Pastoral Conference and St. Nicholas Day in Seattle

The Pastoral Conference of the clergy of the Western-American Diocese and the Western part of the Canadian Diocese opened in Seattle on Tuesday, December 17 under the Chairmanship of his Grace, Bishop Kyrill of Western America and San Francisco. Participating were 33 clergymen: one bishop, 23 priests, and 9 deacons--from Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Idaho, and Colorado. The clergy arrived in Seattle on Tuesday, by 11:00am.
After a welcoming luncheon, sponsored by the Sisterhood of St. Nicholas Cathedral (as were all of the other meals at the Conference), the clergy were taken by the host of the Conference, Priest Aleksei Kotar, Rector of St. Nicholas Cathedral, to the recently-renovated second floor of the parish building, where the Chapel in the room where St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco reposed is located.

After venerating the icons in the Chapel of St. John, the participants boarded a school bus for an excursion to Vashon Island, the home of the Monastery of the All-Merciful Savior. After a brief ferry trip, during which the clergy, standing on the deck, were treated to the amazing sight of a large pod of killer whales (orcas) cavorting in the waters, the bus arrived at the monastery, where the Ruling Bishop was greeted, accompanied by the ringing of bells, by the Abbot of the Monastery, Hieromonk Tryphon, and the other monks. In the recently-completed monastery chapel, a moleben before the beginning of any good deed was served, asking God's blessing on the participants of the Conference and their labors.

A reporter and photographer from the Associated Press had accompanied the clergy on their trip to Vashon Island, and recorded all that occurred for a story to be published. The reporter interviewed several of the participants, asking about the Conference and about church life in parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. After the moleben, Fr. Tryphon gave a tour of the monastery grounds, showing the foundations that have already been laid for future monastery buildings--cells for the brothers, a refectory, and guest houses. Fr. Tryphon then led a group of clergy on a trek through the monastery woods along the Valaam and Optina trails, pointing out the various crosses and shrines that had been put up along the path. Most of the clergy on this excursion had never been to the Monastery of the All-Merciful Savior before, and were astounded by the natural beauty of the monastery territory, which covers more than 16 acres.

After the walk through the woods, the visitors were treated to refreshments in the monastery main building--lenten cookies, accompanied by the monastery's famous coffees and teas, the sale of which is a significant source of income for the monastery. Fr. Tryphon shared his plans for the future, and presented Bishop Kyrill with a commemorative blue cobalt plate with the logo of the monastery embossed in gold. Every participant also received gifts--a box of monastery tea and a color brochure with photographs of the monastery.

After the trip home to St.Nicholas Cathedral, the clergy gathered in the Church for vespers and matins, after which dinner was served in the Parish Hall. The participants were able to become acquainted with one another, as many of the clergy of the Western American Diocese had not previously met the clergy of the Western part of the Canadian Diocese or the clergy from Alaska.

The following morning, Divine Liturgy was served in the Cathedral, with two clergy choirs (one singing in Slavonic and one in English). Word had come during the night that one of the clergymen of the Western American Diocese, Priest Phillip Blyth, had reposed at about midnight. After Liturgy, the clergy performed the order of the passing of the soul from the body for their reposed brother. It was very moving, as everyone felt that it was providential that so many clergy had been gathered together at the very same time that one of their number had reposed in the Lord, and so were able to pray together.
After breakfast, the clergy gathered in the Conference Room upstairs. A draft of an Address to His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus from the participants of the Conference was read and approved.

Following this, Archpriest Alexander Lebedeff, gave a presentation on the two Conferences on the History of the Russian Church that he attended--the first, in Hungary in 2001, and the second, just completed, held in Moscow in November 2002. Fr. Alexander described the goals of the Conferences and went over the topics that had been presented. A lively question and answer session then followed.

Following lunch, the clergy congregated in front of the church, where the formal group picture was taken. Then, they proceed to the Conference Room to hear Hieromonk Tryphon's lecture, "The Pastor as Marriage Counselor." After a brief discussion, a second lecture followed--a presentation by Deacon Jan Veselak, "Dealing with Substance Abusers and Co-dependents." Both Fr. Tryphon and Fr. Jan have many years experience in counseling, so their views and suggestions were listened to with great interest, especially as both lecturers focused on the spiritual aspects of counseling from an Orthodox perspective.

Fr. Alexander Lebedeff then shared some extracts from the presentation given at the Historical Conference in Moscow by Rassophore Nun Vassa (daughter of Archpriest George Larin) which contained the recorded views of Metropolitan Anastassy, taken from the Synodal Archives of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, found both in New York and in the State Archives of the Russian Federation (the Synod, fleeing Belgrade at the approach of the Red Army, was forced to leave behing the larger part of the Synodal Archives, which ended up in Moscow). From these Synodal Protocols, previously unpublished, one is able to get a much clearer picture of the views of Metropolitan Anastassy and the historical positions of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia regarding the Moscow Patriarchate and other jursidictions--views which were much more moderate than some now would think.

The prayer rule before Holy Communion was read in the Chapel of St. John, followed by dinner in the parish hall. At 6:00pm, the clergy gathered in the Cathedral, where all of the clergy, led by Bishop Kyrill, served a full pannikhida for the newly-departed Priest Phillip Blyth. The Vigil for St. Nicholas, the Patronal Saint of the Cathedral, followed at 6:30pm. Two choirs sang--the parish choir and a choir of clergy. All of the clergy came out to serve at the polyeleos. The parishioners, after the service, expressed their amazement at how strong the clergy voices were, when they sang the opening "O come let us worship" and the Megalinarion to St. Nicholas.

Vigil ended some time after 10:00pm. On the Day of the Feast of St. Nicholas, His Grace Bishop Kyrill was met in the Cathedral by all the gathered clergy at 9:00am. During the reading of the hours, Bishop Kyrill elevated Reader Gordian Bruce to the rank of Subdeacon, and bestowed the right to wear the orarion to Reader Nicholas Ilyin, son of Priest Michael Ilyin. At the hierarchal Divine Liturgy, Priest Alexei Kotar, the Rector of St. Nicholas Cathedral, was elevated to the rank of Archpriest for his service to the Church and also in view of his position as Dean of the Northwest Deanery of the Western American Diocese. Priest John Adams of Victoria, British Columbia, was awarded the right to wear the nabedrennik and the purple skufia, and Protodeacon Christopher Birchall of Vancouver was awarded the right to wear the kamilavka for their many years of service to the Church.

After the consecration of the Holy Gifts, Subdeacon Gordian Bruce was ordained to the holy diaconate. Two choirs sang antiphonally throughout the service, which concluded with a moleben with a procession around the Church. Although rainthreatened, the weather held out and the sun even made a brief appearance during the reading of the Gospel before the Church at the Procession.

Following the service, all gathered in the Parish Hall for a trapeza luncheon prepared by the Sisterhood, at which Bishop Kyrill congratulated the new Archpriest, Fr. Alexei Kotar, and commended him for his work in directing the parish in Seattle.

of the Pastoral Conference to Metropolitan Laurus To His Eminence, The Most Reverend Laurus, Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

Your Eminence, Merciful Archpastor and Father!

We, clergy of the Western-American Diocese and the Western part of the Canadian Diocese, gathered together in the God-saved city of Seattle for a Pastoral Conference under the chairmanship of our Ruling Hierarch, the Right Reverend Kyrill, send up our humble prayers to the Lord our God for your speediest and full recovery. We regret that the ailment that has afflicted you has denied us the opportunity to see you here at our Conference and to hear directly your guiding instructions and good counsel. Greeting Your Eminence on the occasion of the recently past First Anniversary of your Primacy, we, at the same time, confirm our sincere filial devotion to Your Eminence and promise to the extent of our abilities to support you in your untiring labors in the administration of our Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

We sincerely pray that the All-Merciful Lord will grant you health, strength, patience and many years.
Asking your archpastoral prayers and First-hierarchical blessing,
The unworthy servants of Your Eminence.
+Bishop Kyrill
Archpriest Stefan Pavlenko
Archpriest Alexander Lebedeff
Archpriest George Kurtow
Archpriest Sergei Kotar
Archpriest Alexei Kotar
Igumen Zenon
Priest David Moser
Priest Paul Volmensky
Priest Yaroslav Belikow
Hieromonk Theodosius
Hieromonk Tryphon
Priest Sergei Overt
Priest Peter Shashkoff
Priest John Adams
Priest Michael Ilyin
Priest Boris Henderson
Priest Sergei Sveshnikov
Priest James Steele
Priest Luke Huggins
Priest James Baglien
Priest Kenneth Bracy
Priest Seraphim Cardoza
Priest John McCuen
Archdeacon Andronik
Protodeacon Paul Bilibin
Protodeacon Christopher Birchall
Deacon Oleg Gritsenko
Deacon Nikolai Lenkoff
Deacon Dimitry Jakimowicz
Deacon Jan Veselak
Deacon Moses Zorea
Deacon Gordian Bruce
Patronal Feast of St. Nicholas, Wonderworker of Myra in Lycea
December 6/19, 2002

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