During the ongoing days of the great feast of the Ascension of the Lord, on Friday, June 11, the parish of the Holy Hierarch Luke the Surgeon, Archbishop of Simferopol, in Pompano Beach, FL celebrated its patronal feast. On the eve prior, Eastern American Diocesan vicar Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan arrived at the church to begin his archpastoral visit.
On Thursday evening, June 10, His Grace officiated the All-Night Vigil, and on the day of the feast celebrated Divine Liturgy, co-served by clergy of the Florida Deanery and visiting clerics: Archimandrite Siluan (Lembei; cleric of Three Hierarchs Church in Hollywood), Archpriests Vasily Zelenyuk (parish rector), Alexandre Antchoutine (dean of Florida), Nicholas Bargoot (rector of St. Panteleimon Church in Lantana), Peter Jackson (rector of Holy Apostles Church in Miami), and Roman Galben (chaplain at Paideia Classical Academy in Coconut Creek), and Deacon Nikolai Lochmatow (cleric of the Mid-American Diocese).
Despite its being a workday, a multitude of the faithful gathered to honor the memory of the Holy Hierarch Luke, who is practically our contemporary (this year marks the 60th anniversary of his repose). There is a large Russian-speaking community in the Pompano Beach–Miami area, and people attend church with their large families. This day, many parishioners confessed their sins and communed of Christ’s Holy Mysteries.
An icon of St. Luke with a piece of his relics was placed on an analogion in the middle of the church and beautifully adorned with flowers.
Since Pascha of last year, parishioners have been praying in a rented space where, at the initiative and with the financial assistance of Alexis and Katherine Lukianov, a fully functioning parish was organized in March 2020.
"Our parish is the successor to St. Luke the Blessed Surgeon Mission, which was located at the Paideia school in our neighboring town of Coconut Creek," relates parish warden Alexis Lukianov. "When our relationship with the school came to an end, I suggested thinking about our future and building a real church."
"We have many Russian speakers in Florida, both Orthodox and those who are seeking God but as yet have no spiritual center, no Russian primary school; there is not much by way of interaction for the Orthodox Christians here.
"The organization of the current church space took place during the pandemic, when many people lost their jobs. In March of last year, we were able to find a group of people who rebuilt the space we were renting in recording time.
"It was not without temptations: at the time, the neighboring space was being used by Baptists for their services. Loud rock music played just behind the wall, and we even decided to start Liturgy earlier on Sundays. And suddenly they left! We were able to expand the church and now have a choir room for rehearsals.
"In November of last year, we were able to invite a Russian-speaking priest," Alexis continues. "Fr. Vasily was born in Ukraine and served in Milwaukee. In January 2021, he was officially assigned rector of our church. Fr. Vasily is a very hard worker, always in good spirits, and does many jobs around the parish himself."
"Our plans include finding a picturesque property where we can build a church for about 400 people, a spiritual, educational, and cultural center with a church hall, kindergarten, primary school, assisted living for the elderly, and apartments for our future staff and parishioners who want a place to live," Fr. Vasily says. "This year, we intend to invite another bilingual priest and deacon to our church. Our parish website, YouTube channel, and parish presence on social media are all growing."
"We intend to host large-scale events at the church, including youth and choir conferences geared toward spiritual upbringing and education of the young people in particular," Alexis continues. "The church is currently open for all of the faithful from 9 in the morning to 5 or 6 in the evening. In the morning, Fr. Vasily serves a moleben and akathist. People can come and pray, talk to the priest, and venerate the relics of the saints. In the reliquary we keep here in church, we have the relics of 33 saints and other holy items, including pieces of the relics of the Holy Hierarch John of Shanghai, the Holy Hierarch John the Merciful, Patriarch of Constantinople, the Holy Great Martyrs George the Trophybearer, Demetrius of Thessalonica, and the Healer Panteleimon, the Venerable Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth, the Great Martyrs Barbara and Parasceva, pieces of the Cross of the Lord and the Cincture of the Most Holy Theotokos, and a piece of the sandal of the Holy Hierarch Spyridon of Tremithus."
Upon completion of every service, the parish sisterhood hosts a luncheon for everyone.
"Our parish sisterhood is only just taking shape," says head sister Zita Gurevich. "I acquired a lot of good experience working in Holy Protection Cathedral in Des Plaines (Chicago), where I was a parishioner since 2004 and worked for 15 years in the sisterhood."
Zita came to America 30 years ago and only here began attending church. It was also here that she met Fr. Vasily, and also helped him at the Milwaukee church. Three years ago, she moved to Florida and now shares her own experiences, actively working to benefit the parish, hoping on God and fellow parishioners for help.
Three years ago, Galina Khokhlova came to America from Moscow. A professional financier and the parish’s treasurer, Galina fulfills one more very important obedience – she decorates the church and the icons within, ever perfecting her work.
On June 13, the Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council, which confirmed the Symbol of Faith, Bishop Nicholas celebrated Liturgy in the church, co-served by Frs. Vasily Zelenyuk, Alexandre Antchoutine, and Nikolai Lochmatow. Those who were unable to attend the festal divine services on Friday gathered for the hierarchal Liturgy on Sunday.
Upon completion of the service, His Grace called on the faithful to thank God for giving them a wonderful opportunity to make use of their abilities to glorify the true Faith and grow the only church in America dedicated to the Holy Hierarch Luke of Crimea; and to be fortified spiritually, living a life in Christ and the Orthodox Church under the aegis of their Heavenly patron.
Everyone then gathered for a wonderful luncheon, during which their interaction continued, and many kind words and well-wishes for God’s aid were offered.
Pompano Beach, FL: Bishop Nicholas performs Archpastoral Visit for Patronal Feast of St. Luke the Blessed Surgeon Church - 06/10/21
Photos: T. Veselkina - Media Office of the Eastern American Diocese