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Holy Trinity Orthodox Church

Chapel’s Prayers for Conestoga Answered

by Alfred Kentigern Siewers

IMG_0736On a quiet summer day in rural central Pennsylvania it is hard to imagine that the small factory across from the lot where we are building our temple would have its fate decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, DC today.

Conestoga Wood Specialties, owned by a Mennonite family, along with better-known Hobby Lobby, was the focus of today’s final Supreme Court decision for this season.

The case centered on whether companies because of their owners’ religious beliefs could opt out of government-required abortifacient contraceptive insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or face crippling fines that would have forced Conestoga out of business.

Every week for months during Liturgy, around the corner from the plant, at the temporary house church where we meet, the Chapel of the Holy Spirit has prayed for those defending the sanctity of life through civil disobedience, keeping Conestoga in particular in prayer. The company has a reputation as a good neighbor and of treating its employees well, but because of the religious beliefs of its owners faced closure as a result of penalties for not adhering to the ACA provisions under dispute.

But the Court decision today not only helped keep Conestoga open, but provides a bit of legal breathing space in “post-Christian” American politics for traditionalists concerned with an emerging array of issues also of concern to Orthodox Christians, from abortion to marriage…

Today’s decision offers some partial relief for concerns about government action toward traditional faith communities in the U.S., but no salvation from an Orthodox perspective… Orthodox Christians aware of their own history would do well to do some summer reading in Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago and the recently published English translation of Ivan Sokolov’s The Church of Constantinople in the Nineteenth Century, which both illustrate graphically the past sufferings of the Church in antagonistic cultures, and the salvific power of the witness of martyrs.

Thankfully we haven’t reached anywhere near that point in the U.S. yet, but despite today’s decision, the trajectory of our culture doesn’t offer grounds for optimism. The decision itself is a reflection of that trajectory, and the severe persecutions faced by many Orthodox Christians in the Middle East and Africa in particular require our prayers…

We should pray and work in support of the freedom of people like the Hahn family, owners of Conestoga, and for our own freedoms as Orthodox Americans to pass a living tradition across generations to our biological or spiritual children and grandchildren. But finally, we pray to the Lord to preserve His commonwealth…

[One] can be grateful of the liberties one enjoys, and use one’s franchise to advance the work of trustworthier politicians (and perhaps there are more of those than I have granted to this point), and pursue the discrete moral causes in which one believes. But it is good [not] to mistake the process for the proper end of political life, or to become frantically consumed by what should be only a small part of life, or to fail to see the limits and defects of our systems of government.

After all, one of the most crucial freedoms, upon which all other freedoms ultimately depend, is freedom from illusion.

Editor’s Note: Kentigern’s full article and future reflections can be found on Orthodox Christian Network’s website.

VBS 2014 Daily News: Friday

Narnia Kids Return—VBS Kids Ready for Battle!

VBS concludes with students outfitted with the armor of God

IMG_2812State College, PA — Today, Holy Trinity’s VBS concluded with the climatic finish of our themed story—The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.  Through the use of symbols, the students realized that the plot and chronology of the story portrays the history, fall, and plan unfolding in the world as well.

As we left the story yesterday Lucy and Susan were watching what was happening at the Stone Table in absolute horror and sat crying. We picked up the story as the girls came out from behind the bushes after the Witch left and tried to untie the ropes that bound Aslan, but they could not. Suddenly hundreds of little mice came out from the tall grass and nibbled away at every single rope until they were all gone.  Still the great Aslan laid there.

When the dawn of early morning came the girls heard a huge cracking and they turned to see the Stone Table had cracked into two pieces and that Aslan himself was standing beside it … complete with a full mane!  Aslan quickly explained to the girls that the White Witch was right about the Deep Magic which said that she had the right to have a blood sacrifice for Edmund’s sin, but there was a deeper magic which she did not know. It says that if a willing victim who had committed no treachery was sacrificed instead of the traitor, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward.

IMG_5445Aslan, flying along at the greatest speed with the girls on his back, reached the Witch’s castle and jumped right over the gates into the courtyard filled with stone statues and began breathing on each statue until each was restored to life again.  At the same time, in the valley just below the Stone Table, Peter and his faithful little army were fighting for their lives with Edmund bravely fighting along side his brother.  He knew if he could just get the wand out of the Witch’s hand she would be defenseless. Soon he had his opportunity and he destroyed her instrument of power with his sword. When Aslan arrived with his fresh troops, they quickly joined the battle and he killed the White Witch himself With the death of their leader, the wicked creatures who made up the Queen’s army were defeated.  Then  Lucy gave Edmund, who was badly wounded, a few drops of the special juice from the fire-flowers to revive him.

The next day at the castle of Cair Paravel,  Aslan crowned the four children as King Peter, QueenSusan, King Edmund and Queen Lucy.  They were then seated upon the thrones as prophecy was fulfilled.  These two Kings and two Queens governed Narnia well and long … and happy was their reign.

IMG_2745One day, the Kings and Queens decided to hunt for the White Stag when they  a lamp-post. As they continued down the path, they found themselves no longer making their way through tree branches, but through coats! Suddenly, they were coming out of the Wardrobe and they were just Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy.

And that would have been the very end of the story except for the Professor who was a very remarkable man.  He tells them they are not likely to get back to Narnia through the same route but they will, indeed, return someday for once a King or Queen in Narnia, you will always be one.

Meet the Characters

Lamp post  — is what shows Lucy, and all others that visit Narnia, the way.  It is the only light that greets a visitor in an otherwise grey and cloudy world. Under its light, things become clearer. In a sense, those who teach you how to study the Bible are providing you the light from which you can see the meaning of God’s Word more clearly.

Wardrobe — we all start out in an imaginary innocent world oblivious to the real picture of what is going on here, unless by faith, in Christ, who is the only Door  (the wardrobe) we enter into and are illuminated, revealing the kingdom of God.  It is the entry way to the spiritual kingdoms.

What’s in the Book

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. — Ezekiel 11:19

When at last she was free to come back to Edmund, she found him standing on his feet and not only healed of his wounds, but looking better than she had seen him look in-oh, ages;  in fact ever since his first term in that horrid school which was where he had begun to go wrong.  He had become his old self again and could look you in the face again.  And there on the field of battle Aslan made him a Knight. — p. 146-147

Appreciation

Many thanks to all of the teachers, cooks, mural painters, helpers, and extra hands.  It is through their stewardship that the VBS is able to be conducted.  Most especially,  thanks to the students for their enthusiasm and willingness to learn (and their parents who brought them).

Learn More

For more recaps and pictures, visit the 2014 Vacation Bible School homepage.

 

VBS 2014 Daily News: Thursday

Aslan is On the Move

IMG_2652State College, PA — The VBS students gathered on this rainy  then sunny day to continue following the exciting adventures of children in Narnia and seeing Aslan on the move.  Additionally, to bring some of the excitement to real life the students were able to create their own shield of faith.

The students picked up the story when the four children reunited in the presence of Aslan. But even though Edmund is rescued, he is not really safe from the White Witch. He was guilty of being a traitor and there were laws about what must be done about such a sin. If the laws were not followed, all of Narnia would be destroyed by fire and water. So, just when everyone was celebrating Edmund’s return, the White Witch stormed into Aslan’s camp to demand the life of Edmund. She reminded Aslan that Edmund’s sin must be punished by the shedding of his blood at her hand.

Everyone waited for a very long time while Aslan and the Witch went off to talk alone. At last Aslan returned and announced that the wicked Witch renounced the claim on Edmund’s life. He then ordered the moving of their camp to a new location. As they packed up the camp and moved it down the hill from the Stone Table, Aslan took Peter aside to instruct him on another upcoming battle with the Witch and her army. Peter was alarmed when

IMG_2621Aslan said he could not promise to be a part of this battle. He, as well as his two sisters, became concerned about Aslan because he seemed very sad.

After dinner everyone fell asleep except for Susan and Lucy. When they looked out of their tent, they saw Aslan leaving the camp so they decided to follow him. After a while he noticed the two sisters and, as he was very sad and lonely, he let them walk with him and comfort him by stroking his long beautiful mane. He made them promise they would leave him when he asked them to. He did this as they came to the edge of the place of the Stone Table. From their hiding place in the bushes, the girls watch Aslan walk into a great crowd of evil-looking ogres, wolves, and spirits of evil trees, poisonous plants and other indescribable creatures. And right in the middle, standing by the Table, stood the White Witch herself.

What’s in the Book

Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again.1After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him. — Matthew 27:27‑31

“The fool!” she cried.  “The fool has come. Bind him fast.” Everyone was at him now. Those who had been afraid to come near him even after he was bound began to find their courage, and for a few minutes the two girls could not even see him – so thickly was he surrounded by the whole crowd of creatures kicking him,hitting him, spitting on him, jeering at him.  — p. 123ff

Learn More

For more recaps and pictures, visit the 2014 Vacation Bible School homepage.

VBS 2014 Daily News: Wednesday

SPRING ARRIVES IN NARNIA: Fr. Christmas and Aslan greeted; Peter fights first battle

IMG_2512State College, PA — The excitement in Narnia continued to build today as two prominent characters—Father Christmas and Aslan—made their first appearances.

After traveling by foot by moonlight across the backside of the dam (where the White Witch could not travel by sleigh) the Beaver’s and children fell asleep in a dry cave.  When the small group woke up, they were greeted by sleigh-bells and Father Christmas in a red robe bringing magnificent gifts! He also brought good news that the Queen’s evil magic was weakening as this was the first Christmas to happen in Narnia in a very long time.

Fr.  Christmas brought special gifts for each of the three children. To Peter he gave a shield engraved with a lion and a sword. Susan’s gift was a bow and arrows that would never miss and an ivory horn to summon help. To Lucy he gave a small bottle of juice from the fire-flowers to restore the life of a friend and a small dagger to defend herself.  Before departing, he shouts out, “Merry Christmas! Long live the true King!”

Meanwhile, Edmund is forced to get into the White Witch’s sled without even a coat to keep him warm. They are off to find his brother and sisters before they reach the Stone Table.  The Wicked Witch knew that not only was Spring here, but so was Aslan.

IMG_2552As they soon learned there was in the very middle of an open hilltop the Stone Table – a big grey slab on top of four big corner-stones. While they looked at this very old stone, they heard music and there was the great Lion, Aslan.

Aslan wanted to speak to Peter alone about the battle ahead against evil. He took him to the very top of the hilltop to look out over the Kingdom and to see the castle of Cair Paravel. It was here, Aslan said, that there were four and that the four children would sit on the thrones. As Aslan was talking with Peter, Susan’s horn sounded the call for help. The Battle had begun.

Meet the Characters

The Stone Table — the Narnian equivalent to the cross Jesus was crucified on, however it goes beyond this and resembles strongly the end of the “Law” also, or the stone tablets, and the breaking of the temple curtain at Christ’s death.

Lucy’s Healing Potion — Christ’s blood, which heals our infirmities

Helmet — Salvation

Shield — Faith

Sword — the Spirit within us

Susan’s horn prayer before God

What’s in the Book

Each of you has been blessed with one of God’s many wonderful gifts to be used in the service of others. So use your gift well. If you have the gift of speaking, preach God’s message. If you have the gift of helping others, do it with the strength that God supplies. Everything should be done in a way that will bring honor to God because of Jesus Christ, who is glorious and powerful forever. Amen.  — 1 Peter 4:10-11

“Peter, Adam’s son,” said Father Christmas.  “Here, Sir,” said Peter.  “These are your presents” was the answer, “and they are tools, not toys.  The time to use them is perhaps near at hand.  Bear them well.” — pg. 87

FPO—For Parents Only

  • The VBS Daily News is prepared especially for YOU.  In each issue, you will read about the major topics and themes for the day. Take time to read it (particularly the scriptural references) and discuss it with your child.
  • FYI … There may be some water game on Friday.

Learn More

For more recaps and pictures, visit the 2014 Vacation Bible School homepage.

VBS 2014 Daily News: Tuesday

Truth or Consequences: Students learn truth is not what is seems but what it is

IMG_2496State College, PA — When it comes to tough choices, Holy Trinity VBS students learned that not everything comes easy and that we often find ourselves struggling and challenged to do what is right.

The students picked up the story as Edmund reluctantly returns to the wardrobe and the Old Professor’s house. Lucy was so happy to find someone who believed her story because he was there, but when they caught up with their older siblings, Edmund betrayed her and said the whole story was still a figment of her imagination.

Finally, a day came that would convince Peter and Susan once and for all who was telling the truth—Lucy or Edmund. It so happened that some visitors came to the old historic house for a tour and all four children were told to stay out of the way. They decided to play upstairs, and when they heard the visitors coming up, the children hid in the old wardrobe. Instantly they found themselves in the dark woods of Narnia. When Edmund directs them to the lamp-post, Peter and Susan realize that he had, in fact, been there before.

Once in Narnia, Lucy wanted to introduce everyone to her friend, Mr. Tumnus, but when they reached his small house he was gone. With no idea where to find the castle, they asked a beautiful, bright, red-breasted robin for guidance. She set out leading the way until eventually they met the Beavers. They were to be the chilren’s guide to a special place to meet Aslan. IMG_2440

At the mention of Aslan’s name, with no idea just exactly who Aslan was, each child had a curious reaction. Edmund felt terrified, Peter felt brave and adventurous, Susan felt as if some delicious smell or beautiful music had just floated by her, and Lucy got the feeling you have when it’s the beginning of a vacation or summer.

Meet the Characters

Aslan  (which means lion in Turkish) — Jesus Christ.  He is the creator of Narnia. He symbolizes Jesus Christ and the power of good. Queen Jadis, the White Witch (Lucifer) — who rules Narnia, represents the power of Satan or evil in the world.

What’s in the Book

The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours. — Luke 4:5-7

“It is a lovely place, my house,” said the Queen. “I am sure you would like it. There are whole rooms full of Turkish Delight, and what’s more, I have no children of my own. I want a nice boy who I can bring up as prince and who would be King of Narnia when I am gone. While he was Prince he would wear a gold crown and eat Turkish Delight all day long; and you are much the cleverest and handsomest young man I’ve ever met. I think I would like to make you Prince-some day, when you bring the others to visit me.” — The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, p. 30

FPO—For Parents Only

  • Don’t forget that TOMMOROW (WEDNESDAY) there will be Vespers at 5:00 p.m.  Bring your kids early for worship (dinner will be served following).

Learn More

For more recaps and pictures, visit the 2014 Vacation Bible School homepage.

VBS 2014 Daily News: Monday

Adventures in Narnia: Students begin exploring the many lessons this magical land has to offer

IMG_2366State College, PA — Holy Trinity’s Vacation Bible School (VBS) began their journey through the wonderful land of Narnia. They met Lucy, Edmund, Peter, and Susan, and can look for the lessons in this classic tale. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is a popular story, both for its imaginative plotline, as well as its Christian symbolism. As the students go on this journey with the Pevensie siblings, they will discover the symbols inside this beloved child’s tale using the truths found in order to become good Christians and appreciate their faith. No matter what, it will certainly be an adventure. The students began the evening with a prayer and a delicious pasta dinner before discussing how stories can convey many life lessons in a simple fashion (one story discussed was the Wizard of Oz and how the main characters already possessed the things which they desired.)   The children then viewed the opening portion of the movie before going to their class. The use of the wardrobe in the story teaches us that many things are “bigger on the inside than the outside” such as a soul, or a heart or even our church (a church may seem small, but it is large in the love that I may be given and shared.

Meet the Characters

Lucy — the faithful youngest child, is the strongest believer in Aslan.   She closely resembles and represents children in general, and their simple innocent faith. Edmund — Man, he is tempted by the White Witch, her Turkish Delights and the promise of power. He represents mankind, who Jesus died for on the cross.

What’s in the Book

Ask, and you will receive. Search and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened for you. Everyone who asks will receive. Everyone who searches will find. And the door will be opened for everyone who knocks. — Matthew 7:7-8

FPO—For Parents Only

  • VBS will conclude each day with some fun activity at Holmes-Foster Park (unless it is raining). Please be prompt!
  • On Wednesday, there will be Vespers at 5:00. Please try to bring your children early so that we can pray together. Dinner and VBS will follow.

Learn More

For more recaps and pictures, visit the 2014 Vacation Bible School homepage.

Attend a Vision 2020 Survey Feedback Session

Jennifer McClure will present the findings of, and moderate discussion on, the Vision 2020 parish survey at during two focus groups this month. The purpose of these sessions is to collect your candid feedback on the results to develop further consensus about what we pray is God’s will for our future growth.

They take place on Wednesday, June 4 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, June 14 at 10:30 a.m. (pick a time that works best for you).

To aid in the discussion, please look over the results prior to the session.

Cross Planting to Inaugurate a New Era for Chapel

Chapel Group Photo for 2014-06 TrisagionArchbishop Melchisedek will devote a significant portion of his upcoming visit to our community promoting the Chapel of the Holy Spirit and its building campaign. On Saturday, June 7, at 9 a.m., His Eminence will celebrate the Memorial Divine Liturgy of Pentecost at the building site (weather permitting) and plant a cross, officially dedicating the project to God in advance of the groundbreaking that is expected later this summer.

Following a lunch reception for all in attendance, His Eminence will host an informal question-and-answer session at the Smith home to demonstrate that the Archdiocese is firmly committed to underwriting the Chapel’s construction costs, and that the only issue remaining is the terms of financing.

Related: Special Parish Meeting Information—Sunday, June 22

The bishop’s busy weekend with us will not end there in Beavertown. Returning to State College that same evening, His Eminence will pray the Pentecost Vigil with us beginning at the special time at 5 p.m. Moving Matins to Saturday night and starting an hour earlier allows the celebration to end at the same time and will give more people an opportunity to greet our hierarch on Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m. in advance of the Divine Liturgy and “Kneeling” Vespers. Both day’s celebrations will end with food and fellowship: on Saturday night there will be a light dinner reception in the Parish Hall, on Sunday, the annual parish picnic at Holmes-Foster Park (hamburgers, hot dogs, and drinks will be provided, bring a side or dessert to share).

Related: Full June 2014 Calendar — electronic version | print version 

On Monday at 8 a.m., His Eminence will celebrate another liturgy with us. This is an opportunity to gather around our bishop one last time, offering prayers that God would send down His Holy Spirit upon us and the Chapel on its patronal feast day.

Special Meeting Information—Sunday, June 22

As reported last month, the parish originally planned to vote at a special meeting on May 18 on a $160,000 Archdiocesan loan proposal for the construction of the Chapel of the Holy Spirit in Beavertown. However, the May 18 meeting was postponed because several concerns were raised about the specific terms of the financing agreement.

To address these concerns and to give the parish more flexibility in the process, the Parish Council met on May 21. After discussing and documenting the issues with the original proposal, the Council moved to cancel the May assembly and call for a new meeting of the entire parish. It is scheduled for Sunday, June 22 following the Divine Liturgy at both Holy Trinity and the Chapel.

The Parish Council has called for a special meeting to be held Sunday, June 22 following the Divine Liturgy to be held at both Holy Trinity and the Chapel of the Holy Spirit. The sole agenda item will be to vote on a new resolution pertaining to construction project financing for a church building in Beavertown.

It differs considerably from the previous one under consideration at the meeting that was cancelled. While the original resolution specified loan terms to be voted on by the parish meeting, the new resolution delegates all negotiating power to the Parish Council. If terms are met to the satisfaction of all parties, especially the Chapel faithful, the Council will engage the loan. The new resolution also authorizes the council to seek other lenders besides the Archdiocese, if necessary. This process is the same one the parish used when it authorized the Council to act in its behalf to obtain the loan for the remodeling the church in 2006.

The resolution is as follows:

I. The Parish authorizes the Parish Council to:

a. Enter into immediate negotiations with the Archdiocese or other appropriate lending agency for a loan in an amount not to exceed $160,000 to build the Chapel of the Holy Spirit on the property in Beavertown; with

b. terms that are the most advantageous both to the Chapel and to the parish corporation as a whole; and in such case, to

c. enter into a loan agreement in accordance with those terms and communicate the results to congregation membership by post.

II. Voting shall take place at both Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, State College and at the Chapel of the Holy Spirit, Beavertown, as permitted by parish bylaws (Art. III, Sec. 3-D).

III. The special meeting shall commence immediately upon the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy in both locations.

For more information, please contact info@holytrinity-oca.org.