Articles Tagged ‘Message from Fr Gary’

A Farewell Message From Fr Gary

Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. 2 Corinthians 13:11-12

Beloved Faithful of St. Demetrios,

I write to you with the peace and love of Christ. When Presvytera Christie and I received the assignment to serve Camarillo in the summer of 2004, we rushed down from Oakland, looked for a house and put an offer on it immediately. We did not want His Eminence Metropolitan Anthony of blessed memory to change his mind. Serving you has brought me great joy. Your support, enthusiasm, confidence and trust helped us achieve goals many thought were unattainable.

My service as the Proistamenos (lead priest) of St. Demetrios is concluding. I have been asked to pick up a new mantle and serve the Metropolis of San Francisco as the Pastor of Youth and Young Adult Ministry beginning February 1, 2021. A new priest will succeed me as your pastor. I am saddened, yet excited to begin my new role and ministry.

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In Ecclesiastes 3:1 we read, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

We certainly had our fill of those activities throughout the many seasons’ past. The memories made in the last 16 and half years will warm my heart. In the first few weeks of my service here, I was introduced to the earnest pledge for the future. As we were about to realize the finality of our first loan from the bank to purchase the Woodcreek and Santa Rosa property, the bank requested an extra $60,000 to fully secure the loan. I will never forget the handful of faithful parishioners who took out their checkbooks on the spot, and covered that fee. I knew our dream would become a reality. Your dedication and commitment to advance Orthodox Christianity in Ventura County will serve as a legacy.

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Enthusiastically expressed in Ecclesiastes, “We laughed and danced!” Boy did we dance! I will forever cherish the Greek Festivals and the hard work exerted by all. I smile when I recall the tired faces that still rushed the dance floor, with amazing enthusiasm, at the end of Sunday evening, when the band played the last song. Everyone found a burst of energy to celebrate our weekend (but really, several-months-long) accomplishment on the dance floor.

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Just as Solomon explained, “We built and cried.” I do not ever expect to feel that same emotion that filled my bones the afternoon when we opened the doors of the Agape Building for the first service. During the vespers I took the censor to bless the people and the building by lifting the fragrant incense. I was overwhelmed with emotion as I realized the overflowing attendance. What was once a dream and vision became our reality. There we were, in the building we designed, glorifying God, just as we set out to do. I will never forget how I tried not to break down and cry as the tears streamed down my face.

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From a barber shop to St. Paul’s in Ventura, an amazing group of faithful established St. Demetrios. Founded on love and steady growth at Skyway, we set our sights on Woodcreek and Santa Rosa. The Agape building has become one of the most extraordinary structures in Ventura County, and not merely because of the plaster, brick, and design. It is because of you, the people who congregate to pray and grow in your devotion to Christ that set this community and establishment apart.

In Proverbs 27:17 we realize, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Sunday services, baptisms, weddings, births, and deaths are not the only things that mark the life of a priest. Every person carves out and sharpens their own spot in the pastor’s heart. Thank you for celebrating my strengths, while patiently enduring my faults. I tried my best to live up to the standard Christ commanded St. Peter when our Lord said, “Feed my sheep.” Thank you for letting me serve you. I am grateful that you invited me to pray with you and that you entrusted me with your most intimate life moments.

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Welcome, support and love Fr. Constantine Trumpower and his beautiful wife Adrienne and three boys as they enthusiastically lead the next chapter in the awesome history of St. Demetrios. Fr. Constantine is an amazing, faithful, and energetic priest. He is wise beyond his years and has a wealth of talent to help you on your journey towards an abundant life in Christ. Over the last few years, and especially these last few weeks, we have developed a deep connection and friendship. He will be a Dodger fan in no-time!

Our youth are faced with a variety of challenges and daily struggles. They are consumed by social media and a society plagues them with overwhelming anxiety and depression. I am not the solution to this crisis, but I am called to assist in introducing Christ and a greater understanding of His truth to this generation. I ask for your prayers as I embark on this new assignment. Please offer supplications to the Theotokos, the Mother of God, and to our patron Saint, St. Demetrios, to intercede for this work I have been called and assigned.

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Presvytera Christie, Harrison, Jacob, Elena, and I will continue to call Ventura County home. Although I will not lead the parish, my family and I will continue to live in Camarillo. This new ministry will require travel throughout our Metropolis, but I hope we can still see each other from time to time.

“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:5-7)

With great joy, abundant love, and immense gratitude, I remain, respectfully,

Yours in the Service of Christ,

Fr. Gary Kyriacou

Are you Saved? A Message From Fr. Gary

Message from Fr Gary January 2017

Are you Saved?


Have you been greeted with the question, “Are you saved?” The question is well intentioned, but what is the Orthodox reply? To simply say, “yes,” would give a speedy conclusion to the interrogation, but would not reveal the fullness of the true Orthodox teaching of salvation.

The three stages of salvation in the Orthodox Christian Church are past, present and future. A more specific response to, “Are you saved?” would be, “I was saved, I am being saved, and I will be saved.” The road towards eternal life is an ongoing process to the Orthodox Christian.

Salvation is not a one-time deal; it is a course of action that we maintain on a daily basis. We were saved by Christ’s death on the cross, we are saved during our daily walk with Christ and we will be saved at the end of time. The three stages of Salvation are, through Baptism we are justified, during our daily walk with Christ we are sanctified, and in the end times, with Christ, we will be glorified. St. Paul explains that, “We are saved by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8)” Grace is God’s gift to us. Faith is our reception of that gift. Without God’s Grace and Mercy, we cannot be saved. Basically, our salvation depends strictly on God’s compassion; there is nothing we can do to earn salvation.

Orthodoxy’s concept of “salvation” then leads to the following, very appropriate, question I received in the form of an email: “If everyone is saved at birth through God’s grace and all they need is faith to be saved, and there is nothing we can do to earn God’s Grace, what is the point of attending Church, learning more about religion and following Christ's way, because if you have faith you don't need to work very hard to be saved?”

The best way to respond to this question is to break it down into its components. “Is everyone saved at birth through God’s grace?” At the service of the Forty-Day Churching of a child, the Priest prays, “So that when the child is made worthy of Holy Baptism, it may gain the portion of the elect of Your Kingdom, safeguarded with us by the grace of the Holy Trinity.” We receive God’s grace at Baptism; this is the first step in attaining God’s gift of grace and entering salvation.

“All we need is faith to be saved?” Yes, but this leads to the classic Christian debate of “are we saved by works or by faith?” Our faith in Christ produces fruits, those fruits then are the good works we display during our daily walk with Christ. Therefore, faith and work go hand in hand. Our faith in God and our love for Him produce good works.

“Then there is nothing we can do to earn God’s Grace?” Right, regardless of how many souls we bring to Christ, the amount of empty stomachs we fill and the number of backs we clothe, there is nothing we can do to earn God’s Grace. His Grace is a gift. “Faith is man’s hand reaching up to grasp the already outstretched hand of God’s grace.”

What is the point of at-tending Church, learning more about religion and following Christ's way? First, as mentioned earlier, God’s gift of grace is given at the Sacrament of Baptism. Baptism is grant-ed because of active participation in the life of the Church. When a child is brought to be baptized an adult (sponsor) stands for the child and promises to live according to Christ’s commands, just as an adult would do when entering the Sacrament. Second, we must remember that nothing we do is worthy of God’s Grace, the reason for attending Church and following Christ’s way is to communicate with God, to receive His grace, and to find sustenance for our daily walk with Him. Some live by the time-worn excuse that “you don’t have to go to church to be a good Christian.” Christ Himself found it important to attend and participate in weekly worship, so by what bench-mark do we feel that we are entitled to do less? At the Last Supper the Lord said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” We some-times say it is our duty to go to church, and it is; but few go for this reason. I would prefer that no one come to church out of a sense of duty. A duty-bound Christian is not a committed soul. The ones who come just from a sense of duty come to criticize. They won't sense the presence of God. The Orthodox church building represents God amongst His people. Our attendance is for communion with Him. When we gather as a Church, that is God’s people, we gather in communion with one another and with Him. Christ tells us in Matthew 18:20, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in the midst of them.” Sacraments are offered through the Orthodox Church. Through the Sacraments we grow closer to Christ. It is at the Church where we receive Baptism, Chrismation, Unction, Communion and Confession (the five mandatory Sacraments). It is the Church that gives us instruction for the way in which we are to imitate Christ. Can you call yourself a Christian devoid of attending weekly services? Yes. But consider this, could you play on a baseball team and in a game of base-ball without practicing? Yes, but without practice, where do you get your instruction, preparation and fellowship with your team-mates? Going to Church gives us nourishment for life’s challenges.

Salvation is God’s gift to man, as abundant as it is, man must be willing to accept it. Receiving this grace is faith and faith is “Forsaking All I Take Him (F-A-I-T-H).” Are you saved? Yes, we have been, we are being, and we will be saved!



In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary Kyriacou

Fr Gary

Becoming: A Message From Fr. Gary

Message from Fr Gary February 2017

Becoming


As Christians, we are always in the process of “becoming.” The person I am today is not the same person I was 10 years ago, nor am I, who I believe I will be 10 years from now.

One of the most significant spiritual events in my life was the birth of my firstborn son, Harrison. My wife, Christie, was induced, so his birth was planned and not a fire drill. As this new life came into the world I burst into tears as they put him in his mother’s arms. Here was new life, life that didn’t exist moments earlier, a miracle. However, it was not the miracle of birth that was the significant spiritual event, it was the thought that immediately followed: “God’s love for us is truly immense!” This little being that, having never spoken or acted in any way towards me, had just inherited my love. Having done nothing for me, I was prepared to die for him! I was in love! I understood, on a microlevel, what God’s love for us is.

The understanding of this type of love has shaped my experiences. It has transformed my worldview and calling to the Priest-hood. Love, without sounding cliché, is truly the purpose of life. Christ simplified the Law for us, by providing a new standard. In Luke 10: 27, he says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The new standard given to us by Christ is the source of measurement I attempt to implement in my life. What is man’s greatest need? Love. Based on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, after food, shelter, and security, love is what man craves most. Ministry should fulfill the need of love. The programs at the St. Demetrios are founded on Christ’s love for us and our love for our neighbor. Bible study groups, Youth Ministry meetings, service at the local Rescue Mission, and Parish Council, etc. are all founded on the principle of love. As I serve the faithful, I am reminded of God’s love for me through the relation-ships built with the flock. Our Lord has entrusted me to serve you with love.

Although I continually find myself in error and mistake, I always endeavor to imitate God’s love. It was that simple, yet profound moment, when my firstborn child came into the world that best illustrates this lesson. It was an experience unlike any other that changed my perspective on many matters in my life and ministry.


In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary Kyriacou

Fr Gary

Christ-Centered Parish: A Message From Fr. Gary

Fr Gary

Message from Fr Gary February - March 2018

Christ-Centered Parish, Fr. Gary’s Message


I learn a lot of interesting things at committee meetings. At one meeting, when discussing the newsletter of our parish, The Myrrh-Bearer, someone frankly said, “Nobody reads that.” That person is either right or wrong depending on how much further you go into this message. At our most recent Parish Council meeting, a parish council member, politely, combined the conversation about healthy church finances with the status of our relationship with Christ.

It wasn’t me, I wasn’t preaching, it was one of YOUR ELECTED OFFICERS, that was sharing this thought. I was mesmerized by his conviction; I looked around at the other members and they were too! The Holy Spirit was present. His inspiration moved us to take the conversation about Parish financial health to a new level.

“Every year we consider ways to raise money. What fundraisers can we hold? How will we meet our obligation to the Metropolis and Archdiocese? How can we motivate better giving? Instead,” he went on, “How can we serve Christ? How can we instill a deep love for Jesus, in every member, young and old, so that our Parish becomes financially healthy and shows greater concern for how Christ-Centered we are as a group?”

It was refreshing to hear a leader of our community express these thoughts. I have offered them in the past, but it is cliché for the priest to say it, because I’m supposed to. A group begins to reexamine the metric for success when a respected member of the Parish Council looks intently at his peers and says, “Are you concerned for your salvation?” If we look at our challenges through the lens of salvation, that is, how what we do will enhance our relationship with Christ, a new perspective is born.

Following this new measurement brings with it a greater purpose. Applying “concern for our salvation” on every ministry, program, event, and meeting at St. Demetrios declares us Christ-Centered people. The Sacraments of our Orthodox Faith: Baptism, Chrismation, Holy Communion, Holy Unction, Confession, Marriage and Ordination, lead us towards a strengthened connection with Christ. A Sacramental view of our Parish affairs, likewise will lead us towards a strengthened connection with Christ. Everything we do is to be considered sacramental.

Consider each component of our life in the Church. How can each aspect (ministry, event, meeting, or program) lead to a greater understanding of who Christ is in our lives? How can we make His love real in the lives of others that participate? Every gathering becomes sacramental! From Moms and Tots, to Orthodoxy on Tap, with our Acolytes and Budget Committee meetings, during our Festival weekends, Greek Dance practices, Sunday School lessons, and at every BBQ, we ask, “how is Christ magnified?”

During this coming year, we will have plenty of opportunities to GLORIFY CHRIST. Let us then GLORIFY Him through all that we do. Then, in the end, all that participate feel His presence and are motivated to carry that inspiration. Slowly we change our local perspective, eventually changing the world.

At the end of that meeting, a council member suggested we create a “Mission Statement” for our Parish. The inspired one, giggled and said, “It’s on the cover of every Sunday Bulletin:

Mission Statement of our St. Demetrios Parish

To proclaim the Gospel of Christ, teach and spread the Orthodox Christian Faith, energize, cultivate, and guide the life of the Church according to the Orthodox Christian Faith and Tradition

After all, I guess not everyone reads everything.


In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary Kyriacou

Encounter Christ: A Message From Fr. Gary

Fr Gary

Message from Fr Gary Summer 2017

Encounter Christ


Many Evangelical Christians can name the date in which they were “Born Again.” The day in which they made Christ a priority in their life. Many of us, as Orthodox Christians, make that commitment on the day of our Baptism and Christmation, as infants. Are we transformed by the love of Christ? Do we allow ourselves to be transformed by Christ? There is a common theme in the Sunday Gospel readings following Pascha (Easter). Each of these five Sunday Gospels after Pascha distinguish a person (or persons) transformed by Christ.

The Sunday following Pascha we hear of “Doubting” Thomas. Thomas is skeptical about the encounter his brother disciples have with the risen Lord and make a bold proclamation, “Unless I see and touch!” The Lord reveals himself to Thomas and Thomas is immediately transformed. Without having to touch, he exclaims, “My Lord and my God!” Thomas encounter’s Christ and his faith is renewed.

The second Sunday after Pascha, we learn of the Myrrh-Bearing Women. These brave women approach the tomb of Christ and find it empty. Having encountered Christ, they return and share the good news with the disciples. Then on the third Sunday after our Lord’s Resurrection the Church shares the story of the paralytic. Although this happens before the Lord’s crucifixion, it holds fast to the theme of “Encountering Christ.” The man has suffered with an infirmity for 38 years- a full generation! When he meets Christ, our Lord transforms him and makes him complete. No longer does the bed confine him, but with Christ’s help, he can lift the bed and glorify Christ!

The Samaritan woman finds the Lord on the fourth Sunday after Pascha. Having to go to the well at the hottest time of the day, because she is embarrassed of her lifestyle, she meets Christ. Relieving her soul of her past transgressions she finds acceptance and love from Christ. She hurries to the city and shares the GOOD NEWS of Christ and “Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman's testimony. ‘He told me all that I ever did.’ So, when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days." (John 5:39-40)

On the fifth Sunday, the Blind man receives his sight. After explaining to His disciples that sin does not lead to physical ailment and that God does not seek justice through punishment, Christ restores the sight of the man born blind. Our Lord explains that challenges in our lives are opportunities for Christ to be glorified through that struggle. The man receives his sight, and in exchange declares, “Lord I believe!” (John 9:38)

Subsequently, these encounters lead to the reception of the Holy Spirit, the Sunday of Pentecost. The gift of the Holy Spirit descends on the Disciples as fiery flames. The Disciples are transformed, the fisherman become Fishers of men! All that meet Christ leave differently than they approached. Thomas, the Myrrh-Bearers, the Paralytic, the Samaritan Woman, the Blind man, all lead changed lives after encountering Christ.

Have we encountered Christ? How can we prepare ourselves for this encounter? How are we transformed by this encounter? We must trans-form ourselves by the love of Christ! To encounter Christ we live by His commandments to, “Love God with all our mind, soul and heart, and love our neighbors as we ourselves.”

To encounter Christ we must worship regularly, privately in our daily lives and corporately at Church. In each of the Sunday liturgies following Pascha we sing, “In our Churches we Glorify Christ!” To encounter Christ we must find him in our service to those less fortunate than ourselves, in our giving and aid. To encounter Christ we must offer forgiveness, and have a change of heart. To encounter Christ, we must imitate Him! Yes, we Orthodox Christians are “Born Again,” EVERYDAY! Our lives are to be filled with encounters with Christ. By allowing Him into our lives again, into our hearts, our lives will never be the same.


In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary Kyriacou

Extreme Gratitude!: A Message From Fr. Gary

Fr Gary

Message from Fr Gary - September 2019

Extreme Gratitude! Fr. Gary’s Message

September 1st marks the beginning of the Ecclesiastical calendar. As we enter this new Church year it is easy to look ahead at the exciting ministries that are to come. However, at this moment, I’d like to express my sincerest gratitude to the faithful Stewards of our Church . . . YOU!! Thank you!

St. Demetrios is a welcoming community. We have proven time and time again that we know how to make others feel at home and graft the newcomer into the parish family. I was pleased when a stranger stopped me in a local grocery store and asked me if I was the Priest at the “Greek” Church. She proceeded to explain how helpful and welcoming our Festival Workers were. “They said, ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ It really made me feel like I was visiting someone’s home.” She continued, “When I didn’t understand what a certain dish was, a wonderful woman explained it to me. It was so pleasant!”

Proudly I said, “YES! They are full of love! I’m glad you enjoyed yourself. Thank you for coming!” I went on to continue my shopping.

“Wait,” she said and then asked, “Who trained them?”

“What do you mean train?”

She continued, “Well, how did you get a staff of employees to work like that?”

“They’re not ‘employees,’ they are parishioners. They’re members of our Church, volunteers.” I explained.

“Really??!!” she said surprised.

“Yup,” I said proudly.

Such a wonderful compliment! That is exactly the sentiment we should always strive to accomplish. This is a compliment I hear, not only at the Festival, but also from Sunday visitors. This Philoxenia (a compound word literally translated “philo”- friend “xenia”- strangers, means hospitality, but more so, the welcoming of strangers) is an attribute not only of our Greek heritage, but a doctrine of our Faith. It is the Gospel truth. To be complimented with such praise is noteworthy. Usually people go out of their way to complain, and receiving such commendation is almost against the norm. I am proud to serve a community full of such loving people.

When Fr. Seraphim, from St. Nicholas Church in Tacoma, WA, visited us this summer he mentioned our hospitable characteristics. He was boarding the plane in Seattle for LAX. AS he took his seat a passenger asked, “Are you an Orthodox Priest?”

Father said, “Yes, I am.”

The gentleman asked, “From here (Seattle) or there (Los Angeles)?”

Father responded, “Here. I am travelling to LA to visit my family.”

“Great,” said the stranger, “Where will you be on Sunday for services?”

Fr. Seraphim said, “I’ll be at a parish in Camarillo.” “With Fr. Gary!” exclaimed the passenger.

“Yes,” Father responded, then asked surprised, “you know Fr. Gary?”

“Yes. My name is Ken and I am good friends with the Vegos family. We go to the church for a variety of events and the people there are so loving and kind. You are really going to enjoy it! Say hi to Fr. Gary for me.” Father sat in his seat and shook his head, thinking, “What a small world.”

The impact our hospitality, PHILOXENIA, has on visitors is tremendous and unforgettable. You offer the love of God, in the simplest way, when you look someone in the eye and offer a sweet exchange. Such an easy way to practice the Living Gospel.

I am also grateful that the Church has been full the last several weeks. Everyone has been participating and offering great glory to God through the Divine Liturgy. There are many things to appreciate and be thankful for here at St. Demetrios! Not only are we full of warmth and welcoming love, we are a group of hardworking and dedicated individuals.

The Festival Steering Committee issued a challenge at the beginning of the summer asking that we meet the greatest of expectations at this year’s festival. Not only did we meet the goal but exceeded it by $5,000.00.

I am consistently amazed at the outpouring of love you display. When asked for an extra collection to raise funds for a missionary’s trip you all gave generously. When called on to support the Rescue Mission you all come through. A shortage of prosfora (the bread used as the host for Divine Liturgy) is met with an abundance of love! This is especially encouraging!

I am on cloud nine because I serve a great parish. A community that serves Christ and loves His Church. I pray that I can show you the love and enthusiasm that you have displayed during these last several weeks! I am overrun by emotion when the people around me exhibit Christ’s love and likeness!

GOD BLESS YOU ALL!


In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary Kyriacou

Focus On Christ This Lent: A Message From Fr. Gary

Fr Gary

Message from Fr Gary March 2017

Focus On Christ This Lent


In an article entitled, The Abomination of our Fathers, Rev. Stephanou writes, “The church appears to be very busy, but in things that are secular and that engage her time in activities of this world." Rev. Stephanou then cites the words spoken by Christ to Martha, “You care and are troubled by many things, but there is need only for one thing. (Luke 10:41)” The one thing is Christ!

As Great Lent 2017 dawns, it is important that we take an inventory of our Spiritual investment. How focused on Christ are we as a Community? It seems that we can focus on budgets, financial statements, festivals, and dinner dances, but how do we fare when it comes to worshiping, glorifying and praising our God? Do we strive to fully please God in our actions? Are we focused?

Recently, during a Sunday Morning Liturgy, the Church was full and I mentioned to the Acolytes, prior to an entrance, how pleased I was to see the Church full in the middle of the winter and, also, admitted that I didn’t recognize one third of those attending. It was a joyful moment! The Liturgy continued and we glorified God in prayer and song.

In the Gospel of St. Matthew (Matt. 14:22-34), Peter asks Christ to allow him to join our Lord on the turbulent sea and walk on the water towards Him. Christ commands Peter to, “Come!” As Peter walks on the water, he loses focus and begins to sink. As Peter kept his eyes on Christ he was able to accomplish an amazing feat, a miracle! But when Peter lost his focus this physical world began to swallow him up. His focus was blurred by the stress and cares of the physical world and he began to sink! Christ, too, tells Martha, “there is need only for one thing.”

One thing . . . . CHRIST! Serving Him! Glorifying Him! Committing ourselves to Him! How well do we do these things? This community is blessed with so many brilliant professionals that share their talents with the Church Administration to help run a terrifically organized operation. It is apparent by the level of this professionalism how our Church excels. Oh, but how I wish on the last day we were judged by the quality of our Festivals, the dignity of our financial statements and the detailed precision of our budgets! Do not misunderstand me, these things are important, they keep the lights on and keep us afloat. It is imperative, though, that we evaluate our priorities in Christ! Why do we have a festival? Why do we have financial concerns? What is our budget for? To glorify Christ! To serve Christ! To show our commitment to Christ!

Starting with me, your Priest, let’s reset our focus this GREAT LENT! Let us reset our direction and let’s start to look deep within ourselves for spiritual growth and wellness. Here are some suggestions for our “Community-wide” LENTEN focus on Christ:

Regular and prompt attendance at Sunday Divine Liturgy. Regular indicates consisted attendance and prompt means being on time. We are on time for our soccer games, for work and school, and never pay $10 to walk into a movie 20 minutes late. It is time for us to reset Sunday as a “Day of Worship,” literally, “The Lord’s Day.” Services begin at 9:00 AM with Orthros. Orthros is a wonderful service, you should attend, but if you cannot, please arrive at 9:45 to prepare for Divine Liturgy.

Daily Prayers. For our community to be focused on Christ, each of us, individually, needs to be set on Christ. Each day should begin with an intimate and personal conversation with Christ, TRUE PRAYER! Ten minutes in the morning, ten minutes in the evening. Prayer should also be offered before meals. As you pray over your food, 2 things should be included: 1.) Offering thanks to God for the blessings in your life, and 2.) A remembrance of the less fortunate.

Volunteer! Join, sign-up, or assist with a ministry of the Church. Consider joining our Choir, Philoptochos, teach Sunday School, or offer your time to help plan and organize one of our many fundraisers.

Educate yourself in the Word of God. Reading the Gospels and meditating on God’s Word is essential to Christian growth. Come to our Orthodox Study Classes after Pre-Sanctified Liturgy on Wednesday evenings and read the Bible daily.

Forgiveness. Mend relationships that for one reason or another have deteriorated. Ask for and seek to offer forgiveness. Do not wait for the other person, you be the mature one and offer reconciliation.

It is easy for us to make ourselves feel busy and active in a Church with so many things and events happening, but the purpose of these “things” and “events” are to help us grow in Christ. Mother Teresa once walked out of a Christian conference on Mission and Evangelism in utter disgust. When asked why she left in the middle of the presentation, the saintly woman kindly responded, “Enough talk, let’s get to work.” Enough talk.

5 things to do this Lent:
1. Attend services, and be on time.
2. Daily Prayer
3. Volunteer
4. Read the Bible
5. Offer forgiveness


In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary Kyriacou

Four in Three: A Message From Fr. Gary

Fr Gary

Message from Fr Gary March 2017

Four in Three


Ecclesiastes is one of my favorite books of the Bible. We find classic lines like, “To everything there is a season,” or “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!” Taken as a whole, the Book of Ecclesiastes is full of wonderful wisdom. During my time at the seminary, a beloved priest professor would encourage us to read the entire book from beginning to end whenever we felt overwhelmed with the pressures of life. This tool served me well as a student, and has become a valuable tool in my ministry to Christ’s Church. A Priest witnesses all the emotions of life. You rejoice at the birth of a child and you mourn with the passing of a loved one. Ecclesiastes verbalizes this sentiment well.

In the past three weeks, I have participated in four funerals. Four beloved individuals left this world in the hope of the resurrection. Two funerals were for 30 something year old’s and two funerals were for 80 something year old’s, yet their loved ones shed the equal number of tears at each of the funerals. All four individuals left behind the same thing, a lasting memory of the relationships developed. Their grieving loved ones mourn their physical losses.

In late February, we lost Kevin, a 33 year old loving husband, father of two, son and good friend. Kevin battled stage 4 oral cancer for 16 months before leaving this life. During his last days, as he prepared to die, he taught those around him how to live! His love for baseball inspired a road trip, with his father, to San Francisco to see his beloved Giants play, and the holidays gave him the opportunity to express his love for his family and friends as they showered him with their loving sentiments. I stood, in rapt amazement, watching his beautiful young wife, with her their two year old child in her arms, sharing cherished memories. She made us laugh and she made us cry, but she reminded us that our hope as Christians is in our Lord’s Resurrection.

In early March, an alarming phone call described Patti’s condition. An otherwise healthy 36 year old had an aneurism and was on life support. Her loving family and friends at her bedside, praying for what looked like a sleeping angel to wake and sit up in her bed. Two days later, after her parish priest, family and friends recited the Lord’s prayer over her Patti’s spirit left her body to enter the next life. A sudden passing. Much more abrupt than Kevin’s departure, yet just as tragic. Her mother and father, brother and soon to be sister-in-law expressed confidence in their understanding of God’s hope. Their courage stems from a lifetime of faith and participation in the Church, which leads them to assurance of the resurrection.

In that same week, we lost Christo Pulos. A blessed man that leaves behind a legacy that will persistently rival imitation. He loved his family, his church, his friends with deep devotion and care. Each of his tasks were completed with meaningful detail. His presence at St. Demetrios will always be marked by his imprints on our hearts. He passed this life two days after his 85th birthday, and yet the mourning reigned; sadness as we endure another loss. Nick Varnava gave a loving testimony to Chris’ service to our Church and the Air Force provided an eloquent expression of his service to our country.

A few days later another World War Two veteran passed. Tom was a decorated member of the Air Force, an American with great pride of his Spartan roots. His loving life memorialized by his grandson, the he raised as his own son, his son, wife, step children and grandchildren. All lamented the loss of another member of the “Greatest Generation.”

Four funeral in three weeks left me craving an opportunity to dive into Ecclesiastes. Before Tom’s graveside service I walked the grounds of the cemetery taking in the names marked on the headstones. I thought about Kevin, Patti, Christo and Tom. I thought about the loved ones I watched cry as they grieved their loss. I thought about the words that were spoken, separately, about each one of them. The theme of Christ’s resurrection echoed through my mind. Other portions of Ecclesiastes resonated. “A good name is better than good olive oil, and the day of one’s death than the day of one’s birth.” (Ecc. 7:1) A name on a marker is what we leave behind if we live foolishly, but to those that believe in Christ and have the hope of His resurrection, that marker becomes a stepping stone to eternal joy.

This is the time of year we celebrate our Lord’s resurrection. Sometimes we take for granted the Paschal responses. Lethargically saying, “Christ is Risen,” to which we receive a tired, “Truly He is risen.” Considering the events of the last three weeks, it is imperative to express our conviction in His Resurrection! Those closest to Kevin, Patti, Christo and Tom, expressed their desire to be reunited in the next life. Belief and hope come from our faith in Christ. Holy Week shows us the love God has for us. He, willingly, climbed up on to the cross, died a violent death, to reassure us that He wants us to be with Him in the next life. All the sorrow in the world has no power over that expression of love. Death no longer restricts us from God’s heavenly embrace. As we fervently chant, “CHRIST IS RISEN,” we lovingly testify and memorialize the legacy of those that have passed before us. “Truly, He is risen” for this is the reason we celebrate!


In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary Kyriacou

Give Them Something to Eat: A Message From Fr. Gary

Fr Gary

Message from Fr Gary - September - October 2020

Give Them Something to Eat: Fr. Gary’s Message

The New Ecclesiastical year begins September 1. The story of Christ feeding the five thousand will serve as the theme for our Parish Leadership during this new year. With two small fish and five loaves Jesus was able to feed a multitude of followers. The Disciples’ care for the crowd and discipline they show to Christ is a standard for us to follow.

In all four Gospel accounts the Lord requests that the loaves and the fish be brought to Him. He then proceeds to “give thanks,” multiplies the food and everyone is satisfied. Our Parish ministries and Her leadership should emulate the standard set forth by the 12 Disciples.

As Ministry leaders we are all disciples of Christ. Parish Council members, Sunday School Teachers, Committee and Event Chairpersons, etc. are disciples of our Lord, His Church and Her ministry to our congregation. Just as the Disciples demonstrated concern for the crowds, our Parish Ministry Leaders should be prepared to show that same care to all in our community. Even though most are volunteers, all are considered and called to be disciples.

In the miracle the Disciples show care for the crowds but seek a quick solution to the problem and discount their ability to help. Knowing that they would not be able to feed the multitude, because they were isolated and had limited food, they simply asked Christ to “send them away.” Although it may not seem like it, this is an amazing display of compassion. The Disciples knew their limitations and explain to Christ, “Look, there are too many of them and we don’t have enough. Please tell them to go find sustenance. ”Surprisingly, Christ commands them, “You give them something to eat.”

Rather than complaining and explaining that there is not enough to share, the Disciples are obedient to the command of Jesus. They bring what they have and layit in front of our Lord. Christ takes the offering, blesses it, multiplies it, and returns the bounty for the Disciples to distribute. The multitude is satisfied by the work of the Disciples.

Our ministries at St. Demetrios will prosper when we follow the example shown to us by the Disciples in this miracle. Applying these lessons to our work will be pleasing and edifying. By emulating the actions of the Disciples, the parish becomes a place where all can come to be made whole.

First, we must be kind and show compassion for one another. The Disciples looked beyond their desires and showed concern for the well-being of the crowd and sought to fulfill their needs. Understanding that it was about to get cold and dark, the Disciples understood the impending needs of the people. They knew what was going on and realized the challenge before them. Because of their love for the people they knew what type of care they needed. They had love for one another.

Next, we must be obedient to Christ. We should understand that we serve Christ and that the multitude, the congregation, the Church, belong to Him and to Him alone! We are present to assist in the implementation of His will. Our service at Church and in the life of the parish is not to satisfy our own wants and desires, but to fulfill the will of our Lord. The Disciples did what Christ commanded. He told them to bring the fish and loaves to Him and they did. Obedience to Christ is the basis of our faith in Him. We must be faithful and know that our Lord will shepherd and protect us.

Third, we must understand that everything belongs to Christ. All we have is His, it came from Him and we are stewards of the gifts He has given us. We have no personal ownership of the ministries we serve. Imagine if the young lad that had the fish and loaves selfishly said, “No. This is my food!” More readily, and generously, and with the assistance of Andrew and Philip he offered his possessions to Christ and his gift was used to satisfy the entire group. We should be willing to share what we have so that the ministry of our parish is fulfilled. The fish and loaves can serve as reminders of the talent we offer, the treasure we give and the time we contribute. In giving and sharing we are returning to God what He has blessed us with, so that it can be multiplied and experienced by all.

Lastly, do the work! The command given by Christ is “You give them something to eat.” The Disciples feed the people with what Christ has blessed and multiplied. Our ministries are to fulfill the needs of the congregation. Our work should satisfy our parishioners. The function of all ministries at St. Demetrios is to provide respite and nourishment for the souls of everyone we encounter.

As we embark the New Ecclesiastical Year, while navigating the current conditions of the pandemic, let’s all do what we can to emulate the care and compassion the Disciples showed to the multitude on that day. Our Parish ministries serve our spiritual well-being and provide nourishment for the soul. As we plan each event, meeting, and activity, consideration to the Lord’s command will be the driving pulse. As parishioners and participants of the community we will encourage one another with love and commitment to Christ. As disciples of the ministries of our parish, we are commanded by our Lord to, “Give them something to eat.”


In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary Kyriacou

God’s Holy Word: A Message From Fr. Gary

Fr Gary

Message from Fr Gary September 2017

God’s Holy Word


A great benefit of spending time at summer camp is the opportunity to disconnect from technology. Not having a phone or internet connection gets you excited to receive mail. A great joy is receiving a (good old fashioned) letter from home. The delight in holding an envelope with the familiar handwriting of a loved one is a highlight for all the staff, counselors and campers. Everyone gets electrified when they get mail (real, handwritten, stamped envelope mail).

One afternoon at St. Sophia Camp, the Director handed me a small envelope sent to me from Christie. I took it, looked at it and put it in my pocket. “You gonna read it?” He asked. I nodded, smiled and walked to the chapel to prepare for evening vespers. I placed it on the altar and put my vestments on for the service.

Vespers ended and the kids were excited to go up the hill to mail call, anticipating their own letters and packages. Prior to their leaving the chapel I shared with them the unopened envelope from my wife. I asked, “What if I just set this letter from my wife on my night stand and never opened or read it?” The responses were touching and hilarious.

One little guy said, “I think you should read it, it will make you happy!” Another jokingly said, “You might end up sleeping on the couch if you don’t.” An older teen girl said, “That’s just coldhearted, what if she wants you to do something, if you don’t read it you’ll never know.” Great answers. The entire camp agreed that I should open and read the letter.

I lifted a Bible.

“This is a letter,” I said. “A letter from God.” They understood the message; however, I went on to explain.

We let our Bibles sit on our night stands or our bookshelves, scarcely to be opened. If we treat messages from our Earthly loved ones with such care and excitement, we should treat the message from our Heavenly Father with the same enthusiasm. It will “make us happy,” contains instructions, and is “coldhearted” if we ignore it.

I once received an email that illustrated the differences in which we treat our cell phone versus our Bible (see page 4). Let’s readjust our priorities. Let’s make reading and studying Holy Scripture a significant part of our day. We should take a few moments, at least once a day, to receive inspiration from the Word of God.

St. John Chrysostom urges us to use Scripture as we would any other chest of medicines. The Bible is a treasury with remedies for every ailment. “Take from there comfort for your trouble, be it loss, or death, or bereavement of relations; or rather do not merely dive into them but take them wholly to yourself, keeping them in your mind." (Hom. IX On Colossians) Further, he reminds us that knowledge of Scripture protects us, and ignorance of it results in a multitude of evils. "This is the cause of all evils,” he says, “the not knowing the Scriptures. We go into battle without arms, how are we to come off safe?" (Hom. IX On Colossians)

There are several ways to navigate a daily habit of reading the Bible. First you can visit our Church website (www.saintdem.org) and signup to receive an email each morning that contains the daily readings prescribed by the Church. Another way is to open to the back of your Orthodox Study Bible and follow the plan provided, and then the easiest way is to start at the beginning of a specific book and just, simply, read a little bit at a time. For those who say they have read the Bible from end to end and have no need to participate, St. John Chrysostom says, "It is not possible, I say not possible, ever to exhaust the mind of the Scriptures. It is a well which has no bottom." (Hom. XIX On Acts)

Let’s dive into the well! Let’s make the institution of God’s Holy Word an important part of our daily routine. Don’t let that loving letter just sit on your nightstand, open it, read it and be inspired by the wonderful message contained within it.

Ever wonder what would happen if we treated our Bible like we treat our cell phone?

What if we carried it around in our purses or pockets?

What if we flipped through it several times a day?

What if we turned back to go get it if we forgot it?

What if we used it to receive messages from the text?

What if we treated it like we couldn’t live without it?

What if we gave it to friends as gifts?

What if we used it when we traveled?

What if we used it in case of emergency?

This is something to make you go….hmm…where is my Bible?

Oh, and one more thing. Unlike our cell phone, we don’t have to worry about our Bible being

disconnected, because Jesus already paid the bill. Makes you stop and think, “Where are my priorities?”.


In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary Kyriacou

Gratitude and Encouragement: A Message From Fr. Gary

Fr Gary

Message from Fr Gary - November - December 2020

Gratitude and Encouragement: Fr. Gary’s Message

Struggles cause us to look at things from a different point of view. These circumstances either allow us to grow in profound ways or they impede us, and we stagnate. 2020 gave us two, solid, normal months before throwing us on a trajectory that none of us had ever experienced. We got to enjoy January and February 2020 as if it were any other year before Covid-19 made its debut in early March. Since then fear and anxiety surrounding the unknowns of this pandemic have plagued us as much as the virus itself.

Here at St. Demetrios we have been doing everything we can to support each other and find ways to cope with this newfound stress. Parishioners of all ages, kids to adults, have participated and contributed in many ways by making the Church a concentrated reality in our lives. Online services, studies in faith, extra services, uplifting lawn signs, and even a shopping ministry for aid those at risk.

Today I am asking that you take a moment and to help start a silent and, what I hope to be an extremely, beneficial ministry. A ministry that everyone can participate in to make a huge difference in the lives of each parishioner. Take a few minutes to spread gratitude and encouragement. Your brief time and effort to acknowledge the work you have witnessed exerted by fellow parishioners will establish a great spirit of appreciation.

The First Letter to the Thessalonians chapter 5 is amazing and very inspirational, but two extremely specific verses serve us well as we contribute to this silent project. St. Paul writes, “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). He continues in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." The groundwork for this silent ministry is founded in scripture, it is nothing new. Let us set it in motion.

If you are still reading this, and wish to participate, this is what I would like you to do. Identify five members of St. Demetrios and send each a personalized, handwritten card. In this note thank and encourage them for something wonderful you witnessed. Lift them up with gracious praise and inspire them with generous acknowledgement. Simply offer gratitude and encouragement to someone you see at services or church events.

If you don’t have their mailing address, simply write the cards, place your name and return address on it, with a stamp, and the recipient’s name and get them to me. I will address and mail the envelopes. In the card, include this line: “You are receiving this as part of the Silent Gratitude and Encouragement Ministry of the parish that was mentioned in Fr. Gary’s message in the Myrrh-Bearer.” Ask them to widen the range of reception and in return for the note they received from you that they write one to another parishioner. Let us see how long and deep we can take this exercise.

It is feasible that you will receive a note (or two). When you do, please continue to send new notes out to new people. Be creative as you recollect acts of kindness you witnessed. If you do not know someone’s name; call, email, or text me, and I will help you. If we all take a few minutes each day and participate several things will happen.

First, we will bring great joy into the lives of our fellow St. Demetrios parishioners. We all need a pick me up and just imagine how awesome you will make someone feel when you share with them how a simple and easy action moved you and how you appreciated it. Think about how motivated that person will be to hear that the effort they pour into the Church affects you. Second, you will find great satisfaction from this simple task. Our mood is positively affected when we express gratitude. Verbalizing gratitude is great, but writing out our sentiments creates greater retention. It is scientifically proven that writing a thank you note releases dopamine and serotonin, the two crucial neurotransmitters that make us feel good. You are going to feel better by participating.

Your observations and insights will elevate the spirit of optimism within our parish. This is a great opportunity for us to spread the love of God in a specific and unique way. This is the time of year when we lose daylight and moods are automatically adversely affected, participating in this silent and special ministry will bring you great joy as you uplift your fellow Christian.


In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary Kyriacou

Happy New Year: A Message From Fr. Gary

Fr Gary

Message from Fr Gary - January - February 2021

Happy New Year: Fr. Gary’s Message

The holiday season is a time of new beginnings. Each Advent we prepare our hearts for the arrival of the Christ Child and joyfully celebrate his birth at the Feast of the Nativity. Like the angels and the wise men we recognize the symbolic light of a new star appearing in our universe and shining on in our hearts. As Christians, we hope the glow of that new light illuminates the entire New Year, brining the peace of God into our lives.

As 2021 dawns and we take stock of the mess that has passed us by, that is 2020, it is customary to set goals for ourselves. Maybe this will be the year we lose weight, become more punctual, read more (scripture), or watch less television. Some of our goals are small and practical; while others seek to redefine who we are and the way we lives our lives. And all the while we greet and depart each other with the traditional, “Happy New Year!”

“Happy New Year” may be enough to cover one night of celebration as the calendar changes from 2020 to 2021, but what happens when we weigh the idea of happiness against the entire coming year? It is unrealistic to believe that an entire year is going to be happy for even the luckiest person. The phrase, “Happy New Year” reminds me of another thing we frequently say to each other; “Have a nice day!” “Happy” and “nice” are all well and good, but how deep is their meaning in our lives? I would refer to myself as being happy when I am dancing. Dancing brings me happiness. I would describe the joy I feel from celebrating liturgy or holding my children with other words. When I see a kind act, such as a car stopping to let a group of children cross a busy street, I think of that as being nice.

So while I wish you all a happy New Year and as many nice days as possible, there is something deeper I’m trying to get to, something more like the salutation Saint Paul uses in his epistles; “The peace of God be with you.” How much greater than nice and happy is it to have the Peace of God wished upon us?

It is the peace of God that we should desire for each other. Having this peace allows us the strength to face days that aren’t nice and times of the year that won’t necessarily be happy. The Peace of God endures, even when happy and nice just fade away. The Peace of God gives us strength for the journey, for the whole year, no matter where our challenges take us.

This year is set to be great and memorable. This New Year offers all of us a chance to renew our commitment to Christ as Orthodox Christians and grow in our faith. Let us commit, or should I say, resolve (that way it is a resolution) to strive for the peace of God for ourselves and to help each other obtain it as well. In order to live within the peace of God we must allow our Faith to be a priority and not a once a week task or obligation.

There are five distinct ways to help us become a community more focused on Christ. This list will also help us find the peace of God. In 2021, let’s reset our focus and begin with the following:

  1. Regular and prompt attendance at Sunday Divine Liturgy. Regular indicates consisted attendance and prompt means being on time. We are on time for our soccer games, for work and school, and never pay $10 to walk into a movie 20 minutes late. It is time for us to reset Sunday as a “Day of Worship,” literally, “The Lord’s Day.” Services begin at 9:00 AM with Orthros.
  2. Daily Prayers. In order for our community to be focused on Christ, each of us, individually, needs to be set on Christ. Each day should begin with an intimate and personal conversation with Christ, TRUE PRAYER! Ten minutes in the morning, ten minutes in the evening. Prayer should also be offered before meals. As you pray over your food, 2 things should be included: 1.) Offering thanks to God for the blessings in your life, and 2.) A remembrance of the less fortunate.
  3. Volunteer! Join, sign-up, or assist with a ministry of the Church. Consider joining our Choir, Philoptochos, teach Sunday School, or offer your time to help plan and organize one of our many fundraisers.
  4. Educate yourself in the Word of God. Reading the Gospels and meditating on God’s Word is essential to Christian growth. Come to our Orthodox Study Classes at 7PM on Wednesday evenings and read the Bible daily. The ZOOM link is shared weekly.
  5. Forgiveness. Mend relationships that for one reason or another have deteriorated. Ask for and seek to offer forgiveness. Do not wait for the other person, you be the mature one and offer reconciliation.

May this be a year of spiritual strength and growth, may we all have a Happy New Year, and may the peace of God be with us all!


In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary Kyriacou

Hurricane Harvey: A Message From Fr. Gary

Fr Gary

Message from Fr Gary October-November 2017

Hurricane Harvey


With all the tragic events happening in our world today: hurricanes earthquakes and shootings, it is comforting to know that our Orthodox Christian Church plays an active role in the recovery efforts. As a frontliner for the IOCC (International Orthodox Christian Charities) I can be deployed for any number of catastrophes to offer emotional and spiritual care (ESC). Following our deployment we are to submit a report to identify some of the work we encountered. The following is part of my incident report. The names have been changed to protect identities.

Some of the most touching visits I had with those that had lost everything were:
● Wheelchair bound woman, approximately 55 years old. Lives in 9 story building across the street. As soon as she realized that the Brown Convention Center was opened to those displaced she came over to lend a hand. Working off very little sleep. Was very emotional and shared many, many stories and encounters. The most telling was:

She took guardianship of a (total) stranger’s children (3 kids ages 7 and younger), while this stranger went into labor to deliver her fourth child.

● Sheriff Deputies were really shaken at the loss of one their officers, Steve Perez. Officer Perez was a longtime veteran of the HPD. On Sunday, the day of the storm it was his day off, but against the wishes of his wife, he went to offer assistance. His vehicle hit a floodedroad and was washed away and drowned. “That’s the kind of guy he was,” cried Fitzgerald.

● As Fr. Jordon and I were vesting, Fr. Luke sent the Acolyte staff and Sexton to introduce themselves. As Fr. Jordon asked the Sexton, “How are you and your home?” Joe, the sexton, said, “I am blessed, no damage. My sister and my brother in law were rescued from their home and are staying with me. My brother in law is recovering from cancer treatments.” This caught my ear and I asked, “What is your brother in law’s name?” He said, “Saad.” “Saad is my father in law’s cousin.” Emotional embrace! “6 million people in Houston,” cried Joe, “and this is how we meet.” I received the blessing from Fr. Luke to visit my relatives. Their home was flooded and as Saad was to weak from his battle with cancer, had difficulty evacuating. A group of volunteers pulled near their home on a boat and rescued them from the flood waters. The water reached the second level of their home.

I was honored to spend my time in Houston helping those that were affected by Hurricane Harvey.

IOCC MAKE A
DIFFERENCE DAY

IOCC is celebrating 25 years this year and we have been asked that our youth make posters. On Sunday October 29th, we would like to have the youth of your parishes make posters (use your creativity) saying THANK YOU to IOCC, with the children writing something and signing their names.

Perhaps even have an offering tray or host the coffee hour that Sunday to raise funds for IOCC, and maybe even have a young person say something about the work IOCC does. These posters and any other efforts made will be presented at the Anniversary Gala, which will be held Sat. Nov. 11th at St. Steven’s Serbian Orthodox Cathedral in Alhambra. We will even come and pick up the posters and any funds raised ourselves to make this even easier for you.


In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary Kyriacou

I’m Your Buckaroo, I Wanna Be Like You: A Message From Fr. Gary

Fr Gary

Message from Fr Gary - October - November 2019

I’m Your Buckaroo, I Wanna Be Like You: Fr. Gary’s Message

Country singer Rodney Atkins has a song called, “Watching You.” He talks about going through the McDonald’s drive thru and riding around town with his four-year-old. He says he stops quickly to avoid a red light and as he screeched to a stop the little boy’s fries and drink go flying all over the car. The four-year-old yells a four-letter word. Atkins says, "Son, now where did you learn to talk like that?" The boy said, "I've been watching you, dad, ain't that cool? I'm your buckaroo, I wanna be like you.”

I want to be like you. Flattering words, but some of our actions don’t need to be repeated. As parents we all have instances where our kids, when they are young, imitate our behavior. Whether it is trying to shave with soap bubbles, make cookies with play-doh, put on our shoes, or use a toy lawnmower as we push the real thing: they want to be like us. Our example is an important one. They learn so much from what we do, what we say, and how we behave. Are we giving them the best version of ourselves?

Making the lives of our children easier is a goal of every parent. We do what we can to help them advance in life, teaching them lessons along the way. These lessons can be well structured and thought out, or the child can learn, like in the song mentioned, just by watching. What is it we display?

Think about the most recent interactions you have had with your child (or any child). How do we make them feel? Do we listen as they try to engage us, or are we more interested in our cell phone? When they witness our response as we get angry or frustrated what is the message we are giving them? When we talk to a family member with less patience than we just showed the drive-thru attendant- what does that communicate? The messages and lessons we teach our children can be deliberately taught or communicated by our behavior.

Often, parents will call and ask, “Lil Johnny just asked me a question about dinosaurs and the story of creation. I can’t answer it. Can you talk to him?” Absolutely! I would love to foster the interest a child has about faith and help a parent teach a Church interpretation. If a child asks about Christ, His disciples, His parables or the miracles He performs, I ‘m sure we all have the capability to find the right words to provide the correct response. One that leaves the child edified in our faith. What happens when our actions prove differently? Remember the kid in the song? He said, “I’m your Buckaroo, I wanna be like you. I’ve been watching you.”

Think about the lessons they learn about our faith and Church as they watch us. When we skip liturgy to watch a ballgame- what does that say about the importance of Sunday morning worship? How are we instilling a reverence for the leadership of the church if they hear us speak poorly of a priest or bishop? How about when they witness us easily spend $5-$6 dollars on a cup of coffee, but then make sure that we have enough $1 bills for the tray at Church? Our actions speak loudly.

Christ tells us, simply, in John 13:15

"For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.”.

John 13:15

Our Lord lived a life of service. He showed compassion for the less fortunate and served whenever He had the opportunity. He sacrificed for us, and how we would do the same for our own children! St. Paul in several letters mentions imitation. In 1 Corinthians 11:1 he writes,

“Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ,”

St. Paul - 1 Corinthians 11:1

and

“be imitators of God”

St. Paul - Ephesians 5:1

Imitation is a wonderful educator. Our kids are watching us. They want to be like us. Let’s display habits that will help them grow in faith. Demonstrate the importance of faith in Christ and commitment to the Church. Let them see you reading the Bible. Let them hear you sing hymns. Let them see you put on an apron and help at the Rescue Mission. Give them the opportunity to witness the dedication you have for a Church organization like Philoptochos. We can teach (everlasting) life lessons as we achieve a life dedicated to Christ and His Church.

That country song ends on a better note. At the end, the singer goes to check on his boy later in the evening. As dad opens the bedroom door, the lyrics say, “He folded his little hands and spoke to God like he was talking to a friend. I said, ‘Son, now where'd you learn to pray like that?’ He said, ‘I've been watching you, dad, ain't that cool? I'm your buckaroo, I wanna be like you.’” Let them see you pray.


In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary Kyriacou

MAKE IT HAPPEN: A Message From Fr. Gary

Fr Gary

Message from Fr Gary December 2017

MAKE IT HAPPEN, Fr. Gary’s Message


In 2008 we were at Skyway Drive dreaming of a new building, today we are experiencing that dream come true. We have shared a lot of visions and goals in the last decade here at St. Demetrios. We sat in the valley of doubt and stared up at the mountain top of success often. Sitting there, some would whisper, “It’s not gonna happen.” We took on debt to purchase land then paid off that debt. We started fundraising campaigns, we asked for pledges and they came in. We all participated in giving towards the need of our collective DREAM and we did it! Success never happens if you sit in the valley merely hoping to be at the mountain top. Success only comes before work in the dictionary!

It’s time to get back to work. The configuration of our community looks much different than it did a decade ago. The pews on Sunday mornings are filled with many new faces. Some may not have had the opportunity to experience the pressures imposed by the undertaking of those dreamers. “Build it and they will come,” we recited meeting after meeting. Now here we are, together as one community, enjoying the benefits of a shared dream that started over 40 years ago. In the last several years we have made great progressions, but the need is the same now, as it was then, if not greater.

Today we sit in the valley of a $1.9 million loan. We have 8 years to eliminate that debt. A new Capital Campaign is beginning. 100% participation is needed from every family and parishioner at St. Demetrios. In the last 13 years the Golf Tournament has grown from a $3,000.00 annual event to an $82,000.00 annual event. The Golf Tournament has quietly grown into a year-round event in terms of planning, execution and most importantly sponsorship. Today the Capital Campaign and the Golf Tournament merge to encourage us to achieve the mountain top of success.

The Capital Campaign is driven by the concept of generous Gift Givers. These can come in all sizes and many forms, from $1000 to $1 million/per year. We have 8 years to retire $1.9 million, so it is time to get creative as we look to our Stewards and others in the surrounding community to support such a large need.

Although it sounds crazy what we need is an ARMY OF FINANCIAL ANGELS! These ANGELS can provide Gifts in many forms:

1. Annual Gifts
2. Capital Campaign Pledge Cards (starting in 2018 to be fulfilled by 2022)
3. Endowment and Tax Planning
4. Estate Planning and Family Trusts
5. After Life Gifts

Many of these charitable ideas can be favorable from not only a tax standpoint, but from a Spiritual standpoint to fulfill the vision of St. Demetrios in Ventura County. St. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

The Golf Tournament and the Capital Campaign is CoChaired by Joe and Mary Freeth, George Joannou and Fr. Gary Kyriacou. If you would like to assume the role of a FINANCIAL ANGEL and be a “cheerful giver,” please contact Fr. Gary at 805 443-3376, Mary Freeth at 805-390-9551, Joe Freeth at 805-390-9553 or George Joannou at 805-231-8696 Together, each committing to give what we can, we can eliminate the loan and continue to enjoy the rich blessings our Lord has bestowed upon us. Please take some time and prayerfully consider your contribution today.


In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary Kyriacou

Message from Fr Gary April 2016

Message from Fr Gary April 2016

An Oxymoron in Holy Week

I am fascinated by oxymorons. These hypocritical expressions really don't mean anything at all, do they? For example, what, when you REALLY think about it, is a "Jumbo Scrimp?" What does it mean to have an "original copy," or "freezer burn?" Have you ever gotten an "exact estimate" or "plastic glasses?" We all know what these terms refer to, but upon closer examination they really do seem quite odd and silly.

During Holy Week, specifically on Great and Holy Friday (which is an oxymoron in and of itself- seriously, we refer to the day that Christ is Crucified as "Great" and "Good."), we will read about the "Good Thief." How can a thief be good? If he were being punished by crucifixion, then he must have committed a horrific crime. Crucifixion was used for slaves, rebels, pirates and especially-despised enemies and criminals. Therefore crucifixion was considered a most shameful and disgraceful way to die. Our Lord was severely beaten and crucified for our sake, namely, forgiveness of our sins. This "Thief," the good one, was being punished for an appalling crime, he wasn't a good person. Through Christ's compassion he finds salvation.

This "Good Thief' is actually "The Ultimate Thief." He stole his way into the Kingdom of Heaven! We are told in the earlier chapters of the Gospels by our Lord that we can find salvation even at the 11th hour! The Ultimate Thief was able to get his foot into the Kingdom at the last minute of that 11th Hour! There are three lessons can we learn from this Thief's transformation and repentance. First, Christ is approachable, second, Christ wants us to be with Him, and lastly, Christ keeps His promises.

The first lesson we can take from this Thief is, "There is never a bad time to approach Christ." Our Lord was hanging on a cross, in a lot of pain, and feeling the anguish of the persecution, and yet this brave man endearingly asks the Lord for permission to be with Him in the Kingdom. Apparently, there are times when we go through life thinking that we can handle our difficulties on our own. Sure enough, the Thief was on the verge of death and knew that his end was near. In his desperation he knew to turn to Christ. It is imperative that we have the same desire to turn to our Lord in moments of pain.

Another lesson we learn from the "Ultimate Thief," is it doesn't matter what your past was like, it depends on your attitude at the present moment and your desire to change your ways. As mentioned previously, the Thief was on the verge of his death, and he knew that his past was checkered with wrong-doings, but his desire to be with Christ led him towards a contrite heart.

Let's not forget that a few hours earlier, this "Ultimate Thief' was ridiculing Christ with the other Robber on the cross. It is only after our Lord says, "Father forgive them," that the Thief has his change of heart. Notice that Christ doesn't say, "Please Father, forgive them," but emphatically says, "Father, forgive them." The Ultimate Thief realizes the authority possessed by Christ and comes to identify Him as Lord and Savior. We should never be ashamed of what transpired in our past, Christ cares about our desire to change, repent and live a new life in Him!

The final lesson we can learn from this Ultimate Thief is Christ keeps His promises. In our Church's great wisdom, through Her Tradition and prayers, this Ultimate Thief is remembered at every Divine Liturgy! Prior to approaching for Holy Communion, faithful Orthodox Christians pray, "I will not kiss you as did Judas, but hike the thief will I confess to you: "Lord, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom." The fact that our Church uses the Thief's dying words to also express our desire to be in communion with Christ and to be with Him in the Kingdom additionally proves that the Thief was made a citizen of the Kingdom.

As we gather our thoughts and reflect upon the events that emerge because of Holy Week it further strengthens us to know that our Lord can take an oxymoron and turn him into a Citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven. Far is it for us to decide who gets in and who stays out, that judgment is reserved for our Lord! What we should be concerned with is our, genuine, desire to be in the Kingdom with our Lord. When a conversation includes an oxymoron, or when any of life's circumstances offer you a chance to use an oxymoron, allow your mind to recall the Thief on the Cross, the GOOD Thief on the Cross and how he edged his way into an eternity with God. Maybe the next time you are stuck in "Rush Hour," told to "Act Naturally, or have a craving for "Junk Food" your mind might summon the actions of the GOOD THIEF.

In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary

Fr Gary

Message from Fr Gary Dec 2015

Message from Fr Gary Dec 2015

Challenges for 2016

St. Paul inspires the Hebrews to stand firm and increase their desire to be like Christ. In his letter to the Hebrews, at 12:1, he writes, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Life as a race is a metaphor we can easily comprehend. The clever athlete prepares weeks in advance, she doesn’t wait until the night before to start her training. As Orthodox Christians we are “ATHLETES FOR CHRIST.” In this month’s Myrrh-bearer, I would like to issue a “challenge” for the upcoming New Year, 2016. I ask that we all adhere to this “Spiritual Training” as a way for us to grow in our Faith.

Beginning January 1, 2016, as a Community New Year’s Resolution, I ask that we all:

1. Attend Sunday Divine Liturgy regularly and promptly: Sundays are SACRED. Our planners should indicate that we are busy on Sunday mornings, because we are called to corporate prayer. Always arrive promptly for Sunday Liturgy. Just as we are on time for our soccer games, work and school, and never pay $10 to walk into a movie 20 minutes late, let us set Sunday as a “Day of Worship,” literally, “The Lord’s Day.” Services begin at 10:00AM (Orthros at 9:00)

2. Daily Prayers. Constant communication with God is imperative as believers. I ask that we pray the following prayer each day for specific groups of our Parish:

O Lord, our God, please bless the _________________________ with a sacred desire to serve with gladness and dedicated hearts. Assign a Guardian Angel to walk before them so that they grow in faith and discernment. Multiply their efforts, sanctify their work and bless all of their endeavors. Grant them well-being and health. Grant them understanding, peace and happiness in this life to help them fulfill Your will. AMEN

· Mondays: Pray for the leadership of our Parish. Pray for our Parish Council, Committee Chairpersons and Members of: AHEPA, Building (PDI), Capital Campaign, Coffee Hour, Daughters of Penelope, Golf Tournament, Greek Festival, Legal, Stewardship and Website Committees

· Tuesdays: Pray for our Irene Chapter of the Ladies of Philoptochos.

· Wednesdays: Pray for the Youth of our community: Altar Boys, Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Youth Dance Groups, Greek School and Sunday School teachers and their Students, and all the young people of our church.

· Thursdays: Pray for our Parea Group, VIPs and all of the senior citizens of our parish.

· Fridays: Pray for those who contribute to the enrichment of our Church. Pray for our Chanters, Choir, Staff, Stewards, Ushers, and Volunteers.

· Saturdays: Pray for the parishioners of St. Demetrios and any one that might be sick, suffering, lonely or seeking to find God’s peace.

· Sundays: Pray for the everlasting memory of our departed loved ones. Pray for the Orthodox Christian Church. Our Patriarch Bartholomew, Metropolitan Gerasimos, all clergy, deacons, monastics who God has established to feed the flock of Your Word.

3. Educate yourself in the Word of God. A weekday, Monday-Friday, reading guide has been prepared for the year. By sticking to this plan you will read the entire New Testament (The Gospel of Matthew through Revelation) by the end of the 2016. Milestones are easily set and marked so that you do not fall behind. Reading and knowing God’s Word is essential to Christian growth.

4. Offer Forgiveness. Mend relationships that, for one reason or another, have deteriorated. Ask for and seek to offer forgiveness. Do not wait for the other person, you be the mature one and offer reconciliation.

May 2016 be a year of spiritual strength and growth!

Have a Happy New Year, and may the peace of God be with us all!

In His grace now and always,

Fr Gary

Message from Fr Gary February 2016

The Steward Ship, Get on the Boat!

Message from Fr Gary February 2016

The Steward Ship, Get on the Boat!

The Steward Ship is the newest and latest craze! It is a way to encounter fascinating and exciting adventure! The Steward Ship will change your life. Let the Steward Ship transform your outlook. . . take a little trip . . . and . . . GET ON THE BOAT!

The Steward Ship offers youth, energy, and renewal! It offers direction for the lost, hope for the hopeless, and does not cost you anything more than what it has already given to you. Imagine that, receiving all this at a value you decide! The Steward Ship’s Captain is expecting you to board, He can’t wait to see you. The Sail has been adjusted, the invitation is set, and the Destination awaits you.

You say you don’t have TIME to get on the BOAT. You say you don’t have enough TREASURE to share for your ride. You say you don’t have the TALENT to assist with the direction of the BOAT. No worries! The Captain (our Savior Jesus Christ) wants you on the Boat. The Sail (the Holy Spirit) will guide you. The Destination (the Kingdom of Heaven) awaits you.

How are you using your TIME, TREASURE, and TALENT? Is the Boat afloat only when you think you want to take a casual cruise? Do you want the confidence of owning a season pass to ride the BOAT forever? What can you do?

The Steward Ship needs you to provide your TIME, TREASURE, and TALENT.

TIME, TREASURE, TALENT:

Volunteer to assist with the various ministries our Cathedral offers. Are you a teacher? Then teach. Do you enjoy meeting and greeting people? Then provide support at coffee hour after Divine Liturgy. Can you cook? Then cook! Do you enjoy a comfortable lifestyle? Then share a small percentage with your Church. Do you have a beautiful voice? Then sing in our Choir!

The BOAT won’t set sail without you! The Steward Ship has a cabin for everyone! You have to decide how you wish to ride. What is the worth of arriving at the Destination? When you are given the option to enter the Destination, will you have secured your ticket?

Every moment we are given the opportunity to share our TIME, TREASURE, and TALENT. Don’t pass on the ability to give! Don’t let the Blessings of the Steward Ship go unused! Help the Steward Ship set sail. Get on, take a seat, and ask what you can do for STEWARDSHIP!

In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary

Fr Gary

Steward Ship Card

Message from Fr Gary Jan 2016

Message from Fr Gary Jan 2016

BE A PIG!

A pig and a chicken were walking by a Church one day. They noticed a sign that said, “Free Bacon and Egg Breakfast this Saturday.” The chicken insisted to the pig that they should attend. The pig was quite hesitant. As the chicken’s patience evaporated he asked, “What’s the problem? Let’s go! At least we can see how they prepare our offerings.” The pig scared and panicky said, “My friend in the preparation of a bacon and egg breakfast, you are ‘involved,’ however, I AM COMMITTED!”

As we begin the New Year I want to urge us all to be PIGS! How much more invested is one that dedicates their entire being to the community, rather than just making an offering. Anyone can be involved, (and that can be a good thing), but it is commitment to one another, to Christ and His Church that is going to make our community successful! And success is determined by our faithful desire to be true servants of Christ!

“Let us commit ourselves and one another and our whole life to Christ our God!” This wonderful petition is repeated many times during the Divine Liturgy. In everything we do, every ministry, from the oldest parishioner to the youngest, this petition serves as our premise and foundation of faith.

In order for our community to be the light of Christ, we must be committed to our Church. Being involved in the ministry of our Parish is acceptable, but our commitment to our Church is the fundamental key to it’s success. There is a major difference between “involvement” and “commitment.”

In the Melanesian islands of the South Pacific during WWII, the natives watched closely as the American and British engineers came in and built airstrips. The islanders were amazed to see that when the airstrips were completed, planes began to arrive filled with cargo: food, building materials, machinery, even vehicles. This, they decided, was something they wanted in on. The Melanesians deduced, that if they built airstrips, then planes would come to them, too, likewise bringing cargo.

They accordingly hacked makeshift runways out of the jungle and built mock-up control towers out of grass and mud. They put fires along the sides of the runways, and put a man in the grass-hut control tower, with two coconut halves on his head for headphones, they rigged antennas out of bamboo and then they waited for the airplanes to land. As far as they could see they were doing everything right.

The form was perfect. It looked exactly the way it was supposed to. But it didn’t work. No airplanes ever came. (John Derbyshire, National Review Online, June 14, 2002 "It’s All America’s Fault: The cargo-cult mentality")

We, like the natives, can come into the sanctuary, light our candles, kiss the icons, do our cross, and make believe that we are fruitful Christians, or we can “commit ourselves and one another to Christ” and be the bearers His light! Commitment is defined in three ways: 1.) noun: the trait of sincere and steadfast fixity of purpose, 2.) noun: the act of binding yourself (intellectually or emotionally) to a course of action, 3.) noun: a message that makes a pledge.

The New Year presents us many opportunities to offer ourselves to one another, Christ, and His Church. The first way to commit ourselves is to become true stewards of the Church, by submitting an adequate pledge and financial donation to our Church. Our giving must be elevated to reflect the beauty and true needs of our new Agape Building. Prayerfully consider a pledge that reflects the responsibility that has been entrusted to us. Another way to show your commitment is to attend wor-ship services faithfully. Divine Liturgy begins promptly at 10:00 AM every Sunday. Let’s set aside the early hours of Sunday morning to commune with God. Also, the coming spring brings with it Great Lent and the opportunity to advance our spiritual lives. Participate in the Lenten services with your family. Still another “commitment” is to serve at our Annual Greek Festival (June 24-26). The Greek Festival is a great way for us to display the richness of our Greek Culture and an even better opportunity to demonstrate our Orthodox

Faith, our Christian Ethos and “COMMITMENT” to one another and our greater community.

We all begin the New Year by making resolutions, promises we will fulfill, and some we may never realize. This Year may our shared declaration be our “Commitment to one another and to Christ our God!” I am committed to leading St. Demetrios along the sparkling path of our Orthodox Faith. Join me on this journey as we strive to serve each other, implementing the words St. Paul wrote to the Galatians, “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

In other words….Be a pig!

Happy New Year!

In Christ’s Service,

Fr Gary

Message from Fr Gary March 2016

Message from Fr Gary March 2016

The recent drought and the threat of “El Nino” have given me the opportunity to reflect on Great and Holy Lent. Every Spring I give thought to what I’m going to give up for Lent, as if taking something away from my everyday routine or diet is going to help my spiritual growth. Lenten spiritual growth should be compared to the care of a garden. There are very few things to take away from a garden to keep it healthy. Actually, it is imperative to add items, and of course, when a weed appears we quickly pluck it. The health of the garden relies mostly on what is added to it. This is how we should approach Great and Holy Lent.

Year after year we talk about what we are “giving up” for Lent: meat, dairy, television, rock music, video games, etc. Removing certain items from our lives is a good practice and an integral part of a productive Lenten Season, but the things we give up are similar to weeds. Merely plucking the weeds does not insure the health of the garden. It takes hard work! The garden needs good soil and adequate sunlight and water to grow. Much like our souls require a steady course of prayer, almsgiving and Holy Scripture to do the same. We are not going to mature in our Faith by simply altering our diet.

It is just as important to consider what we are going to add in to our Lenten regimen as it is to purify our bodies and environment by giving things up.

Imagine willing a garden to grow without the proper amount of water, sunlight and good soil. You can grab a cold glass of lemonade and beg the seeds to mature as you stand by idly, or you can roll up your sleeves and give the garden what it needs to succeed. The same is true of our souls. During the forty plus days of Lent, how are we imagining the appearance of our souls? We have the opportunity to tend to our souls and let them grow full and strong, or we can stand by and risk them becoming barren and dry.

Lent is a time for discipline, but it’s also a joyful time in which we open our hearts and souls so that God can sow the seeds of faith that will grow and give us strength for the challenges we face throughout the rest of the year. Let us examine our hearts and souls, making sure we pluck the weeds that we find, but giving even more energy to ensuring adequate resources for growth in our faith, and in our love for each other.

O Lord and Master of my life! Take from me the spirit of laziness, faint-heartedness, lust of power, and idle talk. But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Your servant.

Yes, Lord and King! Grant me to see my own errors and not to judge my brothers and sisters, for You are blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.

Lenten Prayer Of St. Ephrem The Syrian

REGULAR, PROMPT ATTENDANCE AT DIVINE LITURGY ON SUNDAYS Regular indicates consistent attendance and prompt means being on time. We are on time for soccer games, work and school, and few of us would pay $10 to walk into a movie 20 minutes late. It is time for us to re-devote Sunday as a day of worship, literally The Lord’s Day. We should be at church no later than 9:45 am on Sundays.

DAILY PRAYER In order for our community to be focused on Christ, each of us, individually, needs to be set on Christ. Each day should begin with an intimate and personal conversation with Christ; TRUE PRAYER for at least ten minutes in the morning and ten minutes in the evening. Prayer should also be offered before meals. As you pray over your food, think about offering thanks to God for the blessings in your life, and also remember those less fortunate.

GIVING OUR TIME Join, sign-up, or assist with a ministry of the Church. Cheerfully offering time to the choir, Philoptochos, Sunday School, or one of our many fundraisers can bring a great feeling of connection to the Church and satisfaction to your life.

EDUCATING OURSELVES IN THE WORD OF GOD Reading the Gospels and meditating on God’s Word is essential to Christian growth. Come to our Orthodox Study Classes and read the Bible daily.

FORGIVENESS Mend relationships that, for one reason or another, have deteriorated. Ask for and seek to of-fer forgiveness. Do not wait for the other person to extend the olive branch; offer reconciliation and pray for those with whom you’ve been in conflict.

In Christ’s Service,

Fr. Gary

Fr Gary