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DIOCESE OF EASTERN AMERICA AND NEW YORK: April 28, 2009
Metropolitan Hilarion Makes His First Archpastoral Visit to Atlanta

On Friday evening, April 3, and Saturday morning, April 4, 2009, the day of the Akathist Hymn to the Mother of God, His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion celebrated the matins service and then Divine Liturgy at Joy of All Who Sorrow Russian Orthodox Church in Cumming, Georgia, along with Archpriest Alexis Duncan (rector of the parish); visiting Mitred Archpriest John Townsend (from St Mary of Egypt Orthodox Church in Roswell, GA); visiting Priest Steven Ritter (also from St Mary of Egypt); and visiting Deacon Zachary Rose (St Mary of Egypt). This was the first time Vladyka Hilarion had returned to the parish since accepting it under his omophorion in 1995, and his first trip back to Atlanta since just before his departure for Australia in 1996.

During the minor entrance at Liturgy, Vladyka awarded Fr Alexis the palitza (epigonation) for his many years of service to the church. A lovely repast was provided after the Liturgy by members of the parish at a beautiful new local park facility where all were able to enjoy the Metropolitans company, and to hear an update on the church building program from Fr Alexis. The parish hopes to begin construction in the near future.

On Saturday evening, April 4, and Sunday morning, April 5, 2009, the day of St Mary of Egypt, His Eminence celebrated the all-night vigil and then Divine Liturgy along with Fr John; Fr Alexis Duncan; Fr Steven Ritter; visiting Priest Seraphim Scheidler (currently serving in Tennessee); and visiting Protodeacon Leonid Mickle from St John the Baptist Cathedral in Washington, DC. This extremely festive occasion also marked Vladyka Metropolitans first pastoral visit to St Marys. Those that had not seen him for so many years were indeed blessed to have him with us again. The hundreds of congregants were delighted and inspired by Vladykas presence, sermon, and many talks with parishioners between services.

Also participating in the services were the deacons of St Mary of Egypt, Frs. John Hanson, Anthony Bridges, and Zachary Rose.

During the hours the Metropolitan tonsured Miguel Muelle a Reader of the church, and at the little entrance elevated Priest Steven Ritter to the dignity of Archpriest.

After liturgy, all participated in a molieben to St Mary of Egypt with a procession around the church. Vladyka Hilarion then toured the church (which is in the process of beginning a building program for a new parish hall due to large growth) and was treated to a celebratory Lenten meal sponsored by the sisterhood of the parish and contributed to by many parishioners. It was truly a joyous event to have our Archpastor and ruling bishop among us, one that will not be forgotten soon.

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