Holy Protection of the Most Holy Mother of God Church is a local parish of God's Catholic and Apostolic Orthodox Church ("the Orthodox Church"), the mother Church of all Christianity, and the native Church of the Holy Land and other lands of the Bible (Jerusalem, Antioch, Egypt, Asia Minor, Cyprus, Greece, etc.).
Holy Protection is a Pan-Orthodox parish, which means that we incorporate Orthodox hymnography and legitimate practices of various local Orthodox traditions familiar to our members, giving homage to our roots.
The Orthodox Church is known in its official documents as the "Church of God" and as the "Orthodox Catholic Church"; or in longer form, the "Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church."
All seven of the local Churches mentioned in the book of Revelation are historically Orthodox Churches, and existed through the 20th century, today existing but diminished by the Turkish export of Christians (one of our members is the daughter of a member of the ancient Church of Smyrna!) Although the Church of Rome was a local church of the Catholic and Apostolic Orthodox Church for the first millennium of Christianity, for many centuries now, the two have, unfortunately, been out of communion with one another, with Orthodoxy insisting on maintaining certain ancient principles and not departing from them. Thus, the Orthodox Catholic Church and the Roman Catholic Church are not in communion with one another, although attempts at reconciliation are underway provided that there is no compromise of the ancient Faith originally held in common by both.
Our parish, being mindful of the warnings of those local churches within God's Church in the book of Revelation, strives to remain worthy of being a local continuation of this one, original Church. We are human, and faulty, but we strive to attain to the high calling of Christ. If you are local and reading this, perhaps God is calling you to be a part of its present and future ministry!
The Sunday Liturgy, held at 10am, is not just a reflection of the life of the age to come, but a miraculous participation in it here and now, culminating in Holy Communion with God. In this service, the faithful who have prepared properly receive Christ sacramentally (i.e. spiritually and physically by grace), that we may have Him, together with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, living and dwelling within us according to Christ's promise. We pray through the week as members of Christ's Body wherever we find ourselves--at home, silently throughout the workday, when traveling and when running errands. Prayer, talking with our Creator and keeping constant contact with Him, is essential to our Faith. In this service, the faithful who have prepared properly receive Christ sacramentally (i.e. spiritually and physically by grace), that we may have Him, together with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, living and dwelling within us according to Christ's promise.
The Church rejoices in all who call upon the name of Jesus Christ as Lord, and invites all who do so to adhere to Him sacramentally in "the Faith delivered once for all to the saints" (Jude 1.3). For those who are baptized Christians but have not received the Orthodox sacrament of Chrismation (the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit by being anointed with Chrism), this involves learning about the Faith, confessing the Faith from the heart, then being chrismated, and thereafter regularly partaking of Communion. For those who are not baptized, they would dedicate their life to Christ in the service of the making of a catechumen, undergo a period of learning about God, His plan of salvation, and the Christian Orthodox Faith. After this they will be baptized, chrismated, and receive Communion. Orthodox Christians live a life of repentance in Christ, participate in the sacrament of Repentance (confession of sins) periodically, attend Liturgy on Sundays and receive Communion regularly with proper preparation.
"Wait!" you may say. "These Orthodox claim to be the original--they are prideful!" Quite the contrary, we are taught to esteem others more highly than ourselves, as Scripture teaches. First of all, we are simply Christians who have adhered to Christ's Church. It is not "our" Church, but God's, and so we have nothing to be prideful about. We acknowledge Christ's Holy Orthodox Church to be what it is--the historic original Church in its fullness, not having added or subtracted from the faith delivered by Christ to the Apostles down through the ages. It is not "our" Church, but God's Church, of which He has granted to make us part, and has called you to be a part. The Orthodox Church holds that Christ's members within her are responsible to adhere to Christ's truth that has been revealed to the Church, and a much greater account shall be required of them from the Lord, and thus we must think of ourselves humbly in this position--as ones in need most of God's mercy.
We recognize that the Cross of Christ is central to salvation, and that we can only attain to it through an honest, straightforward, and unabashed recognition of our own brokenness. The Orthodox Church is the authentic Church of Christ with unbroken continuity despite the brokeness and sinfulness of its members. Think of it this way: the person who guards Fort Knox is not worth more than those who don't--he just knows the value of what is guarded, and takes more responsibility for guarding it. We simply believe in being honest with God, with ourselves, and with each other--we are unworthy to guard the deposit of truth--but we welcome all to this task, and strive to hold it ourselves. We hold in high esteem other Christian brethren that, to the best of their knowledge, adhere to Christ, and in absolutely no way hold ourselves personally superior to any of them--quite the contrary--we pray that they ultimately come to be set before us in God's kingdom. But the fulness of Christ's Church itself is that in which Christ's plenitude of grace is sacramentally and dogmatically present without aberration, and that is within the spiritual gates of God's Catholic and Apostolic Orthodox Church.
While we are glad that Christ has led us to the fullness of His Church, we acknowledge that "affiliation" does NOT gain us eternal life. Each person has to accept and put their life in the hands of Jesus Christ as their Lord, and all must stand before Him and give account for their lives and what they have done with the gifts He has given them. Christ is the only Savior of humankind and all must adhere to Him and have Him abiding within them and He in them in order to have Salvation, for He IS Salvation.
If you are without a spiritual home, you need not be--the Holy Spirit and Christ call you to "come" (Rev. 22.17). We embrace everyone from all walks of life and in all manner of situations--the brokenhearted, the downtrodden, those who battle with all manner of addictions to alcohol, drugs, overeating, overspending, gambling, among others. Here you can be opened about your struggles and be received by a relatively small but loving community that gives support to one another in the path to salvation provided by Christ.
Holy Protection is a parish of all ethnic backgrounds within the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the United States of America, within the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and participatory in the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops of the USA.
Our common language is English, being the language of the land and also the common and thus uniting language of the parish. For this reason, the language of the Liturgy on Sunday is English (with sprinklings of other languages appropriate for our land and heritage, with text provided). Sometimes other languages are used in midweek services based on the day and who attends, and may include Spanish, Ukrainian, Slavonic, Greek, Arabic, or other.
Our parish is involved in the following services (ministries) to the community:
- Prayer ministry. Please let us know if you would like us to pray for you or your loved one! We do various services for many needs at the Church and also of members in their homes. Services of prayer for the strength of marriages, those who have cancer, heart problems, have been in accidents, wounded by attacks, the armed forces, police, firefighters, deliverance from substance abuse, for better parenting, and many other causes.
- Orphan ministry. We sponsor a local house for children who have been removed from households where they were abused, neglected. We also contribute to St. Andrew Society of our Archdiocese which cares for abandoned children who are orphaned overseas in Ukraine.
- "You visited Me" outreach. Widow/Widower care, Nursing home care, Hospital visitations. We have been doing this for a decade, visiting those who are nursing home bound, praying with them, and bringing gifts on special holidays.
- "You clothed Me" ministry--Care packages to the homeless
- Faith health outreach--offering certain medical services for free, thanks to our trained nurses in cooperation with a local health care system. (please note, along with other Tampa Bay area Orthodox Churches, our parish has contributed to the building of a medical clinic in northern Uganda, collections taken at the Tampa Bay Lenten Vespers over the last several years)
- Veteran's and hospital ministry--visitation and gifts to Veteran's and staff of hospitals, including children's hospital.
- Christian Education Ministry. Last but not least--when Christ gave the great commission, He commanded to go and make disciples of every ethnicity by teaching them to observe everything He commanded. This is at the heart of what it means to be Christian and Orthodox--to trust in God and follow Christ in the path to salvation. We provide Christian Education for adults during fellowship hour for parents to be equipped to knowledgeably educate their children in the way of the Lord and to live a God-centered life. After fellowship, we have a Bible Study to allow God to improve our lives through the grace that Scripture provides. We also have a Facebook page as well as having informative videos on Youtube. Fr. Harry is also the Director of Religious Education for the UOC of the USA, and is developing its Christian Education website, www.orthodoxchristianed.org.
We are a small parish but we continue that which was handed on to us from Christ Himself, and thus urge you to "Come and see what the Lord has done" (Ps. 66).
If you would like to donate to our parish for its Christ-centered work and continuation, please click HERE to do so online.
Orthodox Christianity: Come back to the original, accept no substitutes