On Saturday, July 15, with the blessing of its rector, Archimandrite Maximos (Weimar), and of Archpriest John Townsend (dean of Georgia, Alabama & Mississippi), St. John Cassian Chapel in Bessemer, AL, hosted the other Alabama ROCOR missions in the first-ever Alabama Missions Conference.
Vespers was served the night before by Priest Elias Crowder (rector of St. Martin of Tours Mission in Montgomery, AL); on the morning of the 15th, Matins was served by Priest Joseph Gagliano (rector of St. Lawrence the Archdeacon Mission in Alabaster, AL). Divine Liturgy was concelebrated by Fr. Joseph and Fr. Elias immediately after Matins.
This event was conceived as a way to foster a spirit of brotherly love and cooperation between the Alabama missions in the Eastern American Diocese. Five years ago, there was no ROCOR presence in the state of Alabama; now, there are four missions, three of which are located in the central region of the state, along the Birmingham-Montgomery corridor of I-65. Such exciting growth in our Diocese, and what can be done to encourage more, was the topic of discussion among everyone at the cookout following Divine Liturgy.
Reader Justinian Burnett, who serves as warden of St. John Cassian Chapel and organized the event, said, "I am very much looking forward to closer relations with Fr. Joseph and Fr. Elias and their missions. Ecclesiastes 4:12 reminds us that ‘a three-fold cord is not easily broken,’ and it is my sincere desire that, in particular, our three missions here in central Alabama can support and help one another in the task of spreading the light of the Gospel."
It was decided that more frequent concelebrations by the missions, especially on the great feasts, would be mutually advantageous. Many other ideas were discussed for making Orthodoxy more visible in an area where, although there has been a long-time Orthodox presence, it is still relatively unknown. The Alabama faithful were all very encouraged by the conference, and excited about what the future holds for the ROCOR missions there.