Fr. Michael Shanbour
The future Father Michael Shanbour was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas and baptized into the Holy Orthodox Church as an infant. His home parish of St. George, under the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, was officially established in 1921 by Orthodox immigrants from Lebanon.
Shanbour’s maternal great-grandfather, the Rt. Rev. Shukrallah Shadid, was called with his family from his home country to the U.S. to serve the Orthodox community in Oklahoma City. Father Shukrallah also travelled to Wichita to serve the community there as well, a mission church community at that time without a priest. That mission church has grown to become St. George Orthodox Christian Cathedral, home of Bishop Basil Essey of the Antiochian Diocese of Wichita and Mid America, with a thriving community of descendants from those first Lebanese immigrants as well as a large and growing contingent of converts to the Orthodox Faith.
Although raised Orthodox, by his teenage years his exposure to a non-denominational Protestant community caused him to seek explanations for the great divergence between Orthodox and Protestant worship and teaching. Over the next three years he read early Christian literature such as the Apostolic Fathers (St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Polycarp of Smyrnea, etc.) and early texts of the Liturgy which convince him of the veracity and authenticity of the Orthodox Church’s claim to be the historical and spiritual descendant of the Church of the Apostles.
He also began expressing his faith musically as a self-taught guitar player/singer and singing in the church choir.
One of the highlights of his church life as a teen was an annual ski retreat to the slopes near Denver, Colorado. It was on that first retreat that a special experience of God’s grace touched his heart and led to a desire to serve and follow Jesus Christ. Shanbour also helped lead sing-alongs for the church youth group.
In 1981, at age eighteen, he was accepted as a Camp Counselor at the Antiochian Village Christian Youth Camp where, for the next four to five summers, he also served as song leader, church chanter, and, in 1984, Evening Program Director. During the school year, he earned his Bachelor in Business Administration in Accounting, graduating in 1985 Cum Laude from Wichita State University.
The daily liturgical life and intimate Christian community life at the Antiochian Village Camp had a profound effect on Shanbour. He was also inspired by the example of Camp Director, Father John Namee (of blessed memory), and Orthodox seminarians on the camp staff. One such seminarian, Rick (now Bishop Anthony) Michaels, became a musical partner as the two young men begin writing contemporary Christian music and performing for the edification of the staff and campers. Later Pat (now, Father Patrick) Kinder joined the two to form a music group they named “Kerygma”, the Greek word for the preaching of the Gospel.
After working briefly for a public accounting firm, Fr. Michael enrolled at St. Vladimir’s Seminary in 1986 along with Patrick Kinder. During that time the Kerygma music group performed and led retreats at Orthodox parishes, conferences, youth rallies, and other events all over the country and Canada. They produced two albums in the Nashville area with the help of Father Gordan and Mary Sue Walker of Franklin, Tennessee. Father Gordan and his congregation, newly received into the Orthodox Church (1987), had been part of a group of 2,000 Evangelical Christians (the “Evangelical Orthodox Church”) who discovered the riches of the Orthodox Faith through the study of Church history, doctrine, worship, etc. See their story here:
After graduating seminary in 1989, Fr. Michael left the Kerygma music group to follow other pursuits as he continued to be very involved in the ministry and life of St. George Cathedral in Wichita — as Co-Chair of the Evangelism Ministry Committee, Altar Server, Chanter, and Youth Leader with the “Wichita Orthodoxy Youth Ministry” (WOYM) team. His secular employment during this period provided Shanbour with some business and marketing experience. During this time Shanbour served as chairman of the Cathedral’s first Evangelism Ministry Committee and spawned an annual educational open house event that continues to this day.
In 1995 he moved to Livonia, Michigan where he had been hired as Youth Director for St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church, a parish of over 500 families. Over the next two years, he formed and grew the teen group, and worked with the pre-teens, Sunday School, and Young Adult group.
In 1997 he married, Jody Makrina Copeland of Yakima, Washington, daughter of Very Reverend Joseph Copeland of Holy Cross Orthodox Church in Yakima. The couple moved to Omaha, Nebraska where Makrina attended medical school. Shanbour was ordained a deacon in 1998 and served at St. Mary Church in Omaha with the Very Reverend Don Hock. As a deacon he produced two musical projects:
1) a contemporary Christian music album for young people called “Living In An Orthodox World”, and
2) a recording of original liturgical music for young people called “Kids That Love Church.”
Note: Over the past 30 years, Fr. Michael developed a debilitating vocal condition called spasmodic dysphonia which has made singing very difficult. With God’s help, he continues to thrive in his ministry despite this challenge.
He also produced a Vacation Church School Program to complement the Living In An Orthodox World music. In 2001 he was ordained to the holy priesthood by Bishop Basil and was appointed as pastor of Saints Peter and Paul Orthodox Church in Topeka, Kansas by His Eminence Metropolitan Archbishop Philip Saliba (of blessed memory). After the completion of Makrina’s medical residency, with the blessing of then-Bishop Joseph of Los Angeles and the West and Metropolitan Philip, the couple moved to Spokane, Washington where Fr. Michael served as the first full-time pastor of Christ the Savior Orthodox Mission in Spokane Valley.
With the blessing of Archbishop Joseph, beginning in 2004, Shanbour traveled monthly from Spokane to Wenatchee, Washington, serving Vespers on Friday evenings and Divine Liturgy on Saturday mornings after discovering a small group of Orthodox Christians and seekers there. Over the next three and one-half years the Wenatchee mission grew and in 2010 Father Michael was assigned as pastor of Three Hierarchs Orthodox Mission Church in Wenatchee.
After several years of writing and research, Fr. Michael’s first book was published by Ancient Faith Publishing – “Know the Faith: A Handbook for Orthodox Christians and Inquirers” (https://store.ancientfaith.com/know-the-faith/). This popular book (in its third printing) lays out the Orthodox Faith through eleven topical chapters, providing comparison and contrast with both Roman Catholic and Protestant theology and practice. It has been particularly helpful to those seeking an understanding of the faith of the Orthodox. He plans to publish and Children’s Catechism for Christmas 2019.
Fr. Michael enjoys giving talks and retreats, especially on topics of Orthodox spirituality. He has given public talks called “The Healing of the Human Heart According to the Ancient Christian Tradition” and a retreat called “The Way of Escape: Overcoming Temptation and Sin.” He has also given seminars on Church History. He also enjoys any opportunity to share the teachings of the Church Fathers and the Orthodox Christian Faith.
Father Michael and Makrina were blessed with their son, Simeon, in July 2008, a true gift from God. They are truly blessed with a kind, warm, and loving Christian community in the Wenatchee Valley and look forward to many more blessed years of glorifying God the Father, with His eternal Word and Son Jesus Christ, by the grace of the all-holy and life-giving Spirit.