Susie Sobchak, St. George Orthodox Church Church School Director in Houston, Texas, reports on their successful VBS program:
St. George Orthodox Church in Houston, has been working with Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral to plan Vacation Bible School for the last ten years at least and possibly even longer than that. My first year helping out was when my daughters were four years old and they're fourteen now. Irene Cassis, their religious education director had worked with Gigi Baba, our then youth director (now Kh. Gigi Shadid) in the earlier years. I helped with the preschool grades early on.
About seven years ago, Irene and I started working together as co-directors. It has become a tradition between our two churches. This is a collaborative effort each summer. We take turns hosting between the churches. One year Annunciation picks up all the costs and hosts the program at their facility and the next year St. George hosts it at our church and pays for all the expenses. We pool our volunteers and invite all the Orthodox churches in our greater Houston area to assist and to participate. We even have our children invite their non-Orthodox friends to join us for the week and I'm happy to say we have some 'neighborhood' non-Orthodox that return each summer to attend and even move into leadership roles.
On the 31st year anniversary of the establishment of St. John Chrysostom Antiochian Orthodox Church in Fort Wayne, IN, we were blessed to have Bishop MARK of Toledo with us to open the doors of our new church. This new church was the fulfillment of a commitment that the families of St. John Chrysostom Church made in 1979, when Sub-deacon (now Archimandrite) Michael Evans was sent to help coordinate the people into a Mission of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America.
Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the efforts of Sdn. Michael, Fr. Joseph Rahall (then pastor of St. George – Indianapolis), and several founding families, the parish of St. John Chrysostom was opened in a small building purchased from a local Presbyterian church. From the beginning, this building was referred to as our “temporary church." Our parishioners, with their own hands, tore down walls and repaired others; they replaced flooring, and duct work and electrical lines, but the building continued to fall short of the needs of the parish.
Fr. Thomas Begley offers this account of the community of St. Mary Church in Iron Mountain, MI.
Recently, I traveled to Iron Mountain, Michigan for the deanery meeting with the clergy. Our Father in Christ, Bishop MARK, was there as well. His Grace has been with us for at least one of the two deanery meetings we have each year. Having the bishop present was an honor. His wisdom helped guide our discussions giving support to our clergy and our churches. What stood out, however, was His Grace and the clergy came for an additional purpose, which was to bless the soccer field the church built for the community.
St. Mary’s is a small parish in the western part of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is an economically depressed area with city and county budgets stressed to the limit. Their priest, Fr. Mark Hagan, saw their parish losing members and unknown in the community. His answer to their dire situation was to reach out in Christ’s love to their community. Fr. Mark looked for a serious need that his church could help address in their community.
Fr. Mark discovered that there were 2,500 kids in and around Iron Mountain who were signed up for soccer. However, there were not enough soccer fields. The fields they used were in poor condition. Some of the kids played on a field given by a local company that had to have toxic gas vented out from beneath the field. Other fields were filled with rocks and had little or no grass. The church’s solution was to give property owned by the church to be leased by the soccer foundation for one dollar!
In the picturesque artist enclave of Taos, New Mexico, dedicated Orthodox Christians have been laboring to begin a new community that will be the foundation for a mission parish. Author and illustrator Claire Brandenburg has been working through the approval process in order to secure a rented Chapel space. Services will begin when the town allows for the Special Use designation and everything is in place. A mature parent community, Holy Trinity of Santa Fe with Fr. John Bethancourt, has offered their support as well, and the fledgling chapel is hoping to become the second Antiochian parish in the state. Antiochian.org recently interviewed Claire Brandenburg.
1. Tell us about how this effort got started.
We are a small group of three with one inquirer, all with big hopes of fishing for like-minded persons in this community. Our bookstore will offer lots of bait...good reading, gift items, cards, coffee and tea. Several of us live at a distance from Taos, as there are many outlying communities in the County, of which Taos is the hub. The group is mature in years and have felt that the need for a Church in Taos has become more pressing.
2. How are your plans shaping up, and have you been able to hold services yet?
I am planting a sign this morning in front of our "business" indicating that a process establishing "Special Use" for a Chapel has begun. Our first meeting with the Town of Taos begins on July 7th. It is followed by another meeting in August. If we are approved at those meetings we will then need to make changes in the building for ADA compliance. These changes are relatively simple, though checkbook stretchers. We anticipate that our services will start in mid-August or possibly at the beginning of the Orthodox New Year in September.
Christ the Savior Mission in Jacksonville, Texas, has suffered heavy damage due to the recent rains and flooding in the nation's central regions. Reports His Grace, Bishop BASIL in his newsletter, "During the recent heavy rains here in the Heartland several of our church temples sustained various levels of flooding and water damage, but none has been damaged as severely as the Church of Christ the Saviour/Jacksonville, TX where our brother Fr. Finbar Thibodeaux is proistamenos."
Adds Fr. Finbar, "It seems than when the building next to ours was undergoing repair of its roof and renovation of its upper storeys, much of the construction debris - as well as the personal trash produced by the workers (soda bottles, cans, plastic bags, candy wrappers, newspapers, etc.) - was simply tossed on to the lower, flat roof of our church building. During the recent storms all of that debris and trash completely clogged the downspouts, gutters and drains of our building resulting in the pooling of a massive amount of water on the roof of Christ the Saviour Church. As was to be expected, the weight of the water finally proved to be too much for the structure; the water began not only to seep into our building but literally pour in, eventually causing ceilings to collapse and severe interior flooding coming from above....We continue to try to facilitate the drying of the building by running the AC units, fans and dehumidifiers. The humidity in the building remains extremely high and we continue to see more and more damage to the building. My vestments were taking on the stench of the building so I moved them to my home. The pew missals and hymnals are warping due the humidity."
Father or Kh. Linda may be contacted at: email@example.com.
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.
On May, 29, 2010, His Grace Bishop THOMAS was solemnly received at Vespers service by Father Alban Waggener and the members of Holy Trinity. Following Vespers, His Grace spoke to the members present about his vision for the church and the mission in Lynchburg. He noted that this region of the country is a difficult area to introduce people to Orthodoxy, however, nothing is impossible with God. He encouraged everyone to continue to preach the Gospel everywhere they go.
Following Vespers, His Grace joined the mission council for dinner at the Waggener home. Many topics were discussed including the future of the mission in Lynchburg and how it can reach out to others in the community. His Grace is positive about the the Mission and the future of Orthodoxy in Lynchburg.
Fr. David Mustian (firstname.lastname@example.org) reports that over 200 people attended the first Divine Liturgy in the new home of St. Luke Orthodox Church, Erie, Colorado, on Sunday, May 23rd. The new iconostasis and some other items are yet to be delivered and installed. In other good news, a second parish, Holy Ascension Orthodox Church in Norman, Oklahoma, has finished building their new church as well. Fr. Justin McFeeters (email@example.com) says that the congregation hopes to begin worshipping in their recently completed church temple following the Parish Life Conference next month. As is the DOWAMA tradition, the iconostasis crafted for the chapel at the Parish Life Conference is gifted to a mission or small congregation within the Diocese. This year the iconostasis will be gifted to Holy Ascension in Norman. The formal blessing of this new facility is scheduled to take place in conjunction with the Diocesan Fall Gathering in October.
Recently, a video celebrating the fifteenth anniversary of St. Joseph Antiochian Orthodox Church, Houston, Texas, was released via YouTube.
Created by videographer Doug Burns, "The Beginning" includes vintage photographs and clips, and chronicles the story of the lively, multi-ethnic parish. The parish is led by the Very Rev. Fr. Matthew B. MacKay.
Holy Apostles Mission in Bowling Green, Kentucky has received heavy damage to its mission chapel from the recent flooding in the region. No further services are planned in the current location. Weekly Bible studies and Vespers on Saturday evening will be held in members' homes. The Mission is currently working to secure a new location for services.
Donations to may be sent directly to the Mission:
c/o Kevin Burt (Mission chairman)
357 Cedar Ridge Rd.
Bowling Green, KY 42101