St. Augustine, FL – “In many cultures, rain is one of God’s ultimate blessings,” offered Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) Executive Director Fr. Martin Ritsi during his remarks at the May 20 and 21 dedication of the new Archbishop Anastasios and Archbishop Demetrios Missionary Training and Administration Building. Indeed, as over 30 inches of rain fell on North Florida during the two-day dedication, the new building and the hundreds of faithful from around the world who gathered for the festivities were blessed abundantly.
The Dedication Committee, chaired by Mrs. Helen Nicozisis, OCMC staff, and Board Members were honored to receive 10 hierarchs from all the Orthodox Jurisdictions represented in the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA) as well as over 300 clergy and lay people from around the world. Several past and current OCMC Missionaries were also on hand to celebrate the new era in North American Orthodox missions that the Archbishop Anastasios and Archbishop Demetrios Missionary Training and Administration Building represents.
On the night of May 20, a reception was held at the Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village; OCMC Board President, Mr. Clifford Argue opened the evening by welcoming many of these distinguished guests after an Invocation from Metropolitan Nicholas of Amissos, of the American Carpatho Russian Orthodox Diocese in the USA, assisted by Fr. Mark Arey, General Secretary of SCOBA.
Following Mr. Argue’s remarks, OCMC Missionary to Albania Mr. Nathan Hoppe offered his reflections on the past, present and future of the OCMC. Mr. Hoppe remarked that, “With this new center we are equipped in a new way to reach out and to powerfully proclaim that Christ is truly risen and that He’s transformed all of reality.” Both Fr. Martin and Mr. Argue concurred with Mr. Hoppe’s assessment of the new building’s significance and also noted that the new mission center is the culmination of years of hard work and sacrificial giving from each of the SCOBA jurisdictions, many Orthodox philanthropic organizations, and individual supporters.
Two men, however, were recognized for their pivotal roles in the growth of the Orthodox Missions movement – His Beatitude Anastasios, Archbishop of Tirana, Durres and All Albania, and His Eminence Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and Chairman of SCOBA, who were the honorees during the dedication. Addressing the two prelates, Board member Fr. Matthew Tate shared, “Your missionary efforts throughout the Church truly are legendary, and it is most appropriate that the Mission Center building be dedicated in each of your names.”
The new building will prove to be a vital resource in the continuation of this work. Broader understanding and support of missions, however, is still needed, reminded Wednesday’s keynote speaker, OCMC Board Vice President and Chancellor of St. Vladimir’s Seminary Fr. Chad Hatfield. “Many of us know little about our American missiological heritage,” he said. But he noted that it is this missiological foundation exemplified by saints who served in this country, including prayer, understanding, vision, planning, and funding, that we must draw upon in order to spread the Gospel around the world.
OCMC’s major benefactors, the SCOBA hierarchs, Missionaries, and others who made the dream of the new OCMC building a reality were recognized at the Wednesday evening banquet. Prior to the benediction offered by Bishop Antoun of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, who was assisted by OCMC Board Member Fr. Luke Veronis, each of these ardent supporters and dedicated mission workers received a framed rendering of the new building that they worked so hard to see completed.
At the banquet, OCMC was honored to receive a $25,000 donation from the Greek Orthodox Ladies Philoptochos Society, presented by National President Aphrodite Skeadas.
The morning of the Thursday, May 21, began with a Divine Liturgy at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. Fr. Nikitas Theodosian graciously welcomed as the Liturgy’s celebrant His Eminence Alexios Metropolitan of the Atlanta Metropolis of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and the many faithful who gathered for the early morning worship. The Metropolitan was assisted by Fr. Ritsi and Archdeacon Panteleimon Papadopoulos.
Dedication proceedings were held immediately following the Liturgy at the new building, which included a blessing service celebrated by Archbishop Demetrios. Following the service, a hand painted icon of the Mission Center’s patron saints, Cyril and Methodius, was presented by Archbishop Demetrios from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Then OCMC was blessed to receive the relics of two of Orthodoxy’s most renowned missionary saints – St. Cosmas Aitolos, Missionary to the Balkans, presented by Archbishop Anastasios, and St. Innocent, Apostle to America, presented by His Beatitude Jonah, Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). Following a ribbon cutting and plaque unveiling, guests took time to venerate the relics and tour the new four-million dollar, 12,000 square foot facility.
Nearly 250 people reconvened at the Renaissance Resort following the dedication for a luncheon held in honor of Archbishop Anastasios and Archbishop Demetrios. Following an introduction by OCMC President Emeritus Fr. Alexander Veronis, Archbishop Anastasios offered, “It is with particular joy and all the while ‘blessing the Lord’, that we reflect on the work that the OCMC has offered to multiple missionary fields. The present inauguration of this Administration and Training Center surely forms a very important landmark.”
After being introduced by OCMC’s first executive director, Bishop Dimitrios of Xanthos, Archbishop Demetrios illustrated the significance of the new building when he said, “[This building] is a miracle of God showing the disposition, and showing the tremendous desire, for building on [the North American] missionary effort.”
“So much has transpired in the movement of Orthodox missions over the last decades that bring us to this moment…and it is a glorious occasion that we’ve come to,” reflects Fr. Martin on the completion and dedication of the new Archbishop Anastasios and Archbishop Demetrios Missionary Training and Administration Building. “We are now at a position where [missions] is expected, where it is common, where it is a challenge that many people are accepting and following through on…Today we are on a property with a vision that has come to fruition; but a vision that is not complete. It is a building that is built for the needs of today with the vision for what is to come tomorrow…[This building] stands as a symbol and a sign of what missions means in our Church today in North America.”
The Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) is the official missions agency of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA) dedicated to fulfilling Christ’s last command to make disciples of all nations.
The Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) joins you in celebrating the glorious Ascension of our Lord, Jesus Christ! Continuing the work of the Apostles themselves, may we all be given the strength to answer the call issued by Christ on that day to “go and make disciples of all nations.” Please pray for the 1.8 billion people around the world who have yet to hear the Gospel and for mission workers who will serve as witnesses for the Orthodox faith to the ends of the earth.