Door Opening of the Retreat House Ushers New Era for the Metropolis of Boston
It was a day that will remain etched in the minds of those who participated in the latest joyous and historic event in the Metropolis of Boston. His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios presented to Archbishop Demetrios of America and to the more than 1300 faithful from throughout New England the newly constructed Retreat House on the grounds of the Saint Methodios Faith & Heritage Center in Contoocook, NH. Amidst the beauty of the New Hampshire woods, under blue skies and colorful foliage, Archbishop Demetrios and Metropolitan Methodios assisted by benefactors, cut the ribbon and entered a magnificent structure which will greatly enhance the programs and ministries of the Metropolis of Boston. The faithful of the entire Archdiocese will have a place to retreat, connect with our Orthodox Faith and Hellenic Culture, grow spiritually and relax in the pristine 268 acre facility which includes three lakes, the rustic Chapel of St. George, a state of the art dining facility, and now a Retreat House consisting of 40-double rooms, a library, a parlor with a fireplace, conference rooms, audio visual rooms and much more.
"We do not believe in human cloning," Archbishop Demetrios told the large gathering in front of the Retreat House "but this building should be cloned"! Following the Agiasmos Service, Metropolitan Methodios, on behalf of the entire Metropolis presented the Archbishop an Engolpion to mark the 10th anniversary of his enthronement as Archbishop of America. Metropolitan Methodios also announced that the library in the Retreat House will be named the Archbishop Demetrios Library. The Archbishop who is celebrating the tenth anniversary of his pastorate as the spiritual leader of the Archdiocese of America was visibly moved and pleased to see this facility, promising that he will talk about it everywhere he travels.
The Consul General of Greece in Boston, Constantine Orphanides, brought the best wishes of Greek nation and expressed his personal admiration for the Retreat House and the entire Faith & Heritage Center, thanking Metropolitan Methodios for this great achievement of the Greek Orthodox Church in New England.
Also participating at the ceremony was the Governor of New Hampshire, John Lynch, who related how as a youngster he was a camper in what was then known as Camp Merrimack. He welcomed everyone and related his closeness with the Greek Orthodox Community of New Hampshire, sharing that he enjoyed visiting the Greek Festival at the St. George Cathedral in Manchester. Governor Lynch was accompanied by the New Hampshire Commissioner of Labor George Copadis, a personal friend of the governor, a steward at the St. George Cathedral and an admirer and supporter of the St. Methodios Faith & Heritage Center complex.
The highlights of the day included a much admired performance of Greek dancing by the Metropolis of Boston Dance Troop, directed by Dr. John Pappas which has performed locally, nationally and internationally before appreciative audiences.
Metropolitan Methodios addressed the gathering:
As I pondered upon the significance of today's ceremony, the following thought penned by an unnamed author came to mind.
"The future is not a result of choices among alternative paths offered by the present, but a place that is created first in the mind and will, created next in activity. The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating."
Many years ago we began envisioning the future of Orthodoxy in New England. Indeed we knew the future had to be created first in our imagination and then in specific ministries which would embrace the people of God.
And so, 1995, I appointed a Blue Ribbon Committee chaired by Christos Papoutsy to locate property for a Camp and Heritage Center where children and adults could enjoy fellowship, and learn about their Greek Orthodox Faith and Culture. The Committee recommended what was then known as Camp Merrimac in the old village of Cloughville in Contoocook, NH.
In September 1998, thanks to a most generous endowment gift from George and Margo Behrakis, the Metropolis of Boston purchased this beautiful property which consisted of 191 acres. Two years later, in May of 2000, George and Margo retired the remaining mortgage bringing their total contribution to well over one million dollars. This year, the Behrakis family purchased an additional 77 adjoining acres, bringing the total number to 268 acres. We are grateful to them for their visionary faith and commitment to our Faith and Heritage.
We are also thankful to our communities throughout New England, to our Clergy Syndesmos, to our Philoptochos Societies, to the Archons of our Church, to all Greek-American organizations and to faithful individuals who generously contributed over the years to renovate existing buildings including the Recreation Hall, the Chapel and the Dining Hall. We are grateful also to those who underwrote the construction of several new cabins for year-round use of our young people and the two families that are underwriting the construction of a new infirmary and a new camp office building.
Early on, the Metropolis Council and Faith and Heritage Center Committee identified the need to build a facility to welcome adults so that they, too, may spend a few days in retreat to participate in workshops, conferences, and seminars addressing matters of our Faith and Heritage, and the critical issues with which modern man struggles in today's world.
That vision became a faith commitment. We broke ground and planted our seed of hope on September 10, 2006. After overcoming some unexpected obstacles, we began construction on August 2008.
Today that seed of hope has grown to become a tree of Faith. Today, we open the doors of this magnificent building, but more so, the embrace of our Church to one and all. We especially extend a warm welcome to all who have been prevented by various obstacles to draw near to Christ. Prayerfully, here in this pristine environment, "the Son of man will come to seek and save the lost". (Lk. 19)
We pray that this Retreat House be a Jacob's well where life's sojourners may engage in dialogue with our Savior and quench their spiritual thirsts at the well of Orthodoxy.
We pray that every tree on this property becomes the Sycamore Tree of the Gospel, so that today's Zaccheus may climb to get a good view of Christ the Savior.
May the waters in the beautiful lakes on this property receive the blessing of the Jordan where pilgrims may come to be spiritually renewed.
Prayerfully, it is here where Almighty God will "pour out His Spirit on all who come so that our sons and daughters shall prophecy, our young men will see visions and our old men will dream dreams". It is here where we all will have the opportunity to "call on the name of the Lord and be saved". (Joel 2,28-32)
It is here prayerfully, that God will make known to all "the ways of life and will make them full of joy in His Presence" to quote the Psalmist David. (Psalm 16, 8-11)
As we are about to cut the ceremonial ribbon to make our entrance, I pray as we do during the Divine Liturgy, that Holy Angels will enter with us to celebrate and glorify the goodness of Almighty God.
I thank God for blessing us today. I thank Him for all those whose names are engraved on the leaves of our Donor's Tree at the entrance of our building. I thank each of them who contributed generously---each according to their ability---to make this dream come true.
I thank those of you that have not as yet made a contribution but are planning to in the future. Don't worry there are plenty of leaves on the tree that await to bear your names.
A sincere word of thanks to the Metropolis Council, the Metropolis Philoptochos Board and the Faith and Heritage Center Committee.
A special word of thanks to our architects, Yervan and Florence Nahikian both of whom dedicated their lives to this project over the past two years.
A special thanks to Mike Sintros, the director of our Faith and Heritage Center whose tireless efforts are sincerely appreciated. A Special word of thanks to Fr. Ted, Fr. Tsoukalas, and to the countless volunteers who are helping us today.
We are thankful to God that we open the doors of this Retreat House during the month when we celebrate as an Archdiocese the 10th Anniversary of the Enthronement of Archbishop Demetrios. As a sign of respect, we would like to offer two gifts, one that he can take with him, and one which will remain here at our Retreat House.
Your Eminence, please accept this Engolpio with our prayers that you wear it for many years as our Archbishop. The second gift will remain here. As we all know, His Eminence is a world renowned scholar and academician as well as a respected Churchman. In honor of his 10th anniversary, we have named the library in the Retreat house, "The Archbishop Demetrios Library".
Walking among the crowds who, following the ceremony, enjoyed a delicious luncheon and admired the Retreat House during guided tours, one could hear remarks of satisfaction, admiration and appreciation for this magnificent facility.
"It is such a magnificent building. I had heard about it, saw pictures of it, but, it is a marvel to see it in person."
"Those who did not come missed a lot. Everyone must come and visit this treasure we Greek Orthodox have here."
"Absolutely beautiful; everything about it was great"
"I didn't know so much was going on here! I will have to tell everyone I know and come again and again."
"That mosaic cross on the fireplace wall. What an inspiring piece of art!"
"We are grateful that our Metropolitan had the vision and determination to build this superb structure and create the entire center for all of us, but most importantly for our children."
"The beauty of this facility cannot be appreciated unless one comes here to see it."
"Look around, see out children play among this large crowd; with their hands we can touch the future, and what a good feeling that is."
Almost immediately following the day's festivities emails arrived at the Metropolis congratulating Metropolitan Methodios for this achievement and thanking him for his extraordinary vision: "What a spectacular day we celebrated at the camp! All the years of planning and preparing for this day came together in this greatest of days by your good and far reaching words. With great thanksgiving and respect we congratulate you. The dream has come true and now your people, the followers of our Christ can come to the center to be taught, to pray, and to learn the life in Christ in the quiet of such a pristine and beautiful surroundings. I see this as a beginning for our metropolis to have a safe haven for all our people to grow in faith and the wisdom of the Lord. It is such a magnificent building, when I turned the corner today and saw it for the first time, it took my breath away! God grant you many years to lead us in the way to salvation. Whatever we can do in the future to be of help, please call on us."
Construction of the Retreat House progressed as more than 700 campers enjoyed the Camp Program. So many have been an integral part of this historic event in all its stages from the identification of the property in 1995, to its purchase, to the construction of the functional cabins and other structures, to the Door Opening festivities of the Retreat House on September 26. Under the leadership of Metropolitan Methodios many have worked harmoniously together with enthusiasm and dedication to make the St. Methodios Faith & Heritage Center a beacon of Orthodoxy and Hellenism not only in New England but in the entire country.