About Our Parish
Holy Ascension Orthodox Church is named for one of the Twelve Great Feasts of the Church, which is celebrated each year on the fortieth day after the Great and Holy Feast of Pascha. The Ascension of Our Lord is found in the Acts of the Apostles when, as the disciples watched, "He was lifted up before their eyes in a cloud which took Him from their sight." (Act1:9). By His Ascension the Lord opened to man the entrance to heaven! It is in the Ascension that the fullness of Christ's Resurrection is revealed and that with Christ, man's nature ascends also.
Early in 1996 a core group of five families first gathered to explore the possibility of establishing a parish of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) in Mount Pleasant. The beginning took the form of reader's services held in private homes. In 2000, the blessing of His Eminence Archbishop Dmitri led to the official founding of the Mount Pleasant Mission. Fr. John Breck graciously volunteered to serve and minister to the parish, his guidance in these early years kept the dream of building a parish church alive. Services were held in temporary settings and free community spaces for four years. In June of 2003, Fr. John Parker became our full-time priest. He and his wife Matushka Jeanette and two sons Zachary and Sebastian joined our growing parish family. Through a newspaper article in the Post and Courier, a member of our parish became aware of the new urban initiative in Mount Pleasant - I'On. Just a month later, the parish began renting retail space in the I'On Community town square that became "Ascension Books". Each Sunday parishioners transformed the space into a church, complete with altar, iconostasis, icons and candles. Soon discussions to buy land in I'On began with Vince Graham and builder designer, George Holt, through whom we were introduced to Andrew Gould, a recent graduate from the University of Pennsylvania who specialized in Byzantine architecture. Fundraising efforts already kicked-off in the Spring of 2003 with an anonymous $10,000 matching grant that was met in two months' time.
From the beginning, the flow of contributions was steady, timely and occasionally overwhelming. Beyond direct financial support, costs were minimized by parishioners and friends volunteering engineering, architectural and garden design plans, clearing land, building antique heart pine doors, laying wood floors, installing tile, painting walls and ceilings, landscaping, researching loans and grants, and above all praying for the ongoing effort. Parishioners and friends, I'On and the community as well as the administration of the OCA, particularly the Diocese of the South, were instrumental in the building of Holy Ascension Orthodox Church.
On November 26, 2006 our beloved Archbishop Dmitri visited our bookstore parish for our first Hierarchical Liturgy. During that service he tonsured a new reader, Wayne Nagy and ordained Reader Mark Barna to the Holy Diaconate. After the service we all walked down the block to the corner of North Shelmore and Mobile where he blessed the cornerstone of the new building, now well under construction.
On March 16, 2008, the Sunday of Orthodoxy, we gathered for the last time in our rental space on the I'On square. Our clergy, servers, choir and parishioners took up all the icons and processed to the newly completed Holy Ascension Orthodox Church just three blocks down the street. Building our temple was a mighty step in our establishment as a church rather than a mission parish. There are many people to whom we remain grateful always for making this possible. Our beautiful iconostasis was designed and built by parishioners, and money for the purchase of the icons flowed in from many benefactors. Many of the furnishings in the church were donated by the family of Haralambos (Harry) Hitopoulos a local furniture maker who died suddenly after completing the beautiful altar that is in the temple today.
In 2010 we received the seed money for the frescos that now adorn the apse of Holy Ascension. Fund raising for their glorious addition to the temple was miraculously completed even as the iconographers were already at work. With God's help, one day all the walls and ceilings of the nave will be similarly adorned with images of our Lord Jesus Christ and His Saints.
The consecration of the church building by Archbishop Dmitri in May 2008 was a festival of Orthodoxy attended by hundreds of people and numbers clergy and monastics. Since then the life of the church has flourished in every way possible. So many have given to this work so eagerly and with such joy that we cannot but see the hand of God working in and through them. Yet we know from all that has happened, the Lord built this house, for:
"Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain". - Psalm 127:1.
The miraculous nature of Holy Ascension Church is surely
"the Lords doing and it is marvelous in our eyes." - Psalm 118:23