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Saint Mary Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church
Hunt Valley, MD

Beloved in Christ St. Mary’s family, 
 
Happy first Anniversary! Last year today, we celebrated the glorious and holy Consecration of our church and chapel of St. George. What a day it was!! The joy gathering of all of us and our brethren around our Metropolitan and Hierarchs, fervent prayers and supplications; smiles on the faces; filled spaces; delicious food, and above all, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit who sanctifies all things and heals the sick and completes what is lacking. 
 
I vividly remember all the details for that Holy Weekend; I remember the toil and tireless efforts of many people doing whatever possible to make that event The Event par excellence. A year after the event and I am in owe and appreciation to the members of the parish council then and now for guiding and facilitating the work, to the fantastic group of the consecration committee who worked hard on every single detail, from food to setting up, to gifts, to organizing the events and gave from their time and efforts to serve the church. I am in special awe of the people who helped and worked on producing the special Consecration Journal. I specifically remember the long meetings after Sunday liturgy to go over all the book's details, the search for all the information that they could find, and the creativity in putting things together. I remember how this mission impossible became possible with a beautiful and dedicated and self-motivated team. “The History and Legacy of St. Mary’s” book came to life. It brought history, people, memories, and memorable moments; to look back to almost 40 years of work in a church to THANK God for His blessings and how He arranges times and people to serve His Holy Church and healing our mistakes and transgressions. 
 
This first year after the Consecration has been strange and weird. We face a global pandemic that changed our lives, interaction, daily details, and even how we attend church and come to church. We had months of limiting our services to only one clergy and a chanter and an altar server, and I cannot tell you enough how tough and challenging that was, to pray alone with no people inside, how sad it looked with empty pews. But at the same time, we realized the blessing and how much the prayer can be effectual in bringing us together. How much you are praying at home with us brought us strength and hope. Once in Mount Athos, a monk told me that God outpours His grace at once, and then and because He loves us, He wants us to share and do our part, He allows the grace to be pulled out a little, so the faithful do their part in communicating with the Heavenly grace through prayer, supplications, and spiritual efforts. 
 
During this time and since March, I am confident that the prayers have not ceased at all, and I want to share with you a witness, I experienced and still do, that tells me always that God is here and we are not to be afraid. Right before the Consecration, I met two gentlemen that I used to see standing by the church's doors praying. They are Ethiopians, very faithful, and very prayerful. I witnessed them coming to our parking lot, taking off their shoes by their cars, and coming to stand by the church's glass door. There, they pray and do prostrations, sometimes for hours. They never entered the building; they always gently excuse themselves, asking if I allow them to stand outside by the door to pray, no matter how cold or hot. During the pandemic, they have not stopped coming; actually, they started coming more frequently. While the church doors were locked, and we were doing the service inside, they stood outside, praying and doing prostrations and lighting candles. Every Sunday until today, I arrive at the church around 7:30 in the morning, and they are always there standing praying barefoot (they consider the outdoor of the church and the steps Holy Place that you cannot stand there with your shoes on). Today if you come and walk up the stairs to the church, you will see a very humble corner they created using two marble stones as a candle place where they light their candles when they come to pray, and I am not going to remove that to honor them. This witness teaches me a lot, assures me that prayer is the pillar that our life is built upon, that worship is the anchor in time of temptations and trial and that we have survived until today through the prayer of many holy men and women, including these two humble men. 
 
The Holy Tradition teaches us that when a church gets consecrated, guardian angels will be assigned to protect the church and be around all the time praying and supplicating for the church and the people. I believe that God wants us to know that this is very true in showing us these two men coming to pray barefoot in the hot and the cold weather while the church is open or closed and while many did not, and do not come even while the doors are opened, and the AC or the Heating unit is on the inside. 
 
It is the year of the Lord, it is the year of learning and counting our blessings, it is the year where we pray with the Psalmist, “For thou, O God, hast proved us: thou hast tried us, as silver is tried.” (Ps. 66:10)
 
Blessed Consecration Anniversary, and may we be proven to be the people who “preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:19).
 
 
Yours in Christ, 
 
Fr. Damaskinos 



 
Saint Mary Orthodox Church
A Parish of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America

Most Rev. Metropolitan JOSEPH 
Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese
 
Right Rev. Bishop THOMAS  Diocese of Charleston and Oakland and the Mid-Atlantic
 
Rev Father Damaskinos Issa, Pastor
 
 
Parish Council and Church Leaders
 Robert Sallitt
Sam Darraj
Mary Rizkallah

Eiad Nasser
George Makhamreh

Sylvia Tsakalos
Andy Markopoulos
Nuha Jabaji 
Christ Kerlish
Choir Director: Elie Azar
Sunday School: Sylvia Tsakalos
Youth Director: Zade Jabaji
JOY:Hayat Jabbour, Yousef Jabaji
Teen SOYO president:Sarah Jabbour
SOYO Advisors: Abe Morjana, Andrew Markopoulos
Ladies Society: Nuha Jabaji
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Our mailing address is:
909 Shawan Rd, Hunt Valley, MD 21030
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St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church · 909 Shawan Rd · Cockeysville, Md 21030 · USA

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