Introduction and Brief Parish History:
Brothers and sisters in Christ, this year marks St. Barbara's 35th Anniversary! Three and a half decades ago our Church officially started as a mission station of the Diocese of the South and St. Seraphim Cathedral. Founding members met with visiting clergy once a month at a local Episcopal Church, for a brief period of time. The fledgling community soon found a new location in which to worship, the side room of a dental lab in Southwest Ft. Worth, owned by parishioners, John and Elena Hall. The antimension resting on the altar bears the date of July 1979, along with the signature of His Eminence Archbishop Dmitri, of blessed memory.
The Church's patron at that time was St. Nicholas of Myra (4th century). In its early years, however, the Diocese of the South maintained a rule which discouraged the naming of more than one parish after a particular saint. Since a community already existed in Florida bearing the name of St. Nicholas, our Church's patron was soon changed to the Holy Great Martyr Barbara (late 3rd century). The priest during this initial stage of parish development was Father Michael Dunbar. He was St. Barbara's first resident clergyman. In January of 1987 Father Basil Zebrun was assigned as the priest of the Ft. Worth Church.
In 1984 the parish purchased a rectangular, flat roofed, 1600 square foot building, resting on a third of an acre, near the corner of Dan Danciger and Granbury Road, approximately one half mile north of our present location. The building, though modified, still exists as a Church; it was bought by another congregation. The Dan Danciger site served us well for 22 years. It is still difficult to imagine the many activities organized, and services celebrated in that all purpose building. It boasted a 22' x 30' chapel with a 7 foot acoustical tile ceiling. The remaining 940 square foot space was divided into a tiny office and classroom, a narrow "L" shaped hall, a compact kitchen and two small restrooms. The back of the chapel was made of two accordion doors that opened after services to allow extra room for fellowship. Later a peaked roof as well as a small locally made onion dome were added by a parishioner to give the building a more "Orthodox" look. The original dome still rests in our present Church hall.
In its first years, until the mid 1990's, St. Barbara's took part in off-site Ft. Worth events, offering unique foods and folk art, at venues such as Mayfest, Octoberfest and neighborhood malls. Registration and participation fees, health code changes, as well as a dependence on weather conditions eventually made it more desirable -- and necessary -- to relocate festival activities from Ft. Worth Civic venues to the Church building. This change also allowed parishioners the opportunity to welcome local residents to St. Barbara's. The festivals became wonderful outreach events as well as fundraisers. In addition the community gained confidence in the usability of its own facility and began hosting other events on-site, such as annual lectures, the St. Vladimir's Seminary Octet, Chili Cook-off's, and Nativity Eve Holy Supper's. At the same time the parish narrowed its fundraising focus to two annual events: the Spring Pysanky Festival and the Old Country Christmas Ethnic Festival held in the Fall.
St. Barbara's current property was purchased in November of 2001. The three acre lot was initially vacant. We began construction on our present facility in 2005 and received our Certificate of Occupancy in December of 2006. Our first Pascha was celebrated at 5201 Altamesa in the Spring of 2006; a temporary Occupancy Permit was purchased specifically for that weekend. We now have 6400 square feet, four times that of the Dan Danciger location.
The configuration of our new space is more conducive to liturgical services and other activities enjoyed by the faithful. Since the 2006 Winter move-in, the parish has hosted Annual Festivals; a Seminary Octet; a Regional Pan Orthodox Missions Conference; a Regional OCA Christian Education Conference; Diocesan and Deanery Clergy Gatherings; an in-house workshop on "Incapacity and End of Life Issues" with Mr. Louie Papaliodis, J.D. MBA; portions of NTOM Festivals of Orthodoxy; and a community wide class series entitled, "Beginning to Pray." We have also hosted guest speakers such as, Archpriest Peter Gillquist, of blessed memory; Father and Professor Sergius Halvorsen of St. Vladimir's Seminary; Dr. Christopher Veniamin of St. Tikhon's Seminary; Archpriest Dimitri Cozby from Victoria, Texas; Archpriest Theodore Pisarchuk from Jacksonville, Florida; and Father David Rucker and Mr. Kenneth Kidd of the OCMC. We now look forward to hosting Archpriest Daniel Kovalak at the end of this month.
Since 2006 a number of local lecturers have visited us as well, offering their expertise on a variety of topics. In addition, we were blessed to have in our midst for services and fellowship, His Eminence Archbishop Dmitri (the founding hierarch of both the Diocese and St. Barbara's), as well as His Eminence Archbishop Nikon, our current Diocesanlocum tenens. It should be noted also, that for 11 days St. Barbara's was recognized as an Auxiliary Cathedral, the official Episcopal See of (then) Bishop Jonah of Ft. Worth, Auxiliary to Archbishop Dmitri, until his election as Primate of the Orthodox Church in America.
The present facility, although adequate for the parish's current needs, will eventually provide a large enough hall to host meals for 200 people, once our traditional temple is constructed on the east side of the property. In addition, it can easily be expanded for future educational and meeting space as needs arise (see saintbarbarafw.org website for an animated site plan and Church model). Since 2006 our average Sunday attendance has increased by over 50%.
Over the decades many people contributed and sacrificed much toward the work of St. Barbara's. We would be remiss if we did not acknowledge their dedication, as well as that of our current members, on this momentous occasion. For each we offer to God a prayer of thanksgiving. For the departed and beloved founders of this Holy Church, we ask that, "their memory be eternal; that the Lord God beatify them, give them rest in Abraham's bosom and number them among the righteous."
Celebration Agenda for October 23 - 26:
To mark the 35th Anniversary of our community, St. Barbara's is planning a series of events, October 23 - 26. We are happy to announce that our guest speaker for the weekend will be Archpriest Daniel Kovalak. Both he and his wife Matushka Myra will share in our joy, as we remember the past three and a half decades, and look to the years ahead.
Father Daniel is the founding pastor of The Elevation of the Holy Cross Orthodox Church in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. In addition, it is significant that he served as a Deacon at Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Miami, Florida under His Eminence Archbishop Dmitri and our first Chancellor, Archpriest George Gladky in the late 1970's. As a Deacon and assistant to both His Eminence and Father George, Father Kovalak participated in the first organizational meeting of the nascent Diocese of the South. I have asked Father Daniel, where possible, to incorporate reflections into his talks that reference those early years in the Diocese, as well as the working relationship between Archbishop Dmitri and Father George.
Father Kovalak is a graduate of both St. Tikhon's Orthodox Seminary in South Canaan, Pennsylvania, and American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts. He has taught at the Seminary since 1995, lecturing in the area of Pastoral Theology, his field of expertise being Mission and Evangelization. To that course he brings over 37 years of field experience. Father Daniel is an in-demand guest lecturer and retreat speaker, focusing on parish growth and personal spirituality.
It is also significant that besides his many years as rector of Holy Cross Church, Father Kovalak brings experience from years of working for the Church on a national level, as well as a certain expertise in choir directing and Orthodox liturgical music.
In addition, on Saturday afternoon, October 25, we hope to have Matushka Myra Kovalak present a Christian Education Workshop to local parishioners. Matushka Myra has worked many years for the OCA's Department of Christian Education as well as the Orthodox Christian Education Commission. She brings an expertise regarding the curriculum of these two departments, and years of experience teaching on a professional level, organizing Church School Programs and offering workshops to clergy, teachers and parishioners on a variety of Church related topics. Matushka Myra currently serves as the OCA representative and liaison to the OCEC. The Workshop on Saturday, starting at 4 pm, will be followed by Great Vespers at 6:30 pm.
The General Itinerary for the weekend will be as follows:
Thursday Evening, October 23: Vespers at 6:00 pm, will be followed by a Meet and Greet with Father Daniel, Deanery Clergy and Parishioners, as well as some visitors from local Orthodox Churches. During the evening Father Kovalak will offer a brief introduction to Seminary life in general and to St. Tikhon's Seminary specifically.
Friday Morning and Afternoon, October 24: Divine Liturgy at 9:00 am, will be followed by a Lenten Brunch. The afternoon meeting and talks in the Church hall will be with clergy only. The day will end with Vespers at 5 pm, followed by a Lenten meal and fellowship. To Vespers and the meal afterwards, all are naturally invited.
On Saturday, October 25, as we mentioned, we hope to have Matushka Myra present a Christian Education Workshop for parishioners at 4 pm. The workshop will be followed by Great Vespers at 6:30 pm.
On Sunday, October 26, the Divine Liturgy will begin as usual at 10:00 am. Fr. Daniel will be our guest homilist during the service. A Potluck Reception will be offered to the many people that we hope will join us. This will not be a fasting day so a meal similar to the one we served for the Archbishop would be very appropriate.
Near the end of the meal Fr. Daniel will offer a Key Note Address in which he will refer to the significance of a parish's 35th Anniversary, as well as to our responsibility now to carry on during the next 35 years plus, with the legacy of Archbishop Dmitri and Archpriest George Gladky, of blessed memory. He will also refer to the meaning or content of that legacy as one of mission and evangelism.
We hope that we can count on our many volunteers to insure the joy and success of this particular weekend. We hope as well that many of our friends in the surrounding area will join us. The visit of Archbishop Nikon was wonderful, and we know that the weekend of October 23 - 26 will be just as memorable.