Vespers cancelled Saturday, January 3, 2015 due to snowstorm! See you Sunday for important meeting!

3 Jan

Dear Friends,KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

We’re canceling vespers for Saturday, January 3rd at 4 p.m. due to the snowstorm, but we will see you all for Divine Liturgy Sunday, January 4th, at 9:00 a.m.!

Remember that after Divine Liturgy and during coffee hour on Sunday, January 4, from 11 a.m. to noon, we also are having a special presentation by the firm that has completed an architectural and engineering study on our church: TLB Architecture, LLC, of Chester, CT.

Parishioners, please stay for this very important informational meeting. Tim Brewer and Roger Williams, architects from TLB Architecture, will make a special, personal presentation about their recent study completed November 2014, and then they will answer your questions.

It is crucial that all parish members have a forthright, complete, realistic understanding of the current condition of our building and the costs associated with rectifying issues that need repair or remedy. This will be your only opportunity to question the architects directly, so please do take advantage of their being present with you.

Thank you, Fr. Steven

Our 2014 website stats in review: Happy New Year!

30 Dec

Ever wonder if anyone reads our website at Holy Ghost Church? They do!

We use an outfit called “WordPress” for our website’s content management system, and WordPress’s helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report about Fr. Steven’s “Pastor’s Corner” blog and our website and sent the statistics to us. What a surprise! See below and then click to read more!

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 9,700 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report. Give it a few seconds to load up, then scroll down!

Twelve Days of Christmas: Christ is born! Glorify Him!

28 Dec

We welcome visitors!On December 25th we celebrated the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and now we are greeting each other with the traditional words used by Orthodox Christians: “Christ is born! Glorify Him!”

These words come from the Christmas canon, a long set of hymns composed by St. John of Damascus, a great musician of the 8th century. But St. John actually took them from a theological oration written by St. Gregory of Nazianzus, a bishop of the fourth century. These words from St. Gregory’s 38th Theological Oration are now so familiar to us Orthodox Christians, as we sing and proclaim them annually:

Christ is born; glorify Him.

Christ from heaven; go out to meet Him.

Christ on earth; be exalted.

The Nativity Season itself lasts 12 days, until the Eve of the Feast of Epiphany on January 5th, and during this time we neither fast nor kneel. Instead, we rejoice greatly!Decorated for Christmas

I hope that your Twelve Days of Christmas has contained the peace and joy given by the Christ Child. I know that mine has.

The Nativity services were rich with Old Testament prophecies and New Testament hope. I’ve enjoyed celebrating the Holy Days following the Nativity: The Synaxis of the Theotokos; The Feast of Protomartyr Stephen (for whom I am named); The Righteous Joseph the Betrothed, David the King and James the Brother of the Lord.

This past week God has given me the privilege of a wonderful, and wondrous time spent with my family: my wife, two sons, and two new daughters-in-law, as well as extended family at a 98th birthday party for my father! And, I was able to take in a fascinating exhibit at the Yale University Art Museum, which featured artifacts and art from the 3rd century BC to the 3rd century AD from pagan, Jewish, and Christian buildings in a region called Dura-Europos, including the most ancient Christian church known to humankind.

The whole week, I’ve sensed, not only during church services but also during special outings (and even mundane tasks) that Christ is with me, with us, in every little detail. “God is with us!” as we proclaim on Nativity Eve. He is real in His humanity, and He has come to make our life divine. Let’s rejoice in this glorious wonder and surrender to this great privilege.

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Worship with us this Christmas week!

21 Dec

Nativity_Services_HolyGhost_2014

Remembering Our Foremothers

15 Dec

This past Saturday, December 13th, we celebrated Great Vespers at Lord Chamberlain Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Stratford. We hold vespers services at our local nursing homes every four months, so that we can pray with our many parishioners who now are in residence in those facilities. At Lord Chamberlain, Peggy, Irene, and Lydia are our sisters-in-Christ who call that place home.

Lydia

Lydia

It was the eve of the “Feast of the Holy Forefathers,” that is, the commemoration of all those men in the Old Testament who pointed to the coming of Jesus Christ—either by direct prophesy or by the example of their own life. As I began to preach about these ancient fathers of the Bible—Noah, Moses, Daniel, and so forth—I also mentioned “Melchizedek,” the mysterious biblical figure whose name means “King of Shalom (Peace),” and how he, like all the other Holy Forefathers, had given a glimpse into Christ’s future birth, life, death, and resurrection.

As I preached, Lydia, who formerly was active in our parish in so many ways—expert archivist and historian, for one—exuberantly piped up and mentioned that she had seen the (now defaced) icon of Melchizedek in the great cathedral of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (Istanbul), Turkey during one of her many trips around the globe.

As she recounted her experience, I began to recall how much she, as well as Peggy and Irene, had contributed to

Peggy

Peggy

our parish: Lydia, with her meticulous care in preserving and publicizing the incredible historical wealth held in our church temple; Peggy, whose vivacious personality brought life and laughter to countless parish events and fundraisers; and Irene, who lent her beautiful soprano voice to every single church service.

Irene

Irene

Truly, I thought, these are the foremothers of our own parish!

How fitting it was that on the eve of the Feast of the Forefathers, we also were in the midst of these three ladies who always pointed the way to Jesus to all those around them. What an honor to pray with them and to enjoy once again their company as we move toward the Nativity of our Lord—Father Steven

Joining the Body of Christ

12 Oct

On Sunday, October 12, our parish welcomed two new members, Bridget and Stephen. They had been studying for many months to ready themselves to embrace the Orthodox Christian faith. Both former Roman Catholics, they eagerly soaked up the lessons I offered to them, which took place in the nave of our church building Sundays after Divine Liturgy.

Stephen and Bridget with sponsors Richard and Walter

Stephen and bridget with sponsors Richard and Walter

They fired questions at me weekly: about living the Christian life, about the Old and New Testaments, about the sacraments of the Church, about iconography, about heaven and hell, and about the importance of the Divine Liturgy. Our curriculum was not formally structured, but we touched upon every aspect of being an Orthodox Christian, especially within the Church’s rhythm of fast days and feast days, cycles of the church year that correct and guide our lives.

My sermon in honor of their becoming communicants in the Church focused on a passage from St. Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians called for in the lectionary that day: “He who sows sparingly, reaps sparingly” (9:6–11). I emphasized the importance for each Christian, from the time of baptism and chrismation, to give his or her life to the Lord and to “invest” in virtuous living: to pray and develop fellowship with the Lord, to fast from food and refrain from anything that would replace God with an “idol,” and to fan the flames of love for God and people. Such investing results in a holy life—the person becomes a living temple of God, a true witness to Christ Jesus. (Listen here to that sermon.)

Stephen and Bridget with their sponsors Richard and Walter.

Stephen and Bridget with their sponsors Richard and Walter.

What amazes me is the influence that Bridget and Stephen have already had on our congregation because they invested in learning about the Orthodox Christian faith. First, their mere desire to learn gave a boost to our parish—they gave us hope that others may also want to join our body of believers. Second, their enthusiasm about their lessons resulted in other parishioners requesting a monthly Q&A class open to all, entitled, “Ask Father.” Third, their willing hands to help out with various parish efforts already have strengthened our church body.

Stephen and Bridget have proven that our Lord Jesus multiplies and blesses every good-hearted effort, bringing the smallest seed of faith to fruition. Welcome home to our newest brother and sister in Christ! Our parish home is better because they’re now part of our family.

My Best Congregation Ever!

28 Sep
photo 1

My best congregation ever!

This past year, our parish made a commitment to hold a Vespers service in each local nursing home where some of our once-youthful church members now reside. On September 27th, the time to visit Hewitt Health & Rehabilitation Center had come.

I anticipated a small crowd. After all, only one of our church members was in residence there, and I was unaware of any other Orthodox Christian person who called Hewitt “home.”

I grabbed my cassock, music books, and liturgical items from the car and headed to a multi-purpose room, which I was supposed  to turn into a “church.” I couldn’t have been more surprised when I passed the threshold.

photo 2

Current parishioner Elaine, with her mom, Sophie, who lives at Hewitt.

Inside, in neat rows of wheelchairs, were at least a dozen residents who had arrived early and were patiently waiting for the service to begin. As I finished laying out vestments, setting up the cross, and organizing music stands, my “congregation” swelled to 25.

I took a few minutes before the scheduled start of Vespers to chat with the residents, only one of whom was truly my parishioner.

I found out my  “congregation” were enthusiastic and rather ecumenical:  “Don’t worry, Father, we show up no matter who’s preaching or what kind of service it is.”

I found out that although unhappy circumstances had resulted in their Hewitt residency—early stroke, accident, immobility from aging—they still carried the joy of the Lord in their hearts:  “We have to be grateful to God everyday, He’s most important.”

I found out they were “up” for trying new things:  They followed the words to the unfamiliar Orthodox Christian hymns on the handouts with reverent curiosity.

And, I found out they knew the Bible, especially the Psalms: “The Lord is my Shepherd,” many of them sang with us at the conclusion.

Psalm 90:10 tells us that our days are numbered:  “Our years are threescore years and ten (70); and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years (80).”

But they pass so quickly, and no one ever wants to leave home, family, or the church they’ve attended, perhaps for decades. However, sometimes, as with our guests at Hewitt, it’s inevitable.

I just hope, if or when my time comes to move into a residence for care of the elderly, that I will be as charming, congenial, open, and intellectually acute as the folks I met at Hewitt. They were my best congregation ever!

Photos: parishioners Richard Kendall and Chris Savisky

Archbishop Nikon’s Visit

21 Sep
Archbishop Nikon giving the homily

Archbishop Nikon giving the homily

Great Entrance with Sub-deacons Nektary Lukianov and Paul Tvardzik

The weekend of September 20–21, we had the honor and pleasure of welcoming our bishop to our parish. His Eminence, The Most Reverend Nikon, archbishop of Boston, New England, and the Albanian Archdiocese
(Orthodox Church in America) not only celebrated both the services of Vespers and Divine Liturgy with

Visiting with church school children

Visiting with church school children

us but also cordially conversed with the Parish Council, church school children, and many parishioners.

His visit brought to my mind the words of St. Ignatius of Antioch [AD 110]:

Follow your bishop, every one of you, as obediently as Jesus Christ followed the Father. Obey your clergy too as you would the apostles; give your deacons the same reverence that you would to a command of God. Make sure that no step affecting the Church is ever taken by anyone without the bishop’s sanction. The sole Eucharist you should consider valid is one that is celebrated by the bishop himself, or by some person authorized by him. Where the bishop is to be seen, there let all his people be; just as, wherever Jesus Christ is present, there is the Catholic Church (Letter to the Smyrneans 8:2).

Indeed, when His Eminence visited, and especially when he served

Dn. Gregory Curran reading the Gospel

Dn. Gregory Curran reading the Gospel

the Divine Liturgy, I witnessed the

Vladyka Nikon and Fr. Steven Belonick, Rector

Vladyka Nikon and Fr. Steven Belonick, Rector

fulness of the Church before my eyes: bishop, priest, deacons, sub-deacons, and the laity formed a cohesive body, reflecting the image of the Great Shepherd, with His apostles, ministers, and sheep. The presence of Archbishop Nikon among us truly reminded us of how our Church was meant to be structured, from the time of the apostles.

Many Years!

Many Years!

We thank him for being in our midst—serving, preaching, listening, counseling, and caring. And, we wish him, as our Shepherd and Master, “Many Years!” or “Eis Polla Eti Dhespota!” as the original Greek phrase proclaims.

Photos: Richard Kendall and Chris Savisky, parishioners

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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