Pastoral Conference of the Diocese of San Francisco and Western
America is Held in Holy Trinity and St Nicholas Churches, Vancouver,
A Pastoral Retreat for the clergy of the Western American Diocese
of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia took place from
October 24-27 this year in Vancouver, British Columbia. Clergy came
from various states of the USA: California, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho,
Oregon, Washington and the Hawaiian Islands. They were joined by
the clergy of the western part of the Canadian Diocese, from Vancouver
itself and from Victoria, Calgary and Winnipeg. Thanks to the hospitality
and organizational skills of our hosts, all of the guests were blessed
with a sincerely joyous reception in that distant northern corner
of the Pacific Northwest. For the first time in the history of the
western portion of the Canadian Diocese was there so many clergy
present (over 30).
Our schedule for the retreat was filled with Divine Services, work
sessions, reports, discussions and brotherly interaction. The services
and meetings took place in both the parishes in Vancouver: Holy
Trinity Church and Saint Nicholas Church.
The Pastoral Retreat opened on Monday, October 24. At 12:30 pm we
served a moleben íFor the Beginning of Every Good Deedì at Holy
Trinity Church. The church building is tall and roomy, constructed
in Orthodox style. There is a large icon screen built in several
tiers. The parish priest, who has been the father rector now for
over 14 years, is Father Sergei Overt, a graduate of Holy Trinity
Seminary. His wife is Matushka Elena and they have a daughter, Ksenia,
who is 4 years old. Beneath the church are a parish hall and kitchen.
It is here that we were served with generous and delicious hospitality.
In the Holy Trinity parish the memory of Saint John of Shanghai
and San Francisco the Wonderworker is deeply venerated as is apparent
by the several photographs of St. John’s visit to the parish displayed
on the walls of the parish hall.
After the moleben we began our first working session of the retreat.
Back in March of this year at the initiative of Archbishop Kyrill,
six commissions were established with the purpose of enlivening
and elevating church life in the Western American Diocese. During
this session it was resolved to rename the commissions ídepartments.ì
This complicated and very serious task of enlivening and structurally
re-organizing diocesan life at times seems beyond our strength,
but it is very necessary. We cannot overlook the material side of
life in the diocese. It is unpleasant to admit that a series of
measures depend directly upon the financial capabilities of the
diocese. Yet these measures could aid the spiritual aspect of the
life of the clergy and faithful of the Western American Diocese
and the western part of the Canadian Diocese.
Archbishop Kyrill has expressed the desire that our Diocese produce
an official diocesan newsletter or journal which would serve as
a link between its clergy, parishes and the faithful. Vladyka is
striving to develop work with the youth and also define where in
the Diocese it is necessary to concentrate missionary efforts for
both the new _migr_s from Russia and for the natives of this land
as well. Parish schools need textbooks, learning materials and so
forth that would create a standard program. It is important to have
a Diocese-wide program for catechizing and preparing newlyweds.
In this way, among other reasons, if people coming from another
parish in the diocese approach one of our priests, he will have
a relative picture of their level of knowledge and spiritual formation.
In addition, Archbishop Kyrill established several other departments:
íChurch Singingì for choir conductors and choir members and íRubricsì
for the clergy. Vladyka is also striving to acquire group medical
insurance and a pension plan for the clergy of the Western American
Each Diocesan department is headed by a priest. During the retreat
in Vancouver we heard oral reports from the chairmen of these departments
on the work that has been accomplished this past six months. Tremendous
ground has been covered. However, the work in some departments has
been made more difficult in as much as not all of the parishes have
responded to various questionnaires that were sent to them. Without
the participation of all of the rectors and all of the parishes
is it possible to speak of a common task?
Monday the 24th continued with the serving of vespers and matins
and then supper. Then for the first time during a pastoral retreat
of the Western American Diocese we conducted a panel discussion
with the local parishioners. The invention of the panel discussion
belongs to a local cleric, Protodeacon Christopher Birchall and
was conducted with enormous success. The faithful of Vancouver had
the opportunity to direct questions to visiting clergy about diocesan
life and Orthodox spiritual life. A lively and soul profiting discussion
arose and we have the intention of organizing similar panel discussions
at future retreats of the Western American Diocese.
On Tuesday, October 25, Divine Liturgy was served at Holy Trinity
Church in the morning and then we continued a discussion of the
questions we had touched upon during reports heard from the various
departments the prior afternoon. At this time we noted the importance
of a correspondence theological school in the Chicago Diocese for
the preparation of future clergy. We prayerfully remembered newly-departed
Bishop Alexander (Mileant) who laid the foundation for this pastoral
school of the Chicago Diocese. We resolved to send a letter of acknowledgement
to Archbishop Alypy of Chicago, Bishop Peter of Cleveland and Priest
Martin Swanson thanking them for their efforts in founding these
After an abundant meal and a group photograph the meeting of the
second day continued at Saint Nicholas Church, the second parish
of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in Vancouver. The
church stands high above the street on a hill in a residential district.
In size it is a little smaller than the Holy Trinity Church. Adjacent
to the church stands a new, spacious parish hall. Recently, Archbishop
Kyrill has assigned a new, young rector, Priest Evstafij Hripunov.
Father Evstafij is from Moldavia and has finished Kievan Theological
Seminary. He has served several years in the Diocese of Western
Germany. With him are his wife, Matushka Korinna, and their son
Daniel (7 years of age). It must be said that the care exhibited
by the parishioners of Saint Nicholas Church did not pale when compared
to the care we received at Holy Trinity Church. We are grateful
to both of the communities in the city of Vancouver for their hospitality
After a lecture offered by Nicholas A. Ohotin, a representative
of the Fundraising Arm of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (see
Priest Peter Shashkoff of Los Angeles showed the clergy several
clips from two films he is preparing. The first film is dedicated
to the 75th Anniversary of the founding of Holy Trinity Monastery
in Jordanville (God willing the film will be ready by the end of
this year), and the second is about Saint John the Wonderworker
of Shanghai and San Francisco. There is hope that this second film
will be ready by Spring 2006.
During the evening services on the eve of the feast of the Iveron
Icon of the Mother of God, clergy of the Canadian Diocese served.
The rest of the clergy sang antiphonally on the kliroses: on the
right in Church Slavonic and on the left in English. During the
polyoleos the Ruling Bishop of the Western American Diocese, Archbishop
Kyrill, presided, anointing the faithful. With one heart the clergy
of the Western American Diocese and the Canadian Diocese along with
the faithful of Vancouver appealed to the Guardian of Athos and
the Gate-keeper of the Iveron Monastery, Who also strikes fear in
the enemies of the Russian land. All prayed that those who come
to Her would receive mercy for their souls and healing for their
On Wednesday, October 26, the last official day of our retreat started
with the Divine Liturgy. From one chalice, all of the clergy communed
of the Sacred Mysteries of Christ. During the hours, Archbishop
Kyrill tonsured two readers from among the parishioners of Saint
Sophia’s Church in the city of Victoria on Vancouver Island. At
the small entrance the Rector of Holy Archangels Orthodox Church
in Phoenix, Arizona, Priest John McCuen, was awarded the nabedrennik
After a meal, the retreat continued. The Dean of the first deanery
of the Western American Diocese, Protopriest Alexander Krassovsky,
reminded the clergy of the importance of the reverent care of the
Holy Things, the sacred vessels, the antimension, and about maintaining
the general cleanliness and order in the sanctuary and the church.
He recalled the pious regard for the holy things that Saint John
of Shanghai and San Francisco the Wonderworker, whom he had known
In the beginning of October with the blessing of Archbishop Kyrill,
the Rector of the Church of All Saints of Russia in Denver, Colorado,
Priest Boris Henderson, was an official observer on behalf of the
Western American Diocese at the annual diocesan assembly of the
Western American Diocese of Orthodox Church in America (OCA). Father
Boris told the participants of the Vancouver pastoral retreat about
the extremely cordial regard shown by Bishop Tihkon of the American
Autocephalous Church towards the representative of the Russian Church
Abroad. Father Boris also shared his impressions about the organization
of diocesan life in the American Church.
Protopriest Peter Perekrestov spoke of the work accomplished toward
the posting of an official website for the Western American Diocese.
With God’s help the site will be ready by the end of November. The
address of the official site will be:
Protopriest George Primak, the Dean of the western portion of the
Canadian Diocese had prepared a long list of questions about the
relations between the two parts of the Russian Orthodox Church and
about the upcoming IV All-Diaspora Council. During the course of
two hours, Archbishop Kyrill and almost all of the clergy present
provided thorough and well-grounded responses to theses questions.
There is no doubt that the clergy welcome the process of rapprochement
of the two parts of the Russian Church and with one heart support
His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus and the Council of Bishops of the
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. At the end of the session
Archbishop Kyrill thanked Protopriest George Primak for speaking
candidly and for his love for the Russian Church Abroad. Father
George in turn thanked Vladyka and all of the clergy for their participation
and brotherly love. With one mind the participants of the retreat
resolved to send greetings to the First Hierarch of the Russian
Church Abroad, Metropolitan Laurus, with the expression of our trust
and prayerful and moral support.
After the session on the dialogue with the Moscow Patriarchate the
clergy of the Canadian Diocese discussed the election of two delegates
from the western part of their Diocese for the IV All-Diaspora Council.
Hieromonk Rafael (Vereschak) of the Holy Resurrection Church in
Winnipeg is to represent the clergy and Victor V. Mihelson, church
warden of the St. Nicholas Church in Vancouver is chosen from the
laity of the Diocese.
The Pastoral Retreat of the Western American Diocese officially
ended with a íThanksgiving Molebinì at 5:00 pm.
Thursday, October 27, was a joyous day. Archbishop Kyrill and the
clergy that had remained after the retreat were invited to a local
Serbian Orthodox church in honor of Holy Hierarch Sava, Enlightener
of the Serbs. It was the day of commemoration of Holy Nun Paraskeva
the Serbian and that day in the Church of Saint Sava an icon exhibit
of the work of the local iconographer Svetlana Novko opened. Archbishop
Kyrill was invited into the altar and the clergy of the Western
American Diocese were requested to sing the Divine Liturgy.
After Liturgy Vladyka Kyrill, in concelebration with the two local
Serbian priests, performed the rite of blessing and cutting the
íKolach.ì That day four families of the parish were celebrating
their íSlava.ì We, the clergy of the Western American Diocese, felt
strongly the spiritual ties and brotherly love between the Russian
and Serbian Churches! Thanks to the participation of Archbishop
Kyrill, the singing of the clergy of the Western American Diocese
and the prayers of the dean and clergy of western part of the Canadian
Diocese, the clergy and parishioners of Saint Sava’s Church also
felt spiritual joy. We were all invited to share in a common meal
and fellowship. We hope that the Lord will send us many more opportunities
to share in prayer and spiritual joy with our Serbian Orthodox brothers.
Thanks be to God for this fruitful pastoral conference and for the
opportunity to become more closely acquainted with our northern
co celebrants in the Canadian Diocese. Special acknowledgement goes
to Protopriest David Moser, the organizer of the retreat from the
Western American Diocese and also to the local Father Rectors, Priest
Sergei Overt and Priest Evstafij Hripunov, as well as to Protodeacon
Chistopher Birchell, Cecilia Agapayev, the Head Sisters of each
parish and their many helpers.