His Grace John (Abdalah) (SVOTS ’78)

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I am a relatively new bishop, having served happily as a pastor for 33 years before being elevated to the episcopacy. I still have the honor of glimpsing into the intimate dynamic between people and God, as they approach me with pastoral issues—perhaps even more deeply, in my new role—and I regard this as a blessed benefit of being a “chief pastor.” It is awesome to witness people responding to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Other “perks” in my new ministry are the great respect and attention afforded me, but these are also the most difficult things to get used to! People open doors for me and carry my suitcase, and lead me from place to place. They do it all with such reverence that it is hard to complain, though it makes me feel a little too elevated; admittedly, though, perhaps it is necessary, since I have had nightmares about forgetting where I am supposed to be on any given Sunday!

All this is forgotten, however, when I encounter my flock, the sheep given to me. My first favorite moment with a parish community is when I have the opportunity to ordain a deacon or priest from among them. My second favorite moment occurs when I am recognized as a beloved father, and not just a hierarch. Such a moment happened recently while I was preaching in a parish: a 4-year old escaped his parents’ arms, ran up to me, and slapped me a high five. Now, that, to me, brothers and sisters, was heaven.


Bishop John is the current Auxiliary Bishop for the Diocese of Worcester and New England, The Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. He is also the editor of WORD Magazine. His Grace was married to Khouriya Joanne (+2008) for 30 years, and has three grown children. 

Watch Bishop John on “The Arabic Hour,” discussing the effects of the current war in Syria on Orthodox Christians.

This profile first appeared in our FY2013 Annual Report, The SVS Vine.