It was with great joy that the community of St. George in North Canton celebrated the fourth Sunday of Great Lent. Immediately prior to Divine Liturgy, long-time member and faithful parishioner Denice Resanovich was formally received in the Orthodox Faith. In the presence of family and friends, she affirmed her faith and entered into communion with Orthodox Christians throughout the world.
Joining the parish for service that day were a group of teens from the United Church of Christ in Massillon, Ohio. The students, with two chaperones, observed the Divine Liturgy and experienced their first service in an Orthodox Church. As a special treat to the guests, Fr. Aleksa engaged in a 40-minute question and answer session. The students bravely asked a series of questions including, “what are icons and how do we use them?”, “who can take communion? Is it wine or grape juice? Do you distribute it to everyone?”, “why is the church built the way it is?”, and many more.
In all his answers, Fr. Aleksa continually stressed that the Liturgical life of the church, including our art and architecture, manifest a particular understanding – “God is with us.” More specifically, however, Fr. Aleksa linked the Liturgical life and experience of the church to the very Kingdom of God itself, and he described our liturgical experience as immersive in terms of our senses, thoughts, and prayers. The teens and their chaperones were wonderful guests with many fantastic questions. Parishioners from the St. George parish also stayed in church to learn.
Later that evening, Fr. Aleksa travelled to Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church on Racoon Rd in Youngstown, Ohio where the priests of the Serbian Eastern Diocese Cleveland Deanery gathered for Lenten Vespers. This service was unique, however, in that it was a Pan-Orthodox gathering, bringing together clergy from the Serbian Eastern Diocese as well as clergy from the Youngstown Orthodox Clergy Brotherhood. In front of a completely full congregation, the clergy prayerful moved from the light-colored vestments donned for Sunday’s resurrectional service and back into the royal-purple reserved for solemn Lenten prayers. Following the dismissal, all in attendance gathered for a wonderful meal in the parish hall.
Fr. Aleksa Pavichevich was the scheduled speaker for the evening, and he offered an interactive seminar presentation based on the theme, “Forgiveness: A Miracle”. Beginning with a powerful story of forgiveness plucked from the horrific and tragic shootings in Charleston, South Carolina, Fr Aleksa discussed the ways in which we avoid seeking true forgiveness, and transitioned into various methods by which we can learn to forgive. The presentation was steeped in Scripture, and those in attendance were given paper and pencil and asked to write responses throughout. The questions and answer session afterwards lasted more than an hour, with faithful and clergy alike commenting on the topic and asking Fr Aleksa a variety of questions.
In addition to approximately 200 faithful, 15 clergy were present for Vespers, representing 7 different Orthodox Christian jurisdictions: Fr. Basil Duesenberry, OCA – Bulgarian Diocese; Fr. Andrew Goal, Ukrainian Orthodox Church; Fr. Michale Lillie – Russian Orthodox Church in the United States of America; Rev. Deacon David Gemmel , OCA – Diocese of the Midwest; Fr. Thomas Constantine, GOA; Fr. Daniel Rohan, Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese; Fr. John Harvey, Ukrainian Orthodox Church; Very Rev. Protopresbyter-Stavrophor Vladimir Demsuk; Ven. Protosindjel Sava (Medakovic); Very Rev. Protopresbyter Milan Pajic; Rev. Presbyter Aleksa Pavichevich; Rev. Presbyter Bosko Stojanovic; Rev. Presbyter Vedran Grabic; Rev. Deacon Zeljko Jurosevic; and host-priest, Rev. Presbyter Dragan Goronijc the Dean of the Cleveland Deanery.