Welcome to the Orthodox Church of St. Stephen the Protomartyr!
While Fr. Daniel and Mat. Marcy were at a Memorial Day cook out they were asked about our church and here is what they answered.
We pray: In an Orthodox Church the whole service is a prayer. I have been to churches that teach you to pray, inspire you to pray, or show you how to pray, but very few that actually pray. The Liturgy is a prayer. You get a little explanation in the middle of the service, but we don't bother you with lots of hype. We gather to pray. The earliest Christian communities knew that worship was a Divine encounter with the God of the universe and our part of that encounter is to offer ourselves to God in prayer.
We care: As a member of St. Stephens you don't just get a service and a sermon, you will find people who are willing to walk together with you as you live the Christian life together. It could be lunch after a mid-week Liturgy, gathering for a friend's house blessing, giving someone a ride to church, or watching football together. If you want to learn how to live as a Christian information is not enough. You need to imitate people who are putting the information into practice in their everyday life. That's why community is so important in the Church. You need to spend time with God's people, and God has people at St. Stephens who are looking to welcome and serve you.
We serve: St. Stephens members are not Sunday only Christians. We take the Gospel of Jesus with us out into the world. We don't always a make a big deal of it. We don't have to put our Church's name on all the good things we do because its not about us. Its about God's glory and help for those who need it. In the last week at least one member shared her faith with someone at Starbucks who asked about the cross she was wearing. Another member answered a friend's questions about faith for 6 hours!!! I attended a luncheon along with a member who volunteers for hospice and helped serve food to the homeless with five other St. Stephens members. We have people who work in their communities, serve the homeless and working poor, and volunteers with other great charities. How are you doing God's work in the world? I love to hear about how our members are living their faith.
I'm thankful to be a part of such a great parish. If you are ready to get more involved with what God is doing in our community, please contact Fr. Daniel by email.
The Feast of Ascension teaches us that Heaven is our home. On this Feast we venerate our Lord who ascended into Heaven with His body to show us that we are created for perfect union with God in His Heavenly Kingdom. Therefore we live as citizens of Heaven. We do not identify with the latest fads or philosophies of the day. Our identity is not in our possessions, pleasures, or power. Our identity is in Christ. We are Christians. Our Lord says, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.” (Mt. 6:19-20).
As we see to the daily cares of this life we cannot afford to forget the existence of Heaven and the invisible world. Heaven is not a geographical place that you can put on a map. Heaven is the highest expression of Divine joy and blessedness described in Revelation 21-22. There is no crying, no pain, no darkness at all because it is the presence of God who is light. It is the Kingdom which is to be sought first so that all things can be added. (Mt. 6:33) This Divine joy is the reason for creation. The Holy Fathers tell us that God created the world and mankind out of love so that he could share His joy with other beings.
When Christ ascended into Heaven with His body, He showed us that Heaven is our home, our goal, our final destination. When he was explaining his ascension to the disciples, he told them his bodily departure should not make them sad because he was going to prepare a place for them. (Jn 14:3) This preparation is taking place today as Christ offers His grace to the world out of love. The grace of God is the presence of the Holy Spirit in the world. Jesus' ascension to the Father activates the ministry of the Holy Spirit. (Jn. 14:16) It is the Spirit who comforts us, gifts us, guides us into truth, and forms us into citizens of Heaven so that we may ascend like Christ.
But the Holy Spirit has not replaced Christ for us. Everything the Spirit does is to glorify Christ and make His presence known (Jn. 16:14-15). This takes place in the Divine Liturgy when the Holy Spirit comes down on the holy gifts of bread and wine and makes them the body and blood of Christ. Christ is present with his people Eucharistically. The Eucharistic presence of Christ is even more powerful than His bodily presence because it reminds us that His Kingdom is not of this world. As we gain a deeper understanding of the Great Feast of Ascension, let us deepen our uncompromising devotion to Christ in the Eucharist. Nothing is so precious to us as the presence of our bridegroom who has ascended into Heaven, who will come again, whose Kingdom shall have no end.
- This Friday is our turn to lead the Ephraim Project homeless feeding. We will serve food at 5PM, but cooking and preparation begins at noon so come whenever you are available.
- Mission Trip to North Carolina is July 22-28. We will be praying, growing, and serving the poor together with FOCUS North America. The deadline to signup is Sunday June 11. The cost is $250
- Fr. Gerasim will be visiting us on Saturday June 16 for Vespers. The Episcopal Search Committee has recommended that we nominate him to serve as our next Bishop. After the service, there will be opportunity to meet and greet.
- Congratulations to our graduates Olivia and Sonya !
- VBS is at Holy Trinity June 11-15, 2012 Time: 4:30-8. ALL HANDS ON DECK!! Get ready for a swashbuckling adventure through God’s Word! Don’t miss the High Seas Expedition where you will explore the mighty love of God! VBS is for children entering Pre-K4 through entering 5th Grade in August 2012.
- Church School is taking a summer vacation. Many thanks to our teachers for this past year: Tara, Kathy, and Justyna. We continue to rejoice in the faith of our children and pray that God will complete the good work that has been started in them.
From Fr. Daniel's weekly email.
In the middle of the 40 days of Great Lent we come to the Sunday of the Cross. The Cross is the central theme of Great Lent so its commemoration is celebrated in the middle of the Feast. Now we are in a different Liturgical Season - the Pascha season. The Pascha season lasts from the Resurrection up to the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The central theme is Christ who is victorious in His resurrection and who is sending the Holy Spirit.
The Gospel reading from John 7 describes Jesus' teaching ministry in the Temple. In the Troparion we sing, "In the middle of the Feast, O Savior, fill my thirsting soul with the waters of godliness, as Thou didst cry to all: 'If anyone thirst, let him come to Me and drink'. O Christ God, Fountain of our life, glory be to Thee!" Christ's teaching is like water for our thirsty souls. Water features prominently in the Gospel readings of the Pascha Season. Last week we heard about the Paralytic who could not get anyone to lower him into the pool.
Next Sunday we will read about the woman at the well. In each story water is a source of life and is used to point people to Jesus. As part of the water theme, we will have a small blessing of water tomorrow morning after the Liturgy.
From Fr. Daniel's Weekly Email
This Sunday, Fr. Daniel talked about reaching out to spread the Gospel and caring for the poor as it is recorded that the early Church did in Acts of the Apostles. Here at St. Stephen’s we have a number of opportunities to reach out to those around us, in and beyond the Orlando area.
One opportunity to do this is through the Ephraim Project. The Ephraim Project partners which St. George Orthodox and people in our parish feeds the homeless and offers help to those in need in Orlando. Here are three ways you can help.
- Volunteer to prepare food for the homeless on May 25th at 5:30 p.m. Anne v. d. B. or Bertina know more.
- Bring men or women’s underwear or toiletries for the homeless a container in the narthex.
- Every Thursday from 12-3 p.m at 1st Baptist there is a chance to help by sorting clothes.
This summer we will will be able to reach out even further through, a Focus North America, mission trip. The trip will be from July 22-28 and we will be spending the week helping families in an impoverished area of North Carolina. There will also be time for daily prayer and reflection, fellowship, and time to explore the beautiful Carolina landscape. The cost is $250 per person plus travel expenses.
Congratulations to Mr. Eric Chaney and Mrs. Amineh Chaney on their marriage which took place at St. Stephen’s this past Friday!
May God grant you both Many Years!!!
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