Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As you know, I recently participated in the 18th All-American Council (AAC) of the
Orthodox Church in America, held in Atlanta, Georgia. David Homyak also attended
as our parish lay delegate to the AAC and to the diocesan assembly and as the delegate
of our FOCA Chapter to the annual convention of the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians
in America which was convened at the same location in Atlanta prior to the convening
of the AAC. I’d like to share with you a few highlights of the six days I spent
The first scheduled event for which I was present was the Saturday evening Vespers
hosted by Metropolitan Alexios of the Greek Archdiocese at Annunciation Greek Orthodox
Cathedral. At the end of Vespers, beautifully sung by members of the FOCA and friends
and family and served by clergy of the local Orthodox Clergy Council, His Eminence
expressed his words of welcome and emphasized the ongoing need for all Orthodox Christians
in America to join together in the common work of proclaiming the Gospel. Vespers
was followed by a reception held in the cathedral’s fellowship hall.
The entire episcopate of the OCA concelebrated the Divine Liturgy the following morning
at which the delegates to the FOCA convention and hundreds of local faithful were
also present. That afternoon, the Holy Synod visited the Martin Luther King Center
and toured the museum, laid a wreath at Dr. and Mrs. King’s grave, and visited the
Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he was co-pastor, where he preached, and where his
funeral took place. We then traveled to Saint John the Wonderworker Church, Atlanta,
and were given a presentation on the good work of “Loaves and Fishes,” a program
sponsored by the parish which provides two meals a day to the homeless and also assists
them in re-uniting them with their families and re-integrating into society.
On Sunday evening, the Holy Synod joined the delegates to the FOCA convention for
a formal banquet. It was announced at this banquet that Andrew Romanov, a member
of our parish community, was among those selected to be a recipient of an FOCA scholarship—Congratulations,
Andrew! A special presentation was also made to His Eminence, Archbishop MICHAEL,
rector of Saint Tikhon’s Seminary. After several years of successful fundraising,
the FOCA presented the seminary with a check in the amount of $300,000.00 to assist
with providing housing for married seminarians. In accepting this generous gift,
His Eminence spoke movingly of the importance of supporting seminarians and their
families as they prepare to serve the Church and thus participate in expanding the
The annual diocesan assembly of the Diocese of the West was held on Monday morning.
Visit the diocesan website (dowoca.org) to read the minutes. On Monday evening,
after the Service of Prayer at the Opening of a Sacred Council, His Beatitude, Metropolitan
TIKHON offered his opening address, calling the clergy, monastics, and clergy of
the OCA to greater dedication in the work of expanding the Church’s mission.
On Tuesday morning, the proposed Statute of the Orthodox Church in America was formally
presented to the AAC for adoption. After discussion from the floor, the new Statute
was adopted with 97% of the assembled delegate voting in favor of the adoption. (http://oca.org/news/headline-news/aac-delegates-adopt-statute-revision-in-473-15-vote).
The AAC continued throughout the week with a resolution on financing the work of
the Church on the national level passing with wide support (http://oca.org/news/headline-news/delegates-pass-finance-resolution-by-vote-of-451-14-17).
At the heart of the Council’s time together was the daily celebration of the Divine
Liturgy, Vespers, and Akathists to the Sitka Icon of the Mother of God, Saint Anna,
and All Saints of North America. The Holy Synod, joined by His Beatitude ONUFRY,
Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine, and other guest bishops, concelebrated the
Divine Liturgy on Thursday morning. That evening, Metropolitan ONUFRY addressed
the formal closing banquet. His address may be read here: http://oca.org/news/oca-news/aac-address-of-metropolitan-onufry-greetings-from-archbishop-leo.
Throughout the week, youth programs were held which enjoyed the participation of
about 100 young people from throughout North America. The bishops joined them for
breakfast on Thursday morning and participated with them in an exercise aimed at
getting to better know some of the saints of our Church.
I encourage you to visit the OCA website (www.oca.org) to read more about the work
and activities of the AAC, to see photos, to listen to the sessions, and to view
videos on what transpired throughout the week. This wonderful, God-blessed gathering
was an expression of the Church in its fullness as bishops, priests, deacons, monastics,
and lay faithful gathered together to give thanks to God, to ask His blessing upon
the work of our Church, and to discuss and decide how we, as the Orthodox Church
in America, can best proclaim the Gospel in this land.
Again, please visit the OCA website to learn more about the work of the All-American
Council. It is a model of how we, here at Saints Peter and Paul Church in Phoenix,
can also expand the mission—our mission—of proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ.
With love in the Lord,
Translation of the relics of the Protomartyr and Archdeacon Stephen from Jerusalem
The Transfer of the Relics of the Holy Protomartyr Stephen from Jerusalem to Constantinople
took place about the year 428.
After the holy Protomartyr Archdeacon Stephen was stoned by the Jews, they left his
holy body unburied to be devoured by the beasts and birds. After a day and a night
the renowned Jewish teacher of the Law, Gamaliel sent people to take up the body
of the Protomartyr. Gamaliel buried him on his own property, in his own tomb, not
far from Jerusalem.
When Lord’s secret disciple Nicodemus died, Gamaliel also buried him near the grave
of St Stephen. Afterwards Gamaliel himself, who had been baptized with his son Abibas,
was buried near the grave of the Protomartyr Stephen and St Nicodemus.
In the year 415 the relics of the saint were uncovered in a miraculous manner and
solemnly transferred to Jerusalem by Bishop John and the bishops Eutonius of Sebaste
and Eleutherius of Jericho. From that time healings took place from the relics.
Afterwards, during the reign of holy Emperor Theodosius the Younger (408-450), the
relics of the holy Protomartyr Stephen were transferred from Jerusalem to Constantinople
and placed in the church of the holy deacon Laurence (August 10). When a church dedicated
to the Protomartyr Stephen was built, the relics were transferred there on August
2. St Stephen’s right hand is preserved in the Serapionov chamber of the Trinity-Sergius
Ninth annual OCA Diaconal Liturgical Practicum trains deacons and diaconal candidates
YONKERS, NY [OCA]
Bishop Daniel with Practicum participants after Divine
Liturgy on July 15. “Click Picture to see more”
Twenty-three deacons and students in the Diaconal Vocations Program of the Orthodox
Church in America gathered on the campus of Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological
Seminary here for worship, theological reflection, and focused liturgical training.
For the ninth year in a row, this gathering has provided an important opportunity
for deacons and candidates to connect with faculty and each other as they seek to
expand their ministries at the altar.
The Diaconal Liturgical Practicum began on Sunday
evening, July 12, 2015 with supper, introductions, and an icebreaker that helped
participants appreciate some of the challenges of learning to serve the divine services
correctly. Archpriest Dr. John Behr, Dean of the seminary, formally opened the program
with the singing of a Molieben in the seminary’s Three Hierarchs’ Chapel. The Practicum’s
beginning coincided with a week of instruction for students enrolled in the seminary’s
Doctor of Ministry program and both cohorts were enriched by being able to pray together
and to receive a blessing with holy water at the beginning of the week. Father John
then led the Practicum in an engrossing study on early martyrdom, Scripture and Eucharist
in our lives in Christ and the Paschal passion. As one participant noted, “I would
have made the trip to the seminary for this talk alone!”
The next day opened with
an early morning celebration of the Divine Liturgy celebrated by Father John and
participants of the Practicum. Archdeacon Kirill Sokolov, Director of Diaconal and
Late Vocations of the Orthodox Church in America, gathered with participants at 7:00
a.m. to prepare for the Divine Liturgy. “It is not always possible in our parish
life for the deacons and servers to be the first to arrive at the church,” explained
Archdeacon Kirill. “In these intensive days of training, however, we are able to
practice and model the full order of services and all of the preparation required
for a peaceful and orderly serving of the divine services. From filling oil lamps
to chanting the prayers of the Church, the participants learn best by actively doing
and with repetition.”
Following the first liturgy, students practiced proclaiming
the Word of God by reading in church and learned about the proper use of their voices
in a first of multiple sessions with Archpriest Sergius Halvorsen, Assistant Professor
of Homiletics and Rhetoric at the seminary. Sessions on voice featured chanting a
section from the Epistles of the Holy Apostle Paul and receiving feedback from Father
Sergius and peers on clarity and sound.
Workshops led by Archdeacon Kirill aimed at
providing participants with the frameworks, patterns, and skills needed to serve
effectively in the Orthodox Church as an attentive server or deacon. Sessions focused
on the typical celebration of the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom. Instruction
and practice in hierarchical services met in smaller groups to better approach these
complicated services with the additional guidance of Archdeacon Joseph Matusiak,
Secretary to His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon.
Archpriest John Jillions, OCA Chancellor,
served Vespers and met with the participants to discuss issues facing ordained clergy
and the Church and the Church’s work in this world. As Chancellor, Father John is
a member of the Board of Theological Education, which supervises the work of the
Diaconal Vocations Program. As on Sunday, a long day of work and study ended at 10:00
p.m. with planning for the following morning’s Divine Liturgy.
On the second day of
the Practicum, Tuesday, July 14, the Divine Liturgy was celebrated by seminarian
Priest Aleksey Paranyuk, Archdeacon Kirill, and Practicum participants. In addition
to liturgical workshops led by the archdeacons, Archpriest Alexander Rentel, Assistant
Professor of Canon Law and Byzantine Studies and the John and Paraskeva Skvir Lecturer
in Practical Theology, taught liturgical theology fundamental to the ministry of
the deacon and to the understanding of every Christian.
The Practicum was honored
by the presence of His Grace, Bishop Daniel of Santa Rosa, Auxiliary Bishop in the
Diocese of the West, who came to the seminary for the Practicum at the invitation
of Metropolitan Tikhon to preside at the divine services, to be with the participants
in conversation, and to meet with them as a group to discuss expectations that the
Church has for all men who are called to serve her in ordained diaconal ministry.
also marked the eve of the feast of the Holy Great Prince Vladimir, Equal of the
Apostles, patron of the seminary. The community joyously celebrated Great Vespers
with Practicum participants and those attending the D.Min. program. The celebration
was heightened by the prayerful presence of Metropolitan Tikhon, who serves as President
of the Church’s seminaries and chairs the Board of Theological Education. He spoke
convincingly of the darkness in the world that Saint Vladimir worked to convert to
Christ and the encouragement we receive from the saint’s example to us in our own
time and place. The celebration continued with a cookout in honor of the feast hosted
by the Alumni of the Seminary. Following the festive evening, the Practicum participants
continued their work late into the night on reading and voice with Father Sergius.
Wednesay, July 15, the Practicum experience was crowned by the celebration of the
Divine Liturgy for the feast of Saint Vladimir. Bishop Daniel served the full hierarchical
order with the assistance of ten priests, six deacons, and Practicum participants
who served as subdeacons or sang in the choir.
Participants attended the Practicum
from nearly every diocese of the Orthodox Church in America and from other Churches.
The “goodbyes” at departure movingly showed that participants not only learned more
about the liturgy and their vocations in Church service, but also benefited spiritually
from their new connections to teachers and brothers. As one participant explained,
“it is a true joy to have received the opportunity to meet you all and to call you
The Holy Synod of Bishops requires participation in at least two practicums
for candidates to complete the Diaconal Vocations Program of the Orthodox Church
in America. Ordained deacons benefit from attendance as part of the Continuing Education
discipline of the Church.
Further information on the Diaconal Vocations Program is
available at http://oca.org/dvp. More information on Saint Vladimir’s Seminary and
its programs of theological study can be found at www.svots.edu.
Services for Transfiguration
Wednesday, August 5th Vespers, 6:00 p.m.
Thursday, August 6th Divine Liturgy, 9:00 a.m.
Services for Dormition
Friday, August 14th Vespers, 6:00 p.m.
Saturday, August 15th Divine Liturgy, 9:00 a.m.