Two years ago, a group of Orthodox Christians from Western North Carolina reached out to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA to consider establishing a mission in Waynesville, NC. A loose community had already formed around regular service projects, such as a regular rotation in a local soup kitchen and it was clear that the area would benefit from a mission. However, one of the challenges that had to be addressed was that they would not have a priest in residency for the foreseeable future. It was clear that such a situation would require lay leaders with both the ability to lead readers services and, more importantly, to work closely with assigned clergy to deal with the many challenges that missions face.
His Eminence Metropolitan Antony and His Eminence Archbishop Daniel assigned Very Rev. Fr. Anthony Perkins to determine whether such a mission would be sustainable. After several months of in-depth weekly interviews and conversations with the leaders of the community, Fr. Anthony offered a positive report. Our bishops agreed, assigned Fr. Anthony (who had recently moved to Hartwell, Georgia), and their first service was held in the home of Subdeacon John and Tabitha Cumming’s house at the end of August of 2019. They soon moved into a rental space and began a regular rotation of reader services, with Fr. Anthony coming in to serve every other weekend and the minor clergy leading the services in his absence.
Thanks to its love for one another, its mission focus, and its beautiful services (and the truth of Orthodoxy!), the mission gained momentum and managed to hold on to it despite the many challenges of the past year (even moving into a much bigger rental space in March 2021). Much of this success is thanks to the tireless work of Subdeacon John. In addition to serving as the lay leader of the parish and Fr. Anthony’s senior clerical representative (and his regular job in substance abuse recovery), he is a second-year seminarian of our St Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary’s Distance Learning program. While this deaconal formation program is three years long, in recognition of the unique situation of the mission, the Council of Bishops of the UOC of the USA agreed to ordain Subdeacon John as a deacon in his second year of studies.
It was for this reason that His Eminence Archbishop Daniel visited Waynesville, NC and led their Palm/Willow Sunday celebrations this past weekend.
This was not Vladyka Daniel’s first trip; it was his third. His first was to meet the leaders of the fledgling community as part of his evaluation for their petition for mission status. The second was to deliver a vanload of supplies to the Pathways Center, the half-way house and soup that the community supports (and at which Tabitha Cummings works full-time). Despite this familiarity, on Saturday the laity of Holy Resurrection were on pins and needles. All that tension disappeared as soon as His Eminence walked in the church door with his generous and friendly greeting. From that moment, the whole weekend moved onwards and upwards, from glory to glory.
The formal celebration began with the Parish Vigil for Palm Sunday, with Vladyka Daniel presiding, Fr. Anthony and seminarian Deacon Myroslav Mykytyuk celebrating, and Subdeacon Yaroslav Bilohan and Subdeacon John assisting. The beautiful chanting and music made the joy of the Entrance visceral. After anointing the faithful at the end of Vigil, Vladyka Daniel blessed the evening meal and spent the next couple of hours talking with and providing pastoral guidance to the faithful.
At 9:00AM the next morning, the community greeted His Eminence. One of our youngest parishioners greeted him with flowers, after which Subdeacon John presented him with bread and salt and welcomed him and thanked him for his continual support over the last two years. During his remarks to both Subdeacon John and Fr. Anthony, Archbishop Daniel commended the community for their commitment and Subdeacon John and Fr. Anthony for their leadership.
The Festal Hierarchical Liturgy was beautiful. His Eminence Archbishop Daniel was joined at the altar by Fr. Anthony, Fr. Samuel Seamans – pastor of St. Thomas Mission of the UOC of the USA in Mountain Home, AR, and Deacon Myroslav Mykytyuk of St. Sophia Seminary in South Bound Brook, NJ. Fr. Samuel and Pani Olga came in for the weekend to show their support to Subdeacon John and the Holy Resurrection community. Seminarian Subdeacon Yaroslav Bilohan and Subdeacon John served in the altar; Reader Aidan Buchanan led the choir, and Reader Andrew Mowery chanted and read the Epistle.
Following the Anaphora, His Eminence laid his hands on Subdeacon John Cummings and ordained him as a deacon. In the traditional form, and with the energy of the children at Jerusalem, Vladyka Daniel, the clergy, and the people alternated declaring “AXIOS!” as the archbishop vested him and presented him with the diaconal accoutrements. At the end of Liturgy (after Deacon John offered his first litany) His Eminence blessed and distributed the palms and willow branches and, as the joy of all abounded, made sure that no one left dry!
As is the custom in the parish, the community shared an Agape potluck meal, headlined with salmon and crawdads. The parish offered gifts to His Eminence (including lots of local coffee!), our seminarians Deacon Myroslav and Subdeacon Yaroslav, as well as to the newly ordained Deacon John; and Vladyka Daniel gave his encouragement, blessings, and Resurrection icons to the people.
It was a glorious day!
Fr. Anthony, Deacon John, and all the faithful of Holy Resurrection thank His Eminence Metropolitan Antony and His Eminence Daniel for the continual support of the mission, Vladyka Daniel for His Visit, and the UOC of the USA for their warm reception into the Ukrainian Orthodox family. They encourage everyone to come and enjoy the beauty and hospitality of Western NC, and to worship with them whenever you can!
Photos by Subdeacon Yaroslav Bilohan