With great joy the congregation of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Beckley, West Virginia and its priest, Fr. Samuel Haddad, were pleased to receive His Grace Bishop Thomas for a visit to the parish on the weekend of the Fourth Sunday of Pascha, May 13–15, 2011.
The busy weekend schedule got underway Friday evening when Sayidna met with the parish council. Members had the opportunity to tell His Grace about progress that St. Nicholas has made during the previous year, including the installation of a beautiful Christ Pantocrator icon written by iconographer Matthew Garrett, new carpeting for the church, and continued growth of the congregation. Parish council members also discussed the ongoing work of various parish organizations, including the Women of the Holy Myrrh Bearers. The women’s group operates a soup kitchen called Carpenter’s Corner on the first Monday of each month, offers financial support to the local crisis pregnancy center, helps gather food for a nearby food pantry, and undertakes many other charitable endeavors, seeking whenever possible to provide assistance to those in need. In addition, the Myrrh Bearers contribute substantially to the Parish Building Fund and support all these efforts through organizing and leading the parish’s annual baklava baking project.
Bishop Thomas encouraged the parish council to move forward with their ongoing plans to install air conditioning for the church, to focus on important upgrades for the parish house, and also to continue with the overall growth and progress at St. Nicholas Church.
On Saturday, His Grace met for lunch with the Women of the Holy Myrrh Bearers. Members of the parish women’s group enjoyed a wonderful time of inspiration and fellowship with Sayidna. Bishop Thomas encouraged the women to continue their work of helping those in need, and he also shared with them some of the exciting future plans concerning the St. Thekla Convent located at Antiochian Village.
On Saturday evening, the parish faithful gathered with Sayidna for the service of Great Vespers. Sunday morning saw the highlight of the weekend: the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy. Immediately following the Liturgy, Bishop Thomas installed Annie Cardell as the new parish treasurer, replacing Larry George who recently retired from that position after many years of faithful and much-appreciated service.
The day’s activities were concluded downstairs in the parish hall with a special luncheon in honor of His Grace. As the luncheon drew to a close, a large crowd of parishioners gathered around Sayidna for an informal talk and question-and-answer session. It was a warm and joyous ending to a wonderful weekend, as the faithful of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church expressed their love and appreciation for Bishop Thomas.