The Reverend James R. Parnell was appointed pastor of All Saints Orthodox Church on November 1, 2013. Father James was formerly attached to Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in New Britain, Connecticut while serving as a supply priest for the Diocese of New England.
A native Arkansan, Father James was born and raised in Little Rock in a devout Southern Baptist home. He joined the Army shortly after the attacks on September 11, 2001 and began training as an Arabic linguist. He met his wife, Holly (also an Army Veteran), while studying at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. Father James and Matushka Holly (Andres) were married in 2007 and have four children: Samuel (b. 2009), Ariane (b. 2011), Eleanor (b. 2013), and Sean (b. 2015).
Father James was stationed at Fort Campbell, KY and deployed twice to Iraq while Matushka Holly was stationed in Germany. After finding a small book of sayings by St. Isaac of Syria in a desert chapel in 2005, his studies began to point him towards Orthodox Christianity as the authentic Christian tradition: the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, as presented by Christ to the Apostles and through them to the early Church. While serving in Iraq in 2007 as an Arabic translator, Father James experienced a definite call to continue his service in the military, but in a different role: as a military chaplain. After a long and prayerful journey, Father James entered the Orthodox Church at the Protection of the Holy Virgin Mary Orthodox Church in Clarksville, Tennessee, along with his wife and son in 2010.
That same year, Father James was blessed by Metropolitan JONAH to attend St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Yonkers, New York. While at St. Vladimir’s Seminary, Father James served on the Student Council for three years and served as President from 2011-2013. Father James was ordained to the Diaconate by Metropolitan JONAH on January 29, 2012 at Three Hierarchs Chapel in Yonkers, New York and to the Priesthood later that year by Archbishop NIKON on December 23, 2012 at Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in New Britain, Connecticut. Father James graduated cum laude from St. Vladimir’s Seminary on May 18, 2013. His MDiv Thesis was entitled “Growing from Dragon to Man: A Parish Resource for Reintegrating Orthodox Soldiers and Veterans Returning from War.”
Father James is the Diocesan Associate Youth Director and serves on Metropolitan Council as the Clergy Representative for the Diocese.
In addition to his duties in the parish/diocese, Father James is a Chaplain (Captain) in the Connecticut Army National Guard, assigned to the 1-102nd Infantry Regiment (Mountain), headquartered in New Haven, Connecticut and a Clinical Chaplain at the Veteran's Affairs Medical Center in Newington, CT.
November 1, 2015 - Holy Wonderworkers and Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian
To the Clergy & Faithful of All Saints Orthodox Church, Glory to Jesus Christ!
I’ve written to you on this day, the anniversary of my assignment as pastor of All Saints (and, oddly enough, the western celebration of the Feast of All Saints), for the past two years. What was first an initial letter of introduction became a letter of gratitude for your support and joy for your growth in Christ. Now I find myself writing a letter to you in amazement! I can’t help but rejoice in all the ways that God has continued to work miracles in our midst!
All Saints Orthodox Church continues to be a vibrant and growing parish. Each year more and more individuals and families join our Christ-loving community. Going into the new year, we continue to be the second largest parish in the Diocese of New England (out of 27 parishes), by a considerable margin, with about 100 families. The Lord has also continued to fill our ranks with newly-chrismated and newly-baptized adults and children! We offer praise and thanksgiving to God for these “newly-enlisted warriors of Christ,” as we call newly-illumined individuals in the service of Baptism, while also expressing our gratitude and appreciation for the many “Veterans” of this Christ-loving community!
We are making great strides in the area of outreach and mission through our partnering with local non-profit and charity organizations in Hartford. One of the key take-aways from our “2014 Parish Ministry Review” was a determined push to intentionally increase our level of outreach and charitable work in the local community. We have begun working closely with the Chrysalis Center, supporting community & fellowship events at their Veteran’s Home. We’ve also continued our support of “40 days for Life.” I’d like to point out a few other examples of how we’ve sought to live out Christ’s command in Matthew 25:
Over the past 12 months, we’ve collected and distributed:
Over 500 pounds of food for the hungry through Foodshare
Almost 500 lunches for the homeless and victims of domestic violence through Loaves & Fishes
Over a 1500 diapers for the poor & needy through St. Francis Hospital’s food bank
A dozen bags of toys for sick children through the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center
Nearly 100 coats for those in need through Coats for Connecticut
Over the past 12 Months, we’ve raised:
Nearly $2,000 as part of Foodshare’s Walk Against Hunger
Over $1,000 to support the local Muscular Dystrophy Association
Over $1,000 for other local Hartford Charities (like Birthright, Chrysalis, & more)
Over $2,000 for ONE Stewards, which supports youth & outreach in our Diocese
As you can see, there has been a great response. While our parish has long been an active participant in initiatives like Foodshare, you have helped make this past year an unprecedented success for outreach!
We continue to experience the fruits of our labor (as well as that of our predecessors’ many years of labor) in Christ’s vineyard, never forgetting to give unceasing praise and thanksgiving to God, who works in us and through us for His glory!
We are living in an exciting time! We are experiencing a wave of renewed focus on mission and evangelism in the Orthodox Church, not seen since the early days of our existence here in the New World. We are seeking new ways, as the Orthodox Church in America, to “expand the mission,” which was the theme of our recent All-American Council and Diocesan Assembly. Yet, this resurgence of missionary fervor comes at a time when there is seemingly unprecedented pressure from all sides to let the cares of this world, the worries of this life, and the priorities of our society become our primary concern. This is also a time of great persecution of Christians throughout the world, most clearly seen in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia who are being kidnapped, tortured, and killed as martyrs for Christ and the Orthodox Faith.
We as members of the Orthodox Church in America, are being called in new ways to be martyrs (“witnesses,” in Greek) for our Faith. We must rise to this challenge and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ with joy and gladness. Though our parish is thriving, many of our parishes in the diocese and in other jurisdictions are not. We, as Orthodox Christians, must strive to do more than maintain the status quo. Not only will our parishes not survive if we are content with simply going through the motions of our parochial lives: we will wither and atrophy spiritually if we confine our Orthodox Faith to a building, or our icon corner, or a few hours a week.
You and I, every one of us, must seek to radically re-orient our lives around Jesus Christ. We must prepare ourselves for the coming challenges through the tried and true spiritual disciplines (participation in the Divine Services and Holy Mysteries, personal prayer, fasting, stewardship & almsgiving, corporal acts of mercy, study of Scripture, the lives and writings of the saints, etc.) that God might strengthen us in our efforts to steel ourselves for our own daily martyrdom, be it a metaphorical or very literal death.
The temptations of this fleeting world are myriad; they don’t stop at riches, sex, drugs, money, success, or fame. Safety, comfort, stability, and control: life on our terms is, for many of us, even more tempting! Yet, we see in the lives of the Saints—those have shown forth in North America in recent memory and those who have labored throughout the whole world since time began—a higher calling: to “commend ourselves, and each other, and all our lives unto Christ our God!”
Just as no one could have guessed the great miracles He would work in our midst up until now, we cannot begin to imagine the amazing work that God has in store for us as the parish of All Saints. God is working great signs and wonders in our midst! As the Body of Christ, His Holy Church, we have been entrusted with supplying the hands to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, the feet to run to meet those in need, the shoulders to bear the burdens of the downtrodden, the ears to hear the cries of the suffering, the mouth to speak for the silenced, and the eyes to see Christ in everyone! Let us, as we enter into the Nativity Fast (in preparation for the celebration of the incarnation of Christ), seek to be the Body of Christ in central Connecticut: offering His joy, His forgiveness, and His love to every person He puts in our path!
Your Servant in Christ,
Fr. James Parnell
Pastor – All Saints Orthodox Church
To the Clergy & Faithful of All Saints Orthodox Church,
Glory to Jesus Christ!
I wrote to you exactly one year ago describing my excitement about the “opportunity to worship, serve, and live in community with all of you.” I am truly honored to have celebrated this 100th year in Hartford with you all. What a joy it has been!
Last year, I mentioned the hospitality I’d received as a substitute priest. This hospitality has not only remained, but has even increased. From the flexibility during my final months at Hartford Hospital and my month away for military service, to the kindness shown to us during our move into a newly refurbished rectory (which is, of course, thanks to your generosity): we’ve received a hearty welcome with cards, meals, kind words, and much-needed prayers throughout this past year. On behalf of my family, please accept my heartfelt thanks and sincere appreciation for all the ways in which you have welcomed us into this parish family.
You have not only opened your arms and your hearts, you’ve shared your hopes and concerns, even, at times, baring your souls, whether during a hospital visit, in Confession, or during a chance encounter. The deep trust and confidence that you have shown to me—a brand new priest in his first parish—is both humbling and encouraging. I appreciate the great support that all you have shown me during my first year as your pastor. On so many occasions: you overlooked my mistakes, took ownership of my failures, and taught me valuable lessons, most often through your quiet, humble, and unassuming service to Christ and His Church.
Of course, I am not alone in experiencing All Saints as a welcoming community: so many who have joined what was once, by all accounts, a struggling parish, have said to me: “I just feel so loved and welcomed here...like home... like family!” Many have returned to All Saints while dozens more have joined our parish for the first time. Our now vibrant and growing community is a place in which those searching for a home, those hungry for the Truth, and those yearning for the Love of Jesus Christ can find Him. The extent of this growth didn’t really hit me until we received the Diocesan Census for 2014: All Saints was the 6th Largest Parish in October 2013, but was the 2nd Largest in September 2014 (out of 27 OCA parishes in the Diocese of New England). This is amazing: no other parish in the Diocese has seen this kind of growth (about 30%) at any time during the past ten years. And that figure doesn’t include our children/ youth under the age of 18 (a group which has more than doubled over the past year) or the nearly dozen or so individuals that have joined or have expressed interest in joining since that report was published. What a way to celebrate our 100th year!
Of course, this growth has meant change. About a third of the people in the pews on Sunday weren’t there last November. This new make-up of our parish family has meant a few changes and a lot of personal, communal, and institutional growth beyond just numbers. So, next week, the Parish Council and I will gather to conduct a Parish Ministry Review in order to ascertain how we can best sustain and improve upon our collective ministry as a parish. We will also be seeking your input at the upcoming Annual Meeting. You will have the chance to receive a summary of the review and offer any further ideas for how we can continue to grow as a community.
In closing, what I first saw as distant potential for All Saints, amazing growth, I now see as a daily reality. We have seen unprecedented growth in numbers, in love for one another, and in our Faith. You have all worked so very hard to make this happen, but we must admit that even all our efforts combined can’t explain the miraculous transformation at All Saints over the past year.
Rather, let us sing, as on Pascha and Pentecost:
Who is so great a God as our God? Thou art a God who doest wonders!
With Many Thanks and with Love and Joy in Jesus Christ,
Fr. James Parnell
To the Faithful of All Saints Orthodox Church, Glory to Jesus Christ!
It is my great honor and privilege to introduce myself to you as the new pastor of All Saints Orthodox Church in Hartford, Connecticut. My wife, Holly, our three children (Samuel, Ariane, and Eleanor), and I are very excited about this opportunity to worship, serve, and live in community with all of you. After having spent the past three years at St. Vladimir’s Seminary, and nearly six years on active duty in the United States Army before that, we are so very happy to be putting down roots in this vibrant capital city. Though I was born and raised in Arkansas and my wife grew up in Kansas, we have been quick to see New England, and Connecticut in particular, as our new home. More than anything, we feel that this is where God wants us to be.
I’ve served a handful of times at All Saints and have had the chance to meet a number of you. I have appreciated your hospitality as a substitute priest and I am so very excited to begin to meet you all and get to know each one of you better in my new role. Getting to know you, learning about your hopes and concerns, is extremely important to me. This initial step of simply becoming familiar with you as individuals and families is, I think, vital to my ability to minister effectively as your pastor. I am committed to this work and to you.
This next year will be a time of transition and healing. The repose of the Archpriest William DuBovik was a tragedy for both his natural and spiritual children, his brother clergy, and all the faithful of our Church. The recurring theme I heard about Fr. William was that he loved and was loved by all those he came in contact with as pastor. I hope to continue his ministry of love and pastoral care. I am particularly concerned with your personal spiritual growth as well as that of our parish.
We will slowly begin to stretch ourselves: in our worship, through a steady increase of liturgical services, in our knowledge of and familiarity with our faith through formal and informal education programs at the parish, and in our Christian witness through service opportunities in the community. We have a unique position here in Hartford as the only OCA parish in the capital city; the vision of a local autocephalous Church in America is lived out, right here, in our parish. There is great potential here at All Saints. Even amidst the grief, loss, confusion, and anxiety, which are to be expected in times of transition and uncertainty, there lies also the love, compassion, thoughtfulness, and solidarity of this community, this family.
I ask you all to keep me and my family in your prayers as we begin this journey with you. I assure you of our constant prayers for all of you. May the Physician of our souls and bodies, through the prayers of the unmercenary saints Cosmas and Damian, grant us healing and restoration in each of our lives and the life that we share together as the community of All Saints Orthodox Church.
With Love In Christ,
Fr. James Parnell