DIOCESE OF EASTERN AMERICA AND NEW YORK: October 25, 2007
Annual Gathering of Orthodox Christians of South Carolina
In the northern part of South Carolina, amid the cotton and tobacco fields of former plantations, lies Cheraw State Park. It is here, in this park, established during Roosevelt's New Deal, that Orthodox Christians gather for prayer and fellowship every October. On the shore of a small lake, under the cover of a picnic shelter, Priest Anastasy Yatrelis of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad serves the Divine Liturgy. After the Liturgy, pilgrims share the trapeza meal, rejoicing at the opportunity for fellowship with their brothers and sisters in Christ.
Father Anastasy started this tradition twelve years ago. In those days, he was the rector of two parishes: SS Cyrill and Methodius in Summerville (near Charleston), South Carolina, and Holy Trinity mission, three hundred miles to the north, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Cheraw was conveniently situated halfway between the two parishes and in this way, Father was able to unite his flock. And indeed, the members of the two parishes grew into one Christian family. This family is heterogeneous—Russians from different waves of emigration, American converts to Orthodoxy, Bulgarians and Arabs, and Fr Anastasy himself—an ethnic Greek. For this reason, during the Liturgy one hears petitions in several languages: Church Slavonic, English, Greek, and Arabic. It is in this way, by using language, that Fr Anastasy shows the love of a loving shepherd for his flock and bears witness to the universal nature of Orthodoxy.
This year, it was joyous to see that the family had grown. For the first time, parishioners from the newly founded mission of the "Reigning" Mother of God in Charlotte, North Carolina, joined the other pilgrims at the Liturgy and Fr Alexander Logunov, rector of Holy Trinity Orthodox Church and the Reigning Icon mission, concelebrated with Fr Anastasy.
May the Lord grant Fr Anastasy strength to continue in this God-pleasing endeavor!