St. Augustine, Fla. – The new Orthodox Christian Mission Centerʼs Archbishop Anastasios and Archbishop Demetrios Missionary Training and Administration Building was dedicated during the two-day festivities of May 20-21.
The new building was named in honor of Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana, Durres, and All Albania and Archbishop Demetrios of America, who lead the ceremonies. The Aghiasmos (Holy Blessing) service was held under a tent at the entrance of the new building and with intense rain trough out the festivities. Archbishop Demetrios presided over the service along with Archbishop Anastasios and Metropolitan Jonah, the leading hierarch of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA).
“This day is very significant for Orthodox Christians; this new missions building is a witness to Orthodoxy, because Orthodoxy is always offering herself to everyone; and this is a visible sign of this very character of Orthodoxy: to share, sharing what we have with all the people of the world,” said Archbishop Demetrios speaking about the new building and added: “This place is also important because it is a product of a pan-orthodox unity and cooperation, the faithful working together in the spirit of promoting the Gospel and the faith, which is a basic function of a true Christian. Our gratitude belongs to the people who made this a reality.”
Archbishop Anastasios said that “the dedication of this building is a milestone for all Orthodox missions and the evangelization of Godʼs People,” and added that “it is impossible to think of a dynamic Orthodoxy without world wide missionary work.”
About 300 people attended the blessing ceremony under a strong downpour. They were hierarchs of SCOBA or their representatives, from all Orthodox jurisdictions in America, the board of directors and staff of OCMC, missionaries and Mission Team members, benefactors and donors to the successful capital campaign which provided funding for the project, and Orthodox clergy and laity from throughout the country. Earlier in the morning of May 21, Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta presided at the Archieratical Divine Liturgy in Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church of St. Augustine.
Archbishop Anastasios brought as a gift, a small silver reliquary containing relics of Saint Kosmas Aitolos, known for his missionary work in the 18th Century. Metropolitan Jonah of the OCA also brought a small container with relics of Saint Innocent of Alaska. Archbishop Demetrios presented to the OCMC board an icon of Saints Cyril and Methodios.
The new 12,000 square foot building, which is now the headquarters of OCMC, is located near Interstate 95 just north of St. Augustine, on a wooded twenty-acre site. It has two floors which include space for worship, training and meeting rooms, overnight accommodations for visiting missionaries and mission team members, a kitchen, and administrative offices and work areas. State of the art technology infrastructure is installed throughout, to support communications with OCMCʼs Missionaries around the world.
The facility is the first permanent building designed, constructed, owned and operated by a SCOBA agency. The Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) is the foreign mission and evangelism agency of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA). It has missions in many countries like Albania, Romania, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Argentina, Uganda, Indonesia and others. OCMC traces its origins back to the early 1960ʼs to the Lenten Self-Denial Club of the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Lancaster, Pa., which soon became a Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Missions Committee and then a Missions Center in St. Augustine. In 1994 It transformed into a SCOBA program and took todayʼs form.
The Dedication Committee, chaired by Mrs. Helen Nicozisis, OCMC staff, and Board Members were honored to receive 10 hierarchs from all the Orthodox Jurisdictions represented in the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA) as well as over 300 clergy and lay people from around the world. Several past and current OCMC Missionaries were also on hand to celebrate the new era in North American Orthodox missions that the Archbishop Anastasios and Archbishop Demetrios Missionary Training and Administration Building represents.
On the night of May 20, a reception was held at the Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village; OCMC Board President, Mr. Clifford Argue opened the evening by welcoming many of these distinguished guests after an Invocation from Metropolitan Nicholas of Amissos, of the American Carpatho Russian Orthodox Diocese in the USA, assisted by Fr. Mark Arey, General Secretary of SCOBA.
Following Mr. Argueʼs remarks, OCMC Missionary to Albania Mr. Nathan Hoppe offered his reflections on the past, present and future of the OCMC. Mr. Hoppe remarked that, “With this new center we are equipped in a new way to reach out and to powerfully proclaim that Christ is truly risen and that Heʼs transformed all of reality.” Both Fr. Martin and Mr. Argue concurred with Mr. Hoppeʼs assessment of the new buildingʼs significance and also noted that the new mission center is the culmination of years of hard work and sacrificial giving from each of the SCOBA jurisdictions, many Orthodox philanthropic organizations, and individual supporters.
Two men, however, were recognized for their pivotal roles in the growth of the Orthodox Missions movement – His Beatitude Anastasios, Archbishop of Tirana, Durres and All Albania, and Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and Chairman of SCOBA, who were the honorees during the dedication. Addressing the two prelates, Board member Fr. Matthew Tate shared, “Your missionary efforts throughout the Church truly are legendary, and it is most appropriate that the Mission Center building be dedicated in each of your names.”
OCMCʼs major benefactors, the SCOBA hierarchs, Missionaries, and others who made the dream of the new OCMC building a reality were recognized at the Wednesday evening banquet. Prior to the benediction offered by Bishop Antoun of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, who was assisted by OCMC Board Member Fr. Luke Veronis, each of these ardent supporters and dedicated mission workers received a framed rendering of the new building that they worked so hard to see completed.
At the banquet, OCMC was honored to receive a $25,000 donation from the Greek Orthodox Ladies Philoptochos Society, presented by National President Aphrodite Skeadas.
The morning of the Thursday, May 21, began with a Divine Liturgy at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. Fr. Nikitas Theodosian graciously welcomed as the Liturgyʼs celebrant Metropolitan Alexios of the Atlanta Metropolis of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and the many faithful who gathered for the early morning worship. The Metropolitan was assisted by Fr. Ritsi and Archdeacon Panteleimon Papadopoulos.
Dedication proceedings were held immediately following the Liturgy at the new building, which included a blessing service celebrated by Archbishop Demetrios. Following the service, a hand painted icon of the Mission Centerʼs patron saints, Cyril and Methodius, was presented by Archbishop Demetrios from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Then OCMC was blessed to receive the relics of two of Orthodoxyʼs most renowned missionary saints – St. Cosmas Aitolos, Missionary to the Balkans, presented by Archbishop Anastasios, and St. Innocent, Apostle to America, presented by Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). Following a ribbon cutting and plaque unveiling, guests took time to venerate the relics and tour the new four-million dollar, 12,000 square foot facility.
Nearly 250 people reconvened at the Renaissance Resort following the dedication for a luncheon held in honor of Archbishop Anastasios and Archbishop Demetrios.