by Phil Ambroziak

Life has come full circle for a former Meadow Lake resident.

Father Ryan Bishop recently returned to the community he grew up in to serve as the new priest at All Saints Orthodox Church.

“I actually moved to Smokey Lake, AB about two months ago where I also serve as a priest, and now I look after the parish in Meadow Lake too,” Bishop explained. “I come here once a month to conduct services. When I’m not here, services are usually headed by a church reader.”

These services, Bishop added, are non-eucharist, meaning the rite of Holy Communion does not take place. However, on the weekends Bishop is here, an evening of prayer is held Saturday in preparation for the Divine Liturgy – the following morning’s traditional eucharist service. Although he’s fairly new to the priesthood and to his current assignment, Bishop said he’s looking forward to being part of the local church community.

“I’ve always had a vested interest in Meadow Lake,” he said. “Services have been run by a number of different priests over the years, but few of those ever had any personal connection to the community.”

In recent years, priests would travel from Edmonton and Saskatoon on a monthly basis. Because of his background, Bishop said his bishop was very keen on having the young priest assigned to All Saints after graduating seminary school. Bishop was ordained Feb. 28 of this year and graduated May 25.

“I’ve returned home and it’s wonderful,” Bishop said. “I’ve spent several years in places like Vancouver and New York City, but to come back to a small town and a place I know so well is very special.”

Bishop was born and raised in Meadow Lake, but left shortly after graduating from Carpenter High School in 2002. The son of Murray and Marla Bishop, he wasn’t raised in the Orthodox faith, but converted prior to pursuing a life with the church.

“Definitely a part of it was a calling, which is very difficult to explain,” Bishop continued. “It’s something you partly receive from God, while the other part is your willingness to serve. It’s very difficult to put into words – but it’s a calling, a vocation, a passion and it’s pure joy.”

Bishop went on to say it’s his dream to see this parish one day have a full-time priest and a full cycle of services every week.

“I’d also love to see a healing of relationships between the indigenous and non-indigenous communities in and around Meadow Lake,” he said. “That’s an area where I believe there is a lot of potential.”

All Saints Orthodox Church boasts a congregation of about 30-40 people. Among them is lifelong parishioner Paul Szpakowski. He said the arrival of Father Bishop has created a positive buzz amongst churchgoers, noting it’s wonderful to have a “local boy” involved in such an important capacity.

“It’s quite a big deal,” Szpakowski said. “It really means a lot and truly is a godsend.”

Szpakowski attended the services conducted by Father Bishop this past Sunday (Sept. 25) and described the young priest as being well poised and very learned.

Andrew Friesen – who conducts services on the week’s Bishop isn’t in Meadow Lake – said the new priest will bring a new vigour and energy to the parish.

“We are working hard to revitalize the church community so we can manifest not the ancientness of the Orthodox faith, but its timelessness to Meadow Lake,” he said.