Father Theophan Mackey explains the holy icons of the four evangelists on the royal doors at St. Job of Pochaiv Orthodox Christian Church at 1319 Trinity Dr.. Photo by Maire O’Neill/ladailypost.com
A collection of holy icons of the patron saints of parishioners adorns a wall at St.Job of Pochaiv Church. Photo by Maire O’Neill/ladailypost.com
When you step into St. Job of Pochaiv Orthodox Christian Church in Los Alamos with Father Theophan Mackey, it feels like stepping back in time a little ways. What strikes you first is the presence of dozens of holy icons around the wall, pictures of saints whose veneration is an important part of Orthodox worship and piety.
In the center is an icon of St. John the Baptist, painted or “written” by Father Theophan in a recent class. It is the feast day of St. John the Baptist, celebrated 13 days later than in the Roman Catholic Church, and Father Theophan has just finished reading the Akathist to the saint, a long prayer which includes the words, “Rejoice, great John, Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord!”.
It’s clear that Father Theophan loves Orthodoxy deeply. He says he is not a lofty person but more earthy and that he likes how his faith has specific and practical rules to advance spirituality. He also enjoys acquainting people with his church, its history, its saints and traditions.
Although the parish at St. Job has only 35 members, Father Theophan is well-known in the Los Alamos community where is easily recognizable in his black cassock and with his black skufia on his head, usually accompanied by his wife, Kristi, and their three children.
Father Theophan was raised in the Episcopal and Evangelical churches and both his father and his grandfather were pastors. He first wandered into an Orthodox church in Las Cruces for Vespers and says he immediately felt, “This is as it’s supposed to be – home”. So, he began attending Vespers every Saturday evening and the Episcopal Church on Sundays. He met his wife Kristi at the Orthodox mission; she had converted six or seven years earlier. After they married, he converted also and took the name Theophan.
“Our priest, Father Gabriel, used a quote from Saint Theophan the Recluse in a homily which said, ‘When you stand before the icon of Christ, faith must descend from your head to your heart’. That’s when I knew I wanted to take the name Theophan,” he says.
“I had been fixing ATMs for nine years in the heat of Las Cruces,” Father Theophan says. “It seemed like a good way to use an art degree”
He became interested in taking some correspondence courses to become a deacon and Kristi told him if he wanted to go to seminary, go to seminary. So, the family packed up and went to St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary near Scranton, Penn. There is no guarantee when you enter the seminary that you will emerge a priest after three years, Father Theophan says, adding that it is like a three-year job interview.
When he left the seminary, the Bishop didn’t have a place ready for him to go to, so after his ordination, he and Kristi and their now three children spent six months at an Orthodox Church of America parish in Mount Carmel, Penn. In January 2015, the family visited Los Alamos for a couple of days and were delighted to be sent to their new parish.
At that time, the Orthodox church was still on 39th Street, but in April 2015, Father Theophan was driving down Trinity when he saw that the old Hill Diner location was for sale, however it was the old court building behind the Hill Diner property which ended up being the church’s new home.
“I’m an idea guy and I could see the possibilities for the building,” he says. A year and a half later, he says the church has gained a few people from being in the new location at 1319 Trinity where it is more visible.
The church is named after St. Job of Pochaiv, who was a monk, priest and abbot in what is now Ukraine in the 16th and 17th centuries.
“He defended the Orthodox faith by his writings and the first use of the moveable typing press in the Slavic lands, ” Father Theophan says. “He produced the first Slavic language Bible in 1581.”
Services at St. Job include Vespers on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 5:30 p.m. and Divine Liturgy on Sundays at 10 a.m. Visitors are welcome to stop by anytime Father Theophan’s little blue car is out front.
Father Theophan Mackey stands outside the entrance of St. Job of Pochaiv Orthodox Church. Photo by Maire O’Neill
Father Theophan and his wife, Kristi. Courtesy photo
Three holy icons with relics at the church are, from left, St. Herman of Alaska, St. John Chrysostom and St. Job of Pochaiv. Photo by Maire O’Neill/ladailypost.com
A holy icon of the Archangel Gabriel. Photo by Maire O’Neill/ladailypost
The now familliar dome of St. Job of Pochaiv Orthodox Church. Courtesy photo
Father Theophan Mackey happily talks about his love of Orthodoxy. Photo by Maire O’Neill/ladailypost.com