The Holy Metropolis lost a dedicated and pious member of her parish clergy on Monday, 22 August/4 September, the feast of Panagia Prousiotissa and the Holy Martyr Agathonikos, when the Reverend Presbyter Mark Gilstrap, who had served faithfully as a clergyman in major orders for over 25 years in the Russian Church Abroad and the Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians, reposed suddenly and quietly in his home in Owasso, Oklahoma. He was sixty five years of age.
The Gilstrap family comes of the old pioneering stock that settled the interior of the great North American continent in the 19th century. Father Mark was born on October 26 ns, 1951, to the late Marvin Ray and Mary Eunice Martin Gilstrap, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, who reared him as a Protestant Christian. He and the future Matushka Tatiana (nee Toni DiFalco) married on December 23, 1971, in Tulsa.
The Gilstraps received the Holy Baptism of the Orthodox Church on Lazarus Saturday of 1984. On 14/27 September, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Precious Cross, Archbishop Alypy of Chicago (Russian Orthodox Church Abroad) tonsured the future Fr. Mark as a reader for the mission parish of St. John Climacus in Bloomington, Indiana, where he and his family lived while Reader Mark, a geochemist by training, held a position managing the chemistry laboratory at the University of Indiana. On 2/15 February, 1992, the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord, Archbishop Alypy ordained Fr. Mark to the diaconate for service at St. John Chrysostom Church in House Springs, Missouri, and St. George the Great Martyr Church in Blue Ash, Ohio. On 18 November/1 December 1996, the Feast of the Holy Martyrs Plato and Romanos, Archbishop Alypy ordained Fr. Mark to the sacred presbyterate.
In 1997, Archbishop Alypy blessed Fr. Mark to found the parish of St. James the Brother of the Lord, in Owasso, Oklahoma, an assignment in which he remained faithful to the hour of his repose.
In the spring of 2007, in anticipation of the unlawful submission of the greater portion of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia to the ecumenist hierarchy of the Moscow Patriarchate, Fr. Mark obtained a canonical release from Archbishop Alypy and was received under the omophorion of His Eminence Metropolitan Pavlos of America, of the Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians of Greece. Fr. Mark thus continued an uninterrupted faithful witness to the un-compromised Orthodox Faith, to which he had dedicated his entire adult life, and in which he remained steadfast unto the hour of his death.
Those active in the early days of Orthodox discourse and polemic on the Internet, regardless of jurisdiction and outlook, fondly remember Fr. Mark as a pioneer in this field, most notably as the founder and webmaster of the extremely popular “Indiana List.” Fr. Mark, in his own posts and ripostes, was always clear in his Orthodox confession, but likewise he always set a a good example and deftly enforced the rules of civil discourse among the often heated participants.
His Eminence, Metropolitan Demetrius of America, prevented by health concerns from conducting Fr. Mark's funeral, entrusted this sacred task to the Presbyter Steven Allen, rector of St. Irene Church in Rochester Hills, Michigan. Fr. Steven, assisted by Subdeacon Peter Gilstrap and Reader Paul Sanchez, received the earthly remains of Fr. Mark at St. James Church on Wednesday evening, 24 August/6 September. After a Memorial Service and Vespers, members of the reposed clergyman's family and faithful spiritual children alternated reading the Holy Gospel throughout the night, keeping vigil with the sacred remains of their beloved father and pastor.
Following the Divine Liturgy on the morning of 25 August/7 September, the Feast of the Holy Apostles Bartholomew and Titus, Fr. Steven performed the solemn service for the Burial of a Priest, which lasted for three hours. During the entire cycle of divine services, in addition to Subdeacon Peter's expert liturgical assistance, Fr. Mark's matushka and daughters constituted a valiant, indefatigable, and highly professional church choir in the Russian tradition, beautifully executing, in particular, a long and exhausting service they had never chanted before, and under the most trying circumstances. The “bright sorrow” of grace-filled Orthodoxy filled the hearts of all present, and the Faith in the Resurrection, to which our late father and brother dedicated his life, was both experienced and proclaimed yet once more, for the confirmation of the faithful, the consolation of the sorrowing, and the eternal repose of the soul of God's priestly servant.
Following divine services at St. James Church in Owasso, Fr. Mark's body was interred at Holy Apostles' cemetery in Bixby, Oklahoma.
Fr. Mark's survivors include Matushka Tatiana and their children and grandchildren: Subdeacon Peter (wife Genevieve and son James), Mary (husband Lawrence, sons Isaac and Jonah), Moses (wife Ashley, daughter Ella), Galina, Kyranna, and Sophia; as well as brothers Dennis (wife Sally) and Stanley (wife Lynna). Mr. Stanley Gilstrap, in Holy Baptism Adrian, is also a convert to the Orthodox Faith and a devoted parishioner of St. James Church.
His Eminence the Metropolitan requests that the pleroma of our Holy Church – the sacred clergy, monastics, and the faithful – continue their divine services, prayers, and sacrifices for the repose of God's servant, the Presbyter Mark, which they commenced upon His Eminence's instruction at the time of Fr. Mark's repose. The services of the 40th Day will be conducted on 30 September/13 October at St. James Church.
Orthodox Christians and all those who piously desire to help the Gilstrap family with the unexpected financial burden of Father Mark's burial may send their alms to
Father Mark Gilstrap Memorial
c/o RCB Bank
12200 E. 96th St. N.
Owasso, Oklahoma 74055
On behalf of the entirety of our Holy Metropolis, His Eminence Metropolitan Demetrius extends his apostolic blessing and heartfelt gratitude to Subdeacon Peter, Matushka Tatiana, and the entire Gilstrap family, for their longtime sacrificial service to Holy Orthodoxy, with fervent prayer for the continuation of Fr. Mark's God-pleasing labors to proclaim the True Faith in the heart of Protestant America.
May his memory be eternal!
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