The humble parish of St. John of Kronstadt in Bunnell, FL was blessed to receive our Chief Shepherd Archbishop Demetrius of America for our Parish Feastday celebrations Oct 14/27 - Oct 17/30. Located on the East Coast of Florida between St. Augustine and Daytona Beach, St. Johns has been a witness to Orthodoxy since it's founding in 2000.
Friday evening, Fr. George Liadis, the parish priest, picked up Metropolitan Demetrius and Hierodeacon Benedict from Orlando airport and drove them to Flagler Beach for much needed rest. Saturday morning, the Archbishop was greeted at the Church by a half dozen parishioners who had gathered for a mini-pilgrimage to St. Photios Shrine in St. Augustine, FL. This beautifully frescoed chapel and museum in the heart of historic St. Augustine shows the Orthodox influence on the New World from the late 18th Century. Upon entering the shrine, His Eminence and the pilgrims were able to venerate a treasury of relics from many giants of Orthodoxy, including: St. John the Baptist, St. Basil the Great, and St. John Chrysostom. After browsing the bookstore, the pilgrims headed to Anastasia (Resurrection) State Park for a picnic on the water and discussions with the Metropolitan, before heading back to the Church mid-afternoon so His Eminence could rest before evening services.
Great Vespers was served with Liti, followed by a beautiful and edifying talk by the Archbishop about modern American Saints, along with a question and answer period. As there are parishioners that travel upwards of 3 hours from the west coast of Florida, they were given the opportunity to speak with the Metropolitan one-on-one since most of them had to travel home shortly after Liturgy the next day.
Sunday morning Matins began at 8:15am followed by a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy celebrating St. John of Kronstadt, our beloved Patron. His actual Feastday is Oct 19/Nov 1. His Eminence tonsured brothers-in-law Patrick Obringer and Daniel Lain as Readers after Liturgy. A delicious meal was provided pot-luck style with each family bringing a dish. We are ever-grateful to Melania Apostoiu and Teodora Munteanu for providing all the meals for our beloved Archbishop due to his dietary needs. We pray God grants him many more blessed years as we do our part to keep him healthy. As Trapeza wound down, the individual conversations turned into an informal discussion with the Metropolitan about various spiritual and practical topics Orthodox Christians deal with. Being so isolated from other parishes, there is a deep spiritual thirst in our parish, so having the opportunity to speak so intimately with our Archbishop brought to mind the words of the Apostles, "Did not our hearts burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?" (Luke 24:32).
A handful of local parishioners invited Metropolitan Demetrius, Father George, and Hierodeacon Benedict out to dinner late Sunday evening, where the Metropolitan enjoyed almost unlimited mussels and mounds of grated Parmesan cheese with a handful of salad tossed in for flavor. His Eminence updated us on local news from various sister parishes and monastic communities around the country. An update was given by a parishioner about a trip to the Bahamas this Dec 12 - 20 n.s. with St. Paul's Fellowship of Labor to work on St. Spyridon's Church on Long Island. An invitation was extended to the Archbishop inviting him to join the participants in labor, fasting, spiritual talks, and the daily cycle of services, all while having an "Orthodox vacation." He expressed interest as his last visit was in Dec 2009, but his schedule is very demanding, so he couldn't promise anything.
As the evening wrapped up, everyone expressed their profound love, honor, and respect for our beloved Archbishop as we received a final blessing, and we invited him for our Parish Feastday in 2018. Through the prayers of St. John of Kronstadt, may our Merciful Saviour grant many long blessed years and good health to Metropolitan Demetrius, that he may ever-rightly divide the word of truth. Eis polla eti Despota!
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