St. Mary Magdalene Mission

Merced, California

St. Mary Magdalene Mission

Founded 1986

Diocese: Diocese of the West

Deanery: Missionary District


Services held at:
Chapel of Mercy Hospital
2740 “M” St
Merced, California

Mailing address:

PO Box 3704
Merced, CA 95344-3704

Office: 209-384-0673

Parish Contacts

V. Rev. David S Thatcher
PO Box 3704
Merced, CA 95344

Lay Leadership

Ms. Janet Choma
Choir Director


St Mary Magdalene Orthodox Mission presently worships in the beautiful Chapel of Mercy Hospital, located at 2740 “M” St in the city of Merced.  The hospital is easily found on the east side of “M” St between 27th and 28th Sts.  The chapel is at the northwest corner of the hospital building; entrance is from the Bear Creek (28th St) side.

From North of Merced
Take Hwy 99 south. Exit at 16th St in Merced. Continue several blocks, and then turn left onto “M” St. Look on the right for 27th St. and Mercy Medical Center (Dominican Campus). Take the first right turn past 27th St. (this is the entrance to the north hospital parking lot). The chapel of Mercy Hospital will be immediately on the right; park nearby.

From South of Merced
Take Hwy 99 north. Exit at “G” St in Merced. Turn right onto “G” St, and then left at 16th St, Proceed to “M” St and turn right. Look on the right for 27th St. and Mercy Medical Center (Dominican Campus). Take the first right turn past 27th St. (this is the entrance to the north hospital parking lot). The chapel of Mercy Hospital will be immediately on the right; park nearby.

Disabled Parking
Disabled parking is available on the chapel side of the hospital. Proceeding north on “M” St. (from Hwy. 99): turn right at the first opportunity after passing 27th St. and find the disabled parking spaces on the right.

Location of the Sunday Fellowship Hour
The location of our Sunday after-Liturgy fellowship is in the hospital Education Annex building of Mercy Hospital, just two short blocks from the hospital chapel. The Education Annex building is located on Canal St., between 27th and 26th streets. From the hospital chapel parking area, proceed east (it’s a one-way driving zone) a short block to Canal St., and turn right on Canal. Proceed (south) to 27th St., and turn right, and then immediately turn left into the hospital parking lot. The Education Annex is at the end of the row of parking spaces.

Directions to church office
The church office is located at 1171 E. Old Lake Road in North Merced, just east off “G” Street. This is the site of our future church campus, which is presently under construction; our church office is in the contruction trailer. To reach the church office, proceed north on “G”  Street in Merced, and continue all the way through town. Once past Yosemite Avenue, continue past Bellevue Rd. (a 4-way stop) and Farmland St.; Old Lake Road will be on your right. Turn right on Old Lake Road; the driveway to the construction trailer is 1/4 mile on the right, marked by a white mailbox with the address. Please do not send mail to this address.

Schedule of Services

6:00 PM Great Vespers, followed by Confessions.
Saturday Evening

9:40 AM Hours and Confessions; 10:00 AM Divine Liturgy followed by coffee hour fellowship.
Sunday Morning

7:00 PM Great Vespers
Eves of Great Feasts

Please call for Liturgy time.
Mornings of Great Feasts

6:00 PM Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts followed by lenten potluck meal.
Wednesday Evenings in Great Lent

Confessions are best heard by appointment. Confessions may be heard after Great Vespers on Saturday Evenings or before Divine Liturgy (10:00 AM) on Sundays.

Please contact the Church office for the full schedule of services, including Lenten services.  Visitors are encouraged to call the church to confirm schedule.

Parish Background

St Mary Magdelene Orthodox Mission is a growing community of Orthodox faithful of all ethnic backgrounds who come together for worship and mission in the English language.  Our Mission is composed no only of folks of all ethnic heritages traditionally associated with the Orthodox Church, such as Russians, Greeks, and Serbs, but also of people received into the Church from non-Orthodox backgrounds.  Our patroness is, of course, St Mary Magdelene, the Holy Myrrhbearer and Equal-to-the-Apostles, who was the first to encounter and proclaim the Risen Christ.

Initial Growth
Orthodox services were first served in Merced by visiting clergy.  In 1985, Hieromonk Alexander Golitzin provided the pastoral foundation for this community.  Those early years—until Fr Alexander’s departure in 1989—were a season of gradual gathering and growth.  The foundation was set.

After Fr Alexander moved on, St Mary Magdalene Mission experienced several years of difficulty.  Economic recession struck the Merced region hard, especially with the closure of Castle Air Force Base, and some members moved away.  Short tenures of pastoral care were interspersed with lengthy stretches of Readers Services and isolation.  The Mission moved on, and abided in relative obscurity in a community dominated by evangelical Protestantism and Roman Catholicism,  Yet, even in difficult times, God was working.  In the mid-‘90s, Fr James Paffhausen (later tonsured Hieromonk Jonah) became the pastor of the pastor of the Mission.  In 1996 a few people converted to Orthodoxy at the Mission, and a catechumen enrolled in 1997.

In 1997, the Mission was able to purchase a house to serve both as a rectory and a House Church.  Also in 1997, Bishop Tikhon granted the Merced Mission the name St Mary Magdalene, Holy Myrrhbearer and Equal-to-the-Apostles.  In the midst of these blessings our Mission was hard hit by the departure of two priests:  Fr Jonah was called to the monastic life in 1996, and Fr John Anderson, his replacement, retired due to health reasons in 1997.  The Mission was once again without pastoral leadership.  Once again the flock, without a shepherd, was tempted to scatter.

A New Beginning
The Mission’s future was uncertain. Would the remnant of faithful continue on in the midst of trials and decline, and have the faith and courage to receive a priest? A seminarian deacon and his wife from the West, who long had followed the difficult journey of the Merced Mission, made known their desire to come. On Christmas Eve, 1997, newly-ordained Priest David Thatcher and family arrived at the House-Church, having crossed the country via automobile from New York through treacherous El Nino-driven storms.

Since then, God in His gracious lovingkindness has re-energized this mission community in some remarkable ways. We now look to the future with a renewed sense of commitment and hope, working to be ever more faithful in our life together, and planning for outreach and growth in the greater Merced community. In May 1999 we outgrew our little House-Church for services, and now worship in a beautiful hospital chapel. Since that move several have been received into the Church, and we have several catechumens and inquirers. In September 1999, by God’s grace we received a Church Planting Grant from the national Orthodox Church in America.  As we entered into the life of the new millenium, we Mission was blessed with an unimaginable gift: a donor, one whom God has blest with material abundance, came forward as a benefactor of our humble Mission Church.  In July, 2001 we purchased a beautiful 17 acre site right in the growth corridor of north Merced—where the University is slated to be built!  Our donor not only enabled us to purchase this land, but is also allocating funds for the building of a church temple—the total endowment being 1.4 million dollars!

These events in our community’s life are overwhelming signs of God’s gracious purposes for our Mission, unworthy though we are!  In spite of many years of painful difficulties—indeed, “crosses”!—the faithful of Merced now have much hope, in addition to a strong sense of vindication. Truly God desires to establish Christ’s Holy Church right here in Merced!

The Future
Clearly these are exciting times for our mission church, and our numbers are increased. Our average Sunday morning attendance is in the 40s and 50s. Yet, we are sobered by the tremendous stewardship that God has given us.  Not only are we now in the midst of planning and building a physical church temple, but our priority is always to reach out to this region with the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  No doubt, the future is bright: Merced has been selected to be the sight of the next University of California campus, slated to open in 2004-5. It is our hope that a beautiful Orthodox church temple will already be in place here for that auspicious occasion, revealing to all Merced the New Creation of the Kingdom of God in the worship of the Holy Trinity.

God has provided for us every step of the way, in spite of our unworthiness. Of course, as the Fathers say, this is only “a beginning,” and we are mindful of our own unworthiness and complete dependence upon God in all things.  Glory to Jesus Christ!  Glory forever!

Our inner life
What are our emphases today as a church?  With respect to our inner life as the Body of Christ, we could have no greater model than that presented by St Luke.  In the Acts of the Apostles he described the Jerusalem Church as “devoted to the Apostle’s teaching, to the fellowship, to the `Breaking of the Bread,’ and to the Prayers” (2:42).  Each of these four dimensions of Church life is crucial if we are to truly manifest the Kingdom of God in our midst.  At all our services the effective ministry of the Word of God through teaching and preaching is emphasized, and we presently set aside Wednesday evenings for a special time of intergenerational Christian education.  The word for “fellowship” is the Greek word “koinonia,” a word which implies true union and mutual commitment of people to one another:  something that is evolving in new expressions of love and support.  The “Breaking of Bread: is of course St Luke’s euphamism for our sacramental life in the Holy Eucharist, which is the center and fulfillment of our ongoing discipleship in Christ.  And finally St Luke refers to “the” Prayers; his use of the definite article is no accident, as he is speaking of gatherings of liturgical prayer, in the Jewish model of worship. And so we too gather together for liturgical prayer, on Saturday evenings at Great Vespers, in vigilant preparation for the Divine Liturgy, and also at our mid-week Daily Vespers service on Wednesday evenings.

Of course, the inner life is only the beginning, for all this will bear fruit, we pray, in mission to the world around us.  Indeed, our entire life in Christ in the Church is “for the life of the World”.

Our Place in American Orthodoxy
St Mary Magdalene Church is a mission of the Orthodox Church in America, the Diocese of the West.  Our Primate is the Most Blessed Herman, Archbishop of Washington and Metropolitan of all America and Canada.  Our beloved bishop is His Grace, the Rt. Rev. Tikhon.