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Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message August 1, 2021

And Anna was grieved exceedingly, and put off her garments of mourning, and cleaned her head and put on her wedding garments, and about the ninth hour, went down to her garden to walk. And she saw a laurel tree and sat under it, and prayed to the Lord, saying: O God of our fathers, bless me and hear my prayer, as You blessed the womb of Sarah, and gave her a son, Isaac… and behold an angel of the Lord stood by saying, Anna, Anna, the Lord has heard your prayer, and you shall conceive, and shall bring forth; and your seed shall bespoken of in all the world.  

– Protoevangelium of James

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This past Saturday evening, on the occasion of our parish Feast of the Dormition of St. Anna, we had the blessed and incredible pleasure to receive our Archbishop. His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros was welcomed by nearly 300 worshipers, and broke bread with 273 people on the beautiful grounds of our church property. His Eminence spoke openly, with passion and vision. It did not escape the hearers of his message when he said plainly that St. Anna parish is the “future of the Archdiocese.” 

THE FUTURE OF THE ARCHDIOCESE.

Honestly, why would he proclaim such a bold statement? Of course, I do not dare speak for the Archbishop. But he, himself put his words in context. He celebrated the vision of the parish to look beyond ethnic and cultural priorities. Let there be no mistake, St. Anna is a parish of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. We honor and solemnize the rich Byzantine traditions of our precious, Orthodox Faith. Though we largely conduct our divine services in English, we do not disregard the Scriptural and historical connections to New Testament and Liturgical Greek. 

His Eminence stressed that all are welcome. All are called. All are invited to fully participate and feel completely welcome in our church. This is how parishes grow. This is how Metropolises grow.  This is how the Archdiocese combats atrophy and begins to truly thrive. When our focus, purpose, intention and drive is Christ, all else follows. 

My Beloved in the Lord, there is no question about it, our Archbishop knows us. He supports us. He guides and shepherds us in our shared and collective vision for the Church. His history in our Archdiocese is uniquely connected to ours, as he reminded us that we are the first parish to be instituted by his own hand – for we are the first Chartered parish under his authority.

His Eminence also said both publicly and privately, that when our Sanctuary is built, he will return, open the doors and celebrate the Archiehierarchical Divine Liturgy in, what will be an inspired and dignified space.  He is now spiritually and personally connected to our sacred efforts. How awesome is that?!?

There were many people involved in our most successful and blessed evening. The thank you note in the Bulletin mentions each person by name. But if I neglected to place your name on the flyer, I ask your forgiveness and request that you contact me so I can make any all-important correction.  

Though there were many hands involved, I extend my profound gratitude most specifically to Elaine Peterson, our evening chairman, Chuck Karpakis, our chef-in-residence, and Craig Stagg, parish council president. For two months, we met weekly so that every detail could be crafted, discussed and deliberated. Elaine, Chuck and Craig worked so hard, brought so many people together and pulled off a tremendous event. It’s no exaggeration: as he walked the grounds before Great Vespers, His Eminence spent more time with Chuck’s cooks than he did with the parish council. He appreciated the effort that went into honoring him and the dignity of his office.

I would also like to offer a specific mention to Elaina Simos who designed, created and beautifully packaged 200 icons of St. Elpidophoros. Her contribution yielded a subtle, yet profound impact on the evening. Thank you, Elaina and crew!

Really, everyone, you made us so proud! You provided the lovely backdrop for hundreds of people to encounter the Archbishop of America. In doing so, we encountered his love, smile, wisdom, gentleness and most importantly, his blessing. Remember the evening was not about us. It was not simply about him. It was about Him! We encountered Christ through our shepherd. 

Lastly, I just want to remind you all of how far this young parish has traveled in a very short amount of time. Therefore, I would like to share the little document that was prepared for His Eminence to be keenly aware of the highlights in our brief history. Remember, dear fellow parishioners of St. Anna’s, these are only the early chapters. Much more will be written in the years to come. 

To His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America:

St. Anna Greek Orthodox Church is a young and vibrant parish, established seven years ago to expand the Church of Christ into the southern part of the Salt Lake Valley, to establish a Christ-centered community, to offer a welcoming embrace to those who seek the Gospel, and to celebrate our Orthodox Christian Tradition, doctrine, theology, history and practice.

What began as a collection of 60 visionary and faithful families from the Holy Trinity and Prophet Elias parish, St. Anna is now a parish of over 200 families. St. Anna’s parish has purchased its own three-acre property, and is in the process of transforming the existing 16,000 square foot structure into a traditional and functional Greek Orthodox Temple with supporting facilities. St. Anna continues to be a strong partner in meeting the needs of our local and surrounding community with continual outreach.

The building purchased by St. Anna Greek Orthodox Church was originally built as the Western Garden Center, a locally owned nursery. The fact that St. Anna’s prayers to conceive a child were answered in her luscious garden is a divine connection that does not escape the minds and hearts of our people. We are most thankful for God’s imaginative and whimsical witness!

Three years ago, the parish sought and received a small relic of St. Anna, issued from the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome. Our current property became available to us five days after we celebrated our first Paraklesis to St. Ann with her relic present.

Once His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver established what was known as the Greek Orthodox Mission Parish of Utah, he supplied priests, primarily from Colorado, for a solid year before a full-time priest was assigned. The loving guidance of His Eminence cannot be understated. His wise and enthusiastic support as our Shepherd has been evident from the initial dream of establishing a new parish in the Salt Lake Valley.

Fr. Anthony Savas is the first and continuing presiding priest at St. Anna. Fr. Elias Koucos is a retired priest who is attached to St. Anna, together with Dn. Anatoli Kireiev.
Fr. Anthony is grateful to currently serve at the pleasure of His Eminence on the Archdiocese Charter Advisory Committee.  

Following is a brief time line of critical events in the young life of St. Anna Greek Orthodox Church in Sandy, Utah – a southeastern suburb of Salt Lake City:

 August 24, 2014
Greek Orthodox Mission Parish of Utah was formally organized at a local meeting conducted by then-chancellor, Fr. Luke Uhl, through the authority of His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver.

August 31, 2014
The first Divine Liturgy of the newly formed mission was celebrated by Fr. Jimi (Iakovos) Foreso of blessed memory at a rented reception center in Murray, Utah. This facility would be the home of the Mission for the next seven months.

March 2, 2015
The lease was signed for a new rental space for the Mission at the facility of St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Cottonwood Heights, Utah. The facilities at STM provided a 200-seat dedicated sanctuary, office space, shared classrooms, a small social hall and access to their gymnasium, ballroom and kitchen. This blessed arrangement would be the home of our community for five years. Enough cannot be said of the love displayed to us from our STM Roman Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ – indeed, partners in His love. The altar table that is currently used at St. Anna’s is a parting gift from the parish of St. Thomas More, and their priest, Fr. John Evans.

April 4, 2015 Saturday of Lazarus
Hieromonk Ambrose Omayas of blessed memory celebrated the first Divine Liturgy in our newly rented space, and offered the parish its first Holy Week and Paschal services. Fr. Ambrose was the primary priest in the first year of the Mission. His joyful radiance still influences the parish to this day. He established the administrative practices that a new priest would inherit.

September 1, 2015
Fr. Anthony Savas was assigned as the first full-time presiding priest of the Mission. Having most recently served for ten years at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Northridge, California,
Fr. Anthony was given the opportunity to return to his hometown of Salt Lake City and serve a new and promising community. Presbytera Andrea (Zoumadakis) Savas was also born and raised in Salt Lake City. The couple was married at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral on April 20, 1991. Fr. Anthony was ordained to the Holy Diaconate at Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church on June 16, 1996. They, together with the founding members of St. Anna are sons and daughters of the Greek Orthodox community in Salt Lake City.

March 27, 2016
As directed by His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver, the Mission embarked on a series of voting, taking several weeks to name the parish. On the Feast of Pascha 2016, the name of our Matron Saint Anna was revealed following the Anastasi Liturgy. As the icon of All-Saints was unnoticeably removed from the iconostasis, the icon of St. Anna was processed through the church to the great jubilation of all worshipers. Understanding that we did not “choose” our Matron Saint, but rather she was revealed to us through a voting process, her maternal guidance and motherly embrace was felt all along. Our new parish name felt natural and obvious from the inception.

 May 3, 2018
Twenty-eight pilgrims from St. Anna’s were blessed to be received by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in the Throne Room of the Fanar, at the beginning of our two-week pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Constantinople, and Cappadocia. It was an indescribable joy for our people to be given an audience by His All-Holiness. His blessing established the sacred tone of our entire trip.   

October 31, 2019
Scarcely five years old, recognizing we had outgrown our rented space, the community closed on its current property following an aggressive capital campaign. The community raised over half of the $3 million necessary to purchase our existing building situated on three acres of land in the desirable east bench area of Sandy City. With the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver, the parish intends to utilize the existing structure to create a basilica style Greek Orthodox Church with all amenities to serve the educational, ministerial, outreach, and social needs of the community. An approximate 360-seat sanctuary is planned (see included drawings), which should accommodate future growth, to the point of prayerfully establishing the next Greek Orthodox Mission in the southwest part of the Salt Lake Valley. This area is a true mission field.

February 2, 2020 Feast of Ypapanti
Renovations to our temporary worship space were complete and the doors of St. Anna’s were opened by His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver. Over 350 Faithful gathered for a service that would be marked by anticipation and exhilaration. The Orthros was celebrated at our former location, then His Eminence led the procession to the new church, as members of the parish carried all the sacred items to our new location. He then celebrated the first Divine Liturgy in our new building. Providence allowed our first divine service to be Hierarchical. His Eminence elevated the ministry of Fr. Anthony to that of Protopresbyter, and he was presented a pectoral cross from the parish as a gift. Sadly, the church would be closed to live worship four weeks later, due to COVID-19 precautions.

May 15, 2020
The long-awaited and greatly anticipated affirmation of our parish was received with elation as His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America issued the official Charter of the Archdiocese to St. Anna’s, thus lifting our status as a mission and formally recognizing us as the St. Anna Greek Orthodox Church of Sandy City, Utah. As our church was still closed, miniature copies of the Charter were sent to each household, together with an explanation on the importance of a Charter, announcing the grand news. The Archdiocese Charter was issued 2,091 days after the formation of the parish, at the meeting that was held in a local junior high school.   

June 13, 2020
St. Anna re-opened for live worship with great limitations. What a blessed day!

July 24, 2021
St. Anna Greek Orthodox Church will be blessed to receive His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America for the celebration of Great Vespers for the Dormition of our Matron Saint Anna.

This is the brief history of our young parish. To God be the glory!

There is an important update to this week’s Bulletin that surfaced following publication. On Saturday, August 14th, there will be no Great Vespers at St. Anna’s. We have been invited to share in the occasion at the Assumption of the Virgin Mary Church in Price, Utah. I will be present with Fr. Seraphim and the lovely people of Price for their Parish Name Day. Please join us in Price for the Dormition.

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Pastoral Message July 4, 2021

Lord, we stand today as our forefathers have stood before You in times gone by, Celebrating our history and reveling in all the great things that our country has achieved. On this day we rejoice in the favor You have graciously given us. We thank You for the blessings of liberty, for this generation and for the generations to come. We thank You for our independence, peace and for all those who have bravely given their lives in the defense of freedom and justice. We thank You that Your gracious and provident hand has given us so much. Yet as a nation and people we have not always chosen the right way. We ask You to forgive us for these times. On this day we commit ourselves to wholeheartedly honoring and serving You. With everything that we are, we lay our lives before You. Make us a generous people, A holy nation, A people set aside to love You forever, For the sake of the land of the brave and free, And the peoples and nations of this world. Today, we do not presume Your grace for our country. Our land is in need of You, Our people are in need of You, Our industry and business is in need of You. May we look only to You This Independence Day, dependent on You. Please come now by Your glorious Holy Spirit, Breathe new life into the sinews of this nation. May justice flow like rivers, And righteousness like a never failing stream, Until the whole of our country is covered with Your glory, As the waters cover the sea. We ask all this in the Name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Now and Forever, and to the Ages of Ages.Amen.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Many of of our parents and grandparents came to America in order to establish a better life for us – the progeny they couldn’t even know at the time. Let us never disrespect their love and sacrifice. My grandfather, Nicholas Zakis earned his American Citizenship by serving in the US Army. Our family’s most prominent portrait of him and his wife, my Yiayia Zambia, is in uniform, proudly sporting his Sargent’s Stripes. He worked hard, suffered greatly, lived gently, and absolutely loved this country. 

It is my humble prayer that our nation can be healed, united, blessed, made safe, grounded in prayer, bathed in love, and continued in strength. American independence is a gift to the world. This is not nationalistic pride, but a God-given promise that all men shall be seen as equal, just as the Lord views His creation.

Sacred principles such as this have been tested, twisted, stretched and shrunk since our nation’s birth. But they are principles worth keeping sacred.

They should not be discarded, taken for granted or assumed that they are intended for “some,” not the “other.” The Lord has gifted the world these United States of America. The Lord has established His holy Church within these blesses shores.

We have a prayerful responsibility as Orthodox Christians to be the light, to be the comfort, to be the guide, to be the protector, to be the witness, to be the face of Christ in our country and beyond. God bless America. God bless our leaders. God bless our military and veterans. God bless the peace makers. God bless us all. 

Happy Independence Day Weekend! God bless you on the 4th of July!

With Love in XC,

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

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Pastoral Message June 20, 2021

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Sunday is the Feast of Pentecost – the gift of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Disciples, thus instituting the Church of Christ upon the world. It is at this moment, when the origins of the Orthodox Christian Church were established. Not in the Fourth Century. Not in the Middle Ages. Not in the 1800’s. Pentecost.

This is a celebration of unity and union. Men of differing life circumstances were united in their service to Christ, and were equipped to minister to the known and unknown world with the gift of language. The Gospel from that time forward would then be preached to all of humankind, and the message that Christ is risen from the dead would be carried to all corners of the earth. 

For our own community, This day of Pentecost represents another “breath” that is blowing through us. As we emerge from our separation from each other for these past several months, we see a re-confirmed unity and re-established purpose for us. More and more of us are returning to church and more and more ministries and activities are coming online for the benefit of our fellowship and personal interaction. 

And as has been announced, our Archbishop, being with us to celebrate our Parish Name Day in July is just the perfect opportunity for all of us to share in our collective love for one another, our affinity towards our Matron Saint, our devotion to her daughter, the Theotokos and our ultimate devotion to our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. Our Name Day Celebration is going to be our absolute re-introduction to the beauty of our church grounds and the laughter that has been missing from them for far, too long. 

But also, please let me remind us all of the value of this great Feast which stands before us. The late Fr. Alexander Schmemann, a prolific author and keen academic shared his thoughts on Pentecost. I’d like to share them with you.

“In the Church’s annual liturgical cycle, Pentecost is “the last and great day.” It is the celebration by the Church of the coming of the Holy Spirit as the end—the achievement and fulfillment—of the entire history of salvation. For the same reason, however, it is also the celebration of the beginning: it is the “birthday” of the Church as the presence among us of the Holy Spirit, of the new life in Christ, of grace, knowledge, adoption to God and holiness.

This double meaning and double joy is revealed to us, first of all, in the very name of the feast. Pentecost in Greek means fifty, and in the sacred biblical symbolism of numbers, the number fifty symbolizes both the fulness of time and that which is beyond time: the Kingdom of God itself. It symbolizes the fulness of time by its first component: 49, which is the fulness of seven (7 x 7): the number of time. And, it symbolizes that which is beyond time by its second component: 49 + 1, this one being the new day, the “day without evening” of God’s eternal Kingdom. With the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Christ’s disciples, the time of salvation, the Divine work of redemption has been completed, the fulness revealed, all gifts bestowed: it belongs to us now to “appropriate” these gifts, to be that which we have become in Christ: participants and citizens of His Kingdom.

The liturgical peculiarity of Pentecost is a very special Vespers of the day itself. Usually this service follows immediately the Divine Liturgy, is “added” to it as its own fulfillment. The service begins as a solemn “summing up” of the entire celebration, as its liturgical synthesis. We hold flowers in our hands symbolizing the joy of the eternal spring, inaugurated by the coming of the Holy Spirit. After the festal Entrance, this joy reaches its climax in the singing of the Great Prokeimenon:

“Who is so great a God as our God?”

Then, having reached this climax, we are invited to kneel. This is our first kneeling since Easter. It signifies that after these fifty days of Paschal joy and fulness, of experiencing the Kingdom of God, the Church now is about to begin her pilgrimage through time and history. It is evening again, and the night approaches, during which temptations and failures await us, when, more than anything else, we need Divine help, that presence and power of the Holy Spirit, who has already revealed to us the joyful End, who now will help us in our effort towards fulfillment and salvation.

All this is revealed in the three prayers which the celebrant reads now as we all kneel and listen to him. In the first prayer, we bring to God our repentance, our increased appeal for forgiveness of sins, the first condition for entering into the Kingdom of God.

In the second prayer, we ask the Holy Spirit to help us, to teach us to pray and to follow the true path in the dark and difficult night of our earthly existence. Finally, in the third prayer, we remember all those who have achieved their earthly journey, but who are united with us in the eternal God of Love.

The joy of Easter has been completed and we again have to wait for the dawn of the Eternal Day. Yet, knowing our weakness, humbling ourselves by kneeling, we also know the joy and the power of the Holy Spirit who has come. We know that God is with us, that in Him is our victory.

Thus is completed the feast of Pentecost and we enter “the ordinary time” of the year. Yet, every Sunday now will be called “after Pentecost”—and this means that it is from the power and light of these fifty days that we shall receive our own power, the Divine help in our daily struggle. At Pentecost we decorate our churches with flowers and green branches—for the Church “never grows old, but is always young.” It is an evergreen, ever-living Tree of grace and life, of joy and comfort. For the Holy Spirit—“the Treasury of Blessings and Giver of Life—comes and abides in us, and cleanses us from all impurity,” and fills our life with meaning, love, faith and hope.”

As I am away (writing this message from Denver, CO), I am grateful that Fr. Elias will be sharing these prayers with you. I was ordained to the holy Priesthood 24 years ago on the Feast of Pentecost at the Holy Trinity Church in Dallas, Texas, where I served for eight years. In this past, nearly quarter of a century, I have experienced many blessings and challenges, highs and lows, celebrations and lamentations. But all for the glory of God, all guided by His wisdom, and attached to the same Holy Spirit, Who breathes life into the collective Church and individual Christian, each and every day. May you enjoy a blessed Feast! 

With Much Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony Savas

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