Dear Friends of OCL,
I am writing to you all during this Lenten Season with a special request, one that does not involve money but rather a bit of your time. Please join me in offering a special prayer asking God’s help in enlightening the hierarchs and leadership of all Orthodox jurisdictions in America so that they move forward with their deliberations regarding the establishment of a unified Orthodox Church in America.
I realize that we as individuals have little control as to how the work of our leaders proceeds except through the power of prayer and our actions at the local level demonstrating Pan-Orthodoxy at work. To help us in formulating our prayers for unity, I have included a short prayer at the end of this communication written by His Eminence Archbishop Nathaniel which addresses the question of unity in a beautiful and thoughtful manner.
In addressing the grass roots support for unity, I would like to share an experience I had recently when participating with a group of Orthodox women at a retreat at the Holy Assumption Monastery in Calistoga, California. Some of you may remember that I have been the President of the Women’s Board of the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute (PAOI) which is a member institution of the Graduate Theological School in Berkeley, CA. The membership of this Board has members from many Orthodox Jurisdictions (Antiochian, OCA, Serbian, GOA) as is true of the graduate students and the faculty. The Women’s Board plans several Educational Programs every year along with maintaining a strong fund raising effort of a minimum of $30,000 every year. Our March meeting was planned for a visit to the Holy Assumption Monastery in Calistoga, CA. We spent the day with Mother Melania and her community of 18 to 20 sisters. The Monastery is part of the OCA. The sisters are very much involved with the community reaching out and welcoming people who may need additional support at this time in their lives. The Community includes 18 to 20 Sisters who come from Orthodox backgrounds or have converted. They are also developing a line of preserves, honey and hand crafts that they sell in local markets to help meet their expenses. The Sisters provided us with a wonderful Lenten lunch.
In addition to several talks by Mother Melania and Sister Marguerite, we also were able to share a church service in the small and beautiful Russian Church on the property. Father Tom Paris, who is the President of the Board of Trustees for the PAOI, was asked by the Sisters to join them in the service. This small 18th Century Russian Church is being maintained and cared for by the Monastery.
Both Mother Melania and Sister Marguerite told us the stories of some of the beautiful Icons that are in the church, including one of St. Nicholas of Tokyo (1860) who in his lifetime was believed to have converted over 30,000 people to Orthodoxy. The Church also has relics of St. Innocent of Alaska and of St. Herman.
The Monastery has no regular priest assigned to them, but in this small town two blocks away is another small Russian Orthodox Church (ROCOR). They are now working together to share their resources. Board members agreed that it was a wonderful and uplifting experience for us all and offers another small example of Unity efforts.
In another recent development, The Orthodox Christian Laity (OCL) brand has had a makeover. We have developed a state-of-the-art website. We encourage you to comment on the content that is posted and invite you to present your point of view. The Internet is a cost-effective way of communicating rapidly and frequently. OCL also has a new logo. Its colors and symbolism signify that home-grown Orthodoxy in America is Christ-centered, unified, diverse and cooperative. By means of its conciliar governance ethos, it is maturing into a self-governing sister Church fulfilling the Great Commission of Jesus Christ. In this year 2013, I am blessed to be serving as your President and I will, with your prayers and support, promote the efforts of the Assembly of Bishops to move ahead with developing the foundation for the unified and self-governing Church in the North America.
I am looking forward to the OCL Board meeting in Nashville in April as we continue to find ways to support progress towards Unity.
May we all continue to have a blessed Lenten period!
Susan W. Haikalis, President OCL – April 2013
A Prayer for Orthodox Unity
O All Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we your faithful children beseech you to forgive us the sin of divisiveness, which is rooted in our hearts, our dioceses and land. Implant in our lives the holy vine of unity which only you can bestow on those who have come together in your name. Enlighten us with your grace so that we may come to the knowledge of your truth and move our hearts to respond with trust and total obedience to your divine will. Through the intercessions of the God-inspired Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council at Nicaea, who in harmony decreed that there should be one hierarch in each city serving your faithful as a loving father over his children, one shepherd over a united flock, we also praise your all holy name. O Father who is without beginning, O Son who is eternal and O Holy Spirit, the life-creator, illuminate the way and guide us all to once again unite your Holy Church. Amen.
[Please share your Pan-Orthodox grass roots unity experiences by contacting the News Editor at https://ocl.org/orthodox-christian-laity/contact/]
Susan, thank you for this beautiful article and reminding us all what our mission is. We have to continue to push and enlighten our brothers and sisters to how important “unity” is in our Holy Orthodox Church and what it can mean to all of us. A united Orthodox church worthy of all people. In my experience here in Texas and surrounding areas, there is really very little done to join hands. My participation in a Pan Orthodox choir, under the direction of Dr. William Attra, may be a small contribution, but it is truly effective. Singing mainly in English, but with a repertoire of Russion, Greek and Arabic hymns, we have been to churches all over Texas and nearby states. It is a viable way to show how “unity” can be productive and viable. I look to our BIshops for the strength to help us in this cause, and hopefully with people like you, we will see some great progress this year, and the years to come. May we all continue our Lenten journey with hope and love to all our faithful family in Christ.