor and people chanted hymns. Father Ayman, together with the parish council, had transformed an area of the parish grounds into a new building to house the school.  The project was completed on time and on budget. The new school will not only be a new source of revenue for the parish, but it also will contribute to establishing a strong presence of the Antiochian Orthodox Church in the local community, and it will create an opportunity to introduce a whole new generation of children to Jesus Christ and Holy Orthodoxy. Enrollment at the new school had reached 2/3 of capacity at the time of the consecration. 

Following the consecration, Sayidna Anthony attended a banquet in his honor at the parish’s social hall. The church’s choir sang Christmas carols and a delicious meal was served. His Grace spoke at the banquet and reflected on the many changes that have taken place at St. Elias Church. He expressed his appreciation for the efforts of the community in coming together in love and service. Father Ayman, in turn, averred that this project is only the beginning of many projects which will help the Church to continue to grow, to minister, and to witness unto Christ 

Our celebration ended for the day, but our future has just started. Everyone left with new hopes for a future full of opportunity and growth: for the Glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the omophorion of our chief shepherd Metropolitan Joseph, and with the care and direction of his Grace Bishop Anthony. 

Reported submitted by Subdeacon John Gfoeller, St. Elias Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church