Old Rite church in Erie celebrates 40th anniversary of restoration of priesthood

Erie, Pennsylvania, July 19, 2023

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The Old Rite Church of the Nativity of Christ in Erie, Pennsylvania, festively celebrated the 40th anniversary of the restoration of the priesthood and its union with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia on Sunday.

When the parish of the Nativity of Christ was founded in 1916, it belonged to a group of priestless (bespopovtsy) Old Believers.

But when Pimen Simon became the nastavnik (parish head) in the mid-1970s, he realized that something needed to be done to keep new generations of parishioners in the church. Thus, in 1980, the church began introducing English into its services.

Even more dramatically, following a deep study of the 17th-century Old Believer schism, Simon concluded that the parish needed to reunite with the fullness of Church and have a bishop and priest to celebrate the Sacraments.

Eventually the majority of the parish came to agree, and on July 24, 1983, Simon was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Laurus (Škurla; later Metropolitan, † 2008), and the Church of the Nativity of Christ was consecrated. During the Dormition Fast in 1983, Fr. Pimen baptized more than 500 parishioners.

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And on Sunday, July 16, the 40th anniversary of the restoration of the priesthood was celebrated with a hierarchical Divine Liturgy, the church reports.

The Liturgy was celebrated by His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas of Eastern America and New York, the First Hierarch of ROCOR, and His Grace Bishop John of Caracas and South America, who is also the bishop for the Old Rite in ROCOR.

Both the hierarchical Vigil and Liturgy were livestreamed on the parish’s YouTube channel:

Following Holy Communion, the hierarchs, clergy, and faithful festively processed around the church.

At the end of the service, Met. Nicholas preached on the importance of the priesthood and the life in the Church:

We have a special celebration, and to give thanks to Almighty God, for 40 years of the priesthood and Sacraments, we give thanks and serve the Divine Liturgy. This is our thanksgiving, our gratitude to God for blessing us. We have this church, this sanctuary, this small piece of Heaven on Earth. We come to pray, to repent, to ask, to give, and to receive. It’s something special, something not of this world. Outside there is confusion, darkness, and sin. And we live there, daily.

But having this sanctuary, attending the Divine services, we are blessed, we feel God’s protection to continue our daily lives. This is why it is important to make every effort to attend the evening and daily services. I’m happy to see that here there is quite a rigorous church schedule. This is joyful, this is commendable. Please continue for many years to come. And the church, the clergy, the icons are here for you.

Whether you are here or not is up to you. And whether or not you have this blessing and feel the sanctuary or feel lost and displaced outside in the world is also up to you. Take advantage of what you have, take advantage of what God has given you and build on it. Build spiritually, build in number, by being good examples to invite many more to the Orthodox faith, and to become part of the Church family and stay on the path of salvation.

We heard the Gospel reading today from St. Matthew. We need to, brothers and sisters, make every effort to daily read from the Holy Scriptures, and of course the Holy Gospel. Even one page. The ordained clergy, our readers, our subdeacons, and so on—the deacons, the priests, the bishops, make every effort to edify themselves by reading and those around them. But you need to do this as well. The Gospel is the living word, the truth, the faith, the way, and of course, that path to salvation.

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Further, Met. Nicholas preached about the healing of the paralytic, noting that we all have our own sicknesses and sins, and that we can all come to Christ in the Church to find healing.

Met. Nicholas then presented Fr. Pimen and the parish an icon of the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church painted by the famous iconographer Archimandrite Alypy of Jordanville.

Learn more about the Church of the Nativity of Christ in Erie in the article, “The Way We Serve Is Our Means of Communicating With God.”

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