In Memoriam: Priest Gregory Heers

Father Gregory Heers, 81, of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese fell asleep in the Lord on June 11, 2016.  Father Gregory was born on January 17, 1935 and was married to the former Catherine Platos for 52 years.  Father Gregory is survived by his sons John Heers and Fr. Peter Heers, daughter Elizabeth Berg, and eleven grandchildren.

Father Gregory became an Orthodox priest in 1992 and served Antiochian parishes in California and London, Ontario.  Many people from his previous affiliation became Orthodox through his example.  He retired in Greenville, South Carolina, in 2005 and attended Saint John of the Ladder (OCA) with Father Marcus Burch as rector.

In loving memory of Father Gregory memorial donations may be made to further the church building fund: Saint John of the Ladder Orthodox Church, 701 Augusta Arbor Way, Piedmont, SC 29673,

May his memory be eternal, and may his soul dwell with the blessed!

Building Committee Update

On April 8, 2016, the reorganized building committee met. The parish council approved the organization chart showing the new committee and support teams. (See above).

Jeff Helvey was selected to chair the Building Committee, while he and Rich Eich will co-chair the Construction Team. Kirsten Small is the Project Coordinator.

The Construction Team is working on getting the house on the property removed. ECS Carolinas has been selected to complete the required asbestos testing on the house prior to demolition.

The site engineers are working closely with the county to finalize the site drawings; we expect these to be submitted to Greenville County no later than April 20. Once we receive the county’s final approval and permit, the completed Site Plans along with Andrew Gould's Building Construction documents will be provided to George Webb at Clayton Construction, who will obtain final bids from subcontractors and submit a completed construction contract for the project.

Clayton Construction will reach out to the subcontractors with the completed information requesting they resubmit their bids to reflect any changes from the completed drawings. Clayton

will prepare a finalized contract price for St. John’s approval.

The Finance Team, chaired by Bill Wamboldt, is reaching out to potential lenders in anticipation of receiving the construction contract from Clayton Construction.

The pre-construction phase of a major building project is always the longest and most frustrating. Your ongoing prayers and support are greatly needed and appreciated.

The Building Committee and support teams are working to help facilitate efficiency and transparency. The next scheduled Building Committee meeting will be Sunday, May 8, following liturgy.

Lazarus Saturday, Palm Sunday, Holy Week, Et Al

Dear Friends and Faithful,

The blessing of the Lord!

Tomorrow (FRIDAY, APRIL 22) is the final day for confessions before Pascha; neither Fr David nor I will be available for confession during Holy Week. I am available, as noted on the calendar, from 4:00 pm until a few minutes before6:00 pm when we will begin the Vespers of Lazarus Saturday. I have some limited availability for appointments throughout the late morning and early afternoon tomorrow, as well.

Please join us in prayer as we receive our catechumens into the Church through the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Chrismation on Lazarus Saturday, April 23, 2016 at 8:30 am. Divine Liturgy will be followed by a “Champagne and Caviar" Reception. 

There are sign-up sheets in the kitchen for reading over the tomb of Christ from Holy Friday evening until Holy Saturday morning. Please sign up for a thirty minute slot (it seems the early morning hours are those now available). Also, we will begin reading the Book of Acts at 9:00 pm on Holy Saturday (all these time slots are accounted for). Finally, as is our custom, we will read a portion of the Prologue of the Gospel of John (John 1:1 - 17) at the Divine Liturgy of Pascha in as many languages as possible. If you are proficient in a language please let me know which language(s) you are able to do, and I will develop a list of readers and languages (there is also a signup sheet in the kitchen). Eg, the following were the languages read last year: Greek, Latin, Slavonic, Tamil, Bulgarian, German, Italian, Ukrainian, Spanish, Russian, Finnish, and Japanese.

As we are are increasingly crowded at SJOTL, particularly for Sunday Divine Liturgy, Palm Sunday, and  Pascha, it is important for all of us to understand our surroundings in the church, and how they relate to other people, and the various liturgical ministries that are going on (Altar Serving, Choir, Readers, Bellringers, et al). First, please make every effort to remain in the nave once you have entered, leaving only for a 'cause worthy of a blessing'. Because of the relatively small space, hinges on the doors, etc., this 'coming and going' becomes very distracting over the course of service. Second, if you are not singing in the choir, please do not stand behind the choir during services; rather move somewhere more forward where there is more space (see the fuller note from our choir directors appended below). Also, especially for the heavily attended services like the Divine Liturgy and Pascha, unless you are a singer, and are fully prepared to sing for the service you are attending, do not stand in the choir area, or sit in the pews around the choir. Parents that have children with them, please make sure they are being tended to and older children should not be in the choir area at all unless they are singing.

Finally, during this Great Lent which is rapidly coming to a close, we have been praying that the 'Lord and Master' of our lives would take from us "the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power and idle talk". With everyone having confessed their sins before Christ, it is especially important that as we approach this final days before Pascha that we turn our attention to the second portion of this prayer: "...give rather a spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love", and particularly how we show these and practice these toward one another. If we can focus on these things in light of Christ's saving passion and His resurrection from the dead, we will surely not be far from the Kingdom.

I wish you all a blessed celebration Feast of Palms, Holy Week, and Lord's Pascha!

Let me know if I can be of any assistance to you.

in Christ

Fr Marcus

Choir Info as we approach Holy Week and Pascha

Greetings, everyone!

We are writing to you on behalf of our choir as we approach the preparations for Holy Week and Pascha. As we are anxiously waiting for our new church to be built, it’s important for all of us to exercise patience on the days the church is especially crowded. We are very fortunate to have a large choir, but a large choir also takes up a lot of space. We respectfully ask that all non-singers refrain from standing or sitting in the pews surrounding the choir. While portions of this area may indeed be vacant for part of our services, it’s important to keep these areas open at all times for use by our choir members.

Movement within and near the choir, as well as conversation among those sitting behind the choir, has been distracting; this also holds true with some of our children. For those children who have been occasionally singing with us during Vespers or Liturgy, when they become tired and feel that they are not able to complete the service standing and singing with the choir, we are going to ask them to go back and stand with their parents for the remainder of the service.

Though we welcome any and all who are interested in being a part of the St. John of the Ladder Choir, it is important that as we get into Holy Week and Pascha, people who wish to sing should have been singing consistently with the choir and should have been rehearsing with us leading up to that time. We respectfully ask that during Holy Week and Pascha, if you have not been singing frequently with the choir, and have not attended our rehearsals, that you please do not join us for those services (this includes the children as well). If you have friends visiting from out of town during Pascha, who sing with their own parish choir and wish to sing with us, please have them contact Bill or Kevin.

Finally, and most importantly, for those of you who are indeed interested in becoming regular members of the choir, we strongly encourage you to see Bill or Kevin. All choir members are required to attend rehearsal on Sunday mornings at 8:55 in the church hall. 

We wish you all a continued prayerful and fruitful Lent, as we look forward with great anticipation to the beauty of Holy Week and Pascha! 

In Christ,

Bill Wamboldt & Kevin Ayesh

Saint Mary of Egypt - The Mercy of God

The Life of St. Mary of Egypt, celebrated on this weekend in Great Lent, is often cited as an example of a great spiritual athlete. St. Mary indeed spends many decades in the desert, fasting, praying, repenting. She is transformed from a drunkard and prostitute into one of the greatest saints of the Church. But it is very easy to miss the point of her life.

She responds to the call of God with every fiber of her being. But the true point is God's call. She had no interest in changing her life when she made her way to Jerusalem from Egypt. Indeed, we are told that she "corrupted" many of the men who were on the boat that took her. The whole gambit of visiting the Cross in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was nothing more than a game or a lark for her.

It is God, through the intervention of the Mother of God in her icon, that reaches out to St. Mary. It is God who brought her to her senses. It is God who directed her into the desert. It is God who poured out His grace on her, making her repentance possible.

The message to us is that there are none so corrupt or lost that they cannot be reclaimed and found. The Scripture says, "God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." We are nearing the end of our Lenten Fast. It is never too late to hear the kindness of God and to accept His mercy. May God draw us to Himself and grant us the grace of salvation!

(from Fr Stephen Freeman)

About the Great Canon of St Andrew

The Great Canon of St Andrew, Bishop of Crete, is the longest canon in all of our services, and is associated with Great Lent, since the only times it is appointed to be read in church are the first four nights of Great Lent (Clean Monday through Clean Thursday, at Great Compline, when it is serialized) and at Matins for Thursday of the fifth week of Great Lent, when it is read in its entirety (in this latter service, the entire life of St Mary of Egypt is also read).

There is no other sacred hymn which compares with this monumental work, which St Andrew wrote for his personal meditations. Nothing else has its extensive typology and mystical explanations of the scripture, from both the Old and New Testaments. One can almost consider this hymn to be a “survey of the Old and New Testament”. Its other distinguishing features are a spirit of mournful humility, hope in God, and complex and beautiful Trinitarian Doxologies and hymns to the Theotokos in each Ode.

The canon is a dialog between St. Andrew and his own soul. The ongoing theme is an urgent exhortation to change one’s life. St Andrew always mentions his own sinfulness placed in juxtaposition to God’s mercy, and uses literally hundreds of references to good and bad examples from the OT and NT to “convince himself” to repent.

A canon is an ancient liturgical hymn, with a very strict format. It consists of a variable number of parts, each called an “ode”. Most common canons have eight Odes, numbered from one to nine, with Ode 2 being omitted. The most penitential canons have all nine odes. Some canons have only three Odes, such as many of the canons in the “Triodion” (which means “Three Odes”).

In any case, all Odes have the same basic format. An “Irmos” begins each Ode. This is generally sung, and each Irmos has a reference to one of the nine biblical canticles, which are selections from the Old and New Testament, which can be found in an appendix in any complete liturgical Psalter (book of Psalms, arranged for reading in the services). A variable number of “troparia” follow, which are short hymns about the subject of the canon. These are usually chanted, and not sung. After each troparion a “refrain” is chanted. At the end of each Ode, another hymn, called the “Katavasia”, either the Irmos previously sung, or one like it is sung.

The troparia of the Great Canon in all its twelve Odes are usually chanted by the priest in the center of the church, with the choir singing the Irmos and Katavasia. There are varying traditions about bows and prostrations. Some prostrate and some make the sign of the cross and bow three times after the Irmos and each troparion.

General Themes of the Great Canon.

How we should think about ourselves

Where shall I begin to lament the deeds of my wretched life? What first-fruit shall I offer, O Christ, for my present lamentation? But in Thy compassion grant me release from my falls (Monday:1.1).

Desire to change—dialogue with the soul

Come, wretched soul, with your flesh, confess to the Creator of all. In the future refrain from you former brutishness, and offer to God tears of repentance (Monday:1.2).

Recognizing Reality.

The end is drawing near, my soul, is drawing near! But you neither care nor prepare. The time is growing short. Rise! The Judge is at the very doors. Like a dream, like a flower, the time of this life passes. Why do we bustle about in vain? (Monday:4.2)

How to pray - Laments and supplications to God.

Thou art the Good Shepherd; seek me, Thy lamb, and neglect no me who have gone astray. (Monday:3.5).

OT and NT examples of righteousness and unrighteousness, for the purpose of emulation or avoidance.

Do not be a pillar of salt, my soul, by turning back; but let the example of the Sodomites frighten you, and take refuge up in Zoar.(Genesis 19:26) (Thursday: Ode 3:5)

I have reviewed all the people of the Old Testament as examples for you, my soul. Imitate the God-loving deeds of the righteous and shun the sins of the wicked (Tuesday: Ode 8)

The most important thing to know about the Great Canon.

The Great Canon was written by a holy man to teach himself the right way to live. We cannot benefit from it unless we make it a priority to stand in prayer, in the church, and listen to it, with a great desire and expectation for God’s grace to teach us and heal us. Our theology is first and foremost—experienced and prayed, and not only “studied”.

Easter Egg Hunt

May 1, 2016 at Noon

Please consider contributing to the SJOTL Easter Egg Hunt to be held after Paschal Vespers (May 1 at noon).  Donations by check are appreciated (please mark your check "Easter Egg Hunt"), as are contributions of plastic eggs and candies.  Please buy only fruit candies, as chocolate ones will melt in the sun. If you stuff the eggs yourself, please keep candies that are appropriate for only older children (hard candies) separate from candies that all ages can have (gummies, jelly beans, etc.).  If you don't wish to stuff the eggs, you can bring your packages to church and leave them on the counter in the kitchen.

DOS Assembly 2016

The new DOS Assembly Website is Live at!

Building on the theme of Expanding the Mission from last year's All-American Conference, our theme this year is Mission Possible: Making Faith Significant in an age of Religious Irrelevance, and our keynote speaker will be Sister Vassa (Larin), world renowned expert in liturgical theology, and host of the popular YouTube Channel, "Coffee with Sister Vassa."

As announced previously, the 2016 Assembly of the DOS will be held in Wilmington, NC, and hosted by St. Basil Mission. There are many positive changes this year, and there are many reasons to begin making plans now:

  • There are many events that your parishioners will enjoy attending - the events of the week (along with the historic, coastal location) makes this an ideal vacation. Encourage as many of your parishioners to attend as possible!
  • Registration will be online at the dedicated conference site:
  • There is travel and planning information online.

  • Hotel reservations are open now - book soon so that we know if we need to seek another hotel for overflow rooms.

  • There will be childcare provided during two major events, and a list of drop-in childcare options will be provided for other times when it might be needed.

  • There will be a large exhibitor hall with SVS Press books, devotional items, liturgical goods and more for sale - send your bookstore stewards prepared to stock up!

  • Ministries such as YES and the OCMC will be on hand to help parishes learn about ministry and mission opportunities.

Please use the registration section at the bottom of the main page, and read the instructions carefully! There are many things to register for, and this is intended to facilitate the laity picking their events a la carte.

The DOS Youth Conference:

The youth conference, which will run concurrently with the assembly, and it will be an amazing week for the young people in our diocese!

  • We are bringing in two staff members from Youth Equipped to Serve (YES), part of FOCUS North America, to lead the older group (13-18) in an immersive ministry event. There will also be an event for the 7-12 year olds during this time.

  • Lots of time to laugh, play and have fun at the beach!

  • Our retreat master is Father John Cox, who will help the youth to apply what they learn during the week.

  • More details will be added to the Youth Conference section of the conference website.

  • Registration is FREE (but you have to register on the main conference page by June 15).

We hope that you will take Father Gerasim's admonition to use this conference as a time to draw our parishes, families and youth into broader work of the diocese and the Church. Please register soon so that the host committee can adequately prepare for the event.

Should you have any questions at all about registration, schedule, et al, feel free to contact Fr Peter Robichau at

Our Episcopal Election: A Personal Reflection

All the blessings of the fast!

I want first and foremost to ask your prayers and forgiveness as we continue our lenten journey toward the Great and Holy Week and the Three-Day Pascha of our Lord.

It is not lost on me that as I sit and write this brief reflection it is the seventh anniversary of the retirement of our beloved Archbishop Dmitri of blessed memory. For YEARS now we have been praying in our liturgical services "that the Lord our God, in His mercy and providential care for us, will call forth for His flock a true shepherd of wisdom and strength, blessing us with a Bishop to care for the well-being of our Diocese, and to unite His faithful people in a zealous confession of the Orthodox faith", and yesterday we received the news that FINALLY a bishop has been elected for the Diocese of the South.

This is indeed a momentous day for our diocese; a day in which would should "rejoice and be glad". It is also a day, too, that is tinged by something of the "bright sadness" which accompanies this season of Great Lent. We all (or at least most of us) were hoping for a different outcome. Let me be the first to say that I am disappointed. I too had hoped the Synod would accept our nomination. Alas, they have seen fit to provide us with another.

While I am am in no way privy to the workings of the Synod, I have had ample opportunity to work with Metropolitan Tikhon in these last weeks leading up to this election. Even not having received my hoped for outcome, I am instilled with the confidence that His Beatitude, as our locum tenens, represented the concerns of our diocese to his brother bishops and worked to garner a consensus on the Synod for our nomination.

With this decision made, the "purple demons" of lent will no doubt work to lead many of us to temptation. They will tempt us to feel rebuked and rejected, and this may lead to sadness and anger.  We all need, therefore, consciously to strive to see the election of Bishop Alexander as God's answer to our prayer of these many years. In Bishop Alexander we now have as our second ruling hierarch a man who is both a scholar and a monk. More importantly, we have a man who is a gentle and thoughtful pastor, one whom we should receive in joy and gratitude as the fulfillment of God's providence towards us.

Bishop Alexander will meet with Archimandrite Gerasim, the deans, and me in a couple of weeks' time. There will be more details concerning the transition then. In the meantime, the work of the church continues. Please do not lose sight of this.

I will close with a quotation from Archbishop Dmitri's letter announcing his retirement:

"I feel confident that with our current Synod of Bishops as well as Diocesan leaders (both clergy and laymen) already in place, that the work of the Orthodox Church in the South will continue. Together we have helped to lay the foundation which is Christ, and now it is time for others to build upon our labors (1 Corinthians 3)."

His words have proved true thus far, and it is my fervent conviction that they will continue to do so.

If you have any concerns at all, please do not hesitate to contact me.

I remain faithfully yours in Christ Jesus, the Lord,
Archpriest Marcus


3rd Sunday of Lent

Veneration of the Cross

Tone 3


Hebrews 4:14-5:6 (Epistle)
Mark 8:34-9:1 (Gospel)

Troparion (Tone 1)

O Lord, save Thy people,
and bless Thine inheritance!
Grant victories to the Orthodox Christians
over their adversaries;
and by virtue of Thy Cross,
preserve Thy habitation!

Kontakion (Tone 7)

Now the flaming sword no longer guards the gates of Eden;
it has been mysteriously quenched by the wood of the Cross.

The sting of death and the victory of hell have been vanquished; for Thou, O my Savior, hast come and cried to those in hell:
Enter again into Paradise!