Bishop Antoun also met with various parishioners for breakfast and lunch Saturday, with the college students Saturday afternoon, with the children in Sunday School Sunday morning, and with the entire parish for dinner Saturday evening and lunch Sunday afternoon. It was very kind of him to fill up his weekend with so many activities. It was of particular interest to me to hear him tell the story at the men's breakfast of the Evangelical Orthodox Church being brought into the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese in the 1980s. Our parish was formed in 1987 and was a part of this wave of former evangelicals who joined the Orthodox Church. I was a junior in high school at the time, and a Baptist then, but I have since become aware of the history, having read "Becoming Orthodox" as well as a number of the various testimonials available online. However, hearing these events from Bishop Antoun, from the perspective of the Church, gave a rather unique facet to the story. Also of particular interest to me was Bishop Antoun's perspective on the current sociopolitical climate in his home country of Syria. Bishop Antoun grew up in Damascus, and hearing his thoughts on the situation there, especially as contrasted against what we hear in the American media, was eye opening. He is a very interesting man, with a very interesting perspective on both the Church and the world. This is made more interesting still when one considers that this man, an Arabic immigrant to this country, was as he pointed out to us "a United States citizen before most of you were born."
I was also blessed by His Grace to become a reader in the Church. Readers hold a clerical, but not liturgical, office in the Church (we do not receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders), and while in the past, their function was more practical (in that many laymen in the early Church could not read, and so their only exposure to the Scriptures were when they were read in Church), in modern times the readers typically chant the prayer offices and read the appointed readings for the day during those offices. It is the lowest of the minor orders, below subdeacon. You may read more about Orthodox readers here:
Prayers (and, in the case of our members and clergy, patience) are much appreciated, as I still have much to learn.
Bishop Antoun also blessed our new subdeacon this weekend. Axios, Subdeacon Matthew!
All in all, a wonderful weekend. I am blessed and humbled to be a part of this parish, this Archdiocese, and this Church.