Father Mark Meholick describes the congregation of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in DuBois as “very welcoming, very vibrant.”
“The people are very friendly. They are happy to accommodate people and to teach them what we do, how we do things,” said Meholick, who has been the rector at St. Nicholas since 1994.
They are not “pushy people,” said Meholick, estimating that membership is at approximately 60 people.
“We just say, ‘Well, come and see ... if you like it, fantastic. We’ll be glad to welcome you,’” he said. “If people say, ‘Okay, well that’s not my cup of tea,’ that’s fine, too. It’s almost like a culture shock to some people, because it’s an ancient way ... services have not changed in 2,000 years. They are the same services. They’re based largely on the services that they had when our Lord was in Israel.”
An Orthodox Liturgy usually takes approximately 1 1/2 hours, said Meholick.
“Though it is an ancient way, it’s a beautiful thing but sometimes it can be overwhelming,” said Meholick. “You have the censer with the incense and the priest is going and he censes the icons, he censes the people because they’re living icons. It’s something. We do different languages at times, including Greek, old church Slavonic and even some Arabic.”
What strikes most people is the music and beauty of the services at St. Nicholas Orthodox, said Meholick.
“It’s the ancient... if you want to see authentic ... how do Christians worship at the beginning, then this is pretty much what it is,” he said.
After purchasing the church building from the Lutherans in 1980, Meholick said it looked like a Protestant church.
“It was very nice and the pews went all the way up to the front,” Meholick said. “They had a little communion rail. They had an altar table in the back and they had organ pipes, which were actually by then, they were artificial. They had sold the real organ years ago. Then they had a console. But we don’t use organs, it’s just not our tradition. We sing all a capella.”
Some remodeling was done to the upstairs when the building was purchased.
“Essentially, it’s the same but we have the full altar. Then our altar table faces ... the priest faces east ... like the Romans used to. They turned it so the priest faces and that was after Vatican II,” said Meholick. “We still do, of course, the ancient way. Then there’s ... it’s called an icon screen or iconostasis. You have primarily the main door, which has what’s called royal doors or the beautiful gates. This is patterned after the Jewish synagogues and the temple in Jerusalem. That’s patterned like the Holy of Holies. You have doors that are opened for the services and that’s where the altar is in there.”
The church uses iconography, which have been painted by Meholick, to depict the saints or Jesus, the Virgin Mary holding him, and other saints, and the events the Old and New Testament.
“It’s very nice because well, in the early times people ... not everybody could read,” said Meholick. “They didn’t have printing presses, so you maybe you’d have a copy of the New Testament and you had an Epistle book. Those were read in the churches like they still are. That’s where you heard The Bible. That’s where you heard the gospel. Then you could look around and see some illustrations of it on the wall, what’s going on. That was pretty nice.”
Meholick, a Sykesville native, said he believes as a child he knew he wanted to be a priest.
“Of course, as you get older you might want to ... then I thought no, I don’t want to do that, I want to do this,” said Meholick. “And after college I took time off, I was tired of school by then. And then I didn’t go right away to seminary.”
He attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania and majored in philosophy and history in preparation for the seminary because, as his parish priest advised him, “you need to learn about everybody.”
“Then once I graduated ... at that same time I was learning to paint from him (priest). He was my teacher. I was kind of an apprentice under him. And they made him Bishop of New England, that was before I graduated. So, when I graduated I continued painting and then I worked... I didn’t have enough work to do that, so I dug ditches and then I worked for Spott’s Music Store for a while way back in the 80s.”
Then he moved to New England and he just strictly painted in churches.
“I also learned how to refurbish older paintings, how to restore them. So, it was very useful, especially... and then finally after I got married,” he said. “Anybody I talk to that’s gone to seminary they say... you say ‘What am I getting into? I don’t want to really do this.’ But there’s this nagging, you’re being called. So I had to go and see what’s this like. And I figured, try it and if you don’t like it just leave. It’s a free country.”
Well, he stayed.
“So that was it. Now I’m just so busy all the time I don’t have enough time for my hobbies but when I do get a chance I’ll get on the (ham) radio,” said Meholick, who is a father of six children.
St. Nicholas Church collects food and donations for the food pantry and also takes food to the Haven House, a short-term homeless shelter, as well as Agape Community Services.
“We had a dinner, and we had all this food left over, so I called them up, and I said, ‘This is really good, do you want to have a feast, we’ll bring it down.’ They were very appreciative. But we collect dry goods and funds for such things and then every time I get enough I call down there and then I take it down and they’re very happy to get it,” he said.
He also said the church has become involved with an organization, All About Grace.
“They helped us out at one time. My brother, Chris, he had to have a transplant of both the liver and kidney in this past couple of years, and you can imagine the financial hit that takes,” said Meholick. “One of my brother Chris’s good friends and my good friend, Sam Bundy, called me up out of the blue, he said, ‘We should do something for your brother.’ He said, ‘There’s this organization All About Grace that does these outreaches for people that are in need.’”
A spaghetti dinner fundraiser ended up raising more than $6,000 to help with his brother’s medical bills.
“As a result of that, now all our people, when they need us to help them we get together and we do things. So that’s what that means, ‘All About Grace,’” said Meholick. “It’s inter-denominational and you don’t even have to belong to a church per se, it’s just people helping each other. It could be anything. They might call you and say, ‘Whoever bakes we need a whole bunch of cupcakes.’”
As always, the church will be at DuBois Community Days this weekend and this year will be selling homemade gyros.