Парафія св. Івана Хрестителя святкує ювілей 95 років
Blue skies and bright sunshine greeted current and former members, family, and friends of St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Johnson City, NY as they gathered to celebrate the 95th Anniversary of the parish on Sunday, September 19, 2021.
The faithful waited in anticipation as His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, Prime Hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, the Seminarians of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary, Pastor Fr. Ivan Synevskyy and our dedicated altar boys proceeded from the Rectory to the Church for this joyous event. It was a truly beautiful sight to behold as the sun glistened on the intricately embroidered vestments, stoles and crowns of our beloved Hierarchs, and reflected off of the processional cross and fans, as the group made their way to the front of the church for the special Hierarchical Divine Liturgy.
Parish President Brian Baxendale, along with parish children, warmly greeted our Hierarchs with traditional bread and salt and presented them with bouquets of sunflowers. The sunflower was chosen as the 95th Anniversary theme since it symbolizes spiritual faith, longevity, hope and joy. The children giggled as Vladyka Daniel shared his sunflowers along with smiles, kind words and laughter. Parish President Baxendale noted, “When one of you visits, we are truly delighted and honored to have you here but with both of you, we are truly blessed”. His Eminence Metropolitan Antony responded that it was truly a joy to be able to participate in this important Feast Day.
His Eminence Metropolitan Antony and his Eminence Archbishop Daniel made their way into the nave of the Church where Fr Ivan Synevskyy greeted them. He thanked them for joining us on this special day in the life of our parish and for their prayers and blessings. Metropolitan Antony remarked on his long history with our parish, and its rich heritage. He spoke of the people and clergy who have led and guided the church for 95 years, providing the foundation for its growth. He observed that the walls of our church have absorbed the faith, love, beauty, and prayers of the people within; “the walls would be nothing”, he noted, “if it wasn't for the people within and the clergy who have led them throughout all of these 95 years”. He shared that he would commemorate all of them as well as pray for the children and the future of our church.
What followed was a truly beautiful and spiritually uplifting Hierarchical Divine Liturgy as the Church Choir, led by Directors Julieanne Marra, Nancy Tarcha and Stamatia Dimitriou, lifted their voices in prayer and praise, along with His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, and the seminarians. Chants of “Eis pollá étē, Déspota” filled the air along with the light and joy of this sacred service. It was incredibly powerful and spiritual. Indeed God was in our midst!
Archbishop Daniel read from the holy Gospel according to St. Matthew, his strong and pure voice echoing throughout the church and commanding the attention of the faithful. Let us be attentive!
His Eminence Metropolitan Antony provided a moving and impactful sermon imploring congregants to open their eyes to the glorious vision of Christ, something, he said, that our ancestors understood so well. He emphasized that we are all part of the ministry of Christ and reminded us how grateful and appreciative our ancestors were to work together to build a house of God and to worship together. He called on us to be, like them, an example of love; “called to put in process a movement of love that emanates from Christ's love for you and the love that you have for each other as you gather together in worship over these last 95 years”.
After the communion of the divine and holy Eucharist, His Eminence Metropolitan Antony called upon longtime parish members Melodye and Robert Onysko to come forward. He praised their commitment, dedication and numerous contributions to the parish and presented them with the "Hramota" [Certificate of Merit]. The Hramota is a very special honor reserved for the most dedicated servants in the life of the Church. While Melodye and Bob recently relocated, their legacy and impact on St. John's remains. The congregation was incredibly happy to see them, to honor them and to hear Melodye's beautiful voice during the Liturgy.
Pastor Fr. Ivan provided remarks reflecting on the sunflower theme. He said that “our parish life looks like the sunflower. The same way the sunflower turns and follows the sun, the same way we as the parish move towards Christ. He is our Sun and when we fulfill His commandments and teachings we are moving towards Him. Because He is everywhere present, He sustains us with water, air, and minerals. So even when it’s not sunny all the time we can stay protected and in peace knowing He takes good care of us.”
The program included performances of The Star Spangled Banner, the Ukrainian National Anthem and selections "Oh Dark as a Gypsy", "A Yearning" and "Dance, Dance" performed by our church choir. Dance, dance is just what our young St. John Ukrainian dancers did, performing lively and spirited versions of Chumak, Hone Veeter and Flirtation, to the delight of those present.
As a special treat, those in attendance were also gifted with songs by our guest seminarians who spoke of their mission work. Their beautiful, angelic, ethereal voices added so much to the beauty of the day.
Following a Benediction by His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, the Ukraine National Anthem was sung again, as well as another chant of Eis pollá étē, Déspota. Lastly, everyone sang God Grant You Many Years, raising voices and glasses, in honor of 95 years of faith, family and tradition. Mnohiya Lita!
By Melinda Holicky
Photo/Video Credits: Grey Goose Graphics, Dr. Peter Hatala, Jeffrey Hatala, Melinda Holicky, Subdeacon Yaroslav Bilohan