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Orthodox church will welcome all

July 29, 1999|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

FAYETTEVILLE, Pa. - The crane hoisting the glimmering gold onion dome to its place on the roof of the new church Wednesday brought a new era to the religious landscape of Franklin County.

It also meant the realization of a 30-year-old dream for a Chambersburg, Pa., couple.

It took a crane and a handful of workmen to haul the 1-ton fiberglass dome to the top of St. Mary Orthodox Church being built at 2083 Linclon Way East.

Services could begin as soon as late August if most of the construction is completed by then. A two-day formal dedication will be held on Oct. 2 and 3.

The main onion dome, which measures 20 feet across and 10.5 feet high, and two smaller ones which will sit aside it on the church roof, are being topped by Byzantine crosses to create one of the most conspicuous church structures in the county.

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"People coming from that way will get a good long view of it," said John Kanuk, 70, chairman of the building committee, as he pointed east toward a long stretch of Lincoln Way East.

Several church members stood in Wednesday's late morning heat to watch the crane and workers gingerly set the giant dome onto the roof. They watched again as the cross was placed atop it.

Maria Khalifa, 19, was shooting the operation with a video camera.

"I'm very happy," she said. "This is something my parents dreamed about ever since they came to Chambersburg 30 years ago. This is really a dream come true for them."

The church started in Franklin County five years ago. For the first two years it met in the basement of Khalifa's parents. Nagib Khalifa, a Chambersburg physician, and his wife, Mona, have worked hard to bring an Orthodox church in the community, Kanuk said.

Three years ago the services were moved to a storefront on U.S. 11 north of Chambersburg.

The Eastern Orthodox Church traces its history back to the time of Jesus and his apostles, said the Rev. Theodore Pulcini of Carlisle, pastor of St. Mary.

The congregation has 25 families, many of whom have children, Pulcini said.

"Altogether we're about 55 souls," he said.

He said land for the church was donated by H.M. Himelfarb.

The church also received several large anonymous donations from individuals in the community, Kanuk said.

"We're a small congregation. Obviously we couldn't do it ourselves," Pulcini said.

John Tocci, a local stained-glass artist, has offered to build stained-glass windows for the church at cost, Kanuk said.

Orthodox churches make extensive use of icons - religious paintings of Jesus and the saints. St. Mary will be no exception.

Mona Khalafi said the altar will be flanked by icons with Jesus on the right and Mary and the Christ child on the left. Two angels will stand in the back along with icons of St. John the Baptist and St. Menas, an Egyptian saint who lived in the fourth century, she said.

The new church will have a social room, kitchen, pastor's office, classroom, nursery and an occasional-use room, Kanuk said.

The sign out front will say that it's a pan-Orthodox church. "Every ethnic nationality will be welcome," Pulcini said. "We'll have Slavs, Serbians, Greeks, Russians, Arabs and converts," he said.

"I grew up in a Russian Orthodox Church and I never knew what anyone was talking about," Kanuk said. "This church will be in English."

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