His Grace, Bishop Peter visited St. George Russian Orthodox Church June 1-2, to place relics of St. George in the foundation of the parish’s new Church and to bless its Foundation Stone. Vladyka presided at the Vigil and Divine Liturgy and then stayed in Cincinnati on Sunday evening as the honored guest of the parish’s annual fund-raising gala, A Russian Summer’s Night.
Two hours before the start of the Vigil, Bishop Peter arrived at the construction site of the new St. George Church in Loveland, Ohio, where the shell of the new Church and parish hall already stand. He was joined by parish clergy, priest Daniel Marshall, rector, and priest Pavel Akmolin. Visiting clergy included archpriest Ilia Marzev (St. Sergius Cathedral in Cleveland, Ohio), archpriest Gregory Naumenko (Protection of the Mother of God Church in Rochester, New York), and deacon Alexander Petrovsky (St. Innocent of Moscow Church in Carol Stream, Illinois). A multitude of parishioners came to witness this historic service.
Last November, Archimandrite Luke, Abbot of Holy Trinity Monastery, had graciously given St. George parish two small pieces from a large bone of their heavenly protector which belongs to the monastery. One piece now resides in the parish’s icon of St. George, so that it is available for veneration by the faithful. Bishop Peter placed the other relic of the Holy Greatmartyr George in the foundation of the Church under the future site of the altar table.
At the same service Bishop Peter blessed water and olive oil. The oil was used to bless the Foundation Stone which lies directly east of the relics in the exterior wall of the apse. While singing psalms and reading prayers, the gathered priests sprinkled holy water on the four walls of the Church. These services had not been held last fall when the foundation was poured in order to not put the relics at risk during construction. With the altar floor already constructed, the relics now lie safely below.
At the conclusion of the service Vladyka reviewed the construction progress. The parish hopes to occupy its new facility by the end of the summer.
With the participation of the gathered clergy, a festal choir under the direction of reader Lawrence (Kurt) Sander, and a capacity crowd of the faithful, the Vigil and Hierarchical Divine Liturgy were imbued with the great joy of this long-awaited occasion. This project has been nurtured for over a decade and met a number of roadblocks along the way.
At the small entrance of the Liturgy, priest Pavel Akmolin was awarded the purple skufia, for his contributions to the new Church currently being built. Archpriest James Rohrer, rector of the Kazan Mother of God Church in Urbana, Ohio, was awarded the palitsa for his years of service as the dean for Ohio.
At the end of the Liturgy, Bishop Peter presented a grammota from His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion to the parish’s rector emeritus, archpriest Paul Bassett, in appreciation of his many years of leadership and faithful service to the parish. Vladyka also gave Matushka Barbara Bassett an icon of the New Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth, in recognition of her faithful service to the Church and her ailing husband. In his sermon at the end of Liturgy, Bishop Peter reminded the parish that the greatest witness to the truth of Orthodoxy is not to be found in bricks and mortar, but in the example each Christian gives in his daily life.
This weekend also marked the parish’s annual fundraiser, A Russian Summer’s Night. Now in its eighth year (and previously held in the winter), this event has raised well over $100,000 for the construction of the new Church. While past events have been held in the hope of future construction, this year’s gala was spiced with the delight and relief of visible progress.
Almost one hundred parishioners and friends of St. George parish attended this year’s event at the Peterloon Estate. The elegant country estate features acres of manicured lawns, sprawling gardens and a stately mansion. Guests were brought to the door by horse-drawn carriage and treated to Russian appetizers and a variety of vodkas. The delicious four-course meal was served on the grand lawn behind the mansion under an expansive tent. Master of Ceremonies, subdeacon Sergi Kaminsky, welcomed the guests and introduced the speakers during the course of the meal: Bishop Peter, Fr. Daniel Marshall, Fr. Ilia Marzev and Kurt Sander, chair of the Building Committee. It was a special honor to have His Grace, Bishop George in attendance again this year as well as Fr. Paul Truebenbach of the local St. Nicholas and Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church.
After a chance to enjoy the pleasant summer evening and the gardens, the annual auction began under the skillful leadership of Penny Worley from Worley Auctioneers. Items auctioned ranged from an acoustic guitar to original acrylic paintings and an artic fox fur hat. At the end of the auction, guests supported the parish through monetary donations to the ‘Fund the Mission’ appeal.
The highlight of the evening followed: a concert by coloratura soprano Fotina Naumenko. She is a member of the parish who has recently finished her Masters degree and begun her career as a professional vocalist. Ms. Naumenko thrilled the crowd with Russian classics, such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s "Snegurochka's Aria" (The Snow Maiden’s Aria), as well as other selections in German, Spanish, French, and English. Offenbach’s "The Doll Song" from the opera Tales of Hoffman received enthusiastic applause, while Alabieff’s "Solovei"(The Nightingale) brought down the house. Ms. Naumenko was not allowed to leave the stage without an encore.
As the evening came to a close, the carriages returned for the guests. They left in good humor, having enjoyed the company, entertainment, and libations, but primarily aware that their participation had substantially supported the construction of a new Church. Those who had labored to organize the event – such as event Chair Larissa Sander and assistants John Oakley, Cathy Koesters and Marianna Friesel – breathed a sigh of relief and satisfaction: God willing, next year we will celebrate the newly-finished St. George Church!