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Being a kid again at Vacation Church School

28 Jul

Vacation Church School 2014One of my greatest pleasures as a pastor is teaching at Vacation Church School.

This year, with the help of co-teachers Debbie Rappaport and SubDn. Chris Savisky, I had a great time with 7 energetic kids, ages 4–14.

Focusing our lessons and crafts around the Feasts of the Virgin Mary, here’s what we did:

We made decorated icons to take home…

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some kids even added extra sparkles to themselves!

 

We learned about our “Father’s House” by exploring the inside of the Church, finding icons of the Virgin Mary in so many places, smelling beautiful incense, and touching drops of fragrant oils used to heal the sick.

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We made paper likenesses of the Angel Gabriel, to remember the angel’s announcement to the Virgin Mary that she would bear the child Jesus, our Savior.

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And, of course, we ate all the great lunches prepared by Mrs. Alesevich and Mrs. Stabler…yum!

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We took time to play as well as pray!

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In short, for awhile, we all became “children” of our Father in Heaven…and it was joyous!

 

Matthew 18:3

And he said, “Truly I say to you, unless you will be converted and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Vacation Church School: Feasts of the Virgin Mary

13 Jul

Theotokos_of_VladimirDid you ever pause to ponder the words of the Virgin named Mary in the Bible: “For behold, from henceforth all generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:48)?

Here at Holy Ghost Church, we will remember and celebrate the life of this remarkable woman, during our summer Vacation Church School, from Wednesday, July 23 through Saturday, July 26, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., with lunch included. Children ages 5–8 and ages 9–14 will comprise two groups, with lessons and activities designed for each age cluster.

Each day, we will focus on an event in the life of the Virgin Mary, known to Orthodox Christians as the “Mother of God,” or “Birthgiver of God (Greek = Theotokos). Primarily, we will learn about:

  1. Her birth and the story of her aged parents Joachim and Anna
  2. The angel Gabriel’s announcement that she would give birth to a son, Jesus
  3. Her death, resurrection, and glorification

However, besides learning about the Virgin Mary, we will also learn about ourselves and our Christian walk with God. For, in celebrating the life of the Mother of God, we Orthodox Christians celebrate our own lives in Christ and the Holy Spirit. What happened to Mary will happen to all of us who imitate her holy life of humility, obedience, and love: we too will have Jesus Christ born in within our hearts, and we too will die and rise again to new and eternal life.

The Virgin Mary, our Mother, leads us lovingly and courageously on our Christian journeys. If you would like your children to join us, please contact me, Fr. Steven Belonick: belonick@svots.edu or 203-290-4023.

 

 

 

 

 

Read Any Good Books Lately? “Come, Holy Spirit!”

19 Jun
Serving on Green Sunday

Serving on Green Sunday

We recently celebrated the Feast of Pentecost, which occurs 50 days after Pascha, that is, our Lord Jesus’ Resurrection. In my younger years, I would hear my mother refer to this day as “Green Sunday,” because the priest and the church were vested in green, and most people in the congregation sported a green tie or dress.

This is still true at Holy Ghost Church in Bridgeport. I delighted in seeing the shades of green transform our worship space and worshippers. Everything and everyone looked fresh, alive, bursting with potential as we celebrated this joyous feast.

Just as Easter, or Pascha, is the fulfillment of an Old Testament event, the Jewish Passover (for Jesus passed over from death unto life), Pentecost is the fulfillment of another Old Testament event: when God gave the Prophet Moses the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. The first time around, God inscribed His law, His commandments, on two tablets of stone. But the next time around, God inscribed His Spirit on human hearts.

Subdeacon Chris, our chanter, wearing his green belt!

Subdeacon Chris, our chanter, wearing his green belt!

St. Paul puts it this way: “You [Christians] yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” (2 Cor 2:2–3).

What a powerful statement!

During this season of Spring, which floats into Summer and during which our world becomes more green, more lush, more fruitful, let us take stock of our own spiritual growth. Are God’s words from Scripture always inscribed our on hearts? Is the Holy Spirit active in us? When people see us, do they see the image of Christ?

We can become like letters from God, open books, read by everyone we meet, if only we would ask, “O, Heavenly King, come, abide in us, cleanse us from every impurity, and save our souls, O, Good One.”

“Come, Holy Spirit!”

 

 

 

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

1 May

Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!

We had a glorious Paschal midnight service to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we continue to celebrate the 40-day Bright Season that follows the remembrance of His death and resurrection.

We thank parishioner Bettie Guggenheim for capturing, in these photos, our service on “Bright Monday,” the procession around the church that proclaimed to our neighborhood the risen Lord, and the annual egg hunt by children in our community.

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Join us for Holy Week and Paschal Services

13 Apr

20140418_154555During this week before the Great and Holy Feast of the Passion and Resurrection of our Lord, we welcome you to Holy Ghost Orthodox Church for services.

See all of our Holy Week and Paschal Services in the right hand column on our Home Page.

(Holy Friday photo: Francis Nettle)

 

Church at Lord Chamberlain

1 Feb

IMG_2068In the days just after Jesus died, rose, and ascended into heaven, His followers continued to worship in the Jewish Temple, but they also met in each other’s homes to pray, read Scripture, and remember the death and resurrection of their Lord by celebrating the Eucharist and partaking of His Body and Blood. Holy Scripture records this common practice (Acts 20:20, Rom 16:3-5a, 1 Cor 16:19, Col 4:15, Phlm 1-2b, James 2:3).

Indeed, up until the mid to late third century (and, especially before the early fourth century when IMG_2072 Christianity became recognized as an official religion by the Emperor Constantine the Great), it was common for Christians to meet not in magnificent temples, but in each others’ homes or in secret places like the catacombs (that is,  underground caves that served as burial places).

Our parish usually gathers for services at 1510 East Main Street in Bridgeport, but on Saturday, January 18th, we went to another “house” to worship—Lord Chamberlain Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Stratford—where some of our brothers and sisters in Christ now reside and recuperate. It was such a joyous occasion for us to be with them and their families to celebrate the service of Vespers, and we thank the staff of Lord Chamberlain for allowing us to worship there.

IMG_2059In fact, the experience was so gratifying that we have decided to hold a Vespers service there each quarter of the year. Please check our parish calendar to see when and where we will be back with these brothers and sisters, who remain very much part of our parish family. And, come, worship with us in their “house church.”

Building Our Community & Our Community’s Building

18 Jan
Award Ceremony Holy Ghost Church_CTHP_2014

Receiving the $20,000 check (from left), Fr. Steven, pastor, Helen Higgins, executive director of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation; Sophie Rogers, Parish Council member; and Peter Hristov, Parish Council president.

Our parish community has been around since 1894, and our church building was dedicated in 1937. Now, more 100 years since our founding, both these realities are coming to the forefront as we begin this New Year.

First, our Parish Council is seeking to “build community” by initiating a Strategic Plan, that is, creating a roadmap for our future. Council members are going to take part in a brainstorming retreat together, prayerfully asking the Holy Spirit for inspiring ideas that will make our community one that is “being knit together in love,” and is  “growing with the increase that is from God,” as St. Paul says in his letter to the Colossians ( 2: 2, 19 ). Then, council members will be inviting everyone in the parish to submit their own ideas to this Strategic Plan, marking them down on a public “White Board” that will be set up in the church’s undercroft. Through prayerful communal thought, we hope to create a like minded community that will move forward with fresh ideas in courage and love.

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Other Parish Council members and State Representative Christina Ayala (center) join in the celebratory check presentation.

At the same time that we are “building community,” we will be focusing on our community’s building. Holy Ghost Church has recently been awarded a $20,000 Historic Preservation Technical Assistance Grant (HPTAG),* which will fund a condition assessment and restoration plan for our church structure. The grant, given by the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, has been equally matched by funds from a bequest to the parish from Alexander and Astrid Samus (upon the encouragement of Sophie Rogers, sister of Mr. Samus and current member of the Parish Council). Our Parish Council has contracted with TLB Architecture, a firm in Chester, CT, to do the top-to-bottom assessment of the building, beginning in February and ending in June.

As I travel in January and February to all the homes of my parishioners for the traditional House Blessing that occurs during the Epiphany season, I’ll be thinking a lot about these two major things: “building our community” and “our community’s building.” Come, take the journey with me, for I need you all as my fellow travelers.

*HPTAG is a collaborative historic preservation technical assistance program of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation (CTHP), in partnership with and funding from the State Historic Preservation Office, Department of Economic and Community Development, through the Community Investment Act.

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