In the past two weeks, I have visited St. Philip Orthodox Church in Tampa, the OCA Diocese of the South Assembly in Atlanta, and Christ the Savior Orthodox Church in Brooksville, FL. Each was a very good experience and each very different. All three of these groups are pioneering missionary work in Florida and throughout the Southeastern United States. I’ve learned far more from them than the other way round.
St. Philip in Tampa is a missionary endeavour of other OCA parishes in the bay area to plant an indigenous, English-language Orthodox community on the north side of Tampa. They are small in number right now but faithful in worship. Nothing I can say about these folks will do them justice.
Christ the Savior is a mission of the Greek Orthodox Church in rural Hernando County, FL. You don’t often see small, rural Orthodox parishes in this part of the world. And Christ the Savior is, in my view, THE model for rural Florida Orthodoxy. It’s one of the most exciting and vibrant communities I’ve seen anywhere.
Between those two Sundays, a friend and I drove up to Atlanta to be at the Thursday session of the OCA Diocese of the South Assembly at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral. When the Diocese of the South was born in the 1970s, it was a handful of parishes in Florida. Since then, this local Church has grown from New Mexico to Oklahoma to Kentucky and has raised up a generation of indigenous Southern Orthodox Christians committed to glorifying God in their own culture and tongue. On Thursday I met many heroes of American Orthodoxy and was privileged to witness the business of the Church that six years ago brought me into the fullness of the faith.
Travels will get even busier in the coming months. I’m learning to become more organized, and learning how much time it takes just to take care of business– make plans, stay in touch with people, prepare for talks and presentations. Please keep this work in your daily prayers!