Pastoral Letter October 14, 2018

And about the ninth hour she went down into the garden to walk there. And she saw a laurel-tree and sat down underneath it and besought the Lord saying: O God of our fathers, bless me, and hearken unto my prayer, as thou didst bless the womb of Sarah, and gavest her a son, even Isaac. And looking up to the heaven she espied a nest of sparrows in the laurel-tree, and made a lamentation within herself, saying: Woe unto me, who begat me? And what womb brought me forth for I am become a curse before the children of Israel, and I am reproached, and they have mocked me forth out of the temple of the Lord? Woe unto me, unto what am I likened ? I am not likened unto the fowls of the heaven, for even the fowls of the heaven are fruitful before thee, O Lord. Woe unto me, unto what am I likened ? I am not likened unto the beasts of the earth, for even the beasts of the earth are fruitful before thee, O Lord. Woe unto me, unto what am I likened ? I am not likened unto these waters, for even these waters are fruitful before thee, O Lord. Woe unto me, unto what am I likened ? I am not likened unto this earth, for even this earth bringeth forth her fruits in due season and blesseth thee, O Lord. And behold an angel of the Lord appeared, saying unto her: Anna, Anna, the Lord hath hearkened unto thy prayer, and thou shalt conceive and bear, and thy seed shall be spoken of in the whole world. And Anna said: As the Lord my God liveth, if I bring forth either male or female, I will bring it for a gift unto the Lord my God, and it shall be ministering unto him all the days of its life.

The Protoevangelium Gospel of St. James

Dearly Beloved in the Lord,

Do you remember the summer of 2017, when we were introduced to Atrium Building, orgionally built as the Western Garden Center in Sandy, Utah?

Do you remember how filled with joy we became, at the prospect of this unique structure, with it’s beautiful landscape, might become our new church home?

Do you remember how we imagined the vast, interior space and pictured in our minds, a lovely sanctuary, a ballroom, classrooms, offices, a kitchen, and room to spare?

Do you remember all of that?

We visited the Atrium. We prayed about the Atrium. We sat in its parking lot, collectively for hours on end.

Do you recall how disappointed and crestfallen we felt when the property, seemingly in our grasp did not materialize and the deal that we worked very hard to finalize collapsed in an instant?

We worked the numbers. We decided we could stretch ourselves and commit to the dream. We worked together for this common goal and the desire to have a church and worship God and celebrate His love.

That was a difficult hit and a great disappointment.

Can you think back, just last week, at the Tables Extraordinaire, when we announced, out of the blue, and completely from left field, that the owner of the Atrium contacted us and was ready to talk? He was willing to make a deal. He was ready to sell his building.

You may recollect that I announced: that, with the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah, and with the wisdom of our Parish Council, and through the research and dedication of our Real Estate Ministry Team, and through the prayers of your priest and our congregation, we made an offer on this property.

Do you remember all of that?

Good.

Because as of yesterday afternoon:

The St. Anna Greek Orthodox Church of Utah is now UNDER CONTRACT to purchase the Atrium property at 9201 South 1300 East in Sandy Utah!

How does that sound as your new church address? Prayerfully and gratefully, let that sink in for a moment, and let it warmly wash over you.

Now that you’ve enjoyed that moment, you may now ask “What does that mean and what will the immediate future hold for us?” Allow me, as I collect myself while writing this message to you, to share some critical information. This is not an exhaustive treatise of the process, for much, much more details will be forthcoming. This is just a celebratory overview.

So, we made an offer to purchase the Atrium Property for the asking price of $2.95 million dollars. After a flurry of activity between buyer and seller for last week or so, this offer was accepted and your parish council president, Dr. Charles Beck was the final signature on the contract to purchase.

We are now in our 90 Day Due Diligence Period. This means, that for the next three months, we will be:

Having the building and grounds inspected.

Working the details of financing.

Working with the City of Sandy, Utah for our Conditional Use Permit to operate a church on that property.

Inform the neighbors of our plans and intentions, and obtain their approval.

Inform His Eminence with the details of the transaction and seek his approval per the UPR of the Archdiocese.

Call for a Parish Assembly, also, per the UPR of the Archdiocese to vote on the actual purchase of the property. You, the Stewards and voting members of St. Anna’s, as the voice of the parish, have the final say if this purchase happens or not.

Following the 90 Day Due Diligence Period, we then wait until the designated time, per the contract to close on the property. This is where our deal is unique and beneficial to both parties in the transaction: We will close at the end of October, 2019. That is not a typo. In October of 2019, we will take possession of the property. “Why a long, full year,” you may ask? That is a fair question.

Atrium Weddings has bookings through October of 2019. They would like to honor those contracts and offer their services as a reception center. I must say that the brides who have booked their weddings at the Atrium would also like to have their contracts honored, and not be forced to look for new locations.

As for us, we will enjoy a solid year of raising funds, building enthusiasm, taking our time in design and planning, and not rushing anything. When the time comes for us to make the move, everything will be set in place. Did I mention we will be actively raising funds for the following year? We will work prayerfully and diligently, to shrink our mortgage before it even exists. And for that to happen, it will take everyone of us.

As for our present location, Fr, John Evans, the pastor of St. Thomas More has been notified that we will execute the second option on our lease. We will remain at St. Thomas More until we occupy the space; OUR SPACE at the new location of St. Anna’s; no longer the Atrium by that time.

I must add, that Fr. John expressed his joy and excitement for us. He and his community have been more than accommodating, more than generous, more than kind, and better Christian brothers and sisters to us than we could have been imagined or expected. Lord bless their lovely hearts!

I also add that His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah was thrilled and overjoyed to hear the news that this parish, barely four years in existence, has risen to such a challenge and is ready to take such a step. This is all to the glory of God and through the prayers of our matron St. Anna. Really, the bishop was quite pleased.

I also wish to inform you that our good friend at Sandy City, Councilwoman Kris Nicholl was ecstatic when I informed her of this wonderful news. Though we will go through a rigorous process to obtain the proper permits to alter the space and occupy the building, the City of Sandy welcomes us enthusiastically with open arms. They appreciate the diversity we provide and look forward to our civic participation and active involvement in our local community. Kris said that she was praying that this would work out for us, ever since it fell through last year. She is a true friend of St. Anna’s.

Our parish council president, Dr. Charles Beck, the co-chairs of our Real Estate Ministry Team, Chuck Karpakis and Joe Sasich, and I admit, myself, worked tirelessly for the past several days to get us to this point. I also extend my appreciation to Mr. Lon Clayton, the current owner and original builder of the Western Garden Center/Atrium, for entrusting to us the joy of his life’s professional work.

The building was originally constructed as a nursery – a garden center. We cannot escape this obvious connection to the life of St. Anna, as she prayed, in her garden, for the joy of a family and the gift of a child, as mentioned in the above-referenced verses from the Deuterocanonical Gospel of St. James. I informed Lon that we will maintain and celebrate the original intent of his building. Because, after all, a church dedicated to St. Anna is, ultimately a Garden Center. I love and very much appreciate the symbolism of this connection. It was meant to be. No question.

I close this long, long, happy, happy message with this: prayerfully consider that after we received the precious relic of our dear St. Anna, we began our monthly celebration of Paraklesis Services dedicated to her. It was barely a week after our first service, that we were contacted by the owner’s broker that this property was going back on the market, and that they wanted us to know in advance.

Our St. Anna is active and present in the life of this community. We are her children and we have been entrusted to her spiritual care. We honor her, as we adore her daughter and as we worship her Grandson, our Lord Jesus Christ.

The days, weeks, months and years ahead of us will be filled with great excitement and joy. We’ll always be working on some project or another, and we will hit snags and obstacles along the way. We will approach our peaks and valleys, and our successes and our (God forbid) whoopsies with love, humility, faith and guidance from above.

Look at that picture at the top of this message. Imagine – Take down that sign. Place a cross on the top of the building. Fill it with Spirit-filled worshipers. Imagine the possibilities and the blessings. That is our church.

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we are under contract to purchase the property that we have dreamed about for quite some time. It is located in the area we desire, within a price we can afford, complete with a building we can occupy and can accommodate future growth.

Praise be to God!

Thanks be to St. Anna!

With humility, congratulations are to be offered to you, our parish, who has thus far committed about $1.3 million towards this effort.

For us, this is history in the making and an indication for greater days to come.

Wow, that’s quite enough for now. I am so grateful, humbled and overwhelmed by all of this.

Holy Ancestor of God, St. Anna Pray for Us!

With Much Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony

These are pictures of our celebration of the Divine Liturgy at the Atrium on September 17, 2017.

P.S. Orthodox Married Life is Tonight, Friday, October 12th at 7:00 pm. Baby Sitting is Provided.