Saying goodbye: St. Elijah priest set to retire

The Rev. Constantine Nasr, longtime senior pastor of St. Elijah Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church, home of a popular food festival, will retire Aug. 14 as the church's pastor for the past 29 years.
BY CARLA HINTON chinton@opubco.com Published: August 6, 2011
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The Rev. Constantine Nasr came to Oklahoma City in 1982 as a young, energetic priest ready to lead a growing Orthodox Christian congregation.

Twenty-nine years later, Nasr is still full of energy and his influential and enthusiastic presence at St. Elijah Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church, 15000 N May, is keenly felt:

He just released a new book, his eighth, on married relationships, “Mastering the Art of Marriage.”

He continues to mentor young men on their journey toward the Orthodox Christian priesthood.

His dedication to the liturgy has never wavered.

Retirement beckons, however.

Nasr, 66, said he will preach his last homily as St. Elijah's senior pastor on Aug. 14.

He said some health issues have caused him to see retirement as an avenue for rest and better healthiness.

Still, he and his wife Sharon will continue to live in Oklahoma City and he plans to stay busy with ministry, just in other forms like writing, missionary work and travel.

“A priest doesn't retire — I'm just changing seats,” he said, smiling.

The Rev. John Salem will become the Oklahoma City church's new pastor. Nasr said St. Elijah is in great shape as the leadership transition takes place.

“The church has grown. Even with people coming and other people moving away, we've had continued growth,” he said.

“It's a wonderful thing to leave on a blessed note of harmony.”

The Rev. Jeremy Davis, assistant priest at St. Elijah, agreed.

“In terms of his legacy, he is the longest-serving priest at St. Elijah in its history,” Davis said of Nasr.

“When he came here 29 years ago, the parish was divided, there were financial problems, lots of angst and turmoil. Now he leaves the parish in place of peace and harmony, in good standing.”

Labor of love

Nasr said he was born in 1947 in Jerusalem to parents who had a fervent love for God and His Church.

He said he often walked with his Orthodox Christian priest father to visit parishioners on the West Bank. Nasr said his father's legacy and a calling from the Lord helped inspire him to become a priest, as well. Nasr said his brother also is an Orthodox Christian priest and his sister is married to a priest.