DIOCESE OF EASTERN AMERICA AND NEW YORK: September 26, 2008
Metropolitan Hilarion Makes an Archpastoral Visit To Holy Apostles Orthodox Church
On September 15, 2008, Fr George Johnson and the parishioners of Holy Apostles Orthodox Church in Beltsville, Maryland, joyfully welcomed Metropolitan Hilarion to their mission for the first time. Seventeen parishioners came out on Monday morning to greet the Metropolitan. The Metropolitan said that he was moved that so many people came on a weekday morning.
The parishioners were especially joyful at welcoming their chief shepherd to the mission, as Vladyka was the one who gave the initial blessing, in 1995, for the eventual founding of the future mission. It was a great consolation for the little flock to be able to gather with the Metropolitan and share with him the life and struggles of our mission, which he had blessed years ago.
Holy Apostles was founded in 2001 with the blessing of Bishop Gabriel. They recently celebrated the seventh anniversary of their parish. They are currently meeting in an office park in Beltsville, three miles north of the University of Maryland. As is typical of many missions, they hope and pray that one day the Lord will give them a permanent church home; that He will vouchsafe the parish to build a beautiful church, dedicated to the Lord's Holy Apostles, to the glory of God. St. John of San Francisco said "the construction of a church is a sacrifice to God...it is a gift of your love, your zeal," and that "in building churches here on earth, we create for ourselves eternal habitations in heaven...." (homily On Building Churches, 1962).
Metropolitan Hilarion's visit to Holy Apostles began with a trip to see a potential future home for the parish. It is a historic cemetery chapel church located on 2.29 acres of land in Beltsville, two miles north of the current location of the mission. Fr George and the parishioners showed the Metropolitan the church along with the places on the land where a future church and parish hall might be built. The Metropolitan along with his little flock, walked contemplatively around the beautiful old church, which was built in 1880. He said, "Don't worry, God will build the church." He also said that he is praying that God will grant it to the parish; that it would be a wondrous occurrence.
After visiting the potential home for our parish, we took the Metropolitan to the current location of the mission. The parish is renting a 1,200-square-foot unit in the office park. They have tried to beautify the space as much as possible. When the Metropolitan walked into the church, he said "It's beautiful. It's perfect." We rang our bells, which are made out of a set of garden chimes. The candles were lit and placed in the flower planters used as candle-stands. Then a moleben was performed, and the first part of a newly composed akathist, written by Reader Isaac Lambertsen, for the Twelve Holy Apostles of the Lord.
The Metropolitan gave a homily in which he spoke about missionary work. He said that he is pleased that the parish is dedicated to the Holy Apostles. He said that Orthodoxy is the fastest-growing Christian religion in England, and that he hopes that Orthodoxy will spread throughout America and that this parish will be a part of that.
After the service, tables were set up and the Metropolitan joined the parish for light refreshments. The parishioners gathered around, asking him questions and again sharing their hopes and dreams for the parish. Vladyka Metropolitan was shown an artist's rendering of what the future church and parish hall might look like on the land along with the historic chapel.
The parishioners reportedly felt truly blessed to be visited by their chief hierarch. They said that those who were among the first Christians, such as Aquila and Priscilla, must have felt the same way when visited by St. Paul as they did when Metropolitan Hilarion came to their house church. "Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house" (I Corinthians 16:19). They thanked God for this blessing and all of the blessings that they received in the life of their little mission in Beltsville, Maryland.
St John (Maximovitch) said that the purpose of the Russian diaspora was to spread the holy Orthodox Faith throughout the world. "We pray that the Lord will help us to fulfill the saying of the prokiemenon for our patron saints, the Holy Apostles, 'Their sound hath gone forth into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world,'" said Fr George.