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Agia Sophia opens in Bend, Oregon - 12/06/19

Recently Fr. Damiam Kuolt was interviewed by the Bend Bulletin. Here is the article: (Agia Sophia Opens in Bend)

From its 1984 opening, The Open Book in Bend had been a mainstay for book lovers needing a fix of Kurt Vonnegut, Barbara Kingsolver, John D. MacDonald or any of thousands of other authors.

When fans of the 2,400-square-foot used bookstore learned via Facebook last year that the longstanding shop was up for sale, one commented that the thought of it closing filled him with anxiety: “For crying out loud, somebody save this place and keep it looking the same, for my sanity,” he wrote.

Father Damian Kuolt of St. Jacob Orthodox Christian Church in Bend has saved it, but it no longer looks the same: In its place stands Agia Sophia Coffeehouse and Bookstore. The shop remained open through the last several months of considerable remodeling and will have its soft opening Dec. 6 if everything goes according to plan.

The front half of the store will now house a cafe serving coffee from Farewell Coffee Roasters along with food and other drinks.

Bookshelves line the east wall, with alternating shelves and tables in the center of the room. Large framed nature photography by Oregon photographer Christopher Burkett hangs on the walls of the cafe. The store’s back room will likely serve as space for book clubs and other groups, along with storage for overstock, said Kuolt (pronounced “Colt”).

The Open Book will live on through the store’s many used books, but Kuolt stressed the fact that it would be a well-curated version.

“Our goal was to keep the best of Open Book going, because (it) was going to shut down altogether,” Kuolt said. “We’re curating all of the vintage, all the best literature. Our philosophy, history, culture, world religions and ancient Christianity is our focus for our collection. And we’re going to keep the most popular mass-market mysteries and Westerns for that clientele.”

Agia Sophia’s specialty is affordable used books, and Kuolt encourages people to go with good books to trade them in for credit toward new purchases.

“We want to keep that cycle going. We want to keep recycling the good books. Make them inexpensive so a lot of people will read,” he said. “We get a lot of young people, the under-30 crowd, the in-college crowd, who love to come in and find good philosophy and literature.”

Maintaining so many pocket-sized paperbacks wasn’t part of the original plan, “but once I got used to the idea of having pulp fiction, I realized that just like we eat healthy at home and we go to the coffeeshop for pastries and a latte, it’s sort of like those are the dessert of the mind,” Kuolt said.

“It’s surprising, the number of people who come in and they read voraciously. And it’s a thrill, because every day somebody comes in and they can’t find a book (elsewhere). Yesterday we had two great finds in our classic literature.”

The Bend Agia Sophia is actually the third loosely affiliated Agia Sophia location, with others in Philadelphia and Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“In each case, Orthodox priests opened them,” Kuolt said. “We kind of kept the brand because it worked out so nicely.”

Much of the refrigeration equipment, menu boards and furniture in the Bend location comes from the Colorado store, which was extremely popular during its 12 years in existence, although, according to Kuolt it was “a lot more coffeehouse and less books.”

“They were voted ‘Best of the Springs’ seven years,” he said. “They ended up closing down because they lost their lease. … We got a big start with their help.”Kuolt has handled much of the remodeling himself, with help from contractors who donated services and materials at their cost. The wood paneling in the cafe area “was all donated. I got it off of job sites; this is leftovers from a luxury home,” Kuolt said.

Along with selling books and coffee, Agia Sophia will hold events such as readings and lectures by Burkett, Kuolt and others.

Kuolt and his wife, Joanna, have four adult children and moved to Bend to help develop the St. Jacob Orthodox Christian Church.

“We decided to drop anchor here, my wife and I, after living almost three years in an Airstream, traveling around the Diocese,” Kuolt said. After assignments of three months to one year in Washington, California and Montana, “We decided to stay here and try to build a permanent parish that would survive us,” he said.

Located at 1900 NE Division St. in Bend, St. Jacob has about 35 members.

“It’s a Byzantine chapel … it’s a little miniature version in a strip mall,” he said. “We’re outgrowing it.”

Agia Sophia, whose name means “Holy Wisdom” in Greek, is a nonprofit. “To get launched it’s part of an extension of our parish, but we’re going to run this as an unrelated business,” Kuolt said. “It will be a business to serve the community.”

Kuolt said the bookstore and cafe dovetail with his theological work.

“Our purpose is, to quote Christ, love your neighbor as yourself,” he said. “And my neighbor is every person that I meet. And if I have a little hidden chapel behind the building over at the Whistle Stop (Business Center), I’m not going to meet anybody. We’re here to serve. The life of a Christian is meant to serve the people around them. And we just thought it was a great way to serve the community — keep the bookstore open.”

December Pacific Central Deanery Clergy Retreat - 12/06/19

Thirteen priests from the Pacific Central Deanery gathered at the Bodega Bay Inn ( in Bodega Bay, CA on December 2nd-3rd for the first semi-annual clergy retreat.

After Archpriest Lawrence Margitich saw how clergy of the Carolina Deanery in the Diocese of the South were tackling the issue of continuing education through overnight retreats, he relayed the model to the brethren here in the Bay Area.

With the blessing of Archbishop BENJAMIN and support of Dean Archpriest Basil Rhodes, Archpriest Michael Anderson headed up a committee to plan the deanery’s first overnight clergy retreat!

The theme of the retreat was Metropolitan TIKHON’s treatise, “Of What Life Do We Speak” that had been published in advance of and in connection to the 2018 All American Council in St Louis, MO. Each of the four sessions of the retreat correlated to one of the four pillars in His Beatitude’s opus (Spiritual Life, Stewardship, Relations with Others, and Evangelism and Outreach). While each pillar had a moderator, there was not a lot of ‘lecturing,’ as much of the sessions were filled with contributions, reflections, and questions from all the clergy (among whom were not only ‘active’ deanery clergy but also retired clergy and Mission Deanery clergy from the geographical area).

While the content provided the opportunity for deep thinking and serious contemplation of important issues regarding pastoral life and the status of our parishes, there was also time to enjoy the hospitality provided by the fine folks at the Bodega Bay Inn (a huge ‘thank you’ goes to proprietor Ted, a parishioner at St Seraphim Cathedral in Santa Rosa.).

The clergy of the Pacific Central Deanery are very much looking forward to their next retreat in May 2020!

Memory Eternal! Dn. Gregory Jewett - 11/30/19

Deacon Gregory Eric Jewett, 43, fell asleep in the Lord here on Friday, November 29, 2019.  He was attached to the Church of the Holy Theophany, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Born March, 3 1976 in Sterling, IL, Deacon Gregory was a graduate of Greenville College, Greenville, Illinois, where he earned a Bachelor Degree in Business Management.  In 2016, he completed the Orthodox Church in America’s Diaconal Vocation Program. Deacon Gregory was ordained to the Holy Diaconate by His Eminence Archbishop Benjamin on the Feast of Holy Theophany in 2017. 

Deacon Gregory married his wife Carrie Mary Jewett in 1997. She survives him, as do their four children, Wyatt, Sophia, Emmy, and Maximus.

His Eminence Archbishop Benjamin of San Francisco and the West will preside at the funeral services for Deacon Gregory. Service times are as follows: Sunday, December 1, 7:00pm Panikhida; Monday December 2, 8:00am Divine Liturgy; 10:00am Funeral Service. All services will be at the Church of the Holy Theophany, Colorado Springs, Colorado. Interment will follow at the Protection of the Holy Virgin Monastery, Lake George, Colorado.

May Gregory’s memory be eternal. May God give comfort to his wife Carrie Mary, his children and family.

One Mouth & One Heart - 11/14/19

Orthodox Liturgical singing workshop with Benedict & Maria Sheehan will take place on March 7th, Saturday, 2020.

Location: Church of the Annunciation, Milwaukie Oregon, 503-659-3646

Registration form will be posted on in a few days.

Benedict & Maria Sheehan bring their uniquely complementary skill sets to a weekend workshop tailored to your choir’s needs and integrated into your church’s liturgical schedule. In intensive sessions they help church musicians of all abilities reach new levels of mastery, with emphasis on how to retain these skills and employ them in an everyday setting. They particularly emphasize the spiritual work of the sacred choral musician, and its connections to ensemble blend, musicianship, expressiveness, attentiveness, and a prayerful ethos.


Develop and strengthen your individual voice

Maintain healthy technique in a choral setting

Increase your endurance and prevent vocal damage

Learn to warm-up and practice more effectively


Improve your conducting technique

Lead rehearsals in a more effective and engaging way

Deepen your knowledge of liturgical music

Diagnose and solve problems in your ensemble


Convey sacred text with clarity and depth

Unify and develop your ensemble sound

Sing longer and stronger with less fatigue

Enhance ensemble “community” and connection


8:30 am - Registration, coffee/refreshments

9:30-12:00—Group Vocal Technique

12:00-1:00 - Lunch

1:00-2:30— Repertoire with full ensemble

3:00-4:30— Ensemble technique/Conducting lessons

4:30-5:30 - Dinner

5:30-6:45 - Rehearsal

7:00-7:45pm - Vespers

For more info contact:

PRAYER REQUESTED - Fires in Sonoma County, CA (UPDATED) - 10/30/19

San Francisco, CA: His Eminence, Archbishop Benjamin reports the community of the Holy Assumption Monastery in Calistoga, CA remains under an evacuation advisory. So far, the monastery has not been given notice to evacuate and it is expected the advisory will be lifted some time on Thursday. Several families from the St. Seraphim Cathedral parish in Santa Rosa, CA have been evacuated as the fires have threatened communities to the north and west of Santa Rosa. You may remember Santa Rosa itself experienced devastating fires two years ago and the area is still recovering from that blaze. No word has reached His Eminence that anyone has lost their home so far.  

We ask your prayers for all those who have been evacuated and lost their homes be they members of our flock or not.

Archbishop BENJAMIN's visit to Spokane - 10/24/19

On the weekend of October 12th - 13th Archbishop Benjamin traveled to Spokane, Washington, where he visited St. Luke Orthodox Church https://spokaneorthodoxchurch. com/, a new mission of the Diocese of the West, and gave a lecture at Whitworth University. Events began on Saturday when Vladyka joined 20 people for an OCF brunch at the home of Fr. Timothy and Mka. Marie Wilkinson, where he spent an extended period answering questions posed by the students and guests.  Saturday Vespers at St Luke’s was well attended and was followed by a dinner at the Wilkinson home. On Sunday, Thomas Schaeffer was ordained a subdeacon by Archbishop Benjamin in the presence of over 60 people, including several first-time visitors. Before becoming Orthodox in 2015, Subdeacon Thomas spent 30 years as an Assemblies of God minister.

2020 Bavarian Tour with His Eminence - 10/22/19

In the company of His Eminence Benjamin, Archbishop of San Francisco and the West, this is an absolute trip of a lifetime - First Class all the way! Tour highlights that include; The Oberammergau Passion Play performed only every ten years, truly a world-class spiritual experience., day long cruise through the most scenic area of the Rhine River. See Germany's largest opera house, visit castles, fantastic museums, with city walking tours uncovering history, activities to experience the culture, food (and spectacular Cathedrals!) of this beautiful region. Download the flyer here

Burial Service for Non Orthodox - 10/22/19

The Burial Service for Non Orthodox for priests and choirs is now available on our website. Please download here.

Holy Assumption Monastery Plans Building Project - 10/21/19

by Cynthia Sweeney
Reprinted with permission by the Napa Valley Register

The date, Oct. 22 will mark 10 years that the Sisters of Holy Assumption Monastery have been an active part of the Calistoga community. Now, the sisters are looking for a little help from the community as they plan to replace The St. Nicholas House that “has seen better times.” The house was built on the Washington Street property in the 1970s, and was originally intended to be a handicap-accessible residence for elderly and infirm sisters. After adding an accessible bathroom several years ago, contractors found that the house was not built to high-quality standards, and replacing it is a better use of resources than continuing to renovate, or attempting to expand, said Mother Melania. “We have to think ahead. We’re stewards and caretakers of this property for the next generations, and to provide what the community will need,” said Mother Macrina.

Plans are already underway. Local general contractor Paul Coates, a generous friend of the monastery, and architect Thomas Stimpert, have committed to the project, donating planning input and guidance.
The sisters have begun a fundraising campaign with a goal of $1 million for the new St. Nicholas House. About $20,000 has been raised so far. Neither demolition nor construction can begin until the bulk of the money has been raised. Several factors contribute to the cost of the new building including elevation of the building due to the proximity to the Napa River, and the addition of a sprinkler system. (See details at

Diocese of the West Priest in Russia - 09/11/19

An icon with particles of the relics of the Russian New Martyrs Sts. Nikolai Chernishev and his daughter Barbara from Votkinsk was ceremoniously gifted to a parish of the Orthodox Church in America in California on Sunday.The solemn event took place following the Divine Liturgy at the Archangel Michael Cathedral in Izhevsk. The relics were given to Fr. Edward Henderson, rector of the Church of St. John the Baptist in Berkeley, California (OCA Western American Diocese), who was visiting the area for several days, by Izhevsk Dean Archpriest Roman Voskresensky, reports the press service of the Izhevsk and Udmurtia Diocese.

Handing him the icon with the relics, Fr. Roman asked Fr. Edward to tell about the life of his parish in Berkeley, where there are many parishioners from Votkinsk, who preserved the memory of Sts. Nikolai and Barbara throughout the past century.

Diocesan Pilgrimage to Spruce Island and Alaska - 08/01/19

Join your fellow Orthodox believers in the 50th Anniversary celebrations of St. Herman of Alaska’s glorification and the 50th Anniversary of the OCA’s autocephaly in 2020. There will be weekly trips to Alaska over the summer of 2020 sponsored by each of the dioceses of the OCA. The Diocese of the West will sponsor their trip July 8-14, 2020. This will be a special trip for all Orthodox believers. Sign up early and reserve your space. Final cost to be determined.

Core package includes:

*          7 days/6 nights accommodation

*          Round trip air fare to Kodiak from Anchorage

*          Excursion to Spruce Island

*          Touring and sightseeing as listed in itinerary

For terms and conditions, passports, visas, baggage fees, air, additional taxes and travel insurance information visit email 713-688-6793.

Download the flyer here.

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