Bringing the Orthodox Faith to the African-American Community – From the OCA Diocese of New York and New Jersey

http://usaofmyheart.wordpresss.com

USA OF MY HEART

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Bringing the Orthodox Faith to the African-American Community

From the OCA Diocese of New York and New Jersey

Source:

http://journeytoorthodoxy.com

http://journeytoorthodoxy.com/2016/08/bringing-orthodox-faith-african-american-community/

JOURNEY TO ORTHODOXY

“We would love to reach out to African-Americans in our community, but we don’t know how.”

“I don’t know where to begin.”

“I’m afraid we’ll be seen as too white and too exotic.”

“How do we merge the Black church and culture with [fill in Orthodox ethnic group of choice]?”

Sound familiar? Orthodox parishes across the country struggle with outreach to various ethnic groups — wishing to expand the parish’s evangelistic efforts in bringing Holy Orthodoxy to Blacks, Latinos, and Asians — but lacking the knowledge, insights, and tools to do so. With the biggest of hearts and greatest of desires, this area of evangelism … bringing and sharing Orthodoxy with ethnic minority groups … can nevertheless seem daunting enough to persuade many to never even begin the effort.

To address these concerns and provide information, ideas, and tools to train and equip clergy and laity to begin effective outreach to African-Americans, the Diocese’s Commission on Mission and Evangelism sponsored a one-day training workshop called “Bringing the Orthodox Faith to the African-American Community.” Thanks to the gracious hosting of Saints Peter and Paul Church in Manville NJ on Saturday, 16 July 2016, the workshop brought together over 40 people from across two deaneries as well as outside of the diocese to hear and learn from two outstanding speakers on African-American outreach: Father Alexii Altschul (a founder of the Brotherhood of Saint Moses the Black), and Father Deacon Turbo Qualls (the Brotherhood’s Chapter Development coordinator).

Father Deacon Turbo spoke first in the morning, following a Molieben (prayer service) for the “Beginning of Any Good Work.” He addressed a powerful theme: Orthodoxy is not “the White Man’s Religion” and was never imposed on Africans brought to America via the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade (and, further, that Orthodoxy, unlike virtually all of Western Europe and Western Christianity, was never involved in the evil of such human trafficking). Rather, Orthodoxy is an historic African faith that has had roots in Africa since the time of the Apostles: the Acts of the Apostles notes the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch by Saint Thomas; and Church Fathers, many of whom lived and were from northern African nations like Libya, Egypt, and Carthage.

Father Alexii spoke in the afternoon about his experiences as a white man married to a black woman, raising a blended family, who ultimately found and embraced the ancient Orthodox Christian Faith. He began “Reconciliation Ministries” (now known as Reconciliation Services, it continues to serve the poor and marginalized of the Troost Avenue neighborhood of Kansas City). He, his late wife, and community started Saint Mary of Egypt Orthodox Church, now a parish of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North America.

After deliberating further opportunities for mutual discussion and networking, the workshop ended with another Molieben “For the Cessation of Strife” as found in the Great Book of Needs, Volume IV.

Plans are underway for more conferences in this outreach series beginning later this year.

Sherie Mercier, USA: Called To Orthodoxy ╰⊰¸¸.•¨* A former Pentecostal minister and Independent Old Catholic Priest’s conversion story to the Orthodox faith

https://usaofmyheart.wordpress.com

USA OF MY HEART

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Michigan, USA

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Called To Orthodoxy

╰⊰¸¸.•¨*

A former Pentecostal minister and Independent Old Catholic Priest’s conversion story to the Orthodox faith

by

Sherie Mercier, Michigan, USA

Where do I begin? I was born and raised in St. Joseph, Michigan, on the shores of SW Lake Michigan – across the lake from Chicago, 61 years ago. My parents were not very religious, in fact, they attended a Methodist church in my hometown. The pastor was a medical doctor and eventually left the active ministry and set up shop as a General Family practitioner. My parents stopped attending church and after that I never remember them ever stepping into a church at all, even to this day. My mother is deceased but my father is still alive and I have never seen him enter a church.

So, eventually, around the age of 7 or so, I went to a Baptist church with my neighbors and continued to do so until my teenage years. I then set out to check different denominations, usually joining them, then leaving because something didn’t “feel right”. Of course, our home town had a huge Roman Catholic following, plus my maternal grandmother had been Roman Catholic herself.

I remember seeing statues of Mary and crucifixes. Our public school in that day followed the Roman Catholic system of meatless Fridays, usually fish sticks or mac and cheese. So, I became interested in the Roman Catholic faith. But it was not to be at all until years later.

I graduated high school, enlisted in the US Army, did a short stint and then married my first husband in Scotland. We settled back in Michigan but only for the summer of 1974, then moved to Arizona. I again, searched and wanted to be Roman Catholic, but my husband was adamant against it. So, I chose the next best thing, the Episcopal church, back then it wasn’t as liberal as it is now. It was the Liturgy that always attracted me to these types of churches. Protestant churches lack any “real” liturgy, rather their services are typified by an opening song(s), prayer, more songs, another prayer, offering and finally – “drum roll please” – the sermon, the main stay.

Of course, we are to learn and be taught but these churches continue to make the “sermon” the most important part of the service each Sunday. Yet, to keep the peace, I did exactly that, attending one Protestant church after another. I was lacking though on the inside, my heart longed for the proper worship to be given to God. Another caveat to all of this is that I am a musician, I play multiple instruments and sing, so churches would ask me to help lead music on Sundays.
After jumping from church to church, I would sneak occasionally during the week to the local Roman Catholic parish near where we lived. My husband was at work and didn’t know. I longed to be Roman Catholic and felt one day this would happen.

In 1983, after the birth of my youngest child, I was attending an Assembly of God church in Phoenix. I loved the people there and the worship was good. One Sunday, the regular pianist was not in attendance and I knew the piece the choir was going to “perform”, so I stepped in and led at the piano. The church eventually asked me to do the music regularly. Then one Sunday, I was supposed to do a special number for the evening service but was pulled aside by the music director and told in no uncertain terms that if I didn’t graduate from the AG college in Springfield, Missouri, I couldn’t even sing on a Sunday evening. My feelings were greatly hurt and I said that’s it. I left that church, then started sneaking to Mass on Sunday mornings behind my husband’s back for a while. Then one day I found a position working at a Bible Christian church, playing the piano again. I loved this church also and the people but disappointment struck in that the pastor left his wife and 3 children for another woman.

That did it!! I called a parish that was on my way to work (by this time, I was working full time) and spoke to the associate priest there. We met once a week for 5 months and at Easter in 1986, I was received into the Roman Catholic church. Again, because of musical background, I was soon cantoring at the parish weekly. I loved the liturgy and asked to help different parishes in the diocese. At one point, I was asked to assist with a Byzantine Uniate parish. This was it! The beauty of the Divine Liturgy had captured me. It was totally different than what I was seeing in the Western Rite. But things did not let me stay there as I ended up with other obligations at other parishes in the diocese.

In 1989, after 15 years of marriage, my ex-husband left the country and moved back to Scotland with our 2 sons and I was left to raise my 3 girls. I remained a Roman Catholic and continued to work in several parishes over the years. Then in 1997, while my husband, Mark (a cradle Catholic) and I were at a parish, I made an abrupt decision after something a priest had said. I left the RC church for the next 9 years. I began studying and eventually became a licensed Pentecostal Church of God out of Joplin, Missouri minister. I left that denomination as the rules were too stringent and it cost too much money. Besides your regular tithes and offerings to the church, you also had to “pay” for your credentials, which became costly. I applied for independent credentials from a non-denominational ministry and became a pastor for a small local congregation. After a few years, I was called back to the Roman Catholic church, but not for long. Yet, it was when I was called back to the RC church, I began to truly study the early Church Fathers, the Eucharist and other “Catholic” teachings.

I would discover the “Independent Old Catholic Movement” in 2008. The beauty of Roman Catholicism without having to answer to Rome. In fact, one of the things that drew me to this movement was that a lot of them ordained women. I always had felt a calling on my life and thought I had fulfilled it in being a Pentecostal/non-denominational minister. In 2009, I joined a group called, O.SS.T. – the Order of the most Holy Mother Theotokos. I had never really heard Mary addressed as the Theotokos except in the council of Ephesus when this was declared. Eventually the archbishop of the group asked me to take seminary studies and in August of 2011, I was ordained a deacon and on June 1, 2012, ordained a priest.

In my studies, I had to write a paper on the differences and similarities between the Anglican, Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Old Catholic Churches. Our liturgies did not follow the RC but rather were a mixture of all 4 of the above. When I was ordained, someone gave me a beautiful icon of the Theotokos, which I still have. I also had purchased a couple of icons and a pocket icon of Christ the Pantocrator and Our Lady of Kazan. I still have those also after all these years. One of the people who helped concelebrate my ordination gave me a book on the Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia, New Martyr of the Communist Yoke. I read the book and then put it aside for a long time.

Over the next several years, I served on and off as a supply priest, tried to have a local parish to work at but with no success. In hindsight, I know I should have never been a priest and that is probably why I failed to fulfill my calling. At one point, I was working as supply priest for an Episcopal congregation in Northern Arizona but then the proverbial “rug” was pulled out from underneath me. I know why, I wasn’t “liberal” enough for them and that’s all good and well. I made some very nice friends there and stay in touch with them.

Fast forward to July 2016 and I am at a crossroad. I was doing some cleaning and came across the book I mentioned above regarding St. Elizabeth the New Martyr. I was led to read it and I had “liked” several Facebook pages on the Orthodox faith and teachings. One I tuned into was from St. Michael’s Orthodox Church in Geneva, New York and a man named Steve Tobey. He does a daily video called, “The Gospel Minute” and I was hooked. I had looked up several Orthodox parishes and one was in Prescott – St. George’s – but I could not get a response.

I need to digress here for a moment, due to some medical issues, I lost my foot and ankle back in 2011 and wear a prosthesis. The problem is that they tear up your pants and skirts terribly. So, I was looking to see if it would be okay if I attended Great Vespers or Divine Liturgy in slacks – I always wear black and dress very modestly.

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Fr. Thomas Frisby

I kept trying St. George’s to no avail and then in August, someone gave me the email address to Fr. Thomas Frisby from Exaltation of the Holy Cross parish in Phoenix, Arizona. I contacted him and then we set up a dinner with him and his wife, Laurel with my husband and me. We did so and I gave Father Thomas some background of above and asked plenty of questions. Due to my schedule at the time, it was several more weeks before I began to attend Divine Liturgy. My first service was on Sunday, September 25, 2016 and all I can say was, “This is where God wants me to be for the rest of my life.” At the end of coffee hour and a wonderful book study, “On the Incarnation” by St. Athanasius, I asked Fr. Thomas if I could become a catechumen. He did not hesitate and so I did the following Sunday before Divine Liturgy. BTW, my birthday is the feast day of St. Athanasius (May 2).

I also told all my friends via Facebook that this was what I was doing. Some were shocked, I told them if they wanted to, they could unfriend me. I had a lot of Protestant friends at the time and wasn’t sure how they would react. Some have stayed my friend, some haven’t.

Finally, in November, Fr. Thomas said I would be received into the Church on the forefeast of the Theophany, January 5, 2017. My husband Mark came with me and I can’t say how moved I was to be brought into the Orthodox faith. I wrote of my experience in four blogs that were published to Facebook also. Even though my husband for now has no desire to convert, he supports me in being Orthodox and he does attend Divine Liturgy with me on occasion. My parish family is very welcoming to him as well as they were to and still are to me.

A side note – as a veteran, I currently belong to the American Legion, a veteran’s service organization. I was considered for Department Commander for the 2017-2018 year. I was handed a month ago, the schedule I would have to adhere to for that year. What I discovered was that I would be gone too many Sundays, away from Divine Liturgy and the Eucharist. This was an easy choice as there was no way I would miss intentionally almost 1/3 of the year to be the commander. I posted on Facebook as well as an email went out to all the posts in the Department (over 130) and the reason why I would not be running. The overwhelming responses (all positive) that I was taking a stand for my Faith proves to me that this is where God wanted me to be.

It also has been a witnessing tool to the Orthodox Faith and people are now asking me about what we believe and there is even interest in some of them coming to my parish.

For those of you women who think that you have a calling on your life to be a minister, priest, or other clergy, it isn’t necessary. I wish I would have found the Orthodox Faith – the TRUE faith – years ago. I probably would have never been a minister or priest. Do I miss what I did? No! I am fulfilled as a woman in the Orthodox faith. We have a place in the Church that is rich and Christ truly loves each of us.

I am writing this just days before the start of Great Lent and praying that I will continue to draw closer to Jesus Christ in the time. My journey is continuing and I thank God for the Orthodox Church and for my parish, Exaltation of the Holy Cross as well as Fr. Thomas and Laurel Frisby.

The 2 Calendars of the Eastern Orthodox Church – A letter to an American friend

http://americaofmyheart.wordpress.com

http://schismaticsreturntochurch.wordpress.com

SCHISMATICS RETURN TO CHURCH

AMERICA OF MY HEART

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Dear friend,

The Eastern Orthodox Church have 2 calendars. The New Calendar and the Old Calendar.

Some Orthodox countries have the new calendar and some the old calendar.

The Orthodox Church of Serbia, Russia, Mount Athos in Greece, Poland, Holy Land-Jerusalem and Sinai have the Old Calendar and the have Christmas on January 7.

The Orthodox Church of Greece, Romania, Asia Minor etc. have the New Calendar and the have Christmas on December 25.

But all these are local Churches are One Church: Eastern Orthodox Church.

But be careful!

There is a team who founded in Greece on 1924 that is a SCHISMATIC TEAM. They called “Genuine Orthodox Christians” but is out of Church.

If you have a “Genuine Orthodox Christian” near you don’t go there, because is out of Church!

Here in Greece the Old Calendarists are schismatics.

Only the Mount Athos Monasteries have the Old Calendar but they are in the Church like Russians, Serbians etc.

Only the Monastery of Esfigmenou in Mount Athos is a schismatic monastery that is “Genuite Orthodox Christian” monastery, now.

Here you find a Canonical Orthodox parish in North America:

https://oca.org/parishes

https://oca.org/directories/na-churches

Saint Nectarios of Aigina Island in Greece who died on 1920 prophesied the schism of old calendar of Greece!

St. Nectarios of Aegina (+1920) saind to the Nuns of his Monastery in Aegina Island, Greece:

“After my death will take place a great schism. You will follow the Main-Executive Church” (St. Nektarios of Aegina – Written in the Proceedings of the Monastery of Saint Nectarios).

With love in Christ,

Abel Gkiouzelis

gkiouz.abel@gmail.com

http://gkiouzelis.wordpress.com

Confession: The Healing Sacrament – By Jim Forest, Utah, USA & the Netherlands

http://orthodoxyislove.wordpress.com

ORTHODOXY IS LOVE

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Confession: The Healing Sacrament

by

Jim Forest,

Utah, USA & the Netherlands

Source:

http://www.antiochian.org

http://www.antiochian.org/content/confession-healing-sacrament

A young monk said to the great ascetic Abba Sisoes: “Abba, what should I do? I fell.” The elder answered: “Get up!” The monk said: “I got up and I fell again!” The elder replied: “Get up again!” But the young monk asked: “For how long should I get up when I fall?” “Until your death,” answered Abba Sisoes. —Sayings of the Desert Fathers

“When I went to my first confession,” a friend told me, “tears took the place of the sins I meant to utter. The priest simply told me that it wasn’t necessary to enumerate everything and that it was just vanity to suppose that our personal sins are worse than everyone else’s. Which, by the way, was something of a relief, since it wasn’t possible for me to remember all the sins of my first thirty-odd years of life. It made me think of the way the father received his prodigal son—he didn’t even let his son finish his carefully rehearsed speech. It’s truly amazing.”

Another friend told me that he was so worried about all he had to confess that he decided to write it down. “So I made a list of my sins and brought it with me. The priest saw the paper in my hand, took it, looked through the list, tore it up, and gave it back to Continue reading “Confession: The Healing Sacrament – By Jim Forest, Utah, USA & the Netherlands”

Journeying East: Spiritual Sanctuary in the Orthodox Church – Forrest Long, USA

http://orthodox-heart.blogspot.com

http://walkingbytheseaorthodoxy.wordpress.com

https://usaofmyheart.wordpress.com

ORTHODOX HEART

WALKING BY THE SEA – ORTHODOXY

USA OF MY HEART

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Alabama, USA

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Journeying East:

Spiritual Sanctuary in the Orthodox Church

by Forrest Long, USA

Source:

http://journeytoorthodoxy.comHERE

JOURNEY TO ORTHODOXY

The pungent aroma of incense fills the air. In the dim candle light, smoke ascends high toward the domed ceiling and, as the eye follows its upward spiral, one can imagine gazing into heaven itself. The architecture, the icons, the aroma, the awesome silence — the sensory perception of all that surrounds you transports you into another world. No, this is not your typical Baptist church, far from it.

So what is a Baptist pastor with over twenty-five years of ministry doing in a Russian Orthodox chapel? The male choir is in place and the priest comes out to begin the evening liturgy of vespers, all in Church Slavonic, the language of the “old country.” Not a word is understood as I listen intently to the progression of the liturgy, yet deep in my soul there is a sense that I have entered heaven itself. For an hour and a half the service continues and no one seems to mind standing through it, even the frail old monks who have experienced this for a lifetime.

This was my first experience of an Orthodox vespers and it was a life-changing experience, an affirmation that I was on the right path.

Going back to the question, what was I as a Baptist minister doing in a Russian Orthodox vesper service at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York?

And why over the past several decades have so many evangelicals in North America made the journey to the Eastern Orthodox Church?

I have read the personal pilgrimage of others, Peter Gillquist, Frederica Mathewes-Green, Jaroslav Pelikan and others, but I can only write out of my own experience.

As I look back now over my training in preparation for ministry I realize I learned nothing about the Eastern Orthodox Church; as I have talked with other Protestant ministers, for the most part their knowledge runs between minimal and non-existent. If I were asked I suppose I would have said that it was some ancient Eastern form of the Church, just another denomination but comparable to the Roman Catholic Church. The architecture and vestments may have been different, but apart from that I knew nothing about it. To be honest, its existence probably never crossed my mind. But other things did and that is where the journey began.

Coming out of ministerial preparation and being thrust into pastoral ministry, I was an idealist filled with answers, cutting-edge techniques and right theology. I was ready to ignite my first church with new life.

The early 70’s was a time of change in the church. New winds were blowing. Contemporary theology was challenging how we thought about God and the church; charismatic teaching and practice were challenging how we worshiped and “did” church; the “Jesus movement” was challenging the church to a more vibrant life. Changes were coming in worship, early stirrings that have led to where we are in the contemporary worship scene today.

As a pastor, part of my responsibility was to give leadership in worship; the more I read about and viewed the changing scene, the more I was coming to understand that modern worship could be just about anything you want it to be, just about anything was pleasing to God.

The walls were being pushed outward, sometimes beyond the limits in the minds of an older generation who sometimes were resistant to change. But the doors of change were open and a new contemporary breeze was blowing in, perceived by many as salvation for churches in decline that were running out of ideas of how to attract the un-churched.

During these early years of my ministry I began to broaden my reading as I focused on the church and on worship. I came across the writings of Robert Webber, who opened a new door for me and challenged me with a whole new perspective on worship and the church. It was a challenge to look beyond the familiar, not to discredit the old, even ancient forms of Christian worship, expressed in various liturgies.

I was a novice in this area, being immersed in the simplicity of non-liturgical Baptist worship. Slowly I began to open my thinking to a form of worship that was so rich with meaning and theological depth.

As a “good Protestant,” I had always considered such worship as being “too Roman Catholic.” In searching, I came to see the depth of my prejudice and my bias toward one particular form of worship, a perspective which would change gradually over time.

About the same time I read a book by another author previously unknown to me, Peter Gillquist. In The Physical Side Of Being Spiritual, Gillquist, who was himself on a spiritual quest that would eventually lead him into the Antiochian Orthodox Church, pushed my inquisitive door open a bit wider. He challenged me to think deeper about worship in its physical forms and symbols and challenged me to explore spirituality from a perspective previously unknown to me. The journey continued.

Over my years of ministry, as I sought to give spiritual leadership to the congregations I served, I was at the same time on my own spiritual pilgrimage. Many times I was uncertain of where I was going, but I kept pushing doors and exploring different pathways. As I looked around me at contemporary church life, I was disheartened by the all too-visible “easy-believism” and “cheap grace” that Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote so disparagingly about in his Cost Of Discipleship.

I came to realize that the church was so often a follower of trends and “here-today-gone-tomorrow” ideas on methodology, ministry, worship, church growth and spirituality. Everyone seemed to have their own concept of the “New Testament Church,” resulting in a dizzying array of books and programs offering the answer.

Sadly I watched as many well-meaning, but I believe misdirected leaders divided churches (yes, often Baptist churches) and went off with a handful of followers to build their own version of “the New Testament Church.”

My quest was never an obsession, but always in my field of vision as I read and thought in areas of worship, personal spiritual development and the church. I always believed there had to be answers to my questions. I never thought that those answers would take me back beyond the Reformation and my divided Protestant heritage, to a time when the church spoke with one voice. I began reading some of the early church documents as well as writings of the early Church Fathers, all of which opened a whole new world to me.

Time moved on. It was not until the late 90’s, after twenty-five years of pastoral ministry, that I was introduced to the Eastern Orthodox Church. One Sunday morning before worship, one of our couples came through the door with a friend who was visiting for the first time.

The introductions were made and there before me stood an imposing and impressive gentleman about my age, but with a long flowing, graying beard and long hair, dressed in a “ministerial” black suit. I had no idea at the time that he was a Russian Orthodox priest and I couldn’t see the clerical collar under his beard. He appeared to be intently interested in our worship and to my surprise remained after the service to join in my Sunday School class.

I was teaching a series of studies on the spiritual disciplines and happened that morning to be teaching on the discipline of prayer. Here I was, the “expert” with all the answers. My class was very interactive and discussion played a key role in the learning process.

Our guest felt very comfortable to enter into the discussion, and I discovered as I listened to him that here was a man with an understanding of our topic that ran deeper than the level at which I was teaching that morning. I found that my heart was hungering for a deeper experience of the spirituality of prayer and here was someone I wanted to get to know better. It was only after the morning was over that I was told this visitor, a quiet and unassuming man who displayed a sense of deep spirituality, was Father Innocent, a Russian Orthodox priest.

The friendship that developed out of this initial encounter led to many visits to his home, times of question and discussion, good conversation that gently nudged me toward the Orthodox Church.

Never once did I ever hear him criticize the Baptist church or put down my theology or practice. But gradually and gently he led me far beyond where I was. I would come home with a book to read, an Orthodox magazine or some article he felt I would find interesting.

My questions were being answered, the issues were being diffused and in the depth of my soul I knew I was on the right path. But it took moving from Nova Scotia to Birmingham, Alabama to actually become Orthodox.

In 2005 at Pascha, I was chrismated into the Antiochian Orthodox Church at the Church of the Annunciation, under the spiritual leadership of Father Nabil Fino, who brought me as a catechumen into the Church. From Father Innocent to Father Nabil, God has graciously led me step by step into the Church.

There was a time when I was so theologically opinionated and narrow in my views, that I wouldn’t have given a thought about moving toward the Eastern Orthodox Church. In my Protestant frame of mind I wouldn’t exercise such freedom. God does work in mysterious ways.

Today, in the Eastern Orthodox Church, my questions have found answers and I have discovered a well-grounded, unchanging liturgy, theology and spirituality that have stood the tests of time, being rooted in the Apostles, the Early Church Fathers, the Desert Fathers and Mothers, as well as the saints through the ages. The rich spiritual heritage of the various forms of the Eastern Orthodox Church enrich my soul, as I have come to understand and appreciate those ancient forms that are so spiritually relevant for our world today.

My journey has led me to a true spiritual sanctuary.

About Yoga – Journey to Orthodoxy

http://whataboutyoga.wordpress.com

WHAT ABOUT YOGA?

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http://journeytoorthodoxy.com/?s=yoga

About Yoga

Journey to Orthodoxy

Link: Holy Cross Monastery in East Setauket, New York, USA

https://usaofmyheart.wordpress.com

USA OF MY HEART

32151

East Setauket, New York, USA

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http://holycrossmonasterysetauket.blogspot.com

Holy Cross Monastery

in East Setauket, New York, USA

Holy Cross Monastery
140 Main St
East Setauket, NY 11733-2834

╰⊰¸¸.•¨*

Fr. Parthenios

Email: frparthenios@gmail.com

tel.: (631) 681-5319

Click HERE