As the parishioners of St. Mary Church  in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania were concluding their observance of the Dormition Fast in preparation for the Great Feast of the Dormition, their parish nameday, Bishop Thomas arrived in Chambersburg to celebrate with them.
Fr. Ted Pulcini, St. Mary’s pastor, drove His Grace into Chambersburg during the afternoon of Friday, August 12. That evening Bishop Thomas presided over the final Paraklesis service of the fast, leading a group of parishioners in their supplications to the Mother of God.
The next morning, Fr. Ted accompanied Sayyidna to the St. Seraphim Center, a FOCUS-affiliated ministry conducted by the parish to feed the needy in the Chambersburg area. The Center serves lunch to some 35 to 45 guests twice a week (on Thursdays and Saturdays), complementing the lunch schedule of the local Salvation Army. The Center will be observing its second anniversary this fall and is now well recognized as a welcoming community center in the Chambersburg area. Since last fall, the Center has also offered recycled articles of clothing, free of charge, to men, women, and children who need them. Bishop Thomas commended the work of the Center and gave his enthusiastic blessing to its continued efforts.
That evening more than fifty parishioners gathered to celebrate Great Vespers of the Dormition with Bishop Thomas, who presided over the service, which included a Litia and Artoklasia. Afterwards he had dinner with Fr. Ted and a group of parish leaders at the Copper Kettle Restaurant, operated by a local Orthodox family. His Grace answered questions presented by those at the dinner, focusing on the significance of the election of three new bishop-candidates at the recent Archdiocesan Convention in Chicago.
On Sunday, over a hundred parish members, led by His Grace, celebrated the Dormition with festal orthros and the hierarchical Divine Liturgy, with responses being rendered by the congregation, led by Larry Steele and the parish chanters. That morning’s services also included a churching and the traditional blessing of flowers brought in by the worshipers, recalling the sweet scent of flowers that emanated from the empty tomb of the Theotokos.
The day’s festivities culminated in the annual parish picnic on the church grounds. Even though weather forecasters had consistently issued warnings of heavy rains for the day, the clouds parted and all enjoyed the pleasant afternoon (despite the humidity!) as they together broke their fast and socialized with one another before bidding Sayyidna Thomas farewell, thanking him for taking the time to be present for the weekend and looking forward to his next visit.
Photos courtesy of Gene Kauffman