On Sunday, April 30, the Cathedral will host a luncheon honoring Ted Leventis and John Panomitros. The luncheon, to be catered by Angelo Koutoulas of Chick ‘n Coop, will take place following the Divine Liturgy. With a carved roast beef station and all the trimmings, the meal, fit for a king, (in this case two kings), will honor two of the Cathedral’s most dedicated workers. Ted Leventis, who currently serves as a Cathedral chanter, has served as master chef, among other things. For years, he catered makaries for the Ladies Philoptochos, as a volunteer, and is still involved in food preparation for the annual food festival, his specialty being bell peppers. As for chanting, Ted reports for duty every Sunday, and virtually every weekday holy day service. When it comes to food and to chanting, Ted always accommodates; he never says no. He’s never been heard to say he’s tired, or that he can’t do something. Indeed, Ted exemplifies the best in what it means to be a volunteer. Ted is married to Angie Leventis, former President of the Ladies Philoptochos, and is father to Kathy Truog and Allyson Montgomery. He is the proud grandfather of Chloe and Zachary Montgomery and Nicole and Alexander Truog. John Panomitros, who currently serves as Annunciation’s “head sous-chef,” has assisted in the kitchen in every capacity imaginable. He is especially present throughout food preparation for the Festival, the Crab Feed, and other parish functions. As long as anyone can remember, John’s “baby” has been the souvlaki, the preparation and cooking of which he oversees, along with a very dedicated group of volunteers. Cooking aside, John is a devoted churchman, present at virtually every Sunday or weekday worship service, living an exemplary life---an inspiration to family, friends, and fellow parishioners alike. Likewise, John exemplifies the best in what it means to be a volunteer. John is married to Helen Panomitros. He is father to Eugenia Gardner and Demetra Salles, and proud grandfather of Yiannaki and Katerina Gardner, and Vasiliki, Eleni and Zoe Salles. Annette Chiappari, who has “forever” served as Sunday School teacher, is always involved in community life. For years, she has served as a member of the Board of Elections and collects names for the annual Christmas card appeal. Besides serving as an officer in the Daughters of Penelope, Annette is involved with the Cathedral Philoptochos. She is found everywhere. With her quiet demeanor, she is always in church on Sunday, always at every parish event, in the forefront of every community activity. Annette exemplifies the best in what it means to be a volunteer Annette is married to Philip Chiappari. She is mother to Kathy Saucedo, Virginia Harwell, James Chiappari, and Christine Gatewood, grandmother to Jennifer, Kenneth, Yvonne, Michael, Chris, Anthony, and Steven and great-grandmother to Logan and Avelyn. In their “former” lives, Ted and John were restauranteurs. Ted owned the Plaza Coffee Shop in San Francisco and John and Helen owned the Shop in Novato. Annette worked for San Francisco International Airport, in technology. At their request, the April 30 luncheon is being held to benefit the Building Fund. The donation for the luncheon is $35 per person ($15 for children 12 and under), and reservations are required, so that we may be able to accommodate everyone. Reservation flyers will be mailed out shortly. The flyers will contain more information about making reservations for the event.

All! All three groups, who were competing, (To Mellon performed, but did not compete) received recognition for their efforts: Spithes received the special achievement award for Divisiion II; Revmata received the choral award and a Founder’s special achievement award in the primary category; and Thisavri received a Founders special achievement award in the advanced primary category. Congratulations for their outstanding performances!

As we’ve been doing for a while, periodically, we schedule speakers, through our OIKOS program. OIKOS (Orthodox in Koinonia Outreach Services), under the direction of Dr. Katina Kostoulas, Ph.D., and the assistance of Dr. Tony Elite, sponsors the talks , which are aimed at informing, engaging, and edifying our parishioners in any number of areas involving individual and communal spiritual growth, family dynamics, and parish life. Some of them are erudite (i.e. they are offered by people who teach at the college/university level. Some are instructional in a different way. They are offered by clerics or by laypeople with responsibilities over a particular ministry in the Church. Other are offered by fellow parishioners based on their experiences. All are informative and worthwhile, as they offer a variety of views. The talks take place the first Sunday of each month, during the coffee hour. We’ve had a monk speak to us about the meaning of the komboskene. We’ve had a talk by Alex Kozak who explored St. Maximos the Confessor, e.g. on the topic of the Incarnation. We’ve heard Basil Crowe talk about the development of ecclesiastical music. Dr. Katina Kostoulas has spoken to us on dealing with teenagers and other issues of parenting and nurturing according to the Church Fathers. And the list goes on. We are looking ahead to hearing a first-hand experience with Syrian refugees on the island of Lesbos, from Barbara Karvellis, on Sunday, March 12, to Professor Martha Klironomos on the Bloomsbury Group and how their travels to Greece and Italy inspired the integration of Byzantine motifs into their art. We also look forward to hearing Professor George Kordis, when he comes to “write” the icons in the new Cathedral; he will be speaking, as well, at the PAOI/Graduate Theological Union and at Stanford University. We plan to hear, finally, from Janine Economides and others. Perhaps from young professionals, who have come to San Francisco to work in the tech world, medical research, journalism, etc., as well a number of others.

The new Cathedral exterior has taken shape wonderfully, and it’s truly inspiring to be able to see it in (almost) all its glory now that the scaffold and netting are gone. The finishing touches to the exterior and the courtyard restoration work are on temporary hold due to rain, and will resume as soon as we get a couple of weeks' dry weather. This is a good time to pause and consider all we’ve accomplished, and remember why we’re engaged in this great work. The first time I was in an Orthodox church (I’m a convert) someone explained how each of the elements of the physical building was tied to one of our human senses (ikons for our vision, incense for our sense of smell, etc.). He further explained that the purpose was both to remind us of our spirituality and to help us to directly feel the presence of the Divine. So all the splendid decorations and elaborate services serve a very practical purpose. Our new Cathedral will serve this purpose beautifully. It will be a gracefully imposing space, which we can already see as its exterior nears completion. Inside, it will be harmoniously filled with air and light, much like Yosemite Valley or any other place of great natural beauty. And in this way, it will be more than just a refuge from the bustling world literally outside its doors, though it will provide that. It also will embody the Divine Presence to all who enter, and invite us to encounter God directly in our prayers and worship, not only inside the edifice, but in our daily lives. (Even though it’s still incomplete, all who enter it already feel God’s presence.) And, of course, it will be a beacon to passersby, inviting them to come and see for themselves. While we’ve come a very long way since the first asphalt was taken up, we still have some distance to go to fulfill the promise of this work. So this really is a time of rest and renewal. We are creating something truly amazing, not only for ourselves, but for all who will come after. This pause point can be our opportunity to renew our commitment to see it completed. “Look,” he said. “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” - Acts 7:56 – Ken Katen

The Community Kitchen, which began under the name Soup Kitchen, operates the third Tuesday of every month. The volunteer work involves food prep, cooking, hall setup, serving the meal and---so important!—cleanup. We also have a food pantry, so a few awesome volunteers come early to bag up canned/non-perishable goods for our guests to take with them. Some volunteers arrive earlier, but the typical timeframe is 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Won’t you consider volunteering once in a while? All you have to do is show up. By the way, there’s no age limit. We have teenagers volunteering and we have people “forever young” volunteering. Just look at the collage at the beginning of this Herald. Tots and teens. Seniors and all. Everyone turned out to make our Christmas Community Kitchen a true family event. How wonderful it would be for every month’s Community Kitchen to be like this. We prayed and we sang. We ate and we connected. Guests and hosts alike. We thought, what if the entire world took notice and tried a little bit of outreach: the world would become a better place. How about it. It would be truly wonderful to expand our volunteer base, so we can do more. Please communicate your willingness to Father Stephen, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. He will put you in touch to those who’ve taken the lead and are coordinating this important ministry. Thank you.

As we mentioned in the last issue of the Herald, a parishioner recently asked whether the Church ever takes public stands on social justice issues and whether there has ever been a thought to forming a social justice committee. Notice, here, the word “Church” is capitalized, meaning it has to do with the entire Body of Christ, including the church at the parish level. The answer to the first part of the question is a resounding yes. One may recall Archbishop Iakovos marching with Dr. Martin Luther King, or the stand the Archdiocese has taken on Cyprus and other issues, especially the recent plight of refugees and the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. The Church, both on its own and together with bodies as the World Council of Churches and other agencies, has often addressed issues of world hunger and other issues which may be considered to be social justice issues. The Bible regularly addresses social justice issues, as do the Fathers of the Church, especially St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil the Great. The foundational “for so God loved the world” (John 3:16) encompasses what is often called social justice. We must note that the Church [the Orthodox Church] never separates social justice concerns from theology, and takes a dim view of movements that claim to be concerned with social justice without a firm grounding in the Gospel. This said, let’s go to the second part of the question. The part about forming a social justice committee. The Annunciation Cathedral is open to exploring this. In doing so, it extends an invitation to parishioners who might be interested in meeting and doing just this. The committee will do well to look at the Metropolis Strategic Plan, especially its singular outreach ministry program, as well as the work of the San Francisco Interfaith Council. At a recent prayer breakfast, congregations with Social Justice Committees were honored. On February 9, Father Stephen was asked to offer a reflection at that day’s prayer breakfast. He read the Ecumenical Patriarch’s statement to the Budapest Water Summit which was convened in November. The statement read, in part: “Almost two decades ago, we addressed the authorities and people of Budapest during our Third International, Inter-Religious and Inter-Disciplinary Symposium, entitled “The Danube: A River of Life.” It was a unique event – sailing along the Danube from Germany to Romania in October of 1999, with religious and political leaders, as well as scientists, activists and journalists – highlighting the pollution of cities along this great river. At that time, we underlined that the church cannot be solely interested in the salvation of the soul, but is deeply concerned with the transformation of God’s entire creation. Therefore, what is a threat to nature is also a threat to humankind; just as what is for the preservation of the planet is for the salvation of the whole world. Water is as life-giving and sacred as the blood that runs through our body. It does not belong to any individual or any industry, but is the inviolable and non-negotiable right of every human being. Unless we appreciate the danger – perhaps even sinfulness – of refusing to share the planet’s natural resources, we will inevitably face serious challenges and conflicts. Sustainability is not just sound technology and good business. Sustainability is the way to peaceful coexistence. The reflection consisted in these points made by His All Holiness: 1. The Church cannot be solely interested in the salvation of the soul, but is deeply concerned with the transformation of God’s entire creation. 2. Water…is the inviolable and non-negotiable right of every human being. 3. Sustainability is the way to peaceful coexistence. Many of those at the prayer breakfast would never otherwise have heard the Orthodox Church’s viewpoint outlined above, nor of its pioneering work in matters ecological, which earned the Ecumenical Patriarch the title “Green Patriarch.” We can no longer live as isolated entities. It is time for Annunciation Cathedral to take its place among those congregations, addressing Social Justice issues from an Orthodox Christian point of view. The work is both challenging and vital and we invite your participation. If you are interested, please let us hear from you. Communicate with Father Stephen, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., initially, and, then, with the committee chair, Dr. Elena Lingas. We would like to bring together a group of at least ten people and get going. Young Adults: we especially address these thoughts to you and invite your involvement.

Sure, why not? But, what’s a “Biblical garden?” Well, if you look through the Old and New Testaments, you will find any number of plants mentioned, familiar plants like the olive tree (Judges 9:9), the fig tree (Joel 1:7), hyssop (Leviticus 14:52), pomegranate (Song of Solomon 7:12), and wormwood (Revelation 8:11), but also many unfamiliar plants, as terebinth (2 Samuel 18:9), spikenard (Song of Solomon) 4:14, nigella (Isaiah 28:26), and boxthorn (Proverbs 22:5). The best known of all is, is perhaps, the burning bush, mentioned in the Book of Exodus (3:1). Now, some of the plants mentioned in Scripture will do well in the Mission District climate, others not so well. A while back, thought was given to planning an urban garden in various areas around the new Cathedral, one that could support the Community kitchen. This would be primarily a vegetable garden and would, therefore, be seasonal. Our current thinking is that a Biblical garden could feature plants that would be in season the year round and, at the same time, connect us to our Scriptural roots. We welcome your suggestions, meanwhile. We have some time to go before planting begins, but it’s not too early to ask, “a Biblical garden on Valencia Street?”
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Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God.

John 4:7