Challenges are a “good thing” at Shreveport’s Nativity Mission!
August 30, 2014
[Shreveport, LA - OCA Communications]
“Thanks be to God, things at our mission—the Nativity of the Lord in Shreveport—are moving along at a steady pace,” said an enthusiastic Priest Jason Foster recently. “Over the last six months, we have welcomed 12 new members into the Church via baptism or chrismation, and we have another 11 catechumens and three enquirers.”
The Nativity of the Lord Mission is one of several that currently receives funding through the Orthodox Church in America’s Church Planting Grant Program. The mission’s growth, however, has not been without its challenges, each of which can be seen as a “good thing!”
“On the first Sunday of August, we had 83 people in attendance at the Divine Liturgy,” Father Jason said. “With so many people packed into 600 square feet of space in the credit union facility in which we meet, one young visiting couple left shortly after they had arrived, no doubt due to crowding issues! This made us revisit our short and mid-range building plans!”
Due to the time and expense involved in construction programs, Father Jason and his parishioners are considering other alternatives regarding “sacred space.”
“The possibility of moving to a new location is appealing, but everyone is most excited about being able to experience a fuller liturgical life,” he said. “Sometimes challenges are positive indeed!”
Mission members are equally thankful that their relationship with the nuns at the Nativity of the Lord Monastery, Kemp, TX continues to deepen.
“During Great Lent, at the invitation of Mother Barbara, Matushka Ashley led our ladies and others in a retreat titled ‘Lent: Running the Good Race,’” Father Jason added. “Over the summer, our men made two work trips to help with the building of the monastery’s new retreat center. And, not to be left out, our children raised $600.00 during their ‘Great Physician’ pan-Orthodox Vacation Bible School in June and donated the funds to the project. We also enjoyed a visit from the nuns as they joined us for the celebration of the Great Feast of Pentecost.”
With the blessings of His Eminence, Metropolitan Isaiah of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Denver and His Eminence, Archbishop Nikon, the mission joined with Saint George Greek Orthodox Church for the celebration of Holy Week and Pascha.
“It was a wonderful and beautiful time together as we observed a full week of services in their newly renovated temple,” commented Father Jason, who presided at the services. “Maintaining strong relationships with the neighboring Greek and Antiochian parishes assists us—and them—in carrying out the Great Commission.”
Father Jason insists that incorporating various events throughout the year helps strengthen fellowship and friendships.
“This year, we held our third annual Annunciation Celebration on March 25,” he added. “After the Divine Liturgy—in true Louisiana fashion—we enjoyed a crawfish boil, fish fry, fun and games. This is one of the largest events during the year. And in June, we gathered in the woods of Arcadia for a day of prayer, fishing, food and fellowship.”
Ministering to children and youth is also central to the mission’s life and growth.
“Our youth enjoyed an event-filled summer complete with an overnight retreat that included Bible studies, prayer and a lot of outdoor activities,” Father Jason said, adding that “as we prepare to end our third and final year on the OCA Church Planting Grant, our hearts are full of joy. Each month, without fail, a check from the OCA arrives, which we place in the offering plate to offer back to God with thanksgiving.”
Father Jason enthusiastically anticipates the mission’s immediate future.
“My pastoral prayer has always been that the money invested in us by the OCA would produce good fruit in God’s vineyard here in Shreveport/Bossier,” he said. “Thanks be to God, our ‘storehouse’ is getting full, and there is no doubt that our Lord has blessed our mission through the OCA Planting Grant. Now, as a mature and stable community, we are called to continue the work of the Gospel.”
In Memoriam: The Third Anniversary of the Falling Asleep of His Eminence, Archbishop Dmitri
August 28, 2014
On this day three years ago, our beloved Archpastor and First Hierarch of the Diocese of the South, Vladyka Dmitri, fell asleep in the Lord. As we patiently await the return of His Eminence's body to St Seraphim Cathedral, and given the special importance Vladyka always placed on the Incarnation, represented here is his message to the faithful for the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord 2007. Its guidance is as timely now as it was when first delivered.
May his memory be eternal!
The Diocese of the South
The Orthodox Church in America
PO Box 191109
Dallas, TX 75219-1109
Dearly Beloved in Christ:
“For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us. Having abolished in his flesh the enmity even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: and came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God...” (Ephesians 2).
The preceding scriptural passage is read on the 24th Sunday after Pentecost (this year November 11th, the Sunday prior to the beginning of the Nativity Fast). St. Paul is describing a most significant aspect of the Incarnation. The enmity between nations and people of differing races, taken for granted as something natural and actually sanctioned by “religion,” was destroyed by the Incarnation, the entrance of God Himself into time, into human history.
The Incarnation is the great turning point of history. Even the secular world marks its time “Before Christ” (BC) and “Anno Domini” (AD -- the year of our Lord). Time, since Christ, is the modern era. Twentieth-century man likes to think of his century as the truly modern one, and of deep concerns for equality and justice as being products of his time. Yet, all that is said now about these concepts was said many centuries ago by Jesus Christ Himself, and society is only beginning to catch up with His “advanced ideas.”
Racial equality, brotherhood among nations and peoples, integration -- these are ideas that one hears expressed continually in our day, and many, even some Christians, regard them as foreign to the teachings of the Church. The fact is that Christians themselves have obscured and distorted the fundamental characteristics of the new life that God Incarnate gave to the world.
Religion has been, historically, the sanctifier of national differences. The “Faith” often has coincided with the boundaries of the nation, and unfortunately, Christian communities have been strongholds of ethno-religiosity-national faith ideas.
One radical misunderstanding of Christians of their own faith is partially responsible for this attitude. Christianity is often thought of as one of so many “religions,” when the truth is that Christianity is not religion in the usual sense of the word. It is above religion; Christ came to complete and crown religion. It is the new life in Christ, the worship of God in spirit and in truth.
Unaided by direct revelation, man’s relationship to God found its expression in “religion,” yet, when the fullness of time was come, and God entered into the world, the real nature of that relationship was revealed. This revealed relationship, then, is “super-religion,” above and beyond all pietistic systems devised by man, the end toward which all religion was directed.
However, throughout Christian history there have been those who would force Christianity into the mold of traditional religion and make of it one more competitor for men’s loyalties. Even in our own Church, by historical accident, the Faith has been identified with nationalities. It is particularly sad that Christians have not taken the initiative and, being true to their nature, broken down the walls of partition. It is tragic that Christians have identified themselves with the old idea of religion as the separator of mankind. Due in part, to this misunderstanding, a large-scale abandonment of the Church was seen in years past, and is evident even to this day.
In reality, faith in Christ is the force of unification and could solve the world’s problems; all those things which captivate men’s minds in our day -- peace, brotherhood, equality, social justice -- have their origin in the teachings of Jesus Christ. The Church has always prayed for the union of all men in the Liturgy, because she is convinced that God so wills it. Tragically, when men speak now of peace, brotherhood, equality and social justice, they offer humanism as the only basis for these ideals.
The unity and peace of which St. Paul spoke are unity and peace that only Christ can give, and this is exactly what faith in Christ leads to. Unity and peace on any other foundation only leads to further chaos and wider gulfs of separation.
We Christians must re-examine ourselves and allow ourselves to be unified, indeed reconciled to one another in Christ. We can start by removing, with God’s help, all enmity and ill-will that exists among ourselves; we must consciously make ours the following characteristic measures by which we can judge just how close we are to Christ – “do unto others as we would have them do unto us,” “forgive men their debts, just as our heavenly Father forgives us our debts.” No matter how chaotic the world may be, no matter how much hatred and bitterness that exists among men, we know that when men take seriously Christ’s command to “love our neighbor as ourselves,” the influence and effect of that love is so great that it can again overcome the world.
With love in Christ,
Archbishop of Dallas and the South
Archbishop Nikon Visits St. Barbara Orthodox Church in Ft. Worth
August 26, 2014
[Ft Worth, TX - St Barbara Orthodox Church]
On Saturday and Sunday, August 23 and 24, parishioners and friends of St. Barbara Orthodox Church in Ft. Worth, Texas hosted His Eminence Archbishop Nikon for his first pastoral visit to the parish. The following are highlights of his visit to Cowtown which proved to be a most memorable experience for the local community.
Although His Eminence was tired on Saturday, getting up at 2 am CST to catch a flight out of Connecticut, he appeared most eager to visit with Ft. Worth parishioners that afternoon and evening. A private meeting with the Archbishop was scheduled at 3:30 pm at the Church with the Parish Council. As he was driven up to the front of the building just prior to the meeting, the Council members' greeting of His Eminence was quite touching as they lined up in the vestibule (entry way) to receive his blessing. Also awaiting the Archbishop in the vestibule of St. Barbara's hall was a large 4 foot chalk board on an ornate metal easel with a decorative greeting: "A Hearty Texas Welcome to Archbishop Nikon, 2014." In front of the easel was a lovely bouquet of bluebonnets, and next to the easel a 3 foot stand on which sat an adult saddle. To the right of the saddle was a table with a beautifully framed painting of a long horn steer -- later presented to His Eminence along with a set of spurs -- as well as additional Texas theme decorations, the St. Barbara guest book and introductory brochures. The bulk of the Texas ornaments and thematic dishware were brought out of love by parishioners from their homes, to be used during this special event.
The meeting with the Council was informal with various questions asked of the Archbishop ranging from matters related to the Assembly of American Orthodox Bishops, to activities at St. Barbara's and Council members' conversions to Orthodoxy. Each person had a personal story of discovery to relate to His Eminence. Each story ended in a similar fashion; a heartfelt decision to "come home" spiritually, having found the Orthodox Christian Faith.
The meeting ended just after 4:30 pm, at which time preparations were made for 5 pm Great Vespers. The service went smoothly, the choir sounded very nice. Vespers was followed by a lovely Texas buffet reception, complete with BBQ, King Ranch Casserole and all the fixin's: Tex Mex Beans, potato salad, cole slaw, apple pie, peach cobbler, chips and salsa, homemade cookies, sweet tea, sodas and coffee. The tables were decorated with Western theme red, white and blue table cloths and bouquets of bluebonnets, as well as vases and cowboy boots with Texas floral arrangements, along with metal "lone stars" and a small decorative chalk board on which was printed the evening's menu.
Near the end of the meal His Eminence presented a brief historical and anecdotal talk concerning Archbishop Dmitri (Royster), the founding Hierarch of the Diocese of the South, Orthodox Church in America. One particular recollection focused on Archbishop Dmitri's pastoral sensitivity. His Eminence related how in May of 1975, (then) Bishop Dmitri of Hartford and New England for the OCA was appointed locum tenens of the Albanian Archdiocese. Archbishop Nikon stressed that, "Bishop Dmitri was sensitive to the fact that he would be overseeing temporarily a diocese whose practices were often closer to the Byzantine, Greek and other Mediterranean Orthodox traditions, and different from what His Grace had been used to. During his five year tenure, however, Bishop Dmitri never once sought to impose his own preferences on the Albanian flock. On the contrary he sought to intensify some traditions, new to him, that he thought to be valuable."
After providing several additional anecdotal reminiscences, Archbishop Nikon then entertained questions on various topics from the approximately 50 people gathered. The evening ended officially at about 8:45 pm, with clean up afterwards. Although people were tired, and anticipating the Liturgy and celebration that was to begin in less than fourteen hours, everyone worked into the evening to prepare for those activities, joining in lively conversations as well. The cleaning and preparation crews extended themselves throughout the week working hard to see that the building was as clean as possible for the visit of our father in Christ. Greeters as well offered their customary and friendly welcome to visitors, marking the importance of this event for the parish, as did the kitchen and food staffs.
Sunday morning the Archbishop arrived at the door of St. Barbara's at 9:30 am and was greeted with a bouquet of flowers, as well as bread and salt, traditional signs of hospitality and welcome. The Cross too was offered to him for veneration, with all three presenters delivering personal greetings to His Eminence on behalf of the parish.
As the Deacon intoned, "Wisdom," the choir began to sing, "It is truly meet to bless thee, O Theotokos..." while the Archbishop and servers processed to the front of the Church, the Deacon chanting the customary Entrance prayers. After blessing the people His Eminence entered the Sanctuary (Altar area) through the Royal Doors, and there he vested for the start of the Liturgy, while the 3rd and 6th Hours were chanted.
The Archbishop began the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy at 10 am from the center of the Church. Over 120 people participated in the service, lending their voices to those of the choir. The Archbishop preached on the Gospel concerning the Unforgiving Servant: Matthew 18: 23-35. He ended his homily with a striking image from the prophet and Psalm 66, of God as a Silversmith, Who purifies us in the fires of life, and Who knows when the process has reached its desired goal when He is able to see His Own image in us.
Additionally, the "army of Altar servers," as described by the Archbishop, did a remarkable job. Most of them had never served with an Orthodox Hierarch prior to this weekend. Again, the choir did a fantastic job as well, especially considering that some members were under the weather Sunday morning. The Readers for the day chanted exceptionally well. The extra rehearsals during the week for both the choir and servers paid off greatly as the service went smoothly, with minor mistakes by the clergy being corrected and "covered up" by the quick responses of both servers and singers.
Following the Divine Liturgy another delicious Texas theme reception was held in honor of His Eminence. The copious amounts of food offered Saturday night was topped by even more food offered on Sunday afternoon, much of which was prepared and donated by parishioners. With the wide and colorful assortment of meats, salads, desserts and side dishes, the tables were reminiscent of a Paschal (Easter) Agape Meal in the Orthodox Church. Food and kitchen staffs for both Saturday and Sunday wore dark blue aprons embroidered with bluebonnets and Texas theme designs, the work and material donated by a member of St. Barbara's.
Near the end of the Sunday reception the Archbishop blessed the students in the parish for the start of the new School year. He then met with the younger children privately in the Church library. Three teachers and several parents were present also to take pictures and to help if necessary as the children came up with all kinds of questions to ask His Eminence. Archbishop Nikon appeared as a loving grandfather to the kids, who showed no hesitation at all when it came to asking tough questions such as, "What's the bestest thing about being a bishop?" "What's the worst thing about being a bishop?" "Why do you wear a black hat when the Church is dark, but a sparkly hat when the Church is lit up?" "Do you own a horse?" "Why do stand on a rug with an eagle on it?" "Do you wear boots?" "Who made you a bishop? Were you elected?" Initially it was thought that the children would be intimated by the Archbishop's presence, but such was not the case. Their gathering lasted about 45 minutes, was quite enjoyable, and is an activity the parish must repeat the next time His Eminence is able to be with us.
After his meeting with the children, the Archbishop finished packing his suitcases with one of the Readers and was ready for his drive back to DFW Airport. The community was also blessed to have His Eminence's niece with us on Sunday, who offered to take Archbishop Nikon back to the airport in time for his late afternoon flight.
We received final blessings from His Eminence and returned to the Church for final clean up anticipating this week's activities and services.
A large and heartfelt "thank you," is extended to everyone and anyone who helped to prepare for, and who worked throughout the weekend during the visit of Archbishop Nikon. He greatly enjoyed himself and was thrilled to meet parishioners and friends of St. Barbara's.
To an adult on Saturday night who asked, "As a bishop, what would be the one thing that you would want people to know," he answered, "that I love you all." He told the children as well that the best thing about being a bishop are the opportunities he has to visit his various churches and to see members of his flock. In conclusion we might add that one of the most enjoyable things about parish life is the opportunity that we have to host such a father in Christ.
Eis Polla Eti Despota! Many Years Vladika Nikon.
Second Quarter Financial Statements Available
August 26, 2014
[Dallas, TX - DOS Treasury]
The financial statements for the second quarter of 2014 are now available on the Financial Reports page. Please contact Mr Milos Konjevich, DOS Treasurer, with any questions or comments.
Orthodox Clergy Association of Houston to Host Discussion on Christian Persection
August 25, 2014
[Houston, TX - Orthodox Clergy Association]
On September 5th, 2014, at 7 pm, the Orthodox Clergy Association of Houston and Southeast Texas will have a meeting at St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church, in Houston, Texas to discuss "The Silent Holocaust: The Persecution of Christians in the Middle East, and What We Can Do About It." All the members of the Orthodox, Coptic and Syriac Christian communities in the area are invited to participate. All the members of the congressional delegation of the Houston area are invited to come as well. The evening will feature speakers who will be talking about the current situation, with a question and answer period, and then a discussion of ways to get involved. Local residents are invited to contact their congressmen and ask them to participate. If you don't know who your congressman is, or if you know, but don't know how to get in touch with him or her, you can find the information at http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/Home.aspx.
More details will be available at http://orthodoxhouston.blogspot.com as the event develops.
Volunteers are also needed to help contact members of the media. If you are interested, please e-mail Hieromonk John or any Orthodox cleric in the Houston Area.
OCA Department of Liturgical Music Offers Second On-line Conducting Course
August 22, 2014
[Syosset, NY - OCA]
For the second year in a row, the Department of Liturgical Music of the Orthodox Church in America will be
offering an on-line course, “Choral Conducting for Beginners,” beginning September 15, 2014.
“ The course is designed for beginners or those who are currently conducting a choir but have not completed a formal
conducting course,” said Prof. David Drillock, department chair, who will teach the course. “The class sessions are
devoted to demonstrating basic conducting technique, beginning with elementary conducting patterns and
concluding with an emphasis on conducting liturgical chant. The course will be limited to twelve participants.
Each learner will be required to meet interactively with the instructor via Skype for a 30-minute session each week.
“These sessions will provide an opportunity for each individual learner to demonstrate his or her comprehension of each session and the ability to perform the conducting exercises correctly,” added Prof. Drillock. “At these interactive meetings, the learner will receive necessary feedback from the instructor together with helpful suggestions for improvement.”
Such one-on-one real time Skype sessions will also enable the instructor to provide extra help, if necessary, and answer specific questions.
Those registering for the class will need an up-to-date computer that will run Skype, a web cam with microphone, and internet connection that is not dial-up.
To register for the course, complete the registration form available online and return it to the attention of Ms. Melanie Ringa to firstname.lastname@example.org or via fax to 516-922-0954. The $175.00 course fee may be paid by credit card—info is included on the registration form—or by check, made payable to the Orthodox Church in America DLM. Registration checks should be sent to the Orthodox Church in America, PO Box 675, Syosset, NY 11791, Attn: Melanie RInga.
Upon receipt of completed registration forms, applicants will receive detailed directions for accessing the course.
Holy Resurrection in Clinton, MS to Host Fr Patrick Henry Reardon
August 13, 2014
[Clinton, MS - Holy Resurrection]
Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon will speak at Holy Resurrection Tuesday through Thursday nights, November 4-6, 2014. The topic for all three evenings is "Christ in the Old Testament," specifically focusing on how the Church Fathers saw the Old Testament as pointing to Christ.
Fr. Patrick is the Pastor of All Saints Orthodox Church in Chicago and a Senior Editor of Touchstone Magazine. He is a prolific writer and popular speaker, especially on the Holy Scriptures and issues of Christianity and culture. He brings quite a varied experience, having studied at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky; St. Anselm's College in Rome; The Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome; and St. Tikhon's Orthodox Seminary in South Canaan, Pennsylvania. He also spent some years as a Trappist monk at Gethsemane Abbey in Kentucky, where his spiritual father was Thomas Merton.
For more information, or if you have any questions, please contact Fr Paul Yerger, Rector of Holy Resurrection, at email@example.com.
Read more about Fr. Patrick and hear him speak here:
More details about the events wil be posted as they are available.
Holy Synod Issues Updated Background Check Guidelines
August 7, 2014
[Syosset, NY - OCA]
At their most recent meeting held March 18-21, 2014, the members of the Holy Synod of Bishops, in conjunction with the Office for Review of Sexual Misconduct Allegations (ORSMA) issued guidelines for background checks. On July 20, 2014, a final, revised set of guidelines were issued.
“Background checks must be obtained, and must be renewed every three years, for all readers, subdeacons, deacons, priests, and bishops in the Orthodox Church in America, as well as for all laypersons who have more than incidental contact with children in the course of their work in the Church,” said Archpriest John Jillions, OCA Chancellor. “While the guidelines recommend a company that provides background checks, parishes may utilize other companies, so long as they offer comparable products and costs.”
The revised guidelines are available in PDF format on the OCA web site, and are also available on the Parish Resources page.
St. Vladimir's Seminary to Host Ecology Lecture
August 5, 2014
[SVOTS Communications / Yonkers, NY]
Dr. Elizabeth Theokritoff will present a free, public lecture titled “Cosmic Liturgy and the Problems of Human ‘Priesthood’ ” on Sunday, August 31, 2014, 7 p.m., at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary, Yonkers, NY. Sponsored by the St. Herman’s Society for Orthodox Ecology, the lecture will be preceded by an Akathist service in Three Hierarchs Chapel, beginning at 6 p.m., and a tree-planting ceremony on the campus grounds. The lecture itself will be held in the Metropolitan Philip Auditorium of the John G. Rangos Family Building, and a public reception will follow.
“The lecture will consider the importance of the metaphors that we choose, and will suggest that some of the energy expended in defining man’s place in creation—as king, priest, or steward, for example—might be better spent in deepening our theological understanding of the material creation in which God has placed us,” explained Dr. Theokritoff. “Metaphors such as ‘priest of creation’ are often over-used, and can obscure rather than illuminate the traditional understanding of God’s creation.”
Dr. Theokritoff studied at Somerville and Wolfson Colleges, Oxford, and earned a doctorate in liturgical theology under the supervision of The Most Rev. Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia. She has served as visiting lecturer at the Institute of Orthodox Christian Studies in Cambridge and as visiting Orthodox Tutor at the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, Switzerland. She is co-editor of the Cambridge Companion to Orthodox Christian Theology and author of Living in God’s Creation: Orthodox Perspectives on Ecology (SVS Press).
For more information and directions to St. Vladimir’s Seminary, and to download a flier, visit svots.edu.