After much anticipation, Fr. Daniel Bethancourt and the faithful of St. Nicholas Church  in Shreveport, Louisiana, were blessed and honored to have His Grace Bishop BASIL consecrate their Holy Table on Sunday, September 27, 2009. The parish also welcomed other distinguished guests from near and far, including Archimandrite Daniel Keller, the local dean, as well as Fr. John Morris, former pastor at St. Nicholas, along with his wife Kh. Cheryl. Fr. John Bethancourt and his wife, Kh. Photina came from Holy Trinity in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Also attending was Kh. Michelle Burke from St. Anthony’s in Spring, Texas, who, along with her husband Fr. Stephen Burke, made the generous donation of the holy table in memory of Kh. Michelle’s parents. The community of St. Nicholas is deeply grateful to them for that gift.
On Saturday evening, before the service of Great Vespers, the relics of the Holy Hieromartyr, St. Blaise, were processed into the church by His Grace. At the end of the Great Vespers service, everyone was able to walk behind the iconostasis to see the holy table as it was before the consecration. This was the one and only time most of those present would enter the altar area, and the last opportunity to see the table in its uncovered and pre-consecrated state. We were able to see the cavity in the table where Bishop BASIL would place the relics of St. Blaise as well as a list of all the founders and members of the church. It was humbling and awesome for those present to think of their names remaining inside the holy altar until the day of our Lord’s return!
On Sunday morning at the end of Orthros, the service of the consecration began. His Grace put on a white linen outer vestment called a savanon and, assisted by the priests, washed the holy table with soap and water, then rose-water and wine as the reader chanted the appointed Psalms. The parishioners were able to have a role in the consecration by donating necessary items, such as soap, towels, and rose-water as well as sewing the bishop’s linen vestment and a beautiful new altar cloth. After anointing the holy table with the holy Chrism, His Grace covered it with the pure white linen katasarkion (the undergarment of the holy table) as well as the new altar covering. After the consecration, Sayyidna BASIL removed the savanon and it was cut into pieces which were distributed to the faithful to take home with them.
During the homily at the Divine Liturgy, His Grace took the opportunity to speak about the meaning of the consecration, and about the Guardian Angel who is appointed to stand guard beside a consecrated holy table. At the end of the Liturgy, Fr. John Bethancourt presented the parish of St. Nicholas with generous gifts from Holy Trinity in Santa Fe: an icon of St. Blaise and one of the Holy Trinity.
The faithful of St. Nicholas wish to express their heartfelt gratitude to all those who have labored in prayer and in countless other ways to bring St. Nicholas parish to this point. They especially thank all those who donated the items needed for the consecration and for those who worked tirelessly to prepare for this day. Most of all, they give thanks to the One God in Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit for the abundant mercies they have received through the prayers of the Theotokos, St. Nicholas, St. Blaise, and of all the saints. Glory to God!