Holy Apostles Mission began in 1982, when Fr Seraphim Storheim, now Bishop SERAPHIM of Canada, visited regularly with the group in Columbia. Eventually, a retired priest, Fr Stephen Smith held services monthly, while members did reader services and Typika in between.
During these formative years, the mission was helped greatly by the local Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox parish, and particularly by one of their members, Dr. Deno Chrysostom, who generously allowed us to hold services regularly in a room in his dental office. Many of the new mission’s liturgical items were donated by the Holy Trinity Community, and their support was very important to our growth.
In 1987, Fr Peter Smith became the first full-time pastor when he moved with his family to Columbia. After the usual struggles of any fledgling mission, consistent liturgical worship and the stable presence of an OCA mission began to bear fruit. With great foresight, the members of Holy Apostles had diligently built a sizeable building fund which enabled us to buy a building in December of 1990. From that very moment, exciting things happened on a regular basis for Holy Apostles. They grew to a community of some 50 regular participants, with several young, vibrant families, several serious-minded young folks, seasoned elders, and new members were added to the catechumen class regularly.
Holy Apostles has also been a great source of vocations for the Orthodox Church in America . In 1991, due to his father’s illness, Subdeacon Thomas and Kyra Moore returned home to Columbia with their son, George. Having completed the Late Vocations at Holy Trinity Cathedral in San Francisco and served at Holy Apostles for a year, he was ordained to the Holy Diaconate in June 1992. He was ordained to the Priesthood in June 1998, and after graduating from St. Vladimir’s Seminary, he was assigned to help develop the St. Innocent Mission in Macon, GA. Fr. Marcus Burch was received into the church, attended St. Vladimir ’s and was ordained to the priesthood in 1997. Fr. Cyprian Durant attended St. Tikhon’s was ordained to the Diaconate and to the priesthood in 1999. Subdeacon Mikel and Elizabeth Bock, with their daughter Stephanie, having arrived in 1992, were other faithful pillars of the early Holy Apostles Mission. They moved to Anchorage , AK to study at St. Herman’s Seminary in 1998. He was ordained to the priesthood in 2002. The Reader Kevin Smith and his wife Kamilla were also instrumental in the early formation of this community, until 1998 when they moved to attend St. Vladimir’s Seminary. Kevin was later ordained to the Diaconate in May, 2001. B. Peter Robichau who originally joined the parish in 1998 with his wife Christine Nina was ordained to the Holy Diaconate by His Eminence, Archbishop DMITRI in June of 2006 and to the priesthood in 2009. Many others have been tonsured readers, and ordained as subdeacons to serve the Church.
In May, 1999, Fr Peter Smith was re-assigned to St. Mary of Egypt Church in Atlanta , and Fr Thomas Moore was asked to return to Holy Apostles. Although initially reluctant to leave the fledgling St. Innocent Mission, left in the good hands of Dn. Innokenty Schmerko (ordained to the Holy Priesthood in 2000), Fr Thomas and his family, now including their daughter Anna, were able to joyfully return home to Columbia. Many new and old faces were there to greet them, including some new community pillars. Reader Lawrence and Julianna Gillespie, Ken and Vera Bozko-Summers have been indefatigable servants and fundraisers for the Mission .
The community was also greatly enriched by the conversion of Dr. Edward Rommen and his family. A former Lutheran pastor for many years, and a seminary professor of Missiology and Contextual Theology in Germany and America. After completing the OCA Late Vocations Program, he was ordained a deacon, then a priest in 2001. He is now serving an OCA mission in Raleigh , NC . His wife, Ainee, and daughter Rebecca, are accomplished musicians and led the choir. The other daughter, Crystal Marie, and her husband, Reader Seraphim, have their undergraduate degrees in Ancient Biblical Languages. They, along with many other steady and regular members, provided continuity and invaluable help to Holy Apostles during this transitional period. May God grant them many years.
During the next few years, Holy Apostles was blessed with quick growth. Old friends who had helped found the mission — Don and Sandy Pecic, and Walter, Tanya, Lois, and Michael Gregory — returned. Many new parishioners from Aiken — the Floyd, Eubanks, Buxhoeveden, and Hodge families – also rejoined us. After several years of traveling employment and serving in other Churches, Subdeacon Joshua Godbold and his family moved back to Columbia. Several others — the Skelton, Sturges, and Sbardella families — were received into the Church by baptism and/or chrismation, along with many new children. In 2005 the addition of many new converts, and Russian immigrants, made us realize we were outgrowing our current facility, and after Archbishop DMITRI suggested we needed a more visible location, we quickly found a new building. Slowly we began converting it into a proper Orthodox temple.
In 2006 the mission of Holy Apostles to the faithful in Aiken, SC was blessed by the assignment of Father Andrew Diehl to their mission. Fr. Robert Royer and his family took over the mission the next year. They have grown dramatically during their short time as an official mission station of the diocese, and they are currently renting a storefront in August, GA and are working to establish a permanent and visible presence in and witness to the Aiken, SC/Augusta, GA area.
By 2010 Holy Apostles has grown to 84 contributing members who have spent quite a bit of sweat equity in expanding our facilities and making them beautiful. We seem to grow by 5-10 new members a year, but many move out of the Columbia area to continue their pilgrimage in another Orthodox Church. Our Saint Nicholas festival continues to grow under the guidance first of Toni Godbold and now Philip and Valerie Selby, and has become a regular destination for many in the South East on the first Saturday of December.
Our Lord is watering and tending this vineyard that He has planted through the efforts of so many who have come before us, and we are grateful for them, and to the Lord, for the increase. Easily accessible by land, sea, and air, Columbia, South Carolina is centrally located in the southeastern portion of the vibrant Diocese of the South, under the pastoral direction of our Locum Tenens, Metropolitan Jonah. Please consider this an invitation to “Come and See!”
We at Holy Apostles Orthodox Church are grateful for the monastic presence of SS. Mary and Martha Orthodox Monastery in Wagener, SC. Our parishioners regularly go there for retreats, and to help further the nuns’ work. Many are active contributors to their future building plans. The nuns regularly pray for us and join us in worship at Holy Apostles.
Fr. Thomas generally serves the Divine Liturgy at the Monastery on first Saturday of every month at 9:00 AM (Check the schedule on the home page to be sure). Several annual events, including the Clergy Wives’ retreat are held there. Each year many of us spend the whole day with them on the day of SS. Mary and Martha’s feast — for the Divine Liturgy, Akathist to SS. Mary and Martha, and Vespers.
Call Mother Thecla at 803 564-6894 for directions and further information about visiting, planning a retreat, or to purchase some of their lovingly handmade beeswax candles.