The Orthodox doctrine of the incarnation--that God humbly emptied himself and became human (Phil. 2)--influences our relationship to the society and natural world that surround us as a parish.
Saint Elizabeth Orthodox Church is located in one of the most beautiful areas of Puget Sound's Kitsap Peninsula. The snow-capped Olympic Mountains are visible to the west of our property, separated only by the serene Hood Canal. The natural wonder of our surroundings is a visible reminder to us of the goodness of God's creation, and the calling we have as the Church of Christ in uniting earth to heaven.
This is experienced at every Divine Liturgy as we pray for "the peace from above" and it is manifested in all of our divine services. The beauty of our icons, the chanting of the choir, the fragrant incense rising upward: all remind us that heaven has drawn near to this world through the liturgical life of the Church.
Our doctrine of the incarnation asserts that God is the transcendent savior of a broken creation. Yet it also assures us that because God became human and assimilated this creation to himself the world is no longer bereft of his divine presence. The entire cosmos has been renewed and is being renewed through the life of his Church. It is a renewal that begins with every person who joins our parish, and even with many visitors who do not.
Located less than five minutes from downtown Poulsbo, our parish identifies with the life of one of the oldest settled communities of Western Puget Sound. Standing on the edge of Liberty Bay and surrounded by forested hills, Poulsbo's nineteenth-century Norwegian settlers were reminded of the majestic fjords of their distant homeland. Their national ancestors included Vikings who were converted to Christianity by rulers such as the eleventh-century King Olav II, whom the Orthodox honor as a saint.
We participate actively in our town's annual Viking Fest, and we sponsor public lectures in our local Sons of Norway building. Our church even contains a hand painted icon of Saint Olav. Asking for his heavenly intercession, we pray at every Divine Liturgy that our Lord Jesus Christ will look mercifully on the wonderful town we are joined to and pour his blessings out upon it.
Our church stands alongside one of Kitsap County's oldest cemeteries, where both early immigrants and modern inhabitants lie in rest. We bury many of our own parishioners there. And following ancient Orthodox tradition, we regularly bless the graves of all the people who have gone to their rest before us in this place.
In addition to shaping our relationship to the surrounding community, the doctrine of the incarnation powerfully influences our relationship with the land we inhabit and its environment. Our church is located on one of North Kitsap's main aquifers, and every year at Holy Theophany (January 6), following the Orthodox Church's ancient tradition of blessing natural sources of water, we sanctify this most primal element of God's creation. We do this at a stream that flows through our property and empties into the aquifer. By doing this, we consecrate the very water that supports the life of the community around us, as well as the plants and animals that make it beautiful.