Northern Maryland Mission Consecrates New Temple, Hosts Myrrh-Streaming Icon,
and is Officially Established as Parish
of the UOC of the USA
(By Charles Sanderson)
In a momentous weekend nearly 15 years in the making, Four Evangelists Ukrainian Orthodox Mission in Bel Air, Maryland became a full parish of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA as its new temple was consecrated at the hand of His Eminence Metropolitan Antony and His Eminence Archbishop Daniel. In a prayerful and joyous celebration, the relics of St. Basil the Great were installed in the new altar table and the newly-renovated church, located on North Hickory Avenue in the heart of downtown Bel Air, was consecrated for the singular purpose of glorifying God, that souls may be saved.
"What a joy to finally reach this high point in the life of Four Evangelists Mission Parish," noted Metropolitan Antony in his congratulatory remarks to the parish, in which he challenged the faithful to live out their vocation of love ever more boldly in the midst of uncertain and difficult times. "May this newly consecrated space be the focal point of your lives...May your witness to a challenging and stormy world be a positive one, which welcomes the stranger, clothes the naked, visits and comforts the sick and imprisoned and quenches the thirst of so many searching for meaning in that world. You can work miracles in and through this newly consecrated Holy Place!" Fr. Gregory Czumak, pastor of Four Evangelists, reflected on that vocation in his remarks: "And so here we stand today, celebrating the Consecration of our Temple and nearly 15 years of service to God! All praise and thanks be to Him! We fully understand that it is only by the grace of God, realized in our efforts to serve Him, and through the many prayers of you, our dear parishioners and God-given friends of our Parish, that we have made it thus far, and it is only by His grace, our efforts, and your prayers that we will continue to thrive and flourish. So today let us celebrate, and give thanks to God Almighty for allowing us this incredible opportunity to serve and glorify Him."
The weekend began with a very special and unique preparatory event. On the eve of the consecration, Fr. Mark Leasure, pastor of St. George's Orthodox Church in Taylor, PA, brought the Myrrh-Streaming icon of the Mother of God Kardiotissa ("the Tender Heart") to Bel Air for prayerful veneration. In remarks before a sizable crowd assembled at the new church following the Moleben offered to the Mother of God, Fr. Mark recounted the many instances of physical, emotional and spiritual healing that have occurred in the presence of the icon. These manifestations of the abundant mercy of God, realized through the constant intercessions of His Holy Mother, were another reminder to all assembled as to the mission and vocation of the Church herself in the world. The faithful gathered that evening were anointed following the service, with some taking myrrh from the icon to anoint others unable to attend the service itself, "unto the healing of soul and body." The unique healing ministry of Christ's Holy Church was witnessed very powerfully that evening.
Saturday, 11 March was marked by several significant events in the life of Four Evangelists Parish: The consecration of the new Sacred Temple and installation of the holy relics of St. Basil the Great; the elevation of Fr. Gregory Czumak to the honor of the rank of Protopriest; and the setting aside of Father Gregory's son, Reader Nicholas Czumak, as a Subdeacon of the Church. In addition to parishioners, friends and visitors (many from out of state), the consecration and hierarchical Divine Liturgy were attended by V.Rev. Bazyl Zawierucha, pastor of Assumption of the Virgin Mary Parish in Northampton, PA; V.Rev. Stephen Hutnick, pastor of Sts. Peter & Paul Parish in Wilmington, DE; V.Rev. Robert Holet, pastor of St. Nicholas Parish in Charlottesville, VA; V.Rev. Antony Perkins, pastor of Protection of the Theotokos Cathedral in Allentown, PA; Rev. Philip Harendza, pastor of Holy Archangel Michael Parish in Scranton, PA; Dn. Ivan Tchopko; Subdeacon Mihaylo Bokalo; and Seminarian Tadei Surak. The consecration service and hierarchical liturgy were followed by a festive banquet which included the formal honoring of long-time founders, members and benefactors of Four Evangelists Parish, Alex and Lia Krowzow, Dr. David and Peggy Mukai, and Reader Basil Athas (in absentia).
The weekend's events marked a significant turning point in the life of Four Evangelists Parish. Established in 2002 with the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan (then Archbishop) Antony, the mission -- the first in Harford County, Maryland -- celebrated its first Divine Liturgy in April of that year. Fr. Gregory was formally assigned to the mission in August. The mission met in rented facilities, including the John Carroll School in Bel Air, for ten years, until finally settling on the property on North Hickory Avenue, at which point the mission continued to meet in temporary facilities for services while lengthy renovations -- beset by many delays and setbacks -- were underway. Much work on the building ultimately was completed by the parishioners themselves, and friends of the parish.
Through those 15 years, as the mission struggled to establish itself, grow, locate and close on a permanent home, secure funding and complete renovations, the dedicated and resourceful group of families comprising the mission never lost faith in God's providence. The Holy Mysteries of the Church were provided for even when there was no altar table, no iconostas, no permanent building to call home. Even in the face of uncertainty and adversity, the faithful of Four Evangelists Parish persevered, maintaining their trust in the Lord and one another, and soldiered on. Never ceasing in their labors or wavering in their dedication, the faithful celebrated the Eucharist, fasted and prayed, built an iconostas, made veneration icons, fed the homeless, served the vulnerable and less fortunate, taught and preached, and performed many acts of mercy. Together they celebrated weddings, births, baptisms, even an ordination. Their fidelity to their task, to their vocation in Christ as the Church, was rewarded through God's providence in the holy temple consecrated 15 years after the first Divine Liturgy was celebrated in Bel Air.
Building on the foundation of the past 15 years, the task ahead for Four Evangelists is to be, in the words of His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, a locus of peace, love and joy in a troubled world, in which people from any and all walks of life may meet, know, and worship our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ, unto the salvation of souls. With the Lord's help may it be so.
Glory to God for all things!