St. George Church  in Altoona, Pennsylvania welcomed His Grace Bishop Thomas for his annual visit on the weekend of May 18-20, 2012. Sayedna Thomas met with the clergy and their wives on Friday evening, and then at Saturday noon with Fr. Stephen Lourie, Kh. Nancy, Choir Director Nadeen Nerenberg and Fr. Dn. Gregory Roeber and the members of the Church Council. Over lunch they took the opportunity to discuss the challenges facing our Orthodox parishes in regions that have been hard hit by the current recession and job crisis. Sayedna urged the Council and clergy to stay in touch with other parishes in the region since many of our fellow parishes face the same issues and we might share both strategies and mutual encouragement in our continued efforts to grow the Church, both in reaching out to those lapsed Orthodoxy and in inviting those who do not know Orthodoxy to “come and see.”
Later in the day, Sayedna also met with two members of the parish who were candidates for tonsure to service in the Church. At Great Vespers on Saturday, Mr. James Johns was tonsured to the office of Reader. Sayedna tonsured Mr. Joshua Kollat to the order of Subdeacon at the close of the Matins service prior to the celebration of the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy Sunday morning. In his homily on the story of the Man Born Blind, Sayedna urged us all again to be thankful for the blessings that we have received as did the man whose sight was restored and to remember that the Church is the hospital where all of us are being made well. We will only know our physician, however, if we take advantage of the opportunity to worship together and then to love and serve as He has loved and served us.
This year, instead of holding a more formal banquet, the parish chose to hold a potluck dinner asking members to bring dishes representative of the many cultures and backgrounds of our pan-Orthodox parish. Special thanks go to Ms. Linda Ofiesh and Mrs. Jackie Riccio for organizing the abundant luncheon. In honor of the parish's patron saint, Mr. Michael Farrow explained the background to the Russian legend of St. George that he had set to music from the Romanian tradition. The Sunday School children, led by choir director Mrs. Nadeen Nerenberg, then sang Michael’s setting for Sayedna and the parish. Sayedna Thomas then took the opportunity to lead us all in singing “Many Years” to our oldest member, Mrs. Irma Batrus, who will celebrate her 100th birthday in a few weeks’ time. Our thanks go to Mr. Allen Yurkovich for the many splendid photographs of the weekend. We look forward to His Grace’s 2013 return with the prayer, “Many Years, Master!”