NICHOLAS FINZER ORDAINED READER
On Sunday, January 3rd, Nicholas FInzer was ordained a reader for the parish by His Eminence Mark, Bishop of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania. Acting with the blessing of our locum tenons, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, Archbishop Mark also tonsured Nicholas to God's service. Reader Nicholas has been reading at the parish and serving as choir director. God grant to him many years.
TWO BAPTISIMS, THREE CHRISMATION AND A WEDDING
BRINGS THREE TO ORYHODOXY AND PARISH MEMBERSHIP
The parish received three wonderful Nativity presents by having the joy and honor of welcoming a new family into Holy Orthodoxy and the parish through baptisims, chrismations and a wedding. Anna, Anthony and Sophia are a great addition to our parish family.
FR. JOSEPH & NURSE SUE VISIT NORTHERN UGANDA CLINIC
Fr. Joseph and Nurse Sue Nelson traveled over 8,500 miles to our medical center in northern Uganda, flying from their respective homes to Detroit then to Amsterdam and onto Entebbe, Uganda. The pair first stopped in the Ugandan capital of Kampala to visit with Metropolitan Jonah, Archbishop of all Uganda. While at the cathedral, Fr. Joseph baptized and chrismated Seraphim, the two month old son of their driver, Procopius and his wife Maria. The next day they traveled by dirt road 190 miles north to the clinic at Akonyibedo village.
NICHOLAS and NICHOLE JOINED IN HOLY MATRIMONY
On Sunday, June 7th, the parish choir director Nicholas Finzer was wedded to Nichole Osborne. Concelebrating priests were Fr. Joseph, pastor of St. Philip and Fr. Justin Matthews, Nichole's former pastor, who together with his wife Jodi, traveled from Kansas City to participate in this wonderful day. Since Nicholas was unable to lead the choir, Fr. Peter Tutko led the singing. Eleven years earlier, Fr. Peter had Chrismated Nicholas into Holy Orthodoxy. The Temple was filled with parishioners, family and friends of the bride and groom. From the start to the finish, the joyful couple radiated their love for each other and for God as He poured out his graces upon them.
IN HONOR OF ST. ELIJAH, VEHICLES ARE BLESSED.
On the Sunday closest to the feast of St. Elijah, Fr. Joseph blesses the parishioners' vehicles. Since Father had to leave after Liturgy on the 19th to attend the All American Council, the blessing was moved back to the 26th. It was a beautiful Florida day and everyone had his or her vehicle blessed for safe travel for the year.
DANIEL OWENS IS RECEIVED INTO HOLY ORTHODOXY.
On Sunday, July 12th, Daniel Owens, son of Rodica and Zack Owens received the Holy Mysteries of Baptism, Chrismation and Eucharist. Rodica, a long time parish member, who has moved to Florida's east coast, returned to the parish for the sacraments for her son. The parish was in attendance and rejoiced with mother and father on this wonderful occasion. A festive luncheon prepared by Daniel's grandmother and aunt followed.
JOHN RODRIGUEZ RECEIVED INTO HOLY ORTHODOXY
On May 31st, the Feast of Pentecost, John Rodriguez received the Holy Mystery (Sacrament) of Chrismation. Having attended the parish for over one year and having studied with Fr. Joseph since November, John was well prepared for the reception of this great gift of the true faith. Being sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit on the feast of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles was most appropriate. It served as a reminder to all of us of the great gift of the Holy Spirit that we each received at our own Chrismation. As a sign of his new life in the true faith John chose and was given the name Panteleimon in honor of the great martyr. May God grant to his newest servant Panteleimon, peace, health and happiness for many blessed years.
ALL AMERICAN COUNCIL ADOPTS NEW STATUE
Meeting in Atlanta for its 18th triennial council, the Orthodox Church in America by a vote of 473 to 15 ratified a revised Statute for the Church. In essence, bylaws for the OCA, the new Statute address many aspects of the day to day administration and structure. Among other things, it sets out the duties and areas of responsibility of diocesan councils and the Metropolitan council. Likewise, for the first time the duties and responsibilities of the OCA officers such as the chancellor and secretary are addressed. This document will allow the Church to better serve the needs of the parishes and of the members in areas of administrative support and governance.
Fr. Joseph served as a delegate to the Council and was able to discuss with the Metropolitan a proposed course of legal action for the Church in light of the recent Supreme Court decision regarding marriage. For all of the delegates and observers the highlight of the Council was the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy in which all of the bishops of the OCA, as well as several visiting hierarchs, joined with main celebrant, Metropolitan Tikhon.
During the Council each diocese presented a video regarding its efforts at outreach. Our Uganda clinic was included. Click for here for the video.
PARISH CLEBRATED THE 4TH ON THE 5TH.
On Sunday, July 5th the parish celebrated the Independence of our Nation with a picnic at nearby Lowery Park. The day was a typical beautiful summer day with temperatures in the mid-nineties. Many of the parishioners gathered for an afternoon of fun, socializing and good picnic food. George Chakkar and his wife/helper repeated his grand performance as our chief for outdoor grilling of hamburgers and hot dogs. Socializing, games and the singing of patriotic songs preceded the meal.
The cooks light the fire.
JANUARY 6TH - A FULL DAY OF THEOPHANY CELEBRATION
The Feast of Theophany fell on a Sunday this year and the parish took the resulting opportunity to spend the day in celebrating this glorious feast. We began with Divine Liturgy as usual and followed it with the Great Blessing of Water. We then traveled to Lowery Park, which is only one and a quarter miles from the church, and blessed the Hillsborough River which flows through the city of Tampa. Following the blessing, we had a picnic in the park. The weather had been forecast as "a high of 60 with a 60% chance of rain. However, God blessed us with a high of 80 and blue skies. Perfect Florida weather.
PARISH TO RETURNS TO FLORIDA STATE FAIR IN 2011
For the third straight year, St. Philip parish displayed icons and other sacred objects at the Florida State Fair in Tampa. We man our both in the main exposition hall 13 hours per day for the 12 days of the fair. We continue to use this opportunity to bring knowledge of Orthodoxy to the over 450,000 fair goers. The fair ran from February 10 to 21. Photos of our booth from previous years may be seen by clicking on "Photo Album" at the left.
PARISH INSTALLS NEW DOME
On December 11th we installed a dome on the roof of our temple. The dome was a gift from Fr. John Chutek, and his parishioners from our sister parish, St. Mark in Bradenton, Florida. The dome graced their temple for many years and when they moved into their new temple they sought a good home for it. Wishing to help their newest sister parish to the north, they generously gifted it to us. Our parish vice-president, Tandova Xenia Ecenia, owner of Tandova, Inc. along with her husband, Seraphim Oberst refurbished the dome and cross with a beautiful coat of new gold paint. They also built a base for it. With the aid of some of their friends and employees, the dome was installed on our roof giving our building a true Orthodox presence. God continues to shower us with blessings as we seek to do his will in Tampa. We are grateful to Fr. John, his parishioners, Tandova, Seraphim and all of their helpers. God grant to all of them many years.
PENTECOST BRINGS A NEW CONVERT
On Pentecost Sunday we were blessed to welcome our fourth convert into Holy Orthodoxy and the parish of St. Philip. William Lawrence Oberst, husband of our parish council vice-president, Tandova Xenia Ecenia, completed his studies with Fr. Joseph and was fittingly Chrismated on the feast commemorating the decent of the Holy Spirit. Seraphim has been a faithful church attendee for several years and is known for giving generously of his time and talents for the benefit of the parish. His sponsor was Sue Finzer, treasurer and a founder of the parish. A fitting luncheon was enjoyed and then it was back to the Temple for Vespers with kneeling prayers. God grant Seraphim many years.
A PARTY FOLLOWED THE CHRISMATION
Following Liturgy and the Chrismation a luncheon was served and the highlight was a cake that proclaimed: "Welcome Seraphim." Following lunch we all returned to the Temple for Pentecost Vespers which features the three kneeling prayers.
CHRIST IS RISEN! INDEED HE IS RISEN!
At 11:30pm we began our celebration of the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! At the end of a 1/2 hour prayer service the Holy Shroud icon was taken from the grave and placed on the Holy Table. There it will remain for the next forty days. During that time the chalice and discos are placed on it during the Divine Liturgy.
We then began our procession from the dimly lit church symbolizing the myrrh bearing women going to the tomb to anoint Jesus' body. At the front of the church the Gospel passage that tells of this was read. Then Fr. Joseph using the censer, knocked on the closed front doors. Then the verses, "Let God arise and let his enemies be scattered", etc., were sung. At the conclusion with the people singing "Christ is risen", etc we entered the now brightly lit church and the celebration of Matins and the Divine Liturgy continued. At the conclusion we blessed a special paschal bread called an Artos and then we went into the social hall where baskets of food brought by the parishioners were blessed. Finally we all enjoyed the foods that we had been fasting from for the last forty seven days.
HOLY SATURDAY MORNING OFFERS OLD TESTAMENT READINGS
On Saturday morning we celebrated a Vesperal Liturgy which was highlighted by the reading of 15 selections from the Old Testament. 15 parishioners, including many of the children, served as readers. During the service the priestly vestments were changed from black to white and a ressurrection gospel passage was read as a foretaste of the coming celebration of Holy Pascha.
HOLY FRIDAY EVENING WE IMMITATED THE NOBLE JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA.
On Holy Friday evening all returned for a service that included a procession with the Holy Shroud Icon. The weather was a beautiful Florida spring evening and the singing during the outside procession added to the joy of the service.
HOLY FRIDAY VESPERS
At 3 pm the faithful gathered for the Vespers service of Good and Holy Friday. The highlight was the placing of the winding sheet in the tomb. This icon of Christ laid in the tomb is placed on a stand adorned with flowers and meant to portray the original tomb of Jesus. All present reverenced the icon with prostrations and kisses.
HOLY WEEK CONTINUES WITH HOLY ANOINTING ON WEDNESDAY EVENING
On Wednesday evening of Holy Week we celebrated the service of Holy Anointing. With the reading of seven gospels and with the recitation of seven prayers the oil was prepared. At the end of the service all came forward. Passing under the open Gospel book each was anointed with the blessed oil.
On Thursday evening we celebrated, in anticipation, the matins service for Good and Holy Friday. In a service lasting well over 2 1/2 hours the passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ was proclaimed. The highlight of the service was the selected Gospel readings from the four evangelists. Before an icon of Christ the Bridegroom were twelve lit burgundy candles. After the reading of each Gospel a candle was extinguished by different parishioners.
A BUSY BEGINNING TO HOLY WEEK
Holy Week began with Liturgy on Lazarus Saturday morning, followed by a Lenten lunch. Then cleaning of the church building began. Since we have no custodial staff we maintain the building ourselves. With joy and comradery we set to work cleaning chandeliers, oiling the wood on the iconostasis, cleaning all of the votive glasses and doing the many tasks necessary to keeping the house of the Lord fit and clean. In the social hall deep cleaning of the kitchen and bathrooms as well as the hall itself was done by the many parishioners who came for this necessary but fun undertaking. Meanwhile in one of the classrooms two of our youth fashioned palm crosses to be added to the palms and pussy willows that would be blessed and distributed the next day. At the end of the cleaning we all gathered for Vespers and then returned home joyful that we had spent a good day in service to the Lord.
SPRING PLANTING AT THE PARISH.
After record cold destroyed most of the plantings at the church, spring has finally arrived. On Saturday, March 13th, several parishioners joined to replant and mulch the beds across the side and front of the church. It was a chance not only to beautify God's house but to also enjoy the spring weather and each other's company.
PARISH HOSTS SUNDAY LENTEN VESPERS.
On the second Sunday of the Great Fast St. Philip parish hosted the 2nd of 5 Sunday night lenten vespers sponsered by the Orthodox Clergy Brotherhood of Greater Tampa Bay. Orthodox Christians from all over the Tampa Bay area were in attendance. Following vespers, a light lenten dinner was served. We were honored to show hospitality to our fellow Orthodox.
SUNDAY OF ORTHODOXY IS A DOUBLE BLESSING.
On Sunday the 21st of February, the parish celebrated not only the triumph of icons over the movement to banish them from our churches, which is commemorated each year on the first Sunday of the Great Fast, but also we rejoiced at the entrance into the catechumenate of our long time attendee William Lawrence Oberst. The husband of our parish council vice-president Tandova Ecenia, William has been a great joy to know and to be friends with. Likewise, he has given freely of his time and talents to the parish. We all look forward to that time when he is received fully into Holy Orthodoxy.
CLERGY HOLD MEETING IN FORT WORTH.
During the second week of January clergy from throughout the Diocese of the South gathered for their annual mid-winter meeting. This year St. Barbara parish in Fort Worth, Texas hosted the priests and deacons. A combination retreat and workshops, the meeting also allows time for the clergy to fellowship and to exchange experiences and ideas regarding parish life and the needs of the Orthodox Christians entrusted to them. This year Metropolitan Jonah presided as locum tenens of the diocese. While the search for a new diocesan bishop continues there are no concrete developments. We pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit that a worthy successor to our beloved Archbishop Dmitri be found.
CHRIST IS BAPTIZED! IN THE JORDAN!
Record cold temperatures forced the Great Blessing of Waters inside. Anticipating temperatures in the 30s the Great Vespers and the Blessing of Water was moved inside rather than at Lowry Park in Tampa. The next morning after Divine Liturgy, the parishioners traveled 1-1/4 miles to Lowry Park in Tampa. At the boat ramp the Hillsborough River was blessed. Hopefully next year we will have more seasonable weather. But we are thankful for clear skies and for the joy of celebrating the manifestation of our Triune God. For a slide show of both blessings click here.
CHRIST IS BORN! GLORIFY HIM!
PARISHIONERS VISIT ORTHODOX MONASTERIES
On Saturday the 12th of December, ten parishioners joined Fr. Joseph in a visit to the two Orthodox monasteries located near Ocala, Florida. After less than a two hour drive, the group first visited the women's monastery, Annunciation of the Holy Theotokos. Some quiet time was had in the church followed by group prayer. Then a trip to the icon store was a great delight. Part of the support of the monastery comes from the sale of icon prints prepared and mounted by the nuns. Then it was time for a delicious Lenten lunch prepared for us by the sisters. Our visit was concluded with a talk by the Abbess who described a typical day in the life of the monastery.
PARISH CELEBRATES 4TH ANNIVERSARY OF ITS FOUNDING,
On Sunday, November 8th, a triple commemoration was celebrated. Four years ago, on November 6, 2005, St. Philip parish celebrated its first Divine Liturgy. Also commemorated on the 8th were the founders of the parish and also its patron St. Philip. A wonderful luncheon was had and then Panagia, one of our parishioners, entertained with her accordion. We thank God for the many blessings that he has showered upon the parish.
OCMC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR VISITS PARISH
On Sunday, October 4th, at Fr. Joseph's invitation, OCMC Communications Director Alex Goodwin addressed the parish regarding mission activity of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center. A veteran of several mission trips to Africa, Alex encouraged the parishioners to seek to determine if God was calling them to participate in mission activity. Enlivening his talk with anecdotes of his missionary travels Alex gave an interesting and well received presentation at the end of Liturgy. Several parishioners have expressed an interest in participating in a mission trip and will make further inquiry regarding this. We pray that Jesus will use our parish for the continued spread of His Gospel.
DIOCESAN TREASURER VISITS PARISH
On Saturday, October 3rd, Diocesan Treasurer Milos Konjevich visited St. Philip parish. Milos spend a half hour discussing financial matters with a number of parishioners. He observed that St. Philip parish has done well in its handling of its finances and that it is continuing on a path of financial stability. He then attended parish great vespers. We are all greatful to the Diocese of the South for its continued support, its interest in the parish and for sending Treasurer Milos to visit and to encourage us.