SPRING HILL — Metropolitan Nicholas of Amissos, head of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the USA, will celebrate a Hierarchal Divine Liturgy today at Holy Trinity Orthodox Church. And for Presbyter Michael Shuster, a visit by the church's bishop is particularly special.
"I've known him 40 plus years," Shuster said. "I actually have a photo of me sitting on his lap when I was probably 2 or 3."
Metropolitan Nicholas, whose headquarters are in Johnstown, Pa., was the priest in Shuster's home parish in nearby Windber when he was young.
"Before he was elected as ruling bishop, my son Kevin was baptized by him," Shuster said. "It's very inspiring to have him visit with us."
Shuster said he considers the bishop a spiritual adviser and looks forward to his visits to the parish every two or three years.
"His guidance is asked for and given to us for difficult situations," he said. "It's like anything else in life. You always need someone a little bit wiser and a little bit more attuned to things. That's the type of personality that he has — someone to offer you the advice that is needed to make sure you are doing your best job serving the Lord."
Today's 9:30 a.m. service will follow the usual Eastern tradition of prayers, psalms and Bible readings. The bishop will also be the homilist for the day.
At the conclusion of the service, the Eucharist will be distributed.
"I hope the service is spiritually filled," Shuster said, "and that we get a message of direction and inspiration from our bishop (that will) let us know that even though we're far away from the headquarters of the diocese, we're still a part of it and are interacting as the body of Christ for the sake of worship."
On its Web site, Holy Trinity is called "the little church with a big heart and room for everyone."
"We might not have a lot of numbers with 50 to 60 people members on our books," Shuster said. "But we have a big heart for everyone to come and be part of our community and our family."
Shuster, who has served at the church for 15 of its 30 years, hopes people will visit during the upcoming special services.
"Our style of worship is very formal-ritualistic. It's a very traditional type of service," he said. "Compared to the laxity in other churches, we have certain things that are supposed to be done out of respect — a certain decorum that is followed out of respect to God and Christ."
Part of that decorum is for appropriate dress by those attending services.
"We ask people to dress as if they are going to a wedding feast," Shuster said, noting that in Florida people tend to dress a bit more casually than in some other parts of the country. "When you see people here in Dockers and a dress shirt, it's appropriate."
Services are sung between the priest or bishop and the congregation. In the Eastern tradition of the Carpathian Diocese, there are no musical instruments used. Everything is sung a cappella by the choir or the chanters of the church.
Shuster said there is a service book that visitors can use to follow along.
"Our parishioners are more than happy to help guests," he said.
Services during the next few weeks include a Divine Liturgy in honor of the Ascension of Jesus Christ at 6 p.m. Wednesday; an All Souls Saturday Divine Liturgy, memorial service and blessing of graves at 9 a.m. June 6, and a Green Sunday Divine Liturgy on Pentecost, which is also Trinity Sunday, the parish's name day, at 9 a.m. June 7.
"The Divine Liturgy on May 27 celebrates Christ's ascension into heaven," Shuster said. "I think the more important thing that happens later is the service for Pentecost, which is a week and a half later. It celebrates the birthday of the church, as we call it. Another term is Green Sunday."
On that day, the church is decorated in green, and parishioners are asked to wear green to church.
"The green means rebirth or new life," Shuster explained. "Prayers of kneeling take place on that Sunday. It's the first time traditionally in the church that we kneel after the celebration of Pascha, or the resurrection of Christ."
All Souls Saturday is celebrated June 6.
"That is a commemoration of those who have 'fallen asleep' in the church," Shuster said, referring to members who have died. "We have a memorial service in which you read the names of the church community for the family and friends who have asked you to pray for them. On that Saturday, after the liturgy, we will go to the cemetery where most of our parishioners are buried and we bless the graves. We go to the veterans cemetery also."
Shuster said he hopes anyone who might have questions about the services will visit the church's Web site or give him a call.
"We'd be more than welcoming for the community to come and visit with us today or at anytime," he said.