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St. John’s Episcopal Church celebrates new ministry

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MASSENA - Calling Wednesday night, “truly a new beginning,” the Rev. William H. Love, bishop of Albany, officially welcomed the Rev. Elizabeth B. Papazoglakis to her church during a “celebration of new ministry” at St. John’s Episcopal Church.

The Rev. Mrs. Papazoglakis and her husband, the Rev. Thomas Papazoglakis arrived in the north country in March. The Rev. Mrs. Papazoglakis serves as rector at St. John’s Episcopal Church, and the Rev. Mr. Papazoglakis served as the rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Malone. They also serve as each other’s assistants.

On Wednesday night, with members of St. John’s and other local churches on hand, the Rev. Mrs. Papazoglakis was “fully empowered and authorized to exercise this ministry, accepting its privileges and responsibilities as a priest of this diocese, in communion with your bishop,” according to a letter written and read by Bishop Love.

“We’re doing something new. You have called a clergy couple to come and minister to the people,” Bishop Love said. “You have called strong and courageous leaders. They need all the rest of you to be strong and courageous as you go forward.”

He said Wednesday night’s celebration was not just for the Rev. Mrs. Papazoglakis, but also for the entire parish.

“It’s not just about her. First and foremost it’s about God. It’s also about you, the body of Christ who are called here,” Bishop Love said.

One of the readings during the service was about God speaking to Joshua after the death of Moses. Joshua had been chosen to continue leading the Israelites into the Promised Land.

Wednesday’s readings, Bishop Love said, “speak so powerfully to that which we celebrate this night.”

He said that, when God spoke to Joshua, He told him to “be strong and very courageous,” and that’s also what the bishop asked of those at Wednesday’s service at a time when he said the church was under growing attacks.

“To be Christian, to stand firm in your faith takes courage. It takes courageous leaders. I believe you recognized that by calling Mother Elizabeth,” he said.

“Every parish has its ups and downs. You’ve been around a long time and seen a lot of ups and downs. It’s easy to get discouraged about some of those struggles. But keep the focus and He will bless us. He knows the needs of a parish family. I believe he has answered one of those needs,” Bishop Love said.

In his letter to the Rev. Mrs. Papazoglakis, he wrote, “Having committed yourself to this work, do not forget the trust of those who have chosen you. Care alike for young and old, strong and weak, rich and poor. By your words, and in your life, proclaim the Gospel. Love and serve Christ’s people. Nourish them, and strengthen them to glorify God in the life to come.”

As part of the ceremony, representatives of the congregation presented her with a Bible, a stole, a book of prayers, olive oil, the keys to the church, the Constitution and canons of the church, and bread and wine. Bishop Love presented her with a vessel of water.

“Let all these be signs of the ministry which is mine and yours in this place,” Bishop Love said.

Then, kneeling in the midst of the church, the Rev. Mrs. Papazoglakis said, “O Lord my God, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; yet you have called your servant to stand in your house, and to serve as your altar. To you and to your service I devote myself, body, soul and spirit.”

Following her prayer, she was then officially presented to the congregation.

Prior to coming to St. John’s, the Rev. Mrs. Papazoglakis served as assistant to the rector at Trinity Episcopal Church in Wauwatosa, Wisc. She and her husband served together as a ministry team in Wisconsin prior to her ordination to the priesthood.

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