by Peter Samore
Video: Metropolitan Joseph’s Address to the General Assembly
The Coronavirus would not stop the Antiochian Archdiocese from holding its biennial convention. Taking advantage of the tools that have strengthened communications and connections during the pandemic, His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph virtually convened the bishops, priests, deacons, Board of Trustees, and faithful for important teachings, addresses, workshops and updates in the life of the Archdiocese and on July 23-24, 2021. Hundreds of people participated and interacted, receiving answers to their questions.
In his address, His Eminence engaged and encouraged the general assembly to remember in their prayers those who have lost their lives and livelihoods because of the virus. He also called upon them to keep their focus on God at all times for comfort and direction.
“Nothing external to us can harm us, except our free choice to reject God’s work in our lives,” Sayidna Joseph said. “So long as we cooperate with God and obey His teachings, we will know the love that God has for us, and will abide in that love and be perfected in that love.”
His Eminence thanked the clergy and the laity for their patience, steadfastness and endurance, and told them to remember what they learned in the pandemic.
“You have all, no doubt, had similar moments and experiences as you’ve been forced to slow down and simplify your daily lives,” he said. “Let us cherish these lessons as gifts from God, so that they will bear the fruit of ongoing spiritual renewal in us, as God intends.”
His Eminence chose Very Rev. Joseph Huneycutt, pastor of St. Joseph Church in Houston, Texas and vice chairman of the Archdiocese’s Dept. of Missions and Evangelism, to deliver more inspiration during a keynote address. Fr. Joseph told the general assembly that they should not return to life as they knew it before the Coronavirus.
“We always miss the cross we had,” Fr. Joseph recounted another priest telling him. “But this, our present struggle, is the cross that God provides. He doesn’t provide anything without our salvation in mind.”
From the pandemic, Fr. Joseph, his parishioners and his catechumens have been able to offer more readers services at home, expand their prayer life, and develop more appreciation for the Divine Liturgy and Holy Communion. He told the general assembly that they must keep their prayer corners and dinner tables – centers of a Christ-centered home life – long after the pandemic fades away.
Also in his address, His Eminence announced that His Grace Bishop Basil of the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America has petitioned His Beatitude Patriarch John X of Antioch and All the East for retirement from active ministry at the end of the calendar year. His Eminence has given his “reluctant support.”
“I would like to thank my beloved brother, His Grace Bishop Basil, for his service to this archdiocese over fifty years, as archdiocesan youth director, as a deacon, as a priest, and as a bishop,” His Eminence said. “We certainly owe much gratitude to Bishop Basil for his ministry over so many years, and we wish him many more healthy years and blessings. Bishop Basil will remain in the Wichita area, and we will continue to benefit from his wisdom and love.”
Patriarch John and the Holy Synod of Antioch is scheduled to consider the request in October. Metropolitan Joseph has been discussing the possibility of consecrating more bishops for the Antiochian Archdiocese with His Beatitude.
On Friday, the virtual convention brought together the Archdiocese’s four organizations: the Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch, the Antiochian Women, Young Adult Ministry, and Teen SOYO. Participants in these meetings shared stories of how they have endured the Coronavirus and dialogued about how to continue bring their family and friends back to Christ if the pandemic has left them disheartened.
On Saturday, the Depts. of Finance and Stewardship held workshops about helping church communities to give of their time, talents and treasures. In its workshop, the Dept. of Youth taught adults how to engage their children by modeling godly lives for them to emulate, which is a critical step for keeping them in church beyond their college years.
Additionally, two doctors led a special workshop on the pandemic, in particular about the vaccines now in circulation to combat the Coronavirus. His Eminence encouraged the faithful to address possible ethical concerns they may have about the vaccines with their clergy, and possible medical concerns with their physicians, to work past misinformation. Sayidna Joseph participated in several of these meetings and workshops, answering questions from the clergy and laity.