In August 2019, the idea of starting an Orthodox mission in Clovis was born. It all happened rather unexpectedly.
First of all, allow me to introduce ourselves, the founding members of St. Joseph of Arimathea Orthodox Christian Church Clovis. Brian Pickard, Sabrina Pickard, and myself, Michael Hailey.
After having spent most of our lives in the Protestant tradition, we began feeling as though something was missing from our spiritual lives. We couldn’t quite put our finger on it, but we knew we were searching for something more. There was no Orthodox church in Clovis; the nearest being at least 100 miles away. We each grew up in Southern Baptist churches, where we each served in ministerial positions after becoming adults. In 2014, Brian joined the Episcopal Church, and in 2015 became a seminarian on the road to priesthood. I joined the EC in 2017, and Sabrina shortly thereafter. The liturgical service appealed to me in a way which was totally unexpected. The reverence and tradition we all found refreshing. It seemed as if we had finally found that for which we had been searching.
Brian had a best friend from his high school days who went on to join the Orthodox Church after graduating college. Over the years he shared some of his experience with Orthodoxy with Brian, who then shared them with Sabrina and I. Still serving in the Baptist church at the time, I scoffed at the idea of venerating icons and praying to saints. But in time my firm stance softened.
Brian was ordained as a Deacon in the Episcopal Church in June 2019 and made the difficult decision to renounce those same vows a few short weeks later. He came to realize that he could no longer support what the church stood for. Brian came across an online catechism class being taught by Fr. John Peck of ASONA Orthodox Church in Sun City, Arizona. We both began watching with great interest and excitement, but faced the reality of having no real way of entering the Church since we were so far removed from the nearest parish. Well, God made a way!
To make a long story short, Fr. John traveled to Clovis to meet with the three of us, and presented the idea of starting an Orthodox mission. We, of course, jumped at the chance. There was much work to be done, and we were ready! We became catechumens in November 2019 and found a church willing to accommodate our needs in February 2020. We were all set to be officially brought into the Orthodox Church (baptism and chrismation) at ASONA in Sun City just before the beginning of Holy Week, and had set the date for our first service two weeks later.
Everything seemed to be moving according to schedule. But then the coronavirus appeared and shut everything down. Once again, we faithfully wait for God’s intervention in the opening of St. Joseph of Arimathea Orthodox Church.