On Sunday February 9, 2014, a group of Southeast Florida Orthodox Christian laity and clergy met in the Singer Island home of Demetra Galazoudis who hosted the event. George Matsoukas and Marlene Devo Buettner organized the gathering.
Protodeacon Peter Danilchick, who is a member of the Secretariat of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in North and Central America and serves as Senior Consultant to the Assembly Coordinator for Committees and as Facilitator/ Liaison for the Committees for Canonical Regional Planning, Financial Affairs, and Theological Education was the featured presenter.
Deacon Peter cited scripture, telling us that it is God’s will to be a united Orthodox church. The challenge of the Assembly is to prepare a plan for the unification of our Orthodox churches in the Americas. A large concern is what ‘picture’ do we present to the world when we are divided? We are theologically united in the Faith but are not united “perfectly” as described in John 17 when Christ spoke to His Disciples. After giving highlights and clarifications Father Peter helped us to understand how this is being done organizationally via a set of rules and thirteen committees. A lengthy question and answer period ensued between the attendees and Father Peter.
Those attending the gathering represented several jurisdictions, and came some distance from Ft Lauderdale to Port St Lucie. It was an inter-generational group of about forty persons, pan Orthodox, and interested and dedicated to Orthodoxy. Their questions and comments varied to include concerns specific to the reorganization of jurisdictional territories and who will make those decisions, the Church Calendar (Old and New), Language used in the churches, the support of Patriarch Bartholomew, what is causing the diminishment of our parishes, and the meaning of Autocephaly.
We were left with some answers and some challenges by Father Peter. Bringing people to the Faith is important; the Plan that has been laid out by the Assembly must be worked out among the Bishops, similar to a corporate merger and taking into account the needs of the people; the Language used in the churches is not an issue of concern for the Assembly; many pastoral practices differ among the jurisdictions and even within jurisdictions (such as marriage, re-baptism, fasting, etc) which causes confusion for Clergy and Laity alike. There are many obstacles which the Bishops must overcome. We must be “welcoming” churches. Our role as Laity includes becoming personally interactive with our clergy and hierarchs and intervening when there are ‘slowdowns’ and hiatuses to the work of the Assembly…they need to hear from us and know that we care. We must not leave the task to others but we must all do our part to reach the goal of unification of the Orthodox in the Americas.