PLANTING GRANT MISSIONS: Discovering the Church’s fullness in upstate NY

Iconostasis

Choir

Tonsure

LANSING, NY [OCA] – October 2014

One year ago, the new iconostasis for Holy Apostles Mission here was being unpacked from a crate and set up in Father James Worthington’s garage.

“The untreated wood was quickly stained and prepared for installation in the sanctuary,” said Father James. ” This was a time when the entire congregation came together to make something beautiful for the glory of our Lord, Jesus Christ. This iconostasis is now in the church, and the new icons to adorn it are eagerly awaited.”

Since that time, reports Father James, “we are a different parish—and all for the better.

“We are commanded to be perfect, just as our Father in Heaven is perfect,” Father James explained. “We are commanded to love our mothers and father, brothers and sisters, the poor, and all of those in need that are sent to us for the ministrations of the Church. The missionary parishioners of Holy Apostles have met all of these commandments head on.”

A good example of this is the community’s yearly collections for the Lansing Food Pantry.

“Three years ago, the first time we participated in their annual March food drive, we collected one large box of food,” Father James recalled. ” In the second year, we collected two large boxes of food—double our first effort. What do you suppose happened in the third year? Correct! The Lord softened our glad hearts even further to offer four boxes of non-perishable items. He has sent to us exponential growth.”

Hand in hand with the mission’s growth, said Father James, the Lord has sent “everything we need. From the very beginning, we were blessed to have a dedicated worship space. Now, as our community is growing, we have gathered faithful from far and wide to this rural community to tend to the garden that the Lord has planted here.

“There are hungry people in this town—both physically and spiritually—and they have been guided to this holy house,” Father James said. “Last month saw several historic events in the life of the mission. Our first baptism was celebrated several weeks ago. With the addition of the newly illumined child of God Matthew, our membership now boasts 12 children. The joy of that ceremony reminds us that the growth of the Church begins with the least of these, and is our responsibility to nurture.”

In the weeks leading up to the baptism, the faithful who attend the two largest local colleges—Ithaca College and Cornell University—returned for the academic year.

“They come to the parish along with their talents and gifts,” Father James noted. “Some serve, some sing, and others give of their time to assist with the hospitality that is customary at this warm and welcoming mission parish.

“On the day after the baptism, the fullness of the Church was certainly made evident in the hierarchical Divine Liturgy, at which His Grace, Bishop Michael, presided,” said Father James. “Our senior warden was to be tonsured a reader…. As the bishop stood on his cathedra at the center of the church, some 50 faithful were gathered around him as Protodeacon Michael Speck from the neighboring Saint Nicholas Church in Auburn intoned the prayers. The choir was trained and eager to sing praises to their Lord. Altar servers held their candles and it was obvious that Jesus Christ was present as He was worshipped.

“What a change it has been in one year,” Father James remarked. “When once we were utilizing icon stands, we are now blessed with a beautiful iconostasis. When once we were a small group with a big dream, we are now a significantly larger congregation doing our best to continue the Lord’s work in our neighborhoods.”

Along with this spiritual growth, the mission’s numerical growth has stretched its current worship space to its limits.

“We worship in an old rural church building, but have no access to a social hall,” Father James said. “Therefore, the sanctuary has been divided in half in order to create an area for fellowship and classes. It is not uncommon to find parishioners and friends in the pews during coffee hour to continue in their discussions. We are beginning to become too large for the space. And this is a very good thing, and it’s not unusual to find many of the faithful still enjoying each other’s company until well past 1:00 p.m. in the summer months after the Divine Liturgy. We love being together, we love growing together, and we love that all of this is done because our Lord has brought us together in Lansing, NY.”

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