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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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Nasr said in his pastoral career, he spent nine years as a priest in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, before coming to Oklahoma City.

Nasr said St. Elijah was a small parish with a church building at NW 16 and Pennsylvania when he arrived to take the helm in 1982. The church experienced much growth and in 1997 built the sprawling building that sits at its current location off the corner of NW 150 and N May.

Nasr said the church now has room to expand and possibly build more classroom space or an assisted living community. He said he is also proud that the church's Mother's Day Out program has grown in popularity over the years.

Nasr said the church has about 900 members, with an average attendance of about 450 on Sundays. He said on major feast days, attendance swells to about 1,300.

A major part of his ministry at St. Elijah's has been in the role of pastoral leader to many men on their way to the priesthood. Nasr said he saw St. Elijah's as a sort of training center because so many students and seminarians made their way there over the years in search of guidance and fellowship.

Nasr said his time as priest at St. Elijah has always been full of activity.

“We are 24-hours, seven days a week. I cannot fathom all the labor,” he said.

He said he saw the eventful days as worthwhile because he was following in Jesus' footsteps in proclaiming the Word of the Lord.

“Christ did not stay in Capernaum. He went in the highways and byways.”

Celebrating retirement

Meanwhile, the St. Elijah congregation plans to honor Nasr and his wife with a reception after his last service as senior pastor on Aug. 14. Church leaders said an elaborate retirement party is being planned for January 2012.

Nasr said he is excited about discovering the new ways the Lord will use him after he leaves the pastoral ministry. He said his excitement stems from his observation that numerous people are being drawn to the Orthodox Christian Church these days.

“People are finding the Mother Church,” he said.

Assistant priest Davis said parishioners are going to miss Nasr, but they understand that it is his time to do something different.

“There are sad people but that's tempered by the fact that Father Constantine will still be around, without all the pressures of being a pastor,” he said. “People understand that.”