Photo by Yuri Fokin (San Francisco)

Pastoral Conference of the Western American Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

During the third week of Great Lent, from March 10 through March 12, the regular Pastoral Conference and Confession of the clergy of the Western American Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia was held at Holy Virgin Cathedral in San Francisco.

Clergy from all the ends of the huge diocese gathered, even from some of its most remote points—from freezing Alaska and from the warn Hawaiian Islands in order to meet together, to pray together, to listen to lectures and to exchange views, all under the direction of their Ruling Bishop, the Most Reverend Kyrill, Archbishop of San Francisco and Western America.

The conference opened with a service of supplication before the relics of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco, and all of the participants reverently bowed down before the relics of the great wonder-worker, asking his heavenly intercession before the throne of God and the blessing of God upon their efforts.

This year, the conference was dedicated to the theme of Missions. Presentations were heard together, and clergy participated in round tables and made comments.

It was noted that our mission at the present time consists not only in establishing missionary communities for those who come to Orthodoxy from other faiths. Because of the influx of a great number of people from the former Soviet Union, who are filling our churches, but who, most often, know little about or understand the Orthodox faith—it is necessary to organize wide missionary activity among them as well, through lectures, classes in the basics of Orthodox teaching, and, for children, a Church School.

The clergy gathered together in San Francisco could not fail to pay attention to the shameful actions, that have resounded throughout the entire world, that were permitted by the authorities in the city of San Francisco in allowing people of the same gender to receive "marriage" licenses, and also the performance of such civil "marriages" in defiance of the laws of the state of California, not to speak of the violation of the Divine institutions concerning marriage.

Two priests were appointed to prepare a draft text of an Epistle from the Pastoral Conference, in which the Orthodox view of what had transpired would be presented. This Epistle was drafted, read to the participants of the Conference, and, with a few minor corrections, was approved unanimously. The text of this Epistle can be found here.

The conference also addressed the recently released film of Mel Gibson, "The Passion of the Christ." One of the participants in the Conference, Priest John McCuen, had written a brief analysis of this film from an Orthodox perspective for his Parish Bulletin. His Eminence, Archbishop Kyrill read this text to all of the gathered clergy, who agreed with the thoughts of Fr. John, while offering some corrections and clarifications. The corrected text can be found here.


The presentation about his missionary activities on the island of Haiti by Protopriest Gregory Williams from Tennessee was very interesting. During the past few years, Fr. Gregory has been able to establish several small missions in various locations on the island, notwithstanding colossal difficulties with finding locations and funds, and now, with political unrest. The presentation was accompanied by photographs.

During the Conference, the clergy took part in all the services of the daily Lenten cycle of services, serving or singing on the kleros, where two choirs alternated—Slavonic and English.

On Thursday evening the Rite of Preparation for Holy Communion was served, and during the Great Compline and Matins which followed, all of the clergy went to Confession with their Spiritual Fathers.

On Friday morning the clergy all gathered for the Lenten Hours, followed by a Memorial Litiya. Then followed the hierarchical Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts, during which twenty-four clergymen served and received Holy Communion in the Altar.

After the Liturgy a Moleben of Thanksgiving was served before the relics of St. John, followed by a trapeza, during which it was decided that the next Pastoral Conference would be held in October in Denver.

The following letter to His Eminence, Metropolitan Laurus was adopted and signed by all of the participants:
February 28/March 12, 2004

To His Eminence, the Most Reverend LAURUS,

First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
Your Eminence, Most Reverend Master!

We, the clergy of the Western American Diocese, gathered for the Great Lenten Pastoral Conference at the Holy Virgin Cathedral in San Francisco greet you and wish you spiritual and physical strength, wisdom, and patience from the Lord God.

We thank the Lord, that in such a difficult and responsible time, you are steering the Ark of our Church by the middle, Royal path for the spiritual benefit of all of the children of our Church and of the Russian people.

Dear Vladyka! We express our trust in you and we assure you of our support and of our prayers, especially in connection with your coming first official visit to Russia. May the Lord strengthen you, through the prayers of the All-Pure Mother of God and of Saint John, Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco.
Asking Your Eminence's First-Hierarchical blessing and holy prayers.Archbishop Kyrill thanked all of the organizers of the Conference and especially the Sisterhood, which had prepared wonderful Lenten meals throughout.

Since this was the first Pastoral Conference to be held after the elevation of the Ruling Bishop of the Diocese to the rank of Archbishop, at the end of the trapeza, in the name of all those gathered and of their flocks, Protopriest Alexander Lebedeff congratulated His Eminence, Vladyka Kyrill with the high ecclesiastical honor bestowed on him, and wished him strengthening of his spiritual and physical powers, after which all the participants joined in singing to Vladyka Kyrill "Save, O Christ God!"