On Friday, August 2, the mission parish located in Pigeon Forge, TN, and dedicated to the Holy Prophet Elijah, celebrated its patronal feast. This was the very first such celebration in the history of the mission, and all who participated came away with a palpable sense of grace and hope for the future.
All-Night Vigil was served the night before by the rector, Archpriest Mark Tyson, with a small choir of his sons singing the responses. It was particularly moving for the family to have Fr. Mark’s 19-year-old son Elias, who was preparing to celebrate his namesday, as the primary chanter.
On the feast itself, Archpriest Job Watts, rector of the neighboring St. Nektarios Church in Lenoir City, TN, arrived with a large number of his parishioners. Fr. Job concelebrated Liturgy with Fr. Mark. Also in attendance were Matushka Elizabeth Williams and her children from St. Tikhon Church in Bristol, VA. Many of the guests prepared and received Christ’s Holy Mysteries. The parish had not experienced such attendance since Pascha, a fact which gave great joy to everyone.
In his sermon, Fr. Mark noted the special devotion maintained historically by Slavic Orthodox people to the Holy Prophet Elijah, calling upon him especially to send rain during periods of drought. Fr. Mark also noted the great courage shown by the Prophet during a time of chaos and mass apostasy in Israel, and he exhorted those in attendance to follow the Prophet’s example in remaining true to God and His Church while showing bravery in maintaining our faith during these troubled times.
After the Prayer behind the Ambo, Fr. Mark addressed Fr. Job and his parishioners with words of gratitude for the tremendous spiritual and material support they had given to the new mission. The Polychronion was sung in a Carpatho-Russian melody for all of the guests and in the traditional Russian melody for Elias Tyson as he celebrated his namesday. Then, the entire group gathered at the pavilion outside the church building for a festal luncheon.
Holy Prophet Elijah Church was founded in November 2018 with the blessing of Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of ROCOR. The first service was held on the Eve of Christ’s Nativity, January 6, 2019. Since that time, the parish has found a permanent location and services are being held every weekend, as well as on the eves and days of important Church feasts. Information about the service schedule and contact information for Fr. Mark can be found on the parish website: www.orthodoxpigeonforge.org.