MISSION DIARY: END OF THE SEASON

by Fr. Stephen Siniari

 

This is the last installment I’ll write as Priest of the Mission of Saint John Chrysostom at the Jersey Shore. The first installment was published in the Fall 1990 edition of Jacob’s Well. Over the next eight years, the Mission Diary series chronicled the life and growth of our Mission community. There have been 24 articles, this makes 25.

Our First Liturgy, described our "church in a box" set-up at a local youth center. Our Congregation, answered the frequently asked questions, "How many people are there at your Mission? And where do they come from?" In The Working Priest, we read about a typical day in the life of a Mission Priest. Archbishop Peter’s first visit is described in Fear Not Little Flock. Our daily radio broadcast, Voice of the Early Church, was first mentioned in an article called, Discernment In America. The Dream, outlined the imaginings of what it might be like if one day the Orthodox had a prayer-supported, well-funded Mission To America. On The Way Home describes the move from our dank quarters in the unfinished condo-unit, affectionately referred to by the Catechumens as, the Cave, to our new home in an 1863 school-house, and the effort it took to get us there.

Liturgical catechesis was the path followed by all those in our Mission who embraced the Faith from other Confessions. Typical of their first encounter with Orthodox worship are scenes described in Mission Vespers, We See Them Weep. Many articles elicited letters from readers, but none more than, Is This Really What You Think?- an article about nouveau-Orthodox publications that, despite "new wine," seem to relish beating their former compatriots over the head with the same old wine-skins - And Let Me Show You Our New Icons: in which a girl suffers under the Boardwalk while Orthodox pageantry marches by overhead, preoccupied with aid for the homeland, miters, and icons.

There’s Something Missing. Aren’t we? Seven Years A Catechumen… Instead of festivals we tried a thrift-store outreach to the poor for supporting our Mission. We had plenty of goods, but our location was bad. We were a little ahead of our time, is all. We persevered in financial uncertainty, learning about others, and ourselves. Treasure Strewn Along The Street, was an installment dedicated to the clergy-wives, and all the Mothers of our Church, especially the wives serving in Missions…

And then Matushka lost her job. The company she worked for closed up shop. All health benefits and three-quarters of our family income were suddenly gone. We received some help, but we knew our season of service to the Mission had come to an end.

The Community is still together. The people attend Liturgy at the Church of the Mother of God in Mays Landing. Quite a cultural trek for some, but they go. They meet regularly for a Readers Service and Study Group once a week at the home of Bill and Irene Dingman. The groups starts at 7pm and is rarely over before 10:30. Some people just enjoy each others company. "By this all will know you are my disciples."

Bill makes a presentation on lives of the Saints from Bishop Nikolai’s Prologue From Orchid. George Karavan patiently helps the people through Elements of Faith by Christos Yannaras. Jackie Neiderberger brings things into perspective with various contemplative offerings that help everyone to live the Gospel through the week. One of our newest Orthodox, Sharon Killian, delights us with readings from Facing East by Frederica Matthews-Green. Nancy Hickman and Marzanne Reid contribute. And Bill Southrey completes the evening with selections from Explanation of the New Testament by the Blessed Theophylact. Harry Karavan, one of our seniors, leads us in the Readers Service and helps us with our halting Greek.

We were part of a Mission Community, an experiment at the Jersey Cape between the years 1990 and 1998. We’re still clinging, however tenuously, to life as a Mission Community in Christ, dedicated to living the Gospel as witness to those seeking to come to the fullness of the Faith. We celebrated our last Pascha together in this life, April 19, 1998. Then we packed up the Mission in boxes and left our 1863 schoolhouse.

We are waiting to see if perhaps it is God’s will that another Priest and family will come to serve. Archbishop Peter has given his encouragement. Missions Director Father Paul Kucynda has been supportive. We believe there is hope.

 

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Editor's Note:  Soon after this was written Fr. Stephen and his wife, Margot, moved to the Philadelphia area where he now serves as the pastor of SS Peter and Paul Albanian Church in Philadelphia.  He continues his ministry to the poor and to troubled teenagers at Covenant House.

His new series of articles in Jacob's Well, reflections on Christian ministry, is entitled, Good and Faithful Servant.

The Mission of St. John Chrysostom continues to meet in Clermont, NJ.  Information on the time of services is available by calling Bill Dingman at 609-398-5020.

From Jabob’s Well
Newspaper of the Diocese of New York and New Jersey
Orthodox Church in America
Spring/Summer 1998

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