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Parish History – Part 1
“And Jesus said unto them, …If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.”—Matthew 17:20
It is when faith turns to action that the heart of the faithful is revealed. For two thousand years, people of all walks of life have discovered Christ and turned their footsteps to follow after him. We are only the most recent members of a body united by the Holy Spirit through time and space. Those who came before us in the faith have laid a foundation upon which countless generations of Christians have built, both literally and figuratively.
It has been the experience of the members of this parish, Holy Ascension Orthodox Church, in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, that God has been powerfully at work to create not only a community, but a family of brothers and sisters in Christ. So many talents have been brought to bear, and so many gifts have been imparted that we are left, each of us, humbled and convinced of the great need to share the experience and the tremendous joy that has been ours on this sometimes arduous but always fruitful journey.
It was early in 1996 that a core group — five families: fourteen adults and four children — first gathered to explore the possibility of establishing an English-speaking parish of the OCA (Orthodox Church in America) in Mount Pleasant. While many welcomed the opportunity to worship with neighboring churches (Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, in Charleston, and St. John Maximovich Antiochian Orthodox Church, in North Charleston), most of us had grown up in Russian Orthodox communities in the Northeast and our desire to continue in this tradition was strong.
The beginnings took the form of reader’s services held in private homes. In 2000, the blessing of His Eminence Archbishop Dmitri at the request of Fr Peter Smith — then head of the regional deanery — led officially to the founding of an OCA parish: the Mount Pleasant Mission. A committee of three of our members was formally appointed and the use of the Diocese of the South’s taxpayer identification number was extended, enabling us to open a bank account and allowing the mission to become a non-profit corporation registered in the state of South Carolina. The adoption of the OCA’s By-laws for Mission Churches and the election of a parish council rounded out the administrative necessities. With our new status clearly defined it was time to turn our attention to the part of our communal life that has always served as the foundation of unity in the Orthodox Church: liturgy.