Santa Barbara, California, December 18, 2017
The sacred liturgical vessels and icons have been removed from St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church, and Liturgy at the parish was canceled on Sunday due to the continuing southern California wildfires which have now scorched 250,000 acres, reports the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco.
As previously reported, Mother Victoria and the nuns of St. Barbara’s Monastery in Santa Paula had to evacuate their monastery earlier due to the same fire. Thankfully, the nuns were recently able to return to their monastery, and none of the habitation’s structures were destroyed.
The St. Barbara parish’s Facebook also announced the cancelation of Sunday’s Divine Liturgy, noting that the congregation was welcomed at the nearby St. Athanasius Church. The high winds have placed the church within a voluntary evacuation area as of Saturday.
“The devastation that continues to cover this significant area is most distressing. Fire is so unpredictable and no one is safe when the winds are as volatile as they have been,” stated His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco. “While the conditions may be out of our control, what we can do is pray that Our Almighty God may bring comfort and peace to all those suffering, and strength to all the fire fighters and law enforcement officials who are risking their lives for the safekeeping of others.”
Several families from St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Camarillo have lost all or part of their homes and belongings due to the fire, and many others remain evacuated, the Metropolis reports. The threat of more damage remains high due to the low containment of the fires making up the third largest fire in California history.
Fr. Gary Kyriacou of St. Demetrios’ has started an online donation site to help the families of the parish who have been affected by the fire.
Archbishop Demetrios of America has issued a call for prayer and support of all those suffering from the fires:
Our thoughts and prayers are constant and fervent for all the people affected by the latest waves of fires in several California counties. We read reports of houses destroyed, we see the videos of the threatening fires, and we feel the anguish and desperation of the residents. Among them are many orthodox faithful and some of our parishes are directly affected. We are deeply concerned. On behalf of the Holy Eparchial Synod and the plentitude of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, I offer our fervent prayers and stedfast support. May God strengthen all our brethren in California with resolve to persevere this ordeal; and may He the Almighty God of love bring a quick termination of this devastation.
Several Metropolis clergy are first responders with International Orthodox Christian Charities and are working hard in their local communities.
One firefighter, Cory Iverson, has lost his life battling the fires, and the Metropolis has offered up prayers for his soul and the solace of his grieving family.