Bishop Paul makes first archpastoral visit to Holy Apostles Church, Normal, IL
BLOOMINGTON-NORMAL, IL [MW Diocese Communications] — His Grace, Bishop Paul, made his first archpastoral visit to Holy Apostles Church here Saturday and Sunday, July 4-5, 2015.
Accompanied by Deacon David Gresham, Bishop Paul began his visit to the Bloomington/Normal area on Saturday by touring the campus of Illinois State University and Illinois Wesleyan. He then met with individual parishioners in the afternoon who had requested an audience.
On Saturday evening, Great Vespers was celebrated by priest-in-charge, Priest Danial Doss, and Deacon David. After the dinner that followed, Bishop Paul met informally with the parish council, at which time topics ranging from parish life to campus outreach were discussed.
The Divine Liturgy was celebrated on Sunday, during which Bishop Paul awarded a gold cross to Father Danial with a gold cross from the parish for his dedicated service to the parish. Among the guests were faithful from Saint Luke Church, Palos Hills, IL — Father Danial’s “home parish.”
Afterwards, an all-parish dinner was served in celebration of Holy Apostles patronal feast day. Bishop Paul took this opportunity to again spend time visiting individually with parishioners.
Longtime member Virginia Bartges “instantly felt a warmth with Bishop Paul.… He makes himself so accessible, and is sincerely interested in our parish and its members. He took time to address my individual concerns, and I came away feeling very affirmed in my faith. I think I speak for all in that we look forward to his next visit.”
A gallery of photos of the weekend may be viewed on the parish’s web site here.
Holy Apostles was planted as a mission station in 1997, when a small group of lay people met to discuss the possibility of establishing a local Orthodox church. That group was a mixture of “cradle” Orthodox and recent converts, but all prayed for an Orthodox Christian witness in these “twin cities” where there was no Orthodox church of any jurisdiction.
Later that year, the group received the blessing of His Grace, Bishop [later Archbishop] Job of Chicago to establish a mission station as an outreach of Saint Joseph Church, Wheaton, IL. Saint Joseph clergy traveled to Bloomington-Normal to celebrate services in rented facilities during this initial period.
In 2001, Father John Dickson Brown was ordained to the priesthood and assigned priest-in-charge. Also in that year, property was purchased on Hovey Avenue, and extensive renovation work began on two buildings which eventually became the Church and a multi-function community house. The first Divine Liturgy on the new property was celebrated on the Eve of the Nativity. What had been a mission “station” became a separate mission during this period, named in honor of the Holy Apostles. Father John served until October 2012, when he and his family relocated to the state of Georgia.
Shortly thereafter, Priest Danial Doss began serving as a visiting priest. On March 17, 2013, he was assigned priest-in-charge. By the end of this year, Holy Apostles was elevated to “church” status, and on March 30, 2014, Reader David Gresham was ordained as deacon by His Grace, Bishop Alexander of Toledo.
Today the parish consists of 50-50 “cradles/converts,” with the riches of Greek, Serbian, Russian, Ethiopian, and Coptic heritages currently represented, and several individuals and families have returned to the active, regular practice of their Orthodox faith after many years without a “church home” in the area. And the parish has seen an influx of children and the revitalization of an active Sunday school. Father Danial also initiated campus ministries open to students from Illinois State University and Illinois Wesleyan. While the parish certainly has grown during its nearly two decades of ministry, its focus — to be a witness of the beauty of Orthodoxy to central Illinois — has not changed.