In the afternoon of Sunday, Feb. 21, 2010, His Grace, Bishop THOMAS, celebrated the Sunday of Orthodoxy service with His Grace, Bishop TIKHON of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania (OCA) at the Church of St. Nicholas (OCA) in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Numerous area clergy and laity celebrated this service together, including a proclamation of the common faith of the Orthodox Church, as well as the traditional anathemas which Orthodoxy levels against dangerous, heretical doctrines. Five different SCOBA jurisdictions were represented among the clergy, including (besides the two bishops) eighteen priests and five deacons.
Sayidna THOMAS presented a homily before the service in which he stressed that Orthodox Christians are icons of Christ, that each of us is an ambassador of the Kingdom of God in this world, no matter our circumstances. After the liturgical service, the clergy and faithful heard a short presentation on the work of the Lehigh Valley Orthodox Clergy Brotherhood which sponsored the event and then together shared a Lenten meal.
On the day before the Sunday of Orthodoxy, Sayidna THOMAS visited St. Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church in Emmaus, Pennsylvania. He presided from his throne during a Divine Liturgy concelebrated by four priests and two deacons, including Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick, the pastor of the parish, along with Archpriest Theodore Mikovich (pastor emeritus), Fr. Noah Bushelli (of Souderton, PA), Fr. Gregory Christakos (of Worcester, MA), Dcn. Thomas Underwood (the parish deacon), and Dcn. Methodios Ingalls (St. Tikhon’s seminarian). Sayidna THOMAS then celebrated the holy mysteries of baptism and chrismation for Elias Damick, the infant son of Fr. Andrew and Kh. Nicole. Joining him and the other clergy for the baptism was Fr. Joseph Butts of Valley Forge, PA. Fr. Gregory and his wife Presvytera Eleni stood as godparents for Elias. Following the baptism, parishioners, visiting family, friends and clergy all shared together a Lenten reception.
Under the direction of Fr. Andrew, who was assigned as pastor in July of 2009, St. Paul’s in Emmaus has been exploring and pursuing new parish ministries as well as strengthening existing ones. A daily worship schedule has been in place since July 2009, including weekday Vespers and Matins, as well as an expanded number of feast day divine liturgies. November 2009 was Outreach and Evangelism Month at the parish, with each weekend during the month including a special event dedicated to the theme. The parish also received from His Eminence, Metropolitan PHILIP, via Bishop THOMAS, a holy relic of St. Raphael of Brooklyn, for the veneration of the faithful.
Fr. Andrew has also expanded the adult education opportunities at the parish, delivering a series of seven lectures entitled “Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy,” which not only drew Orthodox Christians from around the Lehigh Valley and beyond to fill the parish hall, but also has been published by Ancient Faith Radio as a popular podcast. The popularity of the podcast has led Fr. Andrew to be called upon as a speaker at various area parishes and other venues, including Penn State University and Bucknell University, as well as future engagements with the Orthodox Fellowship of the Transfiguration and Kutztown University. He lectures not only on comparative religion, but also ecology, evangelism, Church history, and other issues of Orthodox Christian spiritual concern.
The parish has increased its evangelistic involvement with the local Emmaus community, including interaction with local businesses and other religions and also sponsoring a booth at the borough’s 250th anniversary celebration. Parish membership has also increased during recent months, both through transfers of Orthodox Christians into the parish, as well as the reception of catechumens, and there has been a dramatic 63% increase in stewardship pledges made.
St. Paul’s continues to press forward to deepen the faith of its members and to bring the faith to those who do not yet have it.