Glory to God for all things!
Having just returned from the Metropolis of Boston who hosted our Synod’s clergy meetings, I am inspired and thankful for the opportunity to spend time with fellow clergymen and Orthodox Christians from throughout our Synod.
The meetings were held from September 30 to October 2 and they are designed to bring together clergy and bishops from across our Synod to discuss administrative and theological issues within our Synod. In “worldy-terms”, some might call it an “Annual General Meeting”.
I arrived a couple of days before the start of the meetings and stayed at Holy Transfiguration Monastery. Slowly, clergy from across North America and Guatemala began to arrive. Almost 30 clergymen were present! Several more were not able to attend for various reasons (i.e. health, work commitments).
The meetings are held in the nave of St. Anna Orthodox Church with meals being served in St. Anna’s Church Hall while the services are held next door at St. Mark of Ephesus Cathedral. The meetings begin with a Divine Liturgy which is celebrated by one priest and deacon, selected by the Hierarchs. Similarly, Vespers is also celebrated throughout the meetings. Although parishioners are welcomed to attend these services, they are mostly attended by the clergy present for the meetings and the volunteers who prepare the meals for the clergy. I found this to be a great practice of having services throughout the meetings; it made me focus and reminded me that our Faith is first and foremost, among all things.
The agenda included: Diocese reports, activities around the world (Guatemala, Russia, Ukraine, Republic of Georgia, Africa, theological discussions, open forum opportunities that was often a great source of discussion, and last, agenda items that were requested by the clergy prior to the meetings (the Synod asks the clergy prior to the meetings for suggested topics – this allows for the clergy to voice ideas, concerns and questions).
I particularly enjoyed the time between agenda items – “break –time” – because I was able to meet fellow clergymen. In some cases, I reacquainted with clergy I already knew from previous encounters as a layman (e.g. Holy Land Pilgrimage, St. Xenia Camp) and other cases, I met clergymen I did not know.
The Synaxis ended with a Concelebration of the Divine Liturgy at St. Mark of Ephesus Cathedral with our three Hierarchs and ALL the clergy present for the meetings. With all the surrounding parishes closed (because the clergy are at the meetings), there were many parishioners who were visiting and who attended the Concelebration. There were even some parishioners from Toronto!
If you have not experienced a Concelebration of this magnitude, it is one of the most awesome and grace-filled Liturgy’s you will attend! It is very reminiscent of the time our Saviour with His Apostles. (Remember, our Bishops are living icons of Christ, while clergymen are ministers of Christ, like the Apostles). Imagine…3 Bishop and over 30 priests and deacons, not to mention the altar servers and the choir! (sample of the St. Mark’s Choir chanting “Of Prophets Old” – chanted during the vesting of the Bishop – QuickTime required to play)
You can image how difficult it might be to serve with so many clergy in the sanctuary but with guidance by the Holy Spirit everything worked out!
It’s not easy to host an event of this magnitude so thank you again to Fr. John (St. Anna), Prebytera Vikki, Fr. Christos, Fr. George and all the clergy and parishioners of St. Mark of Ephesus Cathedral and St. Anna for their hospitality.
Like every organization of this size, we aren’t perfect but we learn from and overcome adversity. We do this through one of the greatest virtues our Saviour gave us…love. I was inspired by the meetings and the services because I saw the love and respect the clergy had for our Hierarch’s, each other and most of all, our Faith. It is this conduct of good-will and commitment to working together that I will take with me and guard tightly.
I was overwhelmed by the continued reassurance, thoughtful remarks and prayers offered by my fellow clergymen for ALL of us in Toronto. In addition to the prayers of many, we too, must look to our patron now, St. Nicholas, to intercede for us and help us overcome adversities that we face as a community.
I was sad for the weekend to end. I hope, if God-allows, one day, for many of our faithful in Toronto to experience what I experienced. It is truly a blessing!
Glory to God for all things!
Fr. Deacon George