On December 10, 2012, the Cedar Rapids Gazette reported that since mid-November, "piece by piece," Soleiman Shalhoub has been installing a stone iconostasis at St. George Orthodox Church. Last January, he began the project with the aid of fifteen employees, sketching out his designs and then carefully carving the Syrian stone quarried from mountains in the Holy Land.
“There’s no one else who does this kind of work,” Shalhoub said, noting that his technique has been passed down through his family for generations. Six tons of stone traveled by ship to New York in 1,700 pieces, arriving at about the same time as Hurricane Sandy made landfall. It was then transported via truck and train to Cedar Rapids.
Members of St. George's community have assisted with the project, providing meals and labor. The parish will celebrate with an open house in the spring once the icons are mounted in the completed stone iconostasis. "The finished piece, which will include red oak doors also designed by Shalhoub, will be unlike any other piece of art in Iowa," noted the Gazette.
Over the weekend of December 7-9, 2012, the community of St. George Church in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania was blessed to host His Grace Bishop Thomas. Friday evening saw a gathering of college students from the local Drexel, Temple, and UPenn chapters of Orthodox Christian Fellowship. During the Lenten meal the students talked with Sayedna Thomas about modern issues facing the faithful, including matters of science, bioethics, and medicine. His Grace encouraged them to always seek Christ and to pray that He sanctify whatever career they pursue so that their talents might glorify God.
Over the weekend of October 19-21, 2012, His Grace Bishop Thomas, visited Holy Ascension Church in West Chester, Pennsylvania. His stay began with prayers at Daily Vespers on Friday evening, followed by a fine Mediterranean dinner at a local restaurant with our parish council. There, the parish council invited His Grace to come back next Spring for a proposed “ground-breaking” prayer service and ceremony to kick off our expansion project. That project includes growing our existing place of worship, in addition to adding more classes for Sunday School, a new kitchen, and a modest size parish hall. His Grace blessed the idea and has scheduled to visit our parish March 23-25, 2013. He also challenged the parish to plan for a Pan-Orthodox Vespers service to be held at one of our local Orthodox parishes for that Sunday evening, which happens to be the Sunday we commemorate the Triumph of Orthodoxy, and is the Vespers service for the Great Feast of Annunciation. Excitement is growing over this idea as our parish desires to come more fully to know our Orthodox clergy, brothers and sisters of our surrounding parishes.
On Oct. 12-14th, 2012, the Basilica of St. Mary in Livonia, Michigan celebrated a historic weekend commemorating 40 years of dedicated ministry and service to the greater southeastern Michigan area. The theme for this Ruby Jubilee celebration was “Dare to Dream.” The weekend was filled with moments of joy, reflection, and fellowship, as the community remembered the milestones that had been reached throughout the church’s history. However, it was also a time dedicated to the anticipation of what the future holds for the parish, as we heard from the youth, regarding their hopes and dreams for what lies ahead for this blessed community. Presiding over the event was His Eminence Metropolitan Philip (Saliba), Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of All North America, as well as His Grace Bishop Anthony (Michaels), Bishop of Toledo and the Midwest.
On the weekend of October 14, 2012, Sayidna Thomas visited St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Sayidna arrived on Friday afternoon and that evening had dinner with the Parish Council and their families. Suanne Moses, the President of the Council, welcomed Sayidna and hoped that he would have a good visit at St. Mary’s. During the meal they spoke about the life in the parish and about the economic growth in the area which is connected mostly to the service industry. Sayidna noted that there were several new hotels in the area and stated that they would provide an opportunity for interested Antiochian Orthodox to find work in this area. He particularly noted how in Pennsylvania the price for housing is relatively inexpensive compared to other metropolitan areas. He hoped that this would be attractive to people looking for a less expensive life in a beautiful geographic area who could become viable members of our Orthodox parish.
In 1987, in the beautiful Pennsylvania borough of Emmaus in the Lehigh Valley, the third largest metropolitan area in Pennsylvania, the mission church of St. Paul was officially founded as a mission of the Antiochian Archdiocese with the blessing of the parish constitution by His Eminence, Metropolitan Philip. Over the past twenty-five years, the parish was led by its founding pastor, the V. Rev. John Kahle of blessed memory (1987-1999), the V. Rev. Theodore J. Mikovich (1999-2009), and the current pastor, the Rev. Andrew Stephen Damick (2009-present).
During its time in the Lehigh Valley, St. Paul Church has been a haven for English-language Orthodox Christian spiritual life and is known both locally and beyond for its love and hospitality to visitors of every background. On the weekend of Oct. 5-7, 2012, St. Paul’s celebrated twenty-five years of this witness, including a full two days of liturgical services (Great Vespers, Matins and Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, two days in a row), celebrating not only the regular Sunday services but also on Saturday the feast of the Apostle Thomas, the nameday of His Grace Bishop Thomas, who presided over the weekend celebrations. The anniversary weekend also included a brief and challenging retreat led by the V. Rev. Dr. Alexander Atty, Dean of St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary.
Fr. Noah Bushelli of St. Philip Church in Souderton, Pennsylvania writes:
It is always a blessing to be Orthodox and to be laboring in God's Vineyard, but this blessing is highlighted with an archpastoral visit. Bishop Thomas's stirring sermons, practical wisdom and common touch inspire us to bear greater fruit to God's glory. We are laboring day and night to building up our parishioners in ministry and also to build up our parish through outreach efforts. Glory to God! Here are some of our efforts:
On Saturday, September 15, 2012, the community of St. George Antiochian Church of Montreal, Quebec, hosted a celebration of 50 years of holy priesthood for their pastor, Economos Antony Gabriel. His Eminence Metropolitan Philip presided over an entire weekend of festivities which culminated in the banquet held at Le Westin in Montreal on Saturday evening.
The weekend began with His Eminence Metropolitan Philip’s arrival to the Montreal airport on Friday, September 14, 2012. Joining His Eminence were His Grace Bishop Antoun, His Grace Bishop Nicholas, and Archdeacon Hans Elhayek. His Grace Bishop Alexander and the priests of Montreal and Ottawa greeted the bishops upon their arrival in a special VIP room at the airport. After we sat, relaxed and enjoyed good conversation with our beloved bishops, the hierarchs were taken to the Westin Hotel via limousine, where they would stay while in Montreal.
St. Athanasius Orthodox Church in Santa Barbara, California, is hosting their second annual Liturgical Arts Festival on Friday, October 19, and Saturday, October 20, 2012.
The Presenters Scott Cairns—Poet, Author, 2006 Guggenheim Fellow, and Professor; and the Rev. Fr. Andrew Cuneo—C.S. Lewis Scholar (D.Phil, Oxford University), and Professor of English Literature at St. Katherine College, will speak both Friday and Saturday.
The parish will also host an icon exhibit and tours of the church, and both evenings will end with a reception and book-signing offered by the featured speakers.
The festival is produced with the blessing of His Eminence, Archbishop Joseph of the Diocese of Los Angeles and the West.
On June 23, 2012, His Grace Bishop Thomas was solemnly received at Vespers by Fr. Alban Waggener and the members of Holy Trinity Western Rite Orthodox Mission in Lynchburg, VA. We were doubly blessed to have Fr. Olaf Scott, the Dean of the Virginias, and Kh. Eva in attendance. The Scotts' daughter Lisa and family are members of Holy Trinity. After Vespers, His Grace spoke to the congregation about supporting their priest and encouraged them to seek out ways to be of assistance within the mission. His Grace then joined the mission council for dinner at the Waggener home, where he discussed many topics, including the present situation in Syria.