July 29, 2013 saw celebration of the annual feast day, which celebrates a church’s patron saint, occurring in Orange, New Jersey. This is a major event of all Orthodox Christian Parishes. To most, this is seconded only by a church being raised to a cathedral.
Until recently, these celebrations were typically done in isolation within a single ethno-religious community. The recent change is due in large part to the Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches’ (SCOOCH) work, specifically a directive issued in November 2009. This directive stated to “invite members of nearby sister churches to participate in celebrations and liturgical services that are unique to your own tradition, such as the commemoration of a patron saint, national feast day or other holy day.”
To help honor this initiative SCOOCH delegate V. Rev. Fr. Melake Ganet Tesfa Eyesus along with his fellow priests V. Rev. Fr. Melake Birhan Gabre Mefes Kidus and V. Rev. Fr. Melake Selam Poulos, hosted a gathering of deacons from St. Anthony Coptic Orthodox Church of Medford, NJ as well as St. Mary & St. Demiana Coptic Orthodox Church of White Plains, NY. This meeting was the annual festival commemorating the feast of St. Gabriel the Archangel, their patron saint. This event was also attended by Rev. Fr. Saife of Ethiopia and the Rev. Fr. Mahitima Selassie of Holy Trinity Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church of Bronx, NY.
Earlier in the year, the clergy of Debre Ganet Kidus participated in the Proclamation of St. Peter’s Malankara-Syriac Orthodox Church of Philadelphia, to be a cathedral. This event was hailed over by members of the SCOOCH as well as many Oriental Orthodox figureheads. Also attending this ceremony were clergy from many local Syriac and Malankara-Syriac congregations.
These events have highlighted the true love, unity and brotherhood in Christ of the Oriental Orthodox Churches. In each event, the solemn sacred ceremonies of ancient tradition feature full participation of each priest and deacon regardless of jurisdiction. These ceremonies were followed by large meals with boundless laughter happiness and an abundance of ethnic cuisine presented by the attendees as well as the hosting location. SCOOCH has expressed their happiness with the outcomes of their initiative, and hope to see it adopted by more locations.
Another of these mixed gatherings occurred in celebration of St. Michael the Archangel at St. Michael Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in Englewood, NJ. This gathering featured SCOOCH delegates, clergy from a handful of other churches, including Debre Ganet Kidus Gabriel Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and St. Anthony Coptic Orthodox Church.