Bright Thursday, April 27, 2006
My Dearest Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Christ is Risen!
As we entered the bright cloud of the luminous Glory of the Holy Resurrection just last Sunday morning, time stopped, for Eternity is upon us, and so this week each day we are still in Pascha, the Passover from Death to Life. Now we taste and see that the Lord is good, exceedingly good, and blessed, and holy, for with open hearts we can see that Heaven Itself is the Resurrection and has come down: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His Glory, the Glory as of the Only-Begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
Each year I forget just how bright this time is, for it is hard to keep such brightness in the mind and heart. Let us pray that somehow this year we keep this memory alive and fresh, and continue to pray at all times in joyous thanksgiving, raising the eyes of our hearts up, up, and up again to the sweetness of Heavenly light and thoughts. And may we keep each other in ardent prayer that we move closer to the day when we may be ready to come before the Lord, humble and meek in heart, so that Pascha may become our permanent inheritance.
I am writing today because I want to share good news, both inwardly and outwardly. The inward Good News is the living Gospel of life in the Resurrection that still echoes within us. This we need, to continue to refresh us each day. The outward good news is the amazing speed of blessed change that is happening these past few weeks here at the Skete and the Mission Center since I last wrote to you. This good news has prompted us to a renewed request for help to further the completion of what your gifts have already brought to us in these few weeks before Pascha.
First, here is an update on the new kitchen and trapeza project. The kitchen fiberglass paneling (for easier cleaning) is finished and the last light is installed. The rest of the shelving is put in as is a bookcase for all of the cookbooks. In the dining room and hallway, the new doors are hung, the new windows installed, the insulation and sheet rock completed, the pocket door frame installed, about a third of the floor tile is in, and the wiring is about two thirds completed. The walls and ceiling were textured, and as I write this, they are being painted with the primer coat of paint, with the top coats scheduled for tomorrow and Saturday. What is left is finishing the electrical work, the lights, the rest of the floor tile, and a new deck and ramp outside the front door. Yesterday I ordered all of the pre-finished dining room cabinets and porcelain tile for the top of the counters which will be delivered next Tuesday.
We had the Paschal festive meal in the partially finished dining room, and already everyone could feel the wonderful improvement that this is for our community. Thank you for your generous support to make a place to share the agape meals as the first Christians did so thankfully together after Sundays and the major Feasts. We owe a few thousand dollars more to the local vendors for the materials that we purchased, and for the rest of the labor to install the floor, the deck, and the cabinets and counter top. If you can, help us finish this, and when you can, come and eat with us in celebrating the reality of such gracious hospitality to our honored guests.
Secondly, a priest at a nearby metropolitan church called us three weeks ago with an offer to sell us reasonably priced bells for our church. We found a donor to pay for the bells (thank you Miriam, and her father John Alexander Sanderson, who reposed a few years ago). We then had one of our parishioners, Ignatius Vereschagin, build us a small but beautiful bell stand just outside the door to the new St. Nicholas Church, mostly out of doug fir beams left over from the Common Monastic Building. I have included a picture to show the entrance to the church, with the new icon kiot, the new entrance door, the new sign, and the new bells and bell stand.
Ignatius’ great great uncle was Vasili Vereschagin, a famous iconographer and artist who painted the well-known murals in the main church at St. Mary Magdalen’s Convent in the Garden of Gethsemane on the slopes of the Mount of Olives at Jerusalem. Ignatius inherited this artistic drive and excellence, mostly in wood-working. The cost for this was $1,500 more than the bell donations.
Thirdly, we have the two main projects to prepare St. Nicholas Church for consecration (still this year, if we can get them done in time); the new iconostasis or icon screen on the east end of the temple, and the choir loft on the west end. It is really best to have all of the major construction done in a church before it is consecrated. Albeit, almost miraculously Ignatius had a window of opportunity open up, just now, to do this fine wood-working and construction. As he is normally too busy to take such an ambitious group of projects, we feel that (Carpe Diem: “Seize the Day”) this is a God-sent opportunity not to be missed, so we are committing to do this right now.
We have been saving hardwoods, especially walnut and cherry wood for over 15 years (and others have been generous in these last 18 months since we started to build the new church) so that we have most of the finish materials for the iconostasis. Our dear friend Kevin Murray contributed the basic design for the iconostasis, and we thank him for that rich gift. I am including drawings for both of the proposed church projects: the iconostasis and the choir loft, and also pictures of the current views in St. Nicholas Church before this work is done. It is possible to have all of this done for a low cost, materials and labor for both coming to only $12,000.
Our last donation appeal was successful in providing much of the funding needed to bring the kitchen and dining room to near completion, and to put some funds toward the next stage of work on St. Nicholas Church, which are held in a separate account. We had 92 people respond, raising $7376.50 and the average gift was just over $80. Many of these gifts were non specific and we decided to put most of them towards the completion of the kitchen / dining room’s immediately needed projects.
I know that it is not long since our last donation appeal, and feel a little ashamed to ask you again so soon, but this opportunity may not come again, so please be generous now if you have the means. We have learned to make due for so long, it has become a habit, and we can still wait if we must, but when the time is right, then we must act with energy. I feel that the time is right.
The other projects for the church that we had hoped to do this spring can be delayed until later, for now we have the chance to complete the more essential and difficult projects of the iconostasis and choir loft. If 150 people gave $20 for the trapeza / dining room, that should finish that project. If, in addition, 150 people gave $80 for the church, we could probably finish the iconostasis and choir loft in the next five or six weeks. Our next Open House is set for July 28th and 29th this year. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have our holy temple to St. Nicholas more ready to welcome you all on those festive days?
God bless you and keep you in His Holy Name.
Keep us in your prayers and love,
Your Brother in Christ,
Father Simeon, Abbot
and the brotherhood of St. Isaac of Syria
and the sisterhood of St. Silouan’s Convent
and the community of St. Nicholas Church