On Wednesday the 16th and Thursday the 17th of December, Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan visited Wayne, WV in order to bless the newest chapel of our Diocese, dedicated to Venerable John of Damascus, the great defender of icons and the author of the Paschal Canon and many other treasured Orthodox hymns. The chapel is on the premises of Damascene Gallery Icons, a small icon production business run by Priest Jonah Campbell, which is also dedicated to St. John of Damascus. The chapel is attached to the Christ the Savior parish, where Fr. Jonah has served as rector since 2011.
Though Fr. Jonah had long dreamed of having a functioning chapel at Damascene Gallery, the actual completion of the chapel was prioritized in early 2020, when COVID restrictions made it seem likely that public services would not be able to be held during lockdowns. Thankfully, such restrictions never prevented the continuous conducting of divine services at Christ the Savior parish. Currently, all Sunday and feast day services are being conducted at Christ the Savior, and typically one extra cycle of services is conducted weekly at the chapel of St. John of Damascus, giving the faithful additional opportunities to partake of Christ’s Holy Mysteries during the pandemic.
On Wednesday, the Protectress of the Russian Diaspora ‒ the wonderworking Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God ‒ was brought to the chapel and greeted by Fr. Jonah and the gathered faithful. Fr. Jonah then served All-Night Vigil in the chapel, assisted by parish Deacon Andrew Temple, while Bishop Nicholas prayed in the nave. Priest Jan Veselak (attached cleric) also prayed during the service.
The following morning, the Lesser Blessing of Water was conducted, followed by the greeting of His Grace, Bishop Nicholas, the Entry Prayers, and the Third and Sixth Hours. After the reading of the Hours, Bishop Nicholas performed the lesser blessing of the chapel and greeted those gathered, encouraging them to cleave to Christ and to the Mother of God at all times, making our best efforts to attend as many services as possible both at the local parish and at the newly blessed chapel. Following the blessing, His Grace celebrated Divine Liturgy, co-served by Fr. Jonah and parish Protodeacon Jeremiah Davis. Fr. Andrew Temple helped serve in the altar. During Liturgy, many of the faithful communed of Christ’s Holy Mysteries.
The services were beautifully chanted by the choir of Christ the Savior parish, under the capable direction of Matushka Margaret Davis, the parish choir director.
After the Prayer Behind the Ambo, a short moleben was served to the Kursk Root Icon and to St. John of Damascus, which was followed by an edifying sermon by Bishop Nicholas, in which he described the life of St. John, emphasizing in particular the saint’s devotion to the Mother of God, by whom he was healed following the severing of his hand (depicted in the icon of the Mother of God "Of Three Hands," one of which represents the restored hand of St. John of Damascus). Following the dismissal, a small luncheon was served, while a discussion was held by those present focusing on the growth of Christ the Savior parish and their plans for the future, which include expanding their Food Pantry efforts and building a new parish hall on the grounds of the church property.
The faithful present were tremendously grateful to Bishop Nicholas for visiting us during these challenging times and for bringing the wonderworking Kursk Root Icon to visit the newest chapel of our Eastern American Diocese.