Clergy Conference and Retreat of the Eastern American Diocese

From March 8-10, a Clergy Conference and Retreat of the Diocese of Eastern America and New York was held at St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Howell (Lakewood), NJ, which included confession and communion and the celebration of the pre-sanctified liturgy, at which His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus officiated.

On Monday, March 8, His Grace Bishop Gabriel and the rectors of several parishes gave reports. Bishop Gabriel spoke on the life of the Synodal Cathedral in New York, which, noted Vladyka, is not a regular parish with its own parish council and annual parish meetings, but a stavropighial church of the First Hierarch. The clergymen of the Cathedral conduct daily services, aided by clergymen from surrounding areas, and are also burdened with various administrative duties delegated to them by the Church Administration. There are also quite a few visitors every day who come to consult with a priest, purchase something from the Synod Bookstore, light candles in the lower Chapel of St. Sergius, request a moleben (service of supplication) or a pannikhida (memorial service), etc. Bishop Gabriel also spoke about the life of the recently-founded Parish of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia in Brooklyn, whose rector is Protopriest George Kallaur.

Protopriest Vladimir Malchenko spoke on life at Holy Trinity Parish in Toronto. Fr. Vladimir said that it was the opinion of Bishop Gabriel that this parish is one of the most populous of our entire Russian Church Abroad. Fr. Vladimir is amazed at the piety and strong faith of his parishioners.

The Rector of the Church of St. John the Baptist, Protopriest Victor Potapov, said that church life in the nationís capital is “vigorous.” St. John the Baptist Cathedral has five clergymen and two choirs. All-night vigil is served on Saturdays in English at 4 pm and in Church Slavonic at 6:30 pm. The Rector and his assistant try to hold regular discussions with their parishioners, the choirs hold frequent rehearsals, which result in a broader repertoire. The Rector noted that worshipers commune from two chalices on Sundays. Fr. Victor hopes that a chapel will be built in the local cemetery where the churchís parishioners are buried, so that memorial services could be held on days of the Commemoration of the Departed. In the near future, the Cathedralís singers will hold a benefit concert at the local Antiochian cathedral to help Orthodox Serbs in Kosovo. Fr. Victor spoke also on the topic of a pilgrimage to Serbia that he organized last year. He served in several ancient monasteries of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

Priest Theodore Shevzov, who was elevated to the rank of protopriest on Wednesday, March 10, added to Fr. Victorís report of the recent presentation made by Bishop Artemje of Raska and Prizren at the parish hall of St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Washington DC. The text of this presentation was distributed to the participants of the Conference.

Priest Alexis Duncan briefly spoke on the life of the English-language Parish of the Mother of God “Joy of All Who Sorrow” in Atlanta. He reported that there are 30,000 new immigrants from Russia living in Atlanta, and so a portion of the services is held in Church Slavonic. Other priests made presentations on their parishes as well.

Other questions were discussed besides pastoral matters, including the financial situation of the Diocese and recent events in the life of the Russian Church Abroad since the Expanded Pastoral Conference held in December of last year in Nyack, NY. His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus reported that his official visit to Russia to meet the leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate and veneration of the holy places in the fatherland is scheduled for the second half of May of this year. His Eminence announced who was selected for the delegation that will escort him to Moscow, and who was appointed to the Committee on discussions with the corresponding committee of the Moscow Patriarchate. This Committee, established by the latest Council of Bishops, convened in February and met with the members of the Synod of Bishops.

The reports of Priest Alexis Duncan and Hieromonk Andrei (Kostadis), the rector of Holy Protection Church in Glen Cove, NY, drew interest and led to a lively exchange of opinions.

All the services were conducted with solemnity and accompanied by the heartwarming singing of the choirs of the clergy of the Diocese and of St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. At the end of divine liturgy, words of gratitude were delivered, and a Communique was adopted; it was also decided to propose to the Diocesan Council that a Diocesan Conference be convened this autumn; to ask the Diocesan Council to review the financial situation and to hold regular pastoral meetings to encourage the clergymen in carrying on their service to the Holy Church, and finally to discuss other current matters.

The Conference was organized by Protopriest Sergei Lukianov under the supervision of the Rector of St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Protopresbyter Valery Lukianov, for whom we pray the Lord to grant all that is good, and for the parishioners, that He grant them peace and spiritual joy.

Priest Serafim Gan
Conference Participant