Fall Meetings of the Archdiocesan Hierarchs and Board of Trustees - 10/25/15
Milestones, Achievements Celebrated for Antiochian Archdiocese in Southern California
By Subdeacon Peter Samore
Whenever the hierarchs and the Board of Trustees assemble for their annual Fall Meeting, they try to do so in conjunction with celebrations of a parish community within the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. The weekend of October 22-25, 2015 was no exception. In fact, they joined in the celebrations at two parishes in southern California: St. Michael Church in Van Nuys and St. Nicholas Cathedral in Los Angeles.
First, on Friday night, His Eminence, Metropolitan JOSEPH and his brother hierarchs: Their Graces, Bishop BASIL of Wichita and Mid-America; Bishop THOMAS of Charleston, Oakland and the Mid-Atlantic; Bishop JOHN of Worcester and New England; Bishop ANTHONY of Toledo and the Midwest; and Bishop NICHOLAS of Brooklyn assembled with the Board of Trustees to tackle critical issues set before them, working in harmony as members of the body of Jesus Christ. Sayidna Joseph reminded them that their gifts are only for our Lord and not anyone else, including him. He gave special focus to the plight of Syrian war refugees, directing Trustees to establish concrete methods of helping them when governments fail.
On Saturday afternoon, the Trustees visited the newly established Antiochian Orthodox Institute in La Verne, getting a tour from its directors, Fr. Michel Najim and Fr. Patrick O’Grady. Sayidna JOSEPH appointed them to launch this Archdiocesan ministry to build educational and training resources for the benefit of the clergy and laity alike. It will revitalize efforts for translations of the divine services and patristic texts vital for congregations and their ministries. More information can be found at https://www.facebook.com/TAOICA/?fref=ts.
The celebrations began on Saturday night at St. Michael Church with Great Vespers welcoming the new liturgical day. Then, the hierarchs, clergy and faithful processed outside to the parking lot, specifically to the east-facing spot where the altar will be placed for the new church temple. Sayidna Joseph led the Service of Groundbreaking, sprinkling with holy water at the temporary table and awning that were placed there. His Eminence, the bishops, the clergy and the faithful walked a few feet to the dirt lot where the old church once stood. Underneath a tall, one-ton cross, they grabbed their gold shovels, turned the dirt and officially broke ground. Within a few short years, this 47-year-old community will have a new church temple to the glory of God under the protection of the Archangel Michael, their patron saint.
That night, everyone broke bread and celebrated the 25 years of service at St. Michael by its longest-serving pastor, Fr. Timothy Baclig. His Grace, Bishop JOHN read a letter from His Grace, Bishop ANTOUN of Miami and the Southeast who could not attend the festivities. Fr. Timothy was the first man Sayidna ANTOUN ordained shortly after his consecration to the holy episcopacy in 1983. In part, the letter read, “I watched you from afar as you built up your parish,” and that the celebratory banquet was “a sign of the love your people have for you.” Fr. Timothy was all smiles when he was presented a special gift: a first-class airline ticket to his native Hawaii.
Rather than reflect in his speech on the past quarter century, Fr. Timothy chose to look to the future, specifically to the construction of the new church. He said he had received emails from people sad about the loss of the old “A-frame” church, but they all agreed that their children and grandchildren deserve so much more. “Godliness with contentment is great gain,” Fr. Timothy said, quoting St. Paul’s first epistle to his patron saint (I Tim. 6:6). “We must truly rediscover how our church is truly our home, where we discover who we are and what we are called to be,” that is, regular participants at our Lord ’s Table, communing with Him through forgiveness, humility and confession as Fr. Timothy stressed.
Sayidna JOSEPH remarked that Fr. Timothy had spoken so eloquently on what a church should be that he chose not to say much more than what Holy Scripture teaches: “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Psalm 127:1). “When we have a community centered on God with a beautiful spiritual tradition, people will flock to it,” His Eminence said. “We must give them a place of peace, comfort, healing, restoration and reconciliation.”
Sayidna JOSEPH then thanked Fr. Timothy for his longtime ministry. “I have known him since 1995. He never failed Metropolitan Philip of blessed memory, or me, or anyone in his flock. I have called Fr. Timothy to help certain families and he has never said no. He loves his people and he trusts in God. This is why we love him.”
On Sunday morning, the hierarchs and clergy gathered with the faithful of St. Nicholas Cathedral for Orthros and the Hierarchal Divine Liturgy. Sayidna Joseph asked Sayidna Basil to preach the homily. He focused on the Epistle reading of the day (Gal. 2:16-20) in which St. Paul said “that a man is not justified by works of the Law but through faith in Jesus Christ.” Sayidna Basil said that is why God sent His Son to save us. “We also keep the laws of the Church, to pray, to confess, to commune – but these alone do not make us whole with God,” His Grace said. “We do these things because we love Him. Our Lord said, ‘If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.’ This was said gently, not sternly because this is based on love.” You can watch/see all of Sayidna BASIL’s sermon using these links: watch the homily or listen to the homily.
After Liturgy, Fr. Michel Najim, the cathedral dean, welcomed the hierarchs, Trustees, special guests and all the clergy and faithful at the luncheon in the cathedral hall. “God is glorified in the presence of his elders,” Fr. Michel said. “And God is glorified through their prayers, guidance and witness to His Church.”
Sayidna JOSEPH had the final remarks for the weekend, calling it a success especially with the presence of his brother bishops. “I do not work alone,” he said. “I have good bishops with me, as well as good Trustees and good people with me to solve problems in this broken society.” As a special surprise, His Eminence honored two longtime members of St. Nicholas who have also been leaders in the Archdiocese for decades: Mr. Robert S. Andrews, who had served on the Board of Trustees since the days of Metropolitan Antony of blessed memory; and Dr. C. Frederick Milkie, who has labored in various capacities for the Archdiocese. They received standing ovations as they came to receive the Antonian Gold Medal of Merit, the highest service award offered by the Antiochian Archdiocese.
Sayidna JOSEPH thanked all those who faithfully labored throughout the weekend to make it so successful. He then bid farewell to his west coast cathedral, but not for long. God willing, he will return for celebrations for its patron saint on December 6.