On Sunday, August 14th, the St George Parish held a luncheon to honor our Deacon Larry Soper, and his wife Adrienne, before they departed for studies at St Vladimir’s Seminary.
The day began with a beautiful Divine Liturgy with many faithful in attendance. During the service, Fr Aleksa offered a homily about the ‘worry’ that is pervasive in our modern life. The ‘worry’ we experience leads us to fear, and fear leads us to act in ways that run contrary to our better judgment, and contrary to our moral foundation. He related that ‘worry’ to the day’s Gospel, where the disciples worried about feeding the 5000 men, plus women and children, and asked our Lord Jesus Christ to send them away from such a ‘desolate’ place so that the crowds might find sustenance.
Our Lord, however, addressed the fear directly – he offered all those present the nourishment they needed through the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. For their part, the disciples did not understand how their worry would be alleviated – they only needed to follow the Lord’s instruction by passing the baskets and trusting that he would provide what was necessary.
Following Divine Liturgy, the parish gathered in the Serbian Center for a wonderful Lenten luncheon. At the outset of the meal, Church Board President Nick Pribich related the story of his first time meeting Dn Larry more than 10 years ago at St George Church. He shared his personal respect and love for the Deacon and, on behalf of the Board, wished him continuing growth in faith and in life.
When the meal was nearly over, Fr Aleksa offered words about Deacon Larry – he explained how the community, together, proclaimed “Axios!” at his ordination. The community was able to do that because we know of Dn Larry’s exemplary service to Christ, the church, and to the neediest in Stark and Summit Counties. Fr Aleksa also advised Dn Larry and Adrienne that school, and the move to New York, would be a challenging adventure – but the life of the church, and the services of the chapel, would offer them the foundation they need to endure and to continue growing in Christ and Orthodoxy.
Father Deacon Larry then offered his personal reflection about his growth at the St George parish. He reminded the community how during a difficult time in his life he was seeking a new spiritual home. At St George he found that home – the people warmly embraced him, invited him to coffee hour, and integrated him into their family. He looked around the room and offered his love for every person, speaking to their impact on his journey into the faith.
Kathy Tobias, president of the Circle of Serbian Sisters, concluded the testimonial by recounting her personal experiences with Deacon Larry. She expressed how much his faith, growth, and service have meant to the church and how exciting it was to witness his journey to diaconal ordination, and then to seminary. The Kolo then presented Dn Larry and Adrienne with a gift of $500 to help him with his move and the related expenses.
It was a bittersweet day for the community. The day was bitter because Dn Larry and his wonderful wife Adrienne will be departing for three years of ministerial formation at St Vladimir’s in New York. We at St George will miss his presence and faithful service, and we will miss Diakonica Adrienne’s beautiful and pious demeanor.
The day was also sweet, however, as Dn Larry and Adrienne are continuing their growth in Jesus Christ. They will deepen their relationship with our Lord while, at the same time, learning how to be his faithful servants to the Orthodox people in this country.
May God grant Deacon Larry and Adrienne Soper many years!