Archive for the ‘Parish Events’ Category

Orthodox Road Trippin’

March 6, 2010

T-minus 6 hours 45 minutes and I’ll be blasting off for a day trip down to Victoria, Texas, to visit All Saints Orthodox Mission.   It’s an OCA mission that’s managed to put down deeper roots in 4 short years then many parishes accomplish in 10.  In the last year they’ve built a brand new Orthodox-style church in a growing area of town, and planted 100 olive trees and pastured a flock of 150 sheep on their 90 acre church property.  That is absolutely amazing, and I’m not just talking  about the sheep.  (Clarification – the church itself owns 17 acres of the 90 acre property; the remainder is owned by a parishioner.)

Tomorrow’s trip is a parish lenten retreat for members of St. Anthony’s to join our brothers and sisters as they celebrate the  official entry into their new church, called the “opening of the doors”  or Thyranexia.  It is a blessing and prayer service, kind of a dedication service.  And of course we’ll have a lenten lunch afterwards.  Nothing is really “official”  in the Orthodox Church unless it’s finalized with a pot luck and lots of coffee.  All Saint’s priest, the Very Rev. Fr. Dimitri Cozby, was actually the priest who received me into the Orthodox Church almost 20 years ago.  He was St. Anthony’s longest serving priest for more than 20 years, then left and started this mission.  You couldn’t ask for a more wonderful and godly priest to serve a new mission. 

I’m also going to combine pleasure with pleasure.  The rest of the group isn’t as crazy as I am to leave at 5:45 am, but I’m going to be doing a little bird watching before the service starts at 11:00 am.  Victoria has got some great birding spots and it’s also going to be kind of nice to just visit around town.  My in-laws lived in Victoria for more than 25 years until they retired and moved to Corpus Christi a few years ago.   I think this is only the 2nd time I’ve been back since they left.  I tried to get my kids to go with me, even bribing them with a trip to The Texas Zoo (yes, Victoria even has a really great little zoo), but they just couldn’t be talked into it.

I’ll post more when I get back.  In the meantime, check out some of the great coverage the Victoria Advocate newspaper has been giving All Saints with this video and news article.

Monday Smile and Parish History

September 28, 2009


I love this photo!  It was posted on Interfax News last week and simply titled “Meeting of the Honorary Guest”.   No story or information of any kind, just a photo of a dog that showed up at some fancy Russian church function.   I can’t imagine a cat getting the kind of smiles this earnest, jovial looking dog gets from the assembled clergy (and I’m a cat lover!).   

This reminds me of a story that I heard about my own parish.  I first showed up at the mission parish of St. Anthony’s in August 1990 (and just never left!).   St. Anthony’s had purchased the rundown, ramshackle historic church building in 1982; a building that our long-time priest affectionately said had all “the charm of a VFW hall”.  You had to really be called by the Holy Spirit to find Orthodoxy in that building.   Cracked, green linoleum floors, a dropped and drooping suspended tile ceiling (covering the 17 ft. high barrel ceiling hidden above), and floors that were not supported by the rotted pier and beam foundation.  This was after the initial, bare bones conversion of the historic Alfred Giles church from its years of neglect and decline.  The previous owners, a holy roller, pentecostal group, had even covered up the walls and windows with cheap, painted panelling. 

Anyway, the story goes that one  hot evening during Saturday Vespers, all the doors and windows of the church had been opened up to catch any slight, cooling breeze.  Mind you, this building was so old that it did not have any air-conditioning or heating aside from a couple of window units and space heaters that could not possibly do the job.   On this hot, South Texas evening, in walked a lanky, stray dog that casually sauntered into the nave, walked around to all the icon stands, then just as casually walked right back out the open door.    It seemed so natural that no one either had the presence of mind to shoo out the dog or stop him from venerating the icons.  He was respectful and well-behaved and just stopping by to pay a visit. 

This past weekend’s festivities reminded me of this story and so many more.   I spent the past three days attending St. Anthony’s 30th Anniversary Celebration.   It was 30 years ago, in the month of September 1979, that the first organized Liturgy was celebrated  by the core group that formed our parish.   I’ve been privileged to witness the last 19 of those 30 years, and there’s no end of the stories we spent reminiscing about this weekend – funny, sad, maddening, and inspiring.  It was 19 years ago last month that I showed up at Saint Anthony’s for my first ever Orthodox Liturgy in that less-than grandiose space, but I knew immediately that God and his Holy Church were there.  The Liturgy was the worship of heaven and no amount of VFW Hall character could hide that beauty.  I was home and in God’s own time I will die in “my home”.   There is no substitute for the peace of knowing where you belong in life.

God bless Saint Anthony Orthodox Church, its mission in San Antonio, Texas, its priests and the parishioners who have been my friends, my family and my examples of Christ-like behavior.

 Saint Anthony

Church Vandalism

September 2, 2009


You know how you always think bad things could never happen to you?  Well, crime struck very close to home for me and all my fellow parishioners today at Saint Anthony’s.   Vandals broke into our church early this morning, shattering plate glass windows in our narthex and damaging all of the wooden doors leading into the sanctuary. 

If you read the comments posted on the news story above you’ll notice one reader had the following snide remark, “Guess God and all his saints were asleep on the job”.  I beg to differ.  We can be thankful to God and his saints for the protection they gave us.   The potential for destruction and desecration could have been catastrophic.  

I’d also like to believe that the perpetrators were somehow touched by the presence of God in our Church.  Did they stop their rampage consciously?  Was their glimpse of the beauty in that darkened temple enough to make them hesitate?   Unless they’re caught we may never know until the next life how these, I presume, teenagers’ lives turned out.   All we can do is pray for them now and ask God to change their hearts. 

Psalm 148

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens, praise Him in the heights! Praise Him, all His angels! Praise Him, all His host! Praise Him, sun and moon! Praise Him, all you shining stars! Praise Him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the Lord! For He commanded and they were created. And He established them for ever and ever; He fixed their bounds which cannot be passed. Praise the Lord from earth, you sea monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling His command! Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! Beasts and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds! Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! Young men and maidens together, old men and children! Let them praise the name of the Lord, for His name alone is exalted; His glory is above earth and heaven. He has raised up a horn for His people, praise for all His saints, for the people of Israel who are near Him. Praise The Lord!


A New Favorite Local Band

October 12, 2008

Right up there with Sexto Sol and Buttercup, is my favorite new local band – Strangers on Earth.  Today they played the most improbable and undoubtedly the weirdest venue so far in their career – the First Annual Feeding Our Souls International Food Fest (not really as grandiose as it sounds).   The stage was the front yard of St. Anthony the Great Orthodox Church.  The audience were old, young, and micro young  parishioners of at least fifteen different ethnic backgrounds, including Heinz Variety, Russian, Ukrainian, German, Mexican and many more.  Chris Olson, Bryan Davis, DJ Powell and Miles Garza didn’t seem to mind the heat, the grass/dirt stage, or an audience that was alternately schlurping down cabbage rolls and sausages with hot coffee and sippy cups. 

Strangers on Earth does not label themselves a Christian band, but their songs are deeply spiritual and outright Christian without the cheese. They credit Death Cab for Cutie, Smashing Pumpkins and The Cure among their many influences, but they aren’t just playing easy imitations.   You can tell a good band when they use those influences and make them their own.   I was really impressed they took a very, very modest event and wholeheartedly played a set that could have been dropped into any club and still sounded as good.  This is straight-up great rock that has a thoughtful soul.

Thanks so much Chris, DJ, Miles and Bryan – y’all are fantastic.  God grant you many years in your “ministry”.   Shameless plug here- CHECK THEM OUT ON MYSPACE AND BUY THEIR DOWNLOADS.  It’s money well spent on four of the nicest and most talented musicians in San Antonio.

(You know son, you can be a rocker and a priest when you  grow up.  Mama would be very happy.)