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