This year, which marks the 20th anniversary of the founding of Holy Apostles Church in Beltsville, MD, the parish was graced with the visits of two wonderworking icons of the Mother of God: the myrrh-streaming Iveron Icon of Hawaii and the Kursk Root Icon "of the Sign."
The Myrrh-Streaming Iveron Icon of Hawaii
On Monday evening, August 30, Deacon Nectarios Yangson, guardian of the myrrh-streaming Iveron Icon of the Mother of God of Hawaii, arrived with the icon in Beltsville. Parishioners and friends from other parishes came to the moleben and akathist service, officiated by parish rector Archpriest George Johnson, praying before the holy image and asking for the intercessions of the Mother of God for all of their needs, individually and corporately. In the intimate Mother-Son connection to our Savior and Lord, everything for our salvation in these intercessions is granted. All were anointed with the fragrant myrrh flowing from the icon. Those in attendance were given vials of the myrrh from Fr. Nectarios for blessing of the sick and people in need.
"We have asked Fr. Nectarios to pray to the Mother of God for our parish, to help us build the Lord's Church in Beltsville, Maryland," writes Matushka Deborah Johnson. The parish has been renting a space in an office park. In 2009, they were given a beautiful historic chapel on two acres of land. The chapel had been boarded up for 50 years. It was built in 1880 by a childhood friend of President Ulysses S. Grant, Admiral Daniel Ammen, and is on the National Historic Register. The church is situated on a hill; the grounds are serene, with many lovely, old, stately trees. The property is bordered by a cemetery.
The whole parish community has been working to restore the historic chapel since then, applying for and receiving grant money through a county program. "We need to build a parish hall on the property, which would function as our church until we have completed the restoration of the chapel. We long to build the parish hall and move to our permanent home," adds Matushka Deborah.
Prior to his visit, Fr. Nectarios suggested that the parish dedicate the future parish hall to the Mother of God. Parishioners were immediately notified, and decided to dedicate the parish hall to the Hawaiian-Iveron Icon of the Mother of God. A young altar server, 9-year-old John Cassian Robinson, crafted a cross from small fallen tree limbs tied together. During his visit, Fr. Nectarios took this cross and pressed it to the icon. After the service, the clergy and faithful visited the chapel grounds planted the cross on the spot where the door of the new parish hall is planned to be located. Fr. Nectarios rested the icon on top of the cross, as a seal of the blessing of the dedication.
Shortly thereafter, the parish was visited by the holy Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God.
The 700-Year-Old Kursk Root Icon "of the Sign"
On Saturday evening, November 27, the feast of the Holy Apostle Philip and the eve of the Holy Martyrs and Confessors Gurias, Samonas, and Abibus of Edessa, Eastern American Diocesan vicar Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan, the icon’s guardian, visited the parish with the Kursk Root Icon "of the Sign." The All-Night Vigil that evening was blessed by the presence of hierarch and icon, and the faith were enabled yet again to lay before the Most Holy Theotokos all of their needs and prayers. With the blessing of Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America & New York, parish cleric Priest Christopher Johnson was awarded the right to wear the kamilavka in recognition of his labors for the Faith at Holy Apostles parish.
In the course of a celebratory meal after Vigil, Bishop Nicholas greeted the parish with an archpastoral word, performing in his person the mission given by Christ to the Apostles to teach. Catechumens heard and saw the grace given to Bishops as Apostolic successors. His Grace expressed his joy that so many people had come to Vigil. He encouraged the parish community to continue this work of prayer, coming to the Saturday evening Vigils. He also pointed out that the Mother of God’s visit at this very time, one day before the start of the Nativity Fast, was a consecration by her of the fast-supported journey toward the Great Feast of the Nativity.
As the source on earth of Him Who came to save us, we pray with the generations who have called her blessed: "O Most Holy Theotokos, save us!"
The clergy and faithful of Holy Apostles Church encourage the readers of this article to view the below 13-minute video, which expresses the prayers and hopes of their parish, to build a parish hall and move to their new permanent church home in Beltsville. The video, entitled "The Mountain of God in Beltsville," can be found on the parish’s YouTube channel.