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St. Paul Church Celebrates 25th Anniversary with Bishop Thomas

In 1987, in the beautiful Pennsylvania borough of Emmaus in the Lehigh Valley, the third largest metropolitan area in Pennsylvania, the mission church of St. Paul was officially founded as a mission of the Antiochian Archdiocese with the blessing of the parish constitution by His Eminence, Metropolitan Philip. Over the past twenty-five years, the parish was led by its founding pastor, the V. Rev. John Kahle of blessed memory (1987-1999), the V. Rev. Theodore J. Mikovich (1999-2009), and the current pastor, the Rev. Andrew Stephen Damick (2009-present).

During its time in the Lehigh Valley, St. Paul Church has been a haven for English-language Orthodox Christian spiritual life and is known both locally and beyond for its love and hospitality to visitors of every background. On the weekend of Oct. 5-7, 2012, St. Paul’s celebrated twenty-five years of this witness, including a full two days of liturgical services (Great Vespers, Matins and Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, two days in a row), celebrating not only the regular Sunday services but also on Saturday the feast of the Apostle Thomas, the nameday of His Grace Bishop Thomas, who presided over the weekend celebrations. The anniversary weekend also included a brief and challenging retreat led by the V. Rev. Dr. Alexander Atty, Dean of St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary.

During the anniversary luncheon that followed services, those assembled heard addresses from parish council chairman Jason Marques, Timothy Lahr (who spoke on behalf of the Kahle family; Fr. John Kahle was his grandfather), pastor emeritus Fr. Theodore, pastor Fr. Andrew and His Grace, Bishop Thomas. Besides recounting memories of the past twenty-five years, the parish was challenged not to go into “maintenance mode,” but to move forward in “mission mode,” to serve Christ rather than to serve itself.

Over the past three years, with the encouragement and leadership of Bishop Thomas and during the administration of Fr. Andrew, in addition to both numerical and financial growth in the parish, the parish’s ministries have been expanded and enhanced in a number of ways: the introduction of daily worship services, holding regular adult education classes, broadening of outreach and charitable engagement with the Emmaus community and beyond, energetic use of the Internet and social media for communication, increase in education and use of the art of Byzantine chant in worship, the institution of by-laws and a full budget for the parish council, greater participation in Archdiocesan and pan-Orthodox activities, the initiation of a highly successful stewardship program, considerable expansion and organization of the parish library, and the formation of local chapters of both Teen SOYO and the Fellowship of St. John the Divine.

Fr. Andrew’s pastoral work in the parish also has reached beyond the local faithful and is available in Ancient Faith Radio podcasts Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy and Roads from Emmaus, as well as in the popular Conciliar Press book Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy, published in 2011 and already in its second printing.

The parish will be hosting the Eastern Dioceses Parish Life Conference in 2013 and is excited to welcome Orthodox Christians from throughout the dioceses of both Metropolitan Philip and Bishop Thomas, as well as Orthodox Christians from other jurisdictions. Featured spiritual speakers at the PLC will include keynote speaker Prof. Christopher Veniamin (Patristics Professor at St. Tikhon’s Seminary and a spiritual son of Elder Sophrony Sakharov), Samuel Noble (researcher in medieval Arabic Orthodox Christianity and doctoral student at Yale University) and Jonathan Jackson (General Hospital and Nashville actor and lead singer of the band Enation, as well as a convert to Orthodox Christianity).

St. Paul’s is eager to continue to serve its Lord by nurturing the holiness of its members and also to invite others out of the distraction and chaos of this world into the beauty and sanity of the Kingdom of God.