Devoted members of the Saint Athanasius Orthodox Church came together from far and wide Sunday to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its founding.
“I came in from Florida to celebrate,” parishioner J.D. Shwartz said. “I was baptized here and am happy to be back. It’s such a wonderful community.”
The Nicholasville church’s celebration started with a grand banquet at Sts. Peter and Paul School on Friday and a full day of events on Saturday, including a women’s brunch, men’s fellowship and an all-night vigil. But the weekend’s reverence concluded with a packed sanctuary Sunday on South Main Street as 141 followers came out to worship and meet with some very special guests from the Eastern Orthodox Church hierarchy.
One of the visitors for the monumental occasion was Nikon Liolin, the bishop of Boston and acting bishop of the local diocese.
Saint Athanasius is a parish of the Diocese of the South of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) and is under the guidance of Liolin, and also the Albanian Archdiocese, Locum Tenens of the Diocese of the South. Liolin presided over the service on Sunday and tonsured two young men, Brad John Vien and Ryan Paul Winters.
Tonsure is the practice of a devotee’s hair being clipped and is a symbol of their renunciation of worldly fashions and devotion to Christ and the church.
Vien and Winters were bestowed the title of “reader,” which is similar to a deacon in a Christian church.
Accompanying Liolin was Bishop Mark Maymon of Baltimore; the founding priest, Father David Rucker; and the abbot of Holy Cross Orthodox Monastery in West Virginia, Father Seraphim Voepel.
The father of the local parish, Justin Patterson, described Seraphim as a “bearer of an ancient spirituality — a rare figure in today’s world.”
“It was a real honor and blessing to have them here,” Patterson said.
Saint Athanasius is the first OCA parish of its kind in Kentucky and began with just 25 men, women and children in 2002.
These days, the church numbers more than 110 members, and Patterson said it is open to anyone who wishes to lead a fulfilling spiritual life.