On Friday the 2nd and Saturday the 3rd of July, the feast of the Holy Hierarch John of Shanghai & San Francisco, Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan paid an archpastoral visit to St. John the Wonderworker Mission in Lewisburg, PA, where he officiated the divine services in honor of the mission’s patronal feast day.
Accompanying His Grace was the Protectress of the Russian Diaspora – the wonderworking Kurk Root Icon of the Mother of God. The icon was present at All-Night Vigil on Saturday evening and Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning, placed on an analogion next to the mission’s new icon of St. John holding the Kursk Icon.
Services were held at the mission’s rental location at the Lewisburg Club downtown. Serving alongside the vicar of the Eastern American Diocese were: Priest George Sharonoff (mission rector), Deacons Michael Wengrin (cleric of St. Basil Church in Simpson, PA) and Michael Pavuk (cleric of St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Mayfield, PA), and mission Deacon Paul Siewers. The choir sang the services beautifully under the direction of Matushka Anna Sharonoff.
Bishop Nicholas instructed the faithful to follow the example of St. John in devoted prayer, worship, and evangelism to continue the mission’s growth in a region with few Orthodox Christians but rising interest in Orthodoxy. Most of the mission members are converts, and the mission is the only ROCOR parish in central Pennsylvania. It also is the only Orthodox parish in Union County, PA, and in the nearby area of the Confluence of the Susquehanna River.
After Liturgy, His Grace walked to a festal lunch at a downtown restaurant with mission members and visitors, the first such informal "procession" involving an Orthodox bishop to occur in the small central Pennsylvania town, which is home to Bucknell University.
After the lunch, Bishop Nicholas and the group proceeded to the mission’s six-acre property nearby in rural Winfield, the site for its planned temple. The land also includes a small cemetery and a developing garden area. There, he blessed the new standing cross marking the entrance to the building site. The triple-barred cross was made from hemlock wood native to the area.
In the middle of the blessing of the cross, a short, intense rain came to the site.
"It is a good sign," Bishop Nicholas said afterward, as the rain amplified the blessing of the cross and land with holy water.
The same week as His Grace’s visit, the mission commissioned an engineering plan for its building, marking a first important step toward construction. Donations to the mission’s building project can be made at their website here.