“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith just as you were instructed and overflowing with gratitude.” Col.2:6,7
Beloved in the Lord,
As we were slowly winding our way up the side of the mountain into the historic Arizona village of Jerome it occurred to me that the phrase “scenic route” on the map truly failed to convey the truth of the matter! Google maps gave the impression that route 89A from Flagstaff to Prescott through Sedona was roughly equivalent in distance to the other well-traveled highway 17 option, but as the switchbacks stretched endlessly ahead between Cottonwood and Jerome I began to realize (again) that mapping a journey and actually making it are two very different realities!
Our perseverance was rewarded as we finally crested the hill in the little historic village of Jerome which, to my mind, is as close as one can get to recreating the experience of a mountain village in the north of Greece on this continent. And shortly thereafter we arrived, by the grace of God, in our new hometown of Prescott, AZ. The stunning beauty of the rolling hills covered with strands of pinion and ponderosa pines, junipers, cypress, and scrub oak, mix with other deciduous varieties like aspen, elm and maple, all refreshed by recent monsoon rains. “Monsoon,” by the way, is a singularly appropriate term for the torrential deluge to which we’ve been treated daily since we’ve arrived! This kind of rain in Denver would have shut down the “narrows” on I-25 and snarled traffic for miles!
It is with a sense of relief and thanksgiving to Almighty God that Presbytera Denise, our youngest son Gregory, and I find ourselves now in Prescott, AZ as we begin the next chapter of our pastoral lives in service to Christ’s Holy Church! The mechanics of this particular move (our sixth state in 28 years of marriage) were by far the most difficult to manage. Surely, pulling up roots after 11 years in Denver in service to the beloved faithful of the Assumption Cathedral could only have been fraught with emotion. But Christ the Good Shepherd always leads from the front and never drives from behind. And we saw in one instance after the next the miraculous right hand of God sweep aside one obstacle after the next along the “scenic route” we traveled from Denver to Prescott.
And we are richly blessed to follow our illustrious con-celebrant and beloved brother in Christ Fr. John Peck who, together with his talented and gifted Presbytera , labored so diligently and effectively in building up the community of St. George ! (Many years to them!) Now it remains for all of us who are called to serve the altar of the Lord “to press on toward the mark of the high calling in Jesus Christ” (Phil.3:14) for it is incumbent upon all of us who are called by the name of Christ always to expand the environs of the Kingdom of Heaven. Standing still, being content with any status quo, or even “preserving” a legacy of faith and culture must always be challenged when measured against the requirements of Christ’s Great Commission to go “into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15)
Uniquely, as Orthodox Christians, we are bearers of a legacy of Faith that argues not for stasis but for growth! That we can come together in the name of the Lord and gather around a duly consecrated altar under the spiritual leadership of such grace-filled and compassionate husbandmen as our beloved Metropolitan Gerasimos is not a function of happenstance or mere chance. Vibrant parishes like St. George here in Prescott don’t simply happen. Rather, they are the fruit of the efforts of those who have come before us over the long sweep of Christian history who dared to dream big dreams and to work in synergy with and through the Holy Spirit, who were not content to stand pat and to “preserve” but who knew that our most-holy Faith must be broadly and lovingly shared with all comers. The Good News, the Evangelion, of the message of salvation in Jesus Christ first proclaimed to simple, frightened shepherd boys in the hills ringing Bethlehem of “Glory to God in the Highest, Peace on Earth, Good-will to all men,” has lost none of its potency despite the vain attempts by many over the years (and particularly – it seems- in our day and age) to strip it of its essence and align it with merely partisan, temporal, or societal interests.
As last Sunday’s Gospel reading from St. Matthew reminded us, we are the light of the world; we are a city set upon a hill, not because of any righteousness we possess of ourselves but because of Who has taken up residence inside our hearts. And it is our task to fan the flame of holy zeal and love for Christ in our hearts to such a degree of intensity that others will be irresistibly drawn to our parishes. “By this will all men know that you are my disciples, that you have love one for another.” (John 13:35)
And so it is that the Hill family begins our new life in Prescott, AZ, grateful to God for the mighty works He has already demonstrated in bringing us safely here and secure in the knowledge that He Who has begun this good work here in Prescott and in us will see it through to completion! If you are in the Prescott area please do our community the honor of attending divine services with us! We would love to welcome you in the Lord’s name and break bread with you at our agape meal after Sunday Liturgy! And if you are a part of our extended parish family in Denver we so look forward to seeing you again when you visit us! (Prescott will remind you of the foothill communities of Evergreen, Conifer, and Genesee and Denise and I are absolutely holding you to your promise of a “Denver Day” excursion to AZ!)
Just be prepared if you take the scenic route from Flagstaff through Jerome! It’s more “scenic” than you can imagine!
In the Love and Grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Rev. Fr. Apostolos Hill, Presbytera Denise, and Family