Change is constantly occurring in the life of our Church, whether of a material nature, or, unfortunately, of a spiritual nature. Though the material and spiritual are intertwined, I will first discuss the spiritual, since this is always more important for any religious person.
As to the spiritual, it must be said that religiosity in general is slowly disappearing from this world. That is why in our current circumstances, the words of Apostle Paul, “Quench not the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19), are so relevant for us Christians. What does it mean for us not to quench the spirit? It means to follow unwaveringly the Divine Tradition of the Holy Orthodox Church. This is difficult to do in today’s world, as globalism and the obsession with one’s comfort and convenience in this world crowds out belief in the Crucified Christ and this reduces this belief and makes it an appendage of everyday life. This applies not only to us, but to all of mankind.
We feel this pressure, unfortunately, also from those who would seem, by what they call themselves, to be our brothers. With the ascension of the new First Hierarch of the Moscow Patriarchate, the efforts if not to eliminate us then at least to, as they say now, marginalize us (and not only us) have intensified greatly. That is why we must always be wary not of the declarations of the current MP church administration, but their actions. Sadly for some time now, it has not been possible to believe completely in their words and statements. Just the opposite, there are many questionable actions that cause us to be very careful. Nevertheless, we should, I believe, refrain from any categorical statements regarding the Moscow Patriarchate as a whole, but we must continue to speak out about its administration and the “church ideology” which the administration espouses. After the events of 2007, the danger of us isolating ourselves has grown tenfold. Due to the conditions of increasing globalism, we are duty bound, in my opinion, to make every effort to establish and maintain contacts with everyone who shares our views. To that end, it is very beneficial for us to associate with our brothers, the Old Calendar Churches of Greece, Romania, and Bulgaria, something that should also be encouraged and developed on the parish level.
We have not unfortunately received any useful answers from those who are now called the “fragments,” and to whom we invited to simply begin a dialogue. The head of the ROAC, Metropolitan Valentin (Rusantsev), first set a precondition for discussions with us, which is completely unacceptable and not possible. Archbishop Tikhon, the head of the ROTC, initially responded to our letter and offered to meet in the beginning of 2010, but then that decision was rescinded and a commission was formed instead to address the issue. This alone shows that RTOC is not prepared to even discuss the matter of uniting the Russian Church. There is information that would indicate that they hope to establish relations with the Greek Synod of Archbishop Chrysostomos to create a separate, extremist entity. We were not able to find the address of Archbishop Vladimir, the head of the ROCA(V). It cannot be found on the Internet and our letter sent to a monastery in California was returned with the postal stamp that there is no such address. In other words, we have not been able to establish contact with Archbishop Vladimir to this day. In light all of this information, one can say that no one in the administrations of all the groups that left the ROCA earlier is even interested in discussing uniting as one church. As a result, we have no choice but to leave our hand extended to all those who were a part of ROVA earlier in the hope of eventual dialogue, while tending to the life of our church with whatever resources we have among ourselves.
A significant event in our life was when we completed, with the blessing of the Synod of Bishops, the rite of preparing chrism during Passion Week in Odessa. The ingredients for the chrism were obtained mostly in Greece and donated by Hegumena Aleksandra. Bishop Georgiy came to Odessa with two priests for the rite and our clerics also participated. The chrism was sanctified on Bright Saturday. There are about seven liters.
Other very important events in the life of our Church since the last Sobor, were the efforts by Mother Agapia to acquire land and property for a monastery in New York State, the building and blessing of a new church in the monastery in Egorovka, the registration of our Synod and the opening of a bank account for the Synod. Besides the construction in New York and Egorovka, churches and rectories are being built in Ukraine - in Odessa (three sites), in Malin, in Dneprodzerzhinsk, and Bolgrad; in Russia – in the village of Dudachkino, outside of St. Petersburg in the Pskov oblast; and in Moldavia – in Kongaz and Chadyr-Lung. We could build even more churches in Odessa, but we do not have enough priests to serve in the new parishes. Our mission in Haiti is rebuilding after the earthquake. Unfortunately, there is no progress in finding a place for our Synod in the USA, as we do not have any property that can be used for the Synod or the diocese. We are compelled, unfortunately, to abandon our plans to locate the Synod in the house belonging to the Holy Trinity parish, as donations to our Synod account are not sufficient to pay for the basic expenses, let alone the mortgage payments. If the situation does not change this year, then I believe we must decide to move our Synod to another location, where the setting will be more conducive for its survival.
Our Assistance Fund continues its work in Washington, D.C. under the leadership of Dimitri Gontscharow. The Fund needs our continued support and a larger mailing list of regular donors.
Our mission in Haiti carries on its work with the efforts of Archpriest Gregory Williams. A large sum of money, by our standards, of about $50,000 was gathered for rebuilding after the earthquake on that island.
In Odessa, largely through the efforts of Archpriest Valeriy Alekseyev, the correspondence school of the Sts. Cyril & Methodius seminary has prospered for years. The ability to teach the courses over the Internet is the next challenge, since many of those interested live all over and cannot come to Odessa. It would be good to make it available throughout our church.
The publication of various materials is slowly getting established in Odessa. “The Russian Zoar” is unfortunately the only regular periodical being published. The Synod publication of “Church Life” has been reinstated. The only “active” source of information in other types of media is our Synod Internet website. There are also several other so-called “Live Journals” on the Internet. Our presence on the Net is inadequate and it would be good for the parish rectors to create websites, which would contain news about their parishes. This information is very important for the entire Church, as it strengthens our unity and the appreciation of each other among our members. At the last meeting of the New York diocese, it was decided to publish a periodical newsletter that would be distributed on the Internet and in our parishes. The first, test issue of “The Sower” has been released. We ask that all bishops and rectors help to distribute this newsletter.
We have not been able to organize any church events – youth and choir conferences, pilgrimages, conferences, etc. For the most part it is because of inadequate funds and infrastructure. In the matter of funds, it must be noted that at this time we do not even gather enough to conduct our Bishops Councils and Synods. With the money that is deposited in the Synod account, we cannot pay travel expenses for the bishops, without which our future work for the Church is made more difficult.
In general, it can be said that the life of our Church is developing and becoming more stable. There are many eyes upon us, from various groups that are searching for true Orthodoxy, as well as from the MP. Whether the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad can go on largely depends on us. Therefore, let us try to continue preserving the legacy we have received from the Fathers, which can only be accomplished through a living faith, hope, and love among our members.
The humble servant of the Bishops Council,