OCA Summer Institute in Moscow: The Journey

Over the past few years, the Russian Orthodox Church has started organizing Institutes, held each Summer, that offer Orthodox clergy from other local Churches to build relationships and get to know the Russian Church firsthand.

The program was first offered to Priests of our Orthodox Church in America in 2018, and this year, through the invitation and blessing of His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon and His Eminence, our Archbishop Irenee, I was selected to take part. Joining nine other Priests from various OCA Dioceses in the US, and led by His Grace Bishop Daniel of Santa Rosa, I am honoured to be representing the Archdiocese of Canada.

My flights worked out in such a way that I flew out from Vancouver at 11pm on Wednesday evening, arriving at JFK Airport in New York City, where I would meet up with the rest of our group. Happily, I knew at least one other member of the group personally, Father Daniel Greeson from Tennessee, whom I met about thirteen or so years ago at the Society of Biblical Literature / American Academy of Religion meeting in Washington, DC. Father Daniel is a great guy, and now serves as a Priest at St. Anne’s Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Since Fr. Daniel and I would both be in NYC early on the Thursday, we arranged to meet up at Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan.

I arrived to Grand Central around 8am on a Thursday morning, and it was like Grand Central Station or something in there! It’s a busy place, with lots of people getting on and off trains on their way to work.

Fr. Daniel and I met up, and through the miracle of an app he had, we found a nearby location to drop off our bags for the day, while we got some much needed coffee, breakfast, and then made our way on foot through the concrete jungle that is mid-town Manhattan. It was already hot and sticky by 9:30am – destination – Central Park! After all night flights on cramped planes it felt good to breathe some fresher air and enjoy a walk through this amazing park, which I had never visited before. It was great to catch up with Fr. Daniel in person.

Central Park, later out by the great 19th century landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, is a green space of unparalleled significance. I appreciated every aspect of our visit to the park, except perhaps the over-enthusiastic drumming busker who didn’t quite know when his solo was over. Nevertheless, being in the Park provided some respite from the weariness of long days of travel.

Some of the unique elements of the Park include some dynamic water elements, which I am not sure date back to F.L.O.’s original vision – but they sure are pretty.

All in all, Central Park is a stellar public place, free for people to enjoy. Whereas certain landscapes have the tendency to “rob” people of some of their humanity by their dullness or homogeneity, Central Park is highly diverse in its character, and teems with activity. You can tell that it’s used by people of all ages and backgrounds every day. The vitality of the Park lifted our spirits, rejuvenating us for our return to the urban and equally vibrant streets of New York.

After a satisfying NYC bagel lunch, we found a Subway to take us back to JFK. So, having retrieved our suitcases, we did just that. Arriving at the Airport in good time, the security line was not busy at all, and we arrived at our gate to meet up with our fellow travellers, the first of which was Father John Wehling, Priest of the St. John of Chicago Mission in Rogers, Arkansas. As the early birds at the gate, we were able to enjoy some friendly conversation while we waited for the others to arrive. I soon discovered that Fr. John had roots that included service in the Free Methodist Church, so he and I shared some of that Wesleyan theological background, as part of the common trajectory that ultimately led us both to the Orthodox Church. We also appreciate some of the same movies, and perhaps encouraged by some sleep-deprivation, the three of us “urban achievers” enjoyed the levity of recalling some of the more ridiculous lines from some of those films. In the words of the Gospel According to St. Mark, “Let the reader understand.(Mark 13:14)

Fr. John Baker from Chicago arrived, and then, en masse, the rest – led by His Grace, Bishop Daniel of Santa Rosa (Diocese of the West).

Boarding the plane in due time, we embarked across the Atlantic, for six hour flight before a few hours layover in Amsterdam. I couldn’t really sleep on the plane, but did watch the movie Almost Famous, a personal favourite.

I didn’t take pictures at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam, but it was there that we all began to register our growing fatigue. Air travel is hard on the body. Still, we were able to visit as we waited, each of us getting better acquainted.

Boarding another plane again in what felt like morning, but may have been afternoon of some indeterminate day, we completed our final leg to Moscow. Arriving in a sort of mental and physical ‘fog’ brought on by 36+ hours of being jammed into log metal tubes hurdling through the air at high speeds.

We met our guides, checked into our hotel, and fell into an immediate slumber.

Icon Bears Witness to Christ in Chilliwack

The icon of Christ now above the entrance door to the Holy Apostles Mission in Chilliwack, British Columbia, has a story behind it.

Christ the Saviour Over Doorway

This image is a copy of an icon originally painted by Heiko Schlieper, of blessed memory, a well-known Canadian iconographer and scholar, who fell asleep in the Lord in 2008. Father Matthew, worked together with Heiko on several research projects in the early 2000’s, and Matushka Krista and Father Matthew were greatly blessed by his friendship.


Canadian iconographer Heiko (H.C.) Schlieper, of blessed memory.

In 2004, the original icon, which was hand-painted in the traditional manner with egg tempera and mineral pigments, gilded with gold leaf, (and is considerably larger than this copy), was brought from Edmonton by the iconographer Heiko Schlieper, accompanied by David J. Goa, and Matthew Francis, who now serves as the Priest-in-Charge of the Holy Apostles Mission.

In 2004, the holy image was brought to the Monastery of All Saints of North America in Dewdney, BC, as part of the work of creating a museum of iconography there. This project drew together many of Heiko Schlieper’s remaining works that were not in other collections, as well as his voluminous research library, which had been developed over decades.  Heiko knew at that time that it would be best for the remaining works in his care – including a significant series of the Great Feasts of the Church, as well as other important panel icons – to be preserved in one location. The Monastery at Dewdney was willing to accept this task, serving as a centre and repository for this significant iconographic collection.

Many years later, after the establishment of the Holy Apostles Mission in 2015, Archbishop Lazar of the Monastery of All Saints graciously gave Father Matthew this copy of the icon, printed on metal for durability and permanence. It was determined that we would find a way for the icon to be prominently mounted, hopefully in a setting visible to all – bearing witness to the truth of Jesus Christ – God with us.

Kai Celebrating Image Installation

Kai celebrating the successful mounting of the icon of Christ above the door of the Mission.

Holy Apostles parishioner Kai Lerche, an experienced wood-worker, offered to make a traditional kiot, a frame to protect and display the icon. It was decided that we would mount the icon above the entrance door to Holy Apostles. Our landlords and neighbours at the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church gave their approval, and Kai proceeded with preparing the kiot. In early August of 2017, Kai, assisted by Subdeacon Barnabas Neufeld, mounted the icon in its place.

The first Sunday after the icon’s installation, following the Divine Liturgy, a blessing was served. It is our prayer that this icon of our Lord, God, and Saviour, Jesus Christ, will be a sign and witness to all – especially to those who walk by this door in Chilliwack – of the love of God incarnate.

Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be! 


Orthodox Nativity Services in Chilliwack 2016


Carved icon of the Nativity by Jonathan Pageau, from the Orthodox Arts Journal

The Nativity Services to be served here at Holy Apostles’ Mission this year are:

  • Saturday December 24th – Vigil for Nativity – 6:00pm
  • Sunday December 25th – Singing of Carols – 9:00am
  • Sunday December 25th –  Divine Liturgy for the Feast – 9:30am

May God bless you as we celebrate in the Incarnation of God with us – Our Lord, God, and Saviour, Jesus Christ!


Holy Unction served at Holy Apostles’ Mission

With the blessing of His Eminence, Archbishop Irénée, the Mystery of Holy Unction was served in the Holy Apostles Mission Station in Chilliwack, BC, Tuesday evening, April 19th, 2016. Offered for the healing of soul and body of the Orthodox faithful, this service is a fulfillment of the New Testament instruction of the Holy Apostle James:

Is any among you sick, let him call for the presbyters of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed (James 5.14–16).

St. Panteleimon

The service was additionally blessed by the presence of the icon containing the holy relics of the Great Martyr and Healer, Saint Panteleimon, which were brought by Fr. Vincent Lehr, Priest of St. Herman of Alaska Sobor in Edmonton.

Traditionally served as a “sobornal sacrament” – where as many of the local faithful as possible are gathered together – we were blessed to be able to serve all of the appointed Epistle Readings, Gospel Readings, and Priestly prayers. We were blessed that the following local clergy were able to attend, even during the busy time of the Great Fast: His Eminence Archbishop Lazar, His Grace Bishop Varlaam, and Hieromonk Moses (all of the Monastery of All Saints of North America, Dewdney, BC.); Father Michael Fourik, Rector of Holy Resurrection Sobor, Vancouver, BC & Dean of British Columbia and the Yukon; Fr. Michael Gillis, Holy Nativity Antiochian Orthodox Church, Langley, BC; Fr. Anastasios Majdalani, St. Joseph the Damascene Antiochian Orthodox Church, New Westminster, BC.; Fr. Vincent Lehr, St. Herman of Alaska Sobor, Edmonton, Alberta, and Fr. Matthew Francis, Priest in Charge of the Holy Apostles Mission Station, Chilliwack, BC.

Unction - Prayer under Gospel

The faithful gathered close to the Holy Gospel book as the final prayer was offered before the anointing with Holy Oil took place. This was the first time that the Service of Holy Unction was offered in the Holy Apostles Mission Station in Chilliwack.

Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be! 


Theophany 2016: Blessing the Waters of Cultus Lake

The services for the Great Feast of Theophany were offered in the Holy Apostles Mission Station in Chilliwack, BC, January 5th and 6th, 2016. Since the Mission Station began services in February 2015, this was the first year that Theophany was served by the Archdiocese of Canada’s Mission in Chilliwack. Fr. Matthew Francis, Priest in Charge of the Holy Apostles Mission Station served Great Vespers, with Fr. Richard Rene assisting in the Great Blessing of the Waters.

After Great Vespers served in the Church on January 5th, the Great Blessing of Water was offered, with the faithful being blessed with the waters of Jordan, partaking of it, and taking it for the blessing of their homes, according to the tradition of the Orthodox Church.

Lake - No People 2

January 6th dawned with bright sun and warm weather. Following the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, the faithful journeyed together to Cultus Lake, where the Great Blessing of Water again took place. It is our understanding that this is the first time Cultus Lake has been blessed on the Feast of Theophany, at least in recent memory.

One of our intrepid parishioners even braved the cool waters of the lake to retrieve the Cross, receiving a blessing for the year ahead. The Great Blessing of Water was followed by a Winter picnic on the beautiful beach, where we lingered well into the afternoon, enjoying the festal brightness of a God-blessed day.

Christ is Baptized!

In the Jordan He is Baptized! 




1st Baptism @ Holy Apostles’ Mission

The Feast of St. Nicholas of Myra, December 6, 2015, marked a joyous occasion in the life of the Holy Apostles Mission Station in Chilliwack, BC, as the first Baptism in the life of the community took place.

Holy Apostles Mission - St. Nicholas Day 2015.JPG

The Mission was established by His Eminence, the Most Reverend Irénée, Archbishop of Ottawa, in November 2014. Fr. Matthew Francis, Holy Apostles’ Priest-in-Charge, began weekly Orthodox services with the local faithful in Chilliwack – a city of 90, 000 – in February 2015. Today, ten months later, the Mission Station is home to people of all ages, including many children (together with their families).

On the Feast of St. Nicholas, the Servant of God William (Thomas) – just over forty days old – was brought by his parents and sponsor to Holy Baptism. There was joy in the house of the Lord as the Baptism and Chrismation took place prior to the beginning of the Sunday Divine Liturgy for the Feast of St. Nicholas.

A special blessing of this holy day was that William’s older brother (Nikolai) was celebrating his Name’s Day as well, bringing joy to their family, and to our young Mission community.

Other catechumens in the Holy Apostles’ Mission Station also await reception into the Orthodox Church. Please continue your prayers for them, and for the whole Mission, as we bear the Light of Christ here in Chilliwack.

Dean of BC & the Yukon serves Patronal Feast Day of Holy Apostles Mission

Holy Resurrection Orthodox Sobor, Vancouver, BC

Holy Resurrection Orthodox Sobor, Vancouver, BC

Archpriest Michael Fourik, Rector of Holy Resurrection Orthodox Sobor (Vancouver, BC), and Dean of BC & the Yukon, visited the Holy Apostles Mission Station June 30th, celebrating our Patronal Feast Day, the Synaxis of the Twelve Apostles.

Great Entrance #2

The Great Entrance

Fr. Michael gives the blessing at the Dismissal of the Divine Liturgy.

Fr. Michael gives the blessing at the Dismissal of the Divine Liturgy.

Archbishop visits Holy Apostles Mission Station

The Most Reverend Irénée, Archbishop of Ottawa and the Archdiocese of Canada, made his first Archpastoral visit to the Holy Apostles Mission Station in Chilliwack, BC, June 26-29th, 2015. Great Vespers, Matins, and the Divine Liturgy were served, for the Sunday commemorating the Holy Unmercenary Healers Cyrus and John, and the Holy Fathers Sergius and Herman of Valaam. At Great Vespers on Saturday evening, His Eminence received a family of four as Catechumens, preparing to enter the Church.

His Eminence, Archbishop Irenee, prays the Entrance Prayers prior to the Divine Liturgy, at the Holy Apostles Mission Station, Chilliwack, BC.

His Eminence, Archbishop Irenee, prays the Entrance Prayers prior to the Divine Liturgy, at the Holy Apostles Mission Station, Chilliwack, BC.

Concelebrating clergy included Fr. Matthew Francis, Priest in Charge of the Holy Apostles Mission, Fr. Richard Rene, Chaplain, Kent Institution, Fr. Leonard Herrem (All Saints, Meadow Lake, SK) Protodeacon Jesse Isaac, St. Herman of Alaska Sobor (Edmonton, Alberta), Deacon Phillip Ptashnik (BC Deanery), Subdeacon Barnabas Neufeld (Holy Apostles), Subdeacon Paul Bartlett (St. Aidan’s, Cranbrook, BC), Subdeacon Ryan (Tikhon) Bishop (St. Vladimir’s Seminary). During the Divine Liturgy, three members of the Mission Station were tonsured to serve as Readers in the holy Orthodox Church, and Fr. Richard Rene was awarded the Gold Cross, in recognition of his years of service to Christ and the Church. Several guests from other neighbouring parishes joined with us in honour of the special visit.

The Mission was extraordinarily blessed to receive our Archbishop so soon after our foundation, and we were blessed with His Eminence’s prayers, teaching, and encouragement. We look forward to future visits, and to fulfilling our mission in the city of Chilliwack. Eis polla eti Despota! 

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Pentecost @ Holy Apostles’

This past Sunday marked the Great Feast of Holy Pentecost, the descent and outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and the believers with them, as recounted in Acts 2.

Festal Icon of Pentecost, H.C. Schlieper

Festal Icon of Pentecost, H.C. Schlieper

The hymns for the Feast proclaim the presence of the Spirit as the fulfillment of all of the prophets’ hopes, and the promise of the Father:

Troparion — Tone 8

Blessed art You O Christ Our God / You have revealed the fishermen as most wise / By sending down upon them the Holy Spirit / Through them You drew the world into Your net / O Lover of Man, Glory to You!

Kontakion — Tone 8

When the most High came down and confused the tongues, / He divided the nations; / But when he distributed the tongues of fire / He called all to unity. / Therefore, with one voice, we glorify the All-holy Spirit!

Father Matthew presided at the Matins Service and the Divine Liturgy, and Father Richard gave the sermon. As is the custom in the Orthodox Church, many of the faithful brought greenery to adorn the temple, a testimony to the new life that only the Holy Spirit can bring.