On Wednesday, June 18, the feast of the Venerable Nun-Martyrs Grand Duchess Elizabeth and Barbara, St. Elizabeth the New-Martyr Church in Rocky Hill, NJ celebrated its patronal feast day and the 20th anniversary of the parish’s founding. The festal Divine Liturgy was celebrated by Archpriest Serge Lukianov (dean of New Jersey), co-served by Archpriest Liubo Milosevich (rector of Holy Trinity Church in Vineland, NJ), parish rector Archpriest David Straut, Protodeacon Leonid Roschko (cleric of St. Alexander Nevsky Diocesan Cathedral in Howell, NJ), and parish Deacons Seraphim Komleski and Stephanos Bibas. Praying in the church was Protodeacon Paul Drozdowski (cleric of St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral).
Many parishioners and believers from neighboring parishes gathered for the divine service. Greeting the faithful, Fr. David talked about the life of Venerable Martyr Elizabeth. Many parishioners and children received Christ’s Holy Mysteries.
At the conclusion of the service, the clergy served a short moleben before the icon of the Nun-Martyr Elizabeth, as well as in thanksgiving in honor of the 20th anniversary of the parish’s founding. Fr. Serge relayed his words of congratulations to the clergy and parishioners on the occasion their patronal feast day, and remarked on the life of the church’s patroness. He noted, in part, the charity and generosity St. Elizabeth displayed toward her husband’s murderer; she did not leave Russia but, out of love for the country that became her second home, founded a monastery of mercy in Moscow.
It is worth noting how revered the Nun-Martyr Elizabeth is in the Russian Church Abroad. Churches and monasteries are dedicated to her in America, Germany, Australia, and elsewhere. Many temples around the world are dedicated to this saint, who demonstrated her steadfastness in the face of enemies. St. Elizabeth was a convert, like many parishioners of the parish in Rocky Hill; the faithful were encouraged to imitate her example.
The parish was founded 20 years ago, in the house of Fr. David Straut. He and his Matushka Faith, children, and several friends prayed at the divine services. Now, those who have converted to Orthodoxy from other faiths are among the many parishioners. The parish grows, develops, preserves, and supports Russian traditions.
Fr. Serge thanked Fr. David and Matushka Faith for their devotion and hard work, wished them the help and blessings of God and wished for everyone, together with the group of pilgrims, to visit Gethsemane next year and pray before the relics of the Nun-Martyr Elizabeth and Nun Barbara, who shared in her martyric death.
Later in the church courtyard, a festal luncheon was held, where interaction between the clergy and parishioners continued.