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On Friday, June 20, the Agia Sophia Coffeehouse in Harrisburg, PA hosted an enjoyable evening that featured entertainment provided by one of the newest St. Tikhon’s Seminarians, Matthew Joyner, and a very moving lecture by one of our earliest Alumni, V. Rev. Daniel Ressetar (STOTS 48).

The evening began with an hour of live music provided by Matthew Joyner, while the baristas served coffee and pastries. One of the baristas, Fr. Steven Vernak (STOTS 2007), is a St. Tikhon’s Alumnus and Manager of the Agia Sophia Coffeehouse. Matthew and his wife, Ashley, arrived at St. Tikhon’s last year from Kentucky. They are both talented musicians and regularly contribute those talents to the life of the St. Tikhon’s Community. Ashley sings with the monastery church’s Sunday Liturgy mixed choir, and special service choirs, and Matthew is a member of the St. Tikhon’s Mission Choir and also volunteers as the unofficial  “sound equipment expert” for the numerous special events throughout the year. He also recently assumed the responsibility of student director of  Elijah’s Mantle. Matthew played the guitar and sang a selection of music that included covers as well as original songs he had written during his time as a professional musician.

Following the musical opening to the evening, everyone made their way to the downstairs meeting room where Fr. Timothy Hojnicki (STOTS 2005) led the group in prayer. Then, Fr. Stephen Vernak (STOTS 2007) took a break from his barista duties to introduce Father Daniel Ressetar (STOTS 48) and announce the theme of the talk “Behind Bars: Memories of a Prison Chaplain."

Fr. Dan began his talk with the passage from Matthew, “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.” (25:34-36). He explained that very early in his ministry he felt particularly called by those words, and knew that he was being led to prison ministry.

Fr. Dan spoke for an hour, mostly telling stories from his prison ministry with no exposition. The stories he told needed no exposition; they stood alone as a poignant witness to the tragedy of the American prison system and the brokenness of those men and women who find themselves inside.

St. Tikhon’s Seminary would like to thank the Agia Sophia Coffee House for hosting Seminarian Matthew Joyner and Alumnus Fr. Daniel Ressetar for such a wonderful and edifying evening as one of many ministry opportunities being continuously provided by the Agia Sophia Coffeehouse , and the clergy and faithful of the Harrisburg area. For more information about how you can support this vital and worthwhile ministry contact Fr. Stephen Vernak at info@agiasophiaharrisburg.com.

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