Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Council Update

For your interest, here is a abbreviated set of highlights from the All American Council by Deacon Kurt Jordan of Saint Herman of Alaska Church in Langley.

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Good day all.

Christ is in our midst!

I had indicated to some of you that I would try to post to Spruce Island while at the AAC, to try to keep you all in the loop. However, upon arrival I found out that Ancient Faith Radio wasn’t just podcasting (is that a verb?) snippets; they were podcasting vast portions. So, I’m not going to go into details – I will provide the quick summary for those too busy to listen to the entire podcasts.

Day 1

Nothing much to report. Travel all day. Arrived late in Pittsburgh. Connected with Fr. Lawrence upon arrival. Went to bed (quite sick actually – pray for me).

Day 2

Never seen so many ‘blackcoats’ in my life. Without a joke, at one point I called across a room for Fr. John Hainsworth… called “Father”… how silly… the room is filled with them. I’m comforted by the fact that I witnessed Fr. Lawrence do the same thing, calling after Fr. Justin… the look of chagrin on his face was priceless.

Session 1 – some emotion, but very well moderated. The presentation of the SIC Report was made to the council (roughly 700 people) by Bishop Benjamin. He did a wonderful job of presenting, and then moderating the question/comment period that followed. The candidness of the presentation, and the open style of Bishop Benjamin, was encouraging. There was a fair bit of emotion expressed, but it was expressed in sincere, respectful ways. He was frank about the shortcomings of the Synod. However, he said that a spirit of accountability, a willingness to ‘keep tabs on each other’, is a lesson that they have learned well.

Session 2 – there was a LOT more emotion expressed during this session, as it involved the recommendations of the SIC Report. Again, Bishop Benjamin did a very good job moderating. In addition, there was enough restraint among the participants that it did not break into open conflict – individual members often admonishing each other to restraint. Still… it was a lot of emotion and outright tension at parts… but nothing got ugly. Thanks be to God.

Vespers – very good sermon by Archimandrite Meletius, who is now the abbot of St. John of Shanghai monastery now that Bishop Jonah has been elevated to the episcopate.

Canadians ‘only’ meeting – Easily the highlight of the day. Archbishop Seraphim invited all Canadians to his suite for a light snack and discussion. After some introductions were made (very informally), His Eminence let all of us know that he had written a letter to the AAC, stating that he was not interested in becoming the next Metropolitan. He instructed us to consider nominating someone else, but that he was not giving us an obedience – “vote your heart” he said.

His announcement was greeted with a lot of emotion on both sides – those that want him as our next Metropolitan, and those that don’t want to lose him as our hierarch. A few passionate pleas and mini-speeches were made on the subject. However, the most moving endorsement came from Matushka Julianna Schmemann (yup… THE Matushka Schmemann), who has known Vladyka for many, many years, is very fond of him, and stated that she ‘adopted’ him as her son years ago.

I’ve never seen anything quite like it. The amount of respect she commands is impressive; she stands in her own right, and not in the shadow of her husband. In the short time that I had to observe her interact with various people, she seemed straightforward, heartfelt, and truly sincere – had a ‘brook no nonsense’ demeanour, while not being cold about it. It occurred to me, as I watched her rise to speak, that she is possibly the closest thing to a matriarch that the OCA has. She spoke clearly and forcefully about her endorsement of Vladyka as a person. She stated that he was the one person she knew who “served the church with his whole heart”, not just part of it. Whomever it is that she plans to nominate, she had the highest respect for him, and supported him completely. It was something else.

In the end, watching Vladyka prostrate himself before the mini-multitude of Canadians and ask forgiveness of us… I don’t have words. In spite of mistakes, errors in judgement, or outright wrongdoing… if these are the kind of men who lead us, then we will be fine. God is alive in His church.

I remain, your servant,

Fr. Dn. Kurt

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