His Grace, Bishop JOSEPH’s Remarks on the occasion of the retirement of the Very Reverend Nicholas & Khouriyee Malvi Neyman
August 20, 2005
My beloved children in Christ: Very Reverend and Reverend Fathers, Reverend Deacons and faithful of this holy Diocese,
It is truly a joy to be with you, especially as we celebrate the long and honorable ministry of Father Nicholas and Khouriyee Malvi. It is no small achievement to serve the Lord for so many years. In this day and age of constant change, the Neymans have born witness to the patience and endurance of God. Through good times and difficult circumstances, they have borne their crosses with joy and love.
To help you understand who Father Nicholas was, I have to draw your attention to this. While he was founding the mission of Holy Cross in the Antelope Valley in 1990 with a small core group of people, he also obeyed God’s calling him to another ministry – the camp ministry for Camp St. Nicholas. He commuted from the mission to the camp, back and forth for over 20 years. He drove thousands and thousands of times, and thousands and thousands of miles. That in itself is dedication. Always Malvi was Father Nicholas’ right hand, next to him in good times and difficult times. Today, they both deserve this moment of celebration and this moment of honoring, and this moment to say thank you.
They have touched the lives of thousands of children who have passed through Camp St. Nicholas. Many parents now send their sons and daughters off to camp knowing that the same two people who fed and protected them would do so for the new generation. It is a great achievement to have such a reputation, and so we come together to salute our esteemed Archpriest Father Nicholas and Khouriyee Malvi. They have served God and this community well, and they have demonstrated to all, what it is to be a Christian.
When persecuted, they were meek. When praised, they remained humble. Father Nicholas and Malvi endured cold winters and hot summers, earthquakes and wildfires: they put their lives on the line in service to the Church. How many of us would risk natural disasters for the sake of ministry? In this age of materialism and self-indulgence, most people would not. However, the Neymans did, year after year. They did not abandon their post when danger was eminent, and they put to shame those who grumble and complain by modeling courage and steadfastness.
Father Nicholas has served as the director and caretaker of our own Holy Mountain for nearly a quarter of a century. (24 years) For some, this would be a retirement. But, we know that the Orthodox priest never retires. (GENERAL MAC ARTHUR once said that the old soldiers will never die but they only fade away.) Father Nicholas is merely moving to a new place, where God will grant him and Malvi yet another ministry. They are natural parents and grandparents, caring for everyone they encounter. Like true parents, they can sometimes be a little plain-spoken, but I think it is better to be bluntly honest than to be a smooth-talking liar.
When we look into the faces of Father Nicholas and Malvi, we can recall the many happy days we have all enjoyed at Camp St. Nicholas. We remember their hospitality, their love for the children, their hard work and abiding Faith in our Lord, Jesus Christ. We remember their faithful service and years of dedication to our community. By living virtuous lives, they have brought the Light of Christ to many. For years to come, we will continue to reap the fruit from the seeds they planted and cared for.
Father Nicholas and Malvi have accomplished their ministry successfully so I look at this moment to the new leadership of this holy community – Father Michael Tassos and Khouriyee Christina. Father Michael will continue to carry the torch of Orthodoxy and work hard to keep this little community growing and prospering in quality and in quantity. I can only think of two tasks of his ministry. First is to plant the seeds of the Holy Orthodox tradition in teaching and in the services. Second is to build a vast and significant presence of hope and holiness in this desert. So you see from here, you can understand that the priesthood has continuity. Father Nicholas has started and Father Tassos will continue this holy and eternal priesthood. So I salute Father Michael and his Khouriyee and their beautiful children for holding this holy ministry in Godliness and seriousness. So I ask all the beloved believers of this holy community to welcome Father Michael Tassos as their Father at all times and in every way.
Father Nicholas and Malvi, you will be missed by all of us. Please keep us in your prayers as you begin this new chapter in your lives. Never cease to pray for us, as we pray for you. My love and prayer with all of you.