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Great Blessing of Water in Spokane - 01/14/20

St Luke Mission, Spokane, WA

The "Spokane Favs" website has published a story on the Great Blessing of Water ceremony of Bear Lake celebrated by Fr Timothy Wilkinson and St Luke here in Spokane.

The article (with pictures), written by Tracy Simmons, may be found here:

Rocky Mountain Deanery Teen Winter Retreat - 01/13/20

Teen Winter Retreat - Rocky Mountain Deanery - December 30-January 1

Teens from the Rocky Mountain Deanery spent three days up in the mountains at 9,620 ft. elevation. This is an annual event that allows teens from around the Rocky Mountain region to come together for worship, fellowship with one another, a series of talks, and plenty of snow activities. The most well known snow activity is Broom Hockey which takes place on a frozen pond along with plenty of energetic and friendly competition. Many of the clergy have been known to join in on the action as well. 

This year's talk was focused on being created in the image and likeness of God. There was discussion on what this means in our daily lives, how we are influenced to be formed into other images that are not the image of God, and how we can use our will to participate with God in this good work. The teens are always engaged with the discussion and eager to understand how their faith can be better lived out. 

Matins and Vespers were served during this time and everyone came together for Divine Liturgy on the final morning. The youth led and were the choir for all of the Divine services. It is always a joy to hear their voices joining with one another in praise to God. 

We already have the dates reserved for next year when we will meet again in the mountains on December 28-30, 2020. 
Glory to God for all things!

The Holy Synod Proclaims 2020 as a Year of Anniversaries for the Orthodox Church in America - 01/01/20

The Holy Synod Proclaims 2020 as a Year of Anniversaries for the Orthodox Church in America

SYOSSET, NY [OCA]  - A message from Archpriest Alexander Rentel, Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America: 

On Wednesday, November 13, 2019, the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America concelebrated the Divine Liturgy for the feast of Saint John Chrysostom.  At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy His Eminence Archbishop Michael of New York and New Jersey, Secretary of the Holy Synod, read a proclamation of the Holy Synod announcing the anniversary celebrations for the Canonization of Saint Herman of Alaska, and the reception of the Tomos of Autocephaly.

In its proclamation, the Holy Synod announced a number of official events that would take place over the course this year to mark these anniversaries, as well as the publication of educational and liturgical materials. All members of the Orthodox Church in America should take note of these plans, and seek to participate in them as they are able. Additionally, following the direction of the Holy Synod, all Churches, Missions, Monasteries, Institutions, indeed, all the faithful of the Orthodox Church in America should seek ways to mark these anniversaries in ways that are appropriate and well-pleasing to God.

View here a photo gallery outlining the granting of autocephaly in April 1970.

And here a photo gallery from the glorification of Saint Herman.

Read here the Tomos of Autocephaly.

The Proclamation is as follows, and is available here in various languages for download.

Proclamation of the Holy Synod of Bishops
of the Orthodox Church in America
Announcing the Anniversary Celebrations for the
Canonization of St. Herman of Alaska, and the
Reception of the Tomosof Autocephaly

To the beloved clergy, venerable monastics, and pious laity of the Orthodox Church in America; to all Orthodox Christians sojourning in North America; to all men and women of goodwill!

We beseech our heavenly Father, the Author of every good gift, to grant to everyone who hears and reads these words an outpouring of the great and manifold gifts of faith, knowledge, and salvation that can only be found in Him. Through the revelation of Him in the person of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, may our faith in Him become ever greater, our knowledge of him more profound, and may we all attain unto the salvation that He alone offers. From of old the great Prophet David has exhorted God’s faithful people, “Know that the Lord is God! It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture (Ps 100.3).” Our Great God has created us, and made himself known to us, and we have become his people, the Church. While the members of our Church live and work in Canada, the United States, and Mexico, they and we are united with the men and women throughout the world and from all the ages who share the same Catholic faith that was delivered to the Apostles once for all time. On behalf of this faith, we labor; for this knowledge, we rejoice; to this salvation, we hope.



To the Reverend Clergy and Faithful of the Diocese of the West

Dearly beloved:

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots...
     The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
     And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, who shall stand as a banner to the people; for the Gentiles shall seek Him, and His resting place shall be glorious.

(Isaiah 11:1, 6-10, Read on the Eve of the Nativity)

The Prophet Isaiah speaks of a Rod, a Branch, and a Root from the stem of Jesse. This prophecy points to the coming of the Messiah — our Lord Jesus Christ. Isaiah reveals that the lineage of the Messiah would flow through the lines of Kings, Priests and Prophets. Indeed it has, as the Incarnate Son of God, the Son of Mary, is manifested in this world in our celebration of His glorious nativity. The King of Kings offers Himself as the perfect Servant. The Great High Priest offers Himself as the perfect Sacrifice. And the Holy Prophet comes into the world to reveal (and follow) the will of His Father. In that revelation, we are called to be servants, sacrifices, and followers of the Word of God.

But Isaiah also goes on to say that this Coming will radically change the world. Images of the predator and prey co-existing in peace (even lying down together) is the prophecy of the Son of God “taking on the form of a servant” and uniting all of creation in Himself. Isaiah prophecies that the “Gentiles shall seek Him.” The Church is the New Israel and we are the “Gentiles” that seek Him. The redemption of the world begins with the eternal Son of God becoming one of us, enabling us through the Spirit, to become like Him. This radical image of transcendent peace and tranquility is our call, in our celebration, to radically transcend our passions, our temptations and especially our self-will by entering into Him.

Our celebration of the Nativity of Christ is nothing if not radical. While the world has been careening back and forth between obscene consumerism, “Christmas parties,” incessant advertising, and even drunkenness and gluttony, the Church has called us to self-denial and fasting. While the world will put away virtually all signs of the Christmas season literally the day after Christmas, the Church begins a glorious twelve-day celebration of the Lord’s Nativity with our entrance into His Mysteries on the feastday and then a fast-free period. The Christian knows that we celebrate the only true Gift of Christmas: the Incarnate Son of God, who brings all of creation into Himself by becoming one with it. If that is not radical, what is?

As we gather around the new-born Infant, I ask you all to join me in a radical new world of peace inaugurated by the King of Peace and perfect Servant; the Great High Priest and perfect Sacrifice; and the Holy Prophet and perfect Follower.

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

In the new-born Child,

Archbishop of San Francisco and the West

Exciting News From Ashland! - 12/16/19

Dear faithful,

With His Eminence Archbishop Benjamin’s blessing, we are excited to announce a $75,000 matching grant for our church building project at Archangel Gabriel Orthodox Church in Ashland, OR! From now until Pascha, every donation is met, dollar-for-dollar, up to $75K, and all of this money will go toward the site work on our church property.

It is an exciting and encouraging time of our building project! Since 2013 we have had several milestone events.

- We have been able to find and purchase a beautiful piece if property (around 7 acres) right on I-5 outside of Ashland, OR.
- We have worked with local architects, engineers and consultants to complete the construction documents for our new church.
- Archbishop Benjamin has planted a cross and the cornerstone, and blessed the commencement of the project.
- We have started to develop the property, installing irrigation lines, planting trees and building a perimeter fence.
- By the grace of God we have raised around $900K since commencing the project. Most of that has been spent on buying and developing the property, working with architects and engineers, and securing our plans with the county. That vast majority of this has been raised from within our mission church.
- We have been approved to have a cemetery on the property, conditional upon us building the church.
- We are getting ready to break ground, by extending and hooking up to the sewer line.

Our current fundraising goal (before we start raising money for the actual construction) is $300,000 for the site work. This will prepare our beautiful parcel for construction, and includes driveways, parking lots, excavation, grading, and structural rocks for the temple site.

We would love for you to participate in this holy endeavor! As stated above, this is a good time to donate, as every dollar you give is doubled. If so inclined you may send your donations to:

Archangel Gabriel Orthodox Church
PO Box 823
Ashland, OR 97520

For more information, please contact us at

In Christ,
Fr. Andreas Blom and the parish of Archangel Gabriel

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!

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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