In just over a year since COVID, St. Tikhon’s Missionary Choir had its first choir mission trip at the beginning of December 2021. The group was small, consisting of only five seminarians—a quintet. Also traveling with the seminarians were the Dean of the Seminary and the miracle-working icon of St. Anna. On a Friday, we left South Canaan from the northeastern part of Pennsylvania for Ellwood City, the western tip of the same state. We made our first stop at the Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration, initially founded by the former Princess Ileana of Romania in the 1960s. The nuns were very hospitable, “killing us” with their kindness and generosity. We sang “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” which, in turn, they sang for us a few of their hymns.
On Saturday morning, our next stop was the parish St. Innocent the Apostle in Olmsted Falls, Ohio. The current rector for St. Innocent is a recent graduate of St. Tikhon’s, the Reverend Peter Simko. The church was practically built, with a simple but beautiful wood interior. At least 60 to 70 people were in attendance, robust for a Saturday morning. We processed with the icon of St. Anna to the middle of the church and sang the Divine Liturgy for the parish. Each of the seminarians was invited to talk about themselves and their experience being at St. Tikhon’s. Again, like the nuns, the parish was very gracious and kind.
Our next stop was supposed to be to the church Ss. Peter and Paul in Lorain, Ohio, however, the rector tested positive for COVID. This unexpected turn of events forced us to improvise. Instead of singing Great Vespers and singing an evening concert at the Church in Lorain that Saturday night, we did a private Vespers for our house patrons and did an ad hoc live-stream concert afterward.
Because of the rector of Ss. Peter and Paul tested positive for COVID, our plans for singing the Divine Liturgy Sunday morning were canceled. With the quick thinking of our Dean, we secured singing a Divine Liturgy at the Holy Ghost Church in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, presided by the rector, the Very Reverend Willam Evansky. Fr. Bill, as the rector liked to be called, was incredibly gracious and accommodating for us. The parishioners were very receptive and donated generously to the Seminary.
And thus concluded our first mission choir trip since the start of COVID. It was a wonderful and instructive time. The experience of “missionizing” through the beauty of singing for the sake of raising funds for the Seminary is a humbling one, in the positive sense. The lengthy drive and the potential difficulties of a road trip provide time for bonding between us, strengthening our sense of brotherhood and community. We are all looking forward to the next choir mission trip.
By Elias Rehmet (STOTS, Class of 2023)