Holy Trinity Orthodox priest retires after 32 years
The end of September would be the 85th year of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church's Greek Festival. For 32 of those years, Fr. Stephen Supica has been the presiding priest.
When he came in 1988, Holy Trinity was the only Orthodox church between Yakima and Butte.
He has seen Orthodoxy grow by nine parishes in Eastern Washington and North Idaho—Christ the Savior and the Holy Lady of Kazan Russian Orthodox in Spokane Valley; St Gregorios Malankara Syrian Orthodox and St. Nicholas Antiochian in North Spokane; St Luke in Chatteroy; St. Katherine in Pullman; St. Silouan of Mt. Athos Russian in Walla Walla; Holy Myrrhbearers Antiochian in Bonners Ferry, and St. John the Baptist in Post Falls.
"It's also been a joy to watch the parish welcome new people—babies, converts, immigrants, refugees and people moving into the area," he said.
In those years, Fr. Stephen summarized that he has done 283 baptisms and chrismations (confirmations), 99 weddings, 186 funerals and at least 3000 liturgies.
COVID-19 has changed the way the church operates. He has followed the strict guidelines in a 12-page directive from his bishop.
"I don't make the decisions. I do what my bishop tells me," said Fr. Stephen, who for the weeks until the end of June did the liturgy by video.
Now a maximum of 40 peoplecan come to the church and he continues to provide the service by video for those who are older and consider it too risky to join those who are gathering. Before COVID an average of more than 100 attended Sunday liturgy.
"We have also done meetings by Zoom, including parish council and adult classes," he said.
Because the adult classes have drawn people from Malden, North Spokane and even Yakima, he said the church may continue to do Zoom classes.
COVID has not brought the only changes in his years there. When he came, the Sunday matins service, attended mostly by older Greek women was all in Greek. Now it is 100 percent in English. The main liturgy is 80 to 90 percent English. Services are sung in Greek, English and Slavonic.
"Only a handful of members now speak Greek proficiently," he said.
One reason is there is no continuing immigration from Greece, and only about 20 families trace to Greek ancestry. Each generation becomes more assimilated.
Another reason is that the church has become multi-ethnic. It welcomed some Russians, until they formed a Russian Orthodox Church. They welcomed Bosnian and Croatian in the 1990s, helping them settle in the community.
Parishioners come from the United States, Armenia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Eritrea, Greece, Lebanon, Romania, Russia, Serbia, and Ukraine, among other places.
Holy Trinity is a parish of the Metropolis of San Francisco of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, which is under the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. In 1932, it was established out of coffee houses and social gatherings that celebrated Greek heritage.
While some families have left to help with the formation of new churches nearer to where they live, many come back each year to help prepare the Greek dishes and baked goods for the annual Greek Festival, and to join in the music and dance, Fr. Stephen said.
"It has been an opportunity for members to work side-by-side and build community," he said. "Our church has also relied on the financial support.
While the health department is not issuing permits for such events, he expects they may do a drive up baklava and baked goods sale.
He expects the church will consider options, because unlike 20 years ago, more women work outside the home and have had less flexible schedules for volunteering, he said, but they still like doing it.
That, however, will be in the hands of the new priest.
Fr. Stephen retired at the end of August and Fr. Daniel Triant, who has served six years as assistant priest at St. Demetrios in Seattle, was appointed by the bishop and assumed the new role as Proistamenos on Sept. 1.
Fr. Daniel spent his first 20 years at Holy Trinity in Grand Rapids, Mich. He earned a master's degree in computer science from DePaul University in 1998, and then developed web and mobile phone applications at several start-up companies.
In 2014, Fr. Daniel graduated from Holy Cross Seminary in Brookline, Ma., with a masters of divinity degree, and began at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Seattle with his wife, Presvytera Michelle, and his two daughters, Penelope and Mia.
"I never could have guessed I would begin my ministry hindered by the pandemic, but I am inspired by conversations with Holy Trinity members about how they have been responding in this time.
"Through our struggles, our faith in Jesus Christ is honed," said Fr. Daniel, whose emphases in ministry have been on worship, education, communication, administration and youth/young adult ministry.
He seeks to challenge young people with thought-provoking questions and topics to encourage them to become active participants in their faith.
The parish expects his expertise in the tech industry will help them revamp operations in the office for more efficient, transparent communication.
In addition to this, Fr. Daniel was responsible for the monthly newsletter and eCommunications at St Demetrios.
Fr. Stephen said he has been ready to retire because neuropathy has made it hard to be steady on his feet
His wife, Presvytera Irene Pascha, will likely continue as cantor and they will continue to live in Spokane where their two daughters also live.
For information, call 328-9310, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.holytrinityspokane.org.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree,September, 2020