Holy Spirit Orthodox Mission was established in 1988 as an outreach mission of Holy Trinity Church located in Randolph, New Jersey. It is thus the newest religious congregation in Vernon in 1992. It is a mission of the Orthodox Church in America, which is an autocephalous (self-ruling) church in the world-wide community of Eastern Orthodox Churches.
The Archpriest George Hasenecz, Rector of Holy Trinity Church, with the blessing of His Eminence Archbishop Peter (diocesan Bishop of New York and New Jersey), felt the need for an Orthodox Christian presence in the Vernon area of Sussex County. This would fulfill the needs of Orthodox Christians who lived in the area, and also create an opportunity for evangelization in the Eastern Orthodox faith.
On Sunday, January 24, Father George along with 40 faithful celebrated the first Divine Liturgy of then the yet to be named mission of the Holy Spirit at St Thomas Episcopal Church. Monthly Divine Liturgies were offered to the faithful in the beginning months by Father George. A Steering Commitee was established to serve as a liaison between Holy Trinity, the mother parish, and Holy Spirit, the daughter parish.
As growth continued, services became bimonthly, then weekly. The need to meet weekly was established that following October at another location of the lower hall of the Vernon VFW Post 8441 with the help of Reverend Peter Telencio. Father Telencio, a military chaplain stationed at Fort Monmouth, nurtured the needs of Holy Spirit Mission until he was assigned by the US Army in June 1991 to Berlin, Germany. With the combined pastoral guidance of Fr Hasenecz (who was assigned Rector), Fr Telencio, and Deacon Samuel Kedala, all areas of the parish service emerged with the laity becoming active disciples in mission services in Christ's Holy Church. Church Readers, Altar Servers, Church Greeters, Choir Singers, Doorkeepers, Offering Attendants, Trustees on the Church Council, Prosphora Bakers, Coffee Social Hosts, Church cleaners, Publicity and Outreach Ministers, Sunshine Visitors to the sick, and Sunday School Students all join together for a common calling: The proclamation of Christ's resurrection "to the ends of the earth."
In June of 1991 the diocesan authority assigned Father Joseph Frawley to the mission. Fr Frawley extended the mission's need for a full schedule of worship services. The VFW Hall basement was changed from a "Sunday Only" rental to "Exclusive Full Time" use. The first Hierarchical Liturgy and visit of His Eminence, Archbishop Peter to Holy Spirit Mission was on January 5, 1992. An active search committee was formed to locate property and a building for Holy Spirit's permanant house of worship.
From March 1992 to November 1993 Holy Spirit continued to flourish under the pastoral guidance of Father Gerrard Machado. With Archbishop Peter's second archbishop visit on August 6-7, His Eminence inspected the tract of land and building and gave his archpastoral blessings for Holy Spirit to proceed with the purchase of this land.
The Mission entered its next stage of growth in January 1994 with the acquisition of this parcel of land and building. Fr John Bartholomew was assigned to service the mission in February 1994. While preliminary renovation was done in the permanent building, it temporarily moved on July 1, 1994 to an upper level office space in the Colonial Plaza in Vernon, NJ. The community continued to worship at the Colonial Plaza office space until February 4, 1995, when it moved into the new church building. On the following day (February 5) with exuberant joy, prayers of Thanksgiving were offered to God during the first Divine Liturgy celebrated in the temporary lower level of the chapel with Very Rev John Nehrebecki officiating.
The Holy Spirit family is comprised of 34 adults and 40 children. On June 30, 1996, Deacon Samuel Kedala was ordained to the Holy Priesthood by His Eminence Archbishop Peter and assigned to Holy Spirit Mission. Vespers are held every Saturday at 6:00 PM and Sunday Divine Liturgy is at 10:00 AM with Coffee fellowship and Sunday School immediately following.
Outreach activities include annual Advent Lectures, church "Open House" (inviting friends / neighbors to attend Divine Liturgy), and community food baskets. There are 3-4 church family outings a year allowing our church family to moments of joy and individual spiritual inspiration and growth. Apple picking, pumpkin picking / hayride, a pilgrimage to venerate the weeping icon of St Irene of Chrysovalantou, and a trip to St Tikhon's Monastery to learn of the monastic vocation and the art of bell ringing are some examples.
Holy Spirit Orthodox Mission is bringing the joy of Christ's resurrection to those who have never heard the Good News, and to strengthen and encourage the faithful who reside within the tri-state area of northern NJ, northeastern PA, and southern NY.