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Wonders of the Small Church

The small church has incredible importance and value, although it may not carry the pomp of churches in Europe and elsewhere. I have one particular small church in mind: ours.

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Sunday, July 21, 2019, was a bittersweet day at Holy Trinity in Willimantic, Connecticut. After three years of meritorious service, our community bid a fond but sad farewell to Reader Tikhon (Erik T. Wallace, Ph.D.). In May, 2019, Dr Wallace had finished a three-year teaching Fellow in the Mathematics Department at the University of Connecticut. He has accepted a tenured track position at Harbin University in northern China beginning in September.

“Although we are pleased that Reader Tikhon is advancing in his professional career," Holy Trinity pastor, V. Rev. Marc Vranes said, "it does not take away the sting of loss we all feel. Reader Tikhon was a tremendous addition to our community; his impact has been significant, and we will certainly feel his departure for a long time.”

During his time at Holy Trinity (2016-2019), Reader Tikhon wore many hats at Holy Trinity. He volunteered at the Soup Kitchen on a regular basis, developed a board game to help young children learn the teachings and miracles of our Lord, made prosphora, supported the weekly Coffee Hour by either making bread, soup, or offering up one of his many other delicacies, read the Hours, Epistle, and Post-Communion Prayers, made the coffee each week, was the Coffee Hour Coordinator for over a year, sang in the choir, provided rides to UConn undergraduate students so they could attend Liturgy at Holy Trinity, served Reader's Vespers on Saturday evening, and in general, immersed himself fully into the HTOC community and the Orthodox Church.

"We will not see the likes of him pass our way anytime soon," Fr Marc added.

Reader Tikhon is also a student in the Orthodox Church in America's Diaconal Vocations Program, where he is an excellent student. He had previously earned his doctoral degree in Mathematics from the University of Indiana, Bloomington, and also spend a year of studying and traveling in Jerusalem.

Erik T. Wallace, age 37, grew up in a multi-confessional family: his mother was Methodist, his father a Roman Catholic. Erik attended catholic school through the fourth grade, but for various reasons his parents had him transferred to a public school. It was about this time, the Wallace family, for the most part, stopped going to church. As a freshman student studying Architecture at Washington State University, in Pullman, Washington, he met an Orthodox Christian in his first studio class, then several months later, during his second semester in Pullman, he attended Divine Liturgy for the first time. On Holy Saturday, 2003, he received the Sacrament of Holy Chrismation and was received into the Orthodox Church.

"On that occasion, I was given the book Monastic Wisdom, which is a translation of the letters of Elder Joseph the Hesychast into English," Reader Tikhon recalled. "The book made a profound impact on me. The inner world of prayer that it described seemed so foreign at first. But over time as I read more, and learned more about Orthodoxy, and tried putting what I learned into practice, the world of prayer described in Monastic Wisdom, gradually started to seem more natural.

"My spiritual progress was concurrent with my progress in academics. The Spring of 2003 was also my last semester in Architecture school. I was so disillusioned with academia at the time, that I took a full year off before starting again as a math major at the college where my parents worked in upstate New York. I completed my undergraduate studies in 2007, with a minor in Photography."

The following year (2007-2008), Erik was a Fulbright Scholar and worked in Mainz, Germany, doing a translation of the collected works of German mathematician Adolf Hurwitz. Erik returned to America where from 2008-2014, he was a student in the graduate mathematics program at Indiana University in Bloomington. On Holy Friday, 2014, his academic advisor informed Dr Wallace that he could work as a postdoc at the Einstein Institute at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, if he desired.

"Even before going to Israel, I was convinced of the reality of Orthodox Christianity, but God had a very particular plan which eventually became clear to me." Reader Tikhon recalled. "I did not have a job initially on return to the United States, so I wisely used the additional time to write a book, detailing my experiences living the Holy Land. Soon after, I received an offer to teach at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, but eventually received a counter offer from the University of Connecticut in Storrs, which led to me being a member at Holy Trinity for nearly three years."

There is no doubt that Reader Tikhon will continue to travel the road our Lord has laid before him. It will be a life filled with prayer, service, intellectual curiosity, and rooted in humility.

“I feel strongly that the Orthodox Church has only begun to learn of what Reader Tikhon is able to offer," Fr Marc added. "We will continue to hear from him again in the future.”

Click:  Reader Tikhon Bio to learn more about Erik Wallace

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