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XXIst Sobor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA

XXI SOBOR of the UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH of the USA:

CALLED BY CHRIST, GIFTED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT

As the sun shone brightly, illuminating the golden leaves on the grounds of the Metropolia Center, the faithful began arriving for the XXIst Regular Sobor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the U.S.A. which ran from October 19-22, 2016. 

Wednesday morning began with a Divine Liturgy celebrated by His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, surrounded by the clergy of our Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church, who had arrived for the Clergy Conference which preceded the commencement of the Sobor that afternoon.  It was moving to see the St. Andrew Memorial Church filled from wall to wall with clergy. The priests’ prayers were enhanced by the angelic voices of the Seminarians from St. Sophia Theological Seminary.

While the clergy met at the Consistory Cultural Center, the arriving delegates registered and received their Sobor materials, others took the opportunity to view many of the exhibits which were set up in the foyer of the Center. Represented were the St. Andrew Society, the Ukrainian Orthodox League, the UOC Youth Ministry, All Saints Camp, etc. These displays served to strengthen and encourage the visiting delegates before the meetings even began, by showing them that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is active not only at the Consistory, but, in the parishes, in the local communities, and across the ocean to Ukraine and beyond.

The 21st Regular Sobor began at the Consistory Rotunda, where the delegates, clergy and hierarchs gathered in anticipation of the opening procession.  The Church is the Body of Christ, and is composed of those who have chosen to follow Christ and been baptized in to the Church.  God is glorified through His Saints - regular people, who were faced with extraordinary circumstances, and had chosen to give of themselves, even onto their very lives, to follow Christ.  These same saints, which intercede for us, pray for us, and strengthen us, this year, led the way to the commencement of one of the most highly anticipated and life changing Sobors.

V. Rev. Bazyl Zawierucha and V. Rev. Stephen Hutnick where privileged to carry the reliquary which contained the relics of 48 saints, including St. John Chrysostom, St. Antony the Great, St. Gregory Palamas, St. Olha (Equal to the Apostles), St. Gregory of Nyssa, and St. Volodymyr the Great (Equal to the Apostles).  With Saints leading the way, the clergy fell in line behind them, followed by the delegates. Watching over the flock, and following them to the Cultural Center were our hierarchs present for the Sobor – His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, Metropolitan & Prime Hierarch of UOC of the USA and Diaspora, His Eminence Metropolitan Yurij, Metropolitan of Canada and Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada, His Eminence Archbishop Jeremiah, Ruling Hierarch of the Eparchy of South America and His Grace Bishop Daniel, Ruling hierarch of the Western Eparchy and President of the Consistory of the UOC of USA.

Once the opening prayer, ceremonies and the appointment of the presidium the Sobor Delegates began a very intensive agenda. Metropolitan Antony presented the formal greeting from His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I:

To His Excellency Metropolitan Antony of Hierapolis, First Hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, our beloved brother and concelebrant in the Holy Spirit, and to the dear Christ-loving clergy and laity, sons and daughters of the Mother Church of Constantinople: Grace be to you and Peace from God.

It is with great joy and paternal affection that we greet all the participants of the 21st Regular Sobor of our Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the United States of America, taking place in the Metropolia Center from October 19-22, 2016, with the scope of evaluating a Strategic Plan for Church activity over the next five years.  For this God-pleasing desire and endeavor, we offer our wholehearted congratulations as well as our prayers for faithful deliberations and for a successful conclusion, which we hope will rejuvenate a deeper love and longing for Christ and His Holy Church.

In our present day, where indeed we see an “increase of wickedness” and secularization as our Lord foretold, we also see that the love of many has grown cold. It is within this context that we are all called to become ambassadors of Christ’s salvific message of love, firstly by re-evangelizing ourselves, and in an honest and humble manner reevaluating what we perceive to be love for God and neighbor.  The criterion to love in our day many times is based on sentimentalism; however, true love is something divine and eternal. A contemporary saint of our Church said: “Love for Christ overflows into love for one’s neighbor, love for truth, love for holiness, for the world, for purity, for everything divine, for everything deathless and eternal.  All these forms of love are natural manifestations of love for Christ.”

When our struggles and our intentions for the collective benefit of our Church are fueled purely by divine love for Christ, then we  can remain assured that we shall reap the benefits of this love, both personally and collectively.  For, “true love for man comes from the love for God, and love for God grows in accordance with the keeping of His commandments.”  Therefore, our beloved, as you gather to contemplate ways of spiritual and administrative growth, we encourage you in all you do to keep this standard of love in your hearts.  Love for God and neighbor grows in accordance with keeping His commandments – for true love springs forth from LOVE itself – that is, from Christ.  Learn to abide in Him so that you may learn to love even more, in order that you may with faith, love and the fear of God, truly draw near to Him ad to each other.

With these words of encouragement, we express once again our unending love for you and our desire for your continued spiritual growth and success.

Your Excellency’s beloved brother in Christ, BARTHOLOMEW, Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch.

Metropolitan Yurij greeted the Sobor body and expressed his great honor at being present once again at the Sobor of the UOC of USA.  He confirmed the strong bonds between the Church in Canada and the U.S.A. and about how well the two Churches often work together, supporting one another in a common goal of growing Christ’s Church. He mentioned that this is a critical time in the world, with much discord and disagreement and we, as Ukrainian Orthodox Christians, are called to overcome these issues. We are all called to work towards our salvation, to fix historical errors that have overtaken our homeland of Ukraine, which declared independence over 25 years ago and is still struggling for that independence to be unassailable.  We must work towards not only an independent nation, but, an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church within Ukraine.

The delegates also heard the greeting of His Eminence Archbishop Jeremiah, who thanked Metropolitan Antony for his continuous, generous and loving support of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the U.S.A’s eparchy in South America. He expressed heartfelt greetings on behalf of all the faithful of South America and assured those gathered that they will be his prayers for a successful Sobor, from which many good things will come.

When Metropolitan Antony came up to speak, he compared the new path of the Church, the new Strategic Plan to be discussed to a “renovation”. The following is not the full text of His Eminence’s talk, but the recollection of one who tried to listen attentively:

There was once a church, which was renovated.  The faithful collected funds to touch up the icons, replace the carpeting, paint the walls, and make the church building look brand new. However, his question to the parish members was whether or not all that effort make a great difference towards the salvation of the faithful?  The word renovation has two definitions.  The first, to restore to an earlier condition by repairing or remodeling. The second, is to impart new vigor and to revive.  The Metropolitan informed the Sobor body that two years ago a new and exciting process in our Church began. To those involved it was an extremely rewarding process.  While over 200 individuals were invited to join this monumental effort, 65 of these and some other volunteers responded positively and came, at their own expense to help in any way they could to revitalize our Church.  Just like the 70 Christ sent out in to the world as Apostles to preach the salvation of Christ, so, these initial 70 were just the beginning. The Strategic Plan is a plan for renovation/revitalization, to not only restore our Church to an earlier condition, but to inspire all our faithful to new commitment in her mission of saving souls.

Our once vibrant Church has suffered from the secularism of our world. We have lost too many of our youth for various reasons, which are not just due to outside influences and societal changes, but, because of how we practice our Faith. How we behave in our parishes and how we treat each other impact how our children view our Faith.   Our behavior – in any manner – has consequences in the lives of others. We need to impart a new vigor in to the life of our Church through revival in our individual and collective lives.

Renovating and revitalizing our church is meaningless if God is not a part of it. If we fail to allow God to renovate and revive us, then neither the present Strategic Plan nor any other type of “plan” can possibly be successful. We received the fullness of the Holy Spirit at our Chrismation, and the Grace imparted to us at that time will always bless our work, assist us in not only adopting a plan, but, in renovating our spiritual lives, restoring us to the passion of our true calling, which is to work towards the salvation of our souls.

Theosis is the goal of every Orthodox Christian soul.  In every relationship, with anyone or anything, we should not let anything distract us.  We must become one with God, and all else in our lives will be healed and strengthened. We must see others as being of more worth and more important in reality, than we are.  Just as our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ viewed us all while voluntarily ascending the Cross for our salvation.  The key to surviving in this broken world is not how much we worry, but, how much we trust in God.

We need to put that trust in to action and do that which is possible, leaving the impossible for God to take care of.  Today, we need to begin the demolition of our past, and start anew with improved vigor and trust in the Lord, Who is not detached from us, but rather is one with us through our reception of His Body and Blood at the Eucharist and He loves us and works in and through us.

We are called to build up the Church, to work towards our salvation and of those around us.  The Early Church fairly throbbed with that understanding, as the faithful shook with excitement. They entered the worship experience to be filled and recharged, and they exited that experience full of zeal with the comprehension they were an important part of the mission of saving souls and convincing the world that Jesus Christ offers salvation to all.

Metropolitan Antony asked us to observe others around us, whose lives touch ours. - to look at their faces, listen to their voices, and note their expressions. Do they smile at each other, do they embrace, are they filled to overflowing with the love of Christ and walking out of the church building with a mission to spread love and joy to the world? What does the outside see when he looks at the faithful leaving our parishes after a worship experience? Would he wish to be a part of what they see? It is our God given duty to help people find peace, wholeness, purpose and joy.  This should not be such a difficult concept to grasp, for this is what we are made for.

Following Metropolitan Antony’s Address, His Grace Bishop Daniel, greeted the Sobor:

In the book, The Resurrection and Modern Man, Ignatius IV, Patriarch of Antioch reflect on the Word of God.

“The new creation comes not from the world of cause and effect nor from the will of man, but from God, and from Him alone. It is remarkable that this statement “Behold I make all things new,” is the only one in Revelation which is made by Him “who sits on the throne.” All other revelations of this book are given to John by an angel, “a fellow servant like yourself.”

What I believe is a most important statement for us as clergy, as laity, as men, as women, as a Metropolia, is that all of us servants.

A servant is a person who is obedient to a master, and we are obedient to Christ and His command to tech all nations about the Good News. Our Missionary mindset must and is fueled by our desire to bring Christ to individuals, indeed to a Word that is yearning and searching. In Holy Orthodoxy, our search is fulfilled in a lifelong relationship with Christ and a life of obedience to Christ’s commandments.

Following a lecture many years ago given by one of the Orthodox hierarchs, someone asked the bishop “You want people to change our whole lifestyle?” and the bishop simply responded “Yes”.

Over the past three years, indeed over almost 100 years, the clergy and faithful of our Holy Church have continued to serve Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and by His Grace our lives continue to be changed as we say “YES” to the will of God.

Your Eminence Metropolitan Antony, visiting hierarchs, honorable Presidium of the Sobor, beloved brothers in the Holy Priesthood and esteemed Delegates:

CHRIST IS AMONG US!

Four years ago, at the Extraordinary Sobor of our Church in 2012, we stood in amazement and gratitude for the blessings our Lord so richly bestowed upon our Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church f the USA when a new Primate – Metropolitan of our Church was elected. Three years ago, at the conclusion of the 20th Regular SOBOR of our Church we stood with gratitude on our lips in this very hall, electing new leadership of our Metropolia, as our Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA was back than and is today at a crossroad – this year 98 years of age, soon to be 100 (in 2018).

Reflecting on the ministry of the Church since the last SOBOR of 2013, as stewards of our Metropolia family, we are encouraged speculate what the future of our Church in the United States of America is going to be like. It must be noted, that this precious jewel – UOC of the USA – is not ours – but Christ’s; however, it was given to us for nurturing and edification. So, today, some 3 years later since 2013, we can evaluate what we did, as a Church and individuals. Did we go forth and double this gift or did we bury it as in the parable of the Talents (Mat. 25: 15). In fact, what have we achieved over those years? What will OUR CHURCH be like at 100? The decisions made at this 21st SOBOR will not only have a definite impact on the future of the UOC of the USA, but will set the pace into the future. The day of reflection and action on the proposed Strategic Plan of the Church will determine whether we are willing to be truly engaged in the salvific ministry not of individual bishops or clergy, lay leaders of someone else – but of Christ Himself. After all – it is His Church, not a business, that we are called to be the stewards of.

The previous 5 Sobors of our Church have produced a major shift in the mindset of the faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA. In the past we often preoccupied ourselves and our SOBOR sessions, discussing, at times too much the issues that we have very little control of. The concerns over financial stability impacted in both ways (positively and negatively) the fabric of our Church family. However, the faithful of our Church under the leadership of Metropolitan Constantine of blessed memory and His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, turned their attention and direction to the ultimate reality of the Church – the rededication of our efforts for the evangelization and spiritual renewal of our Ukrainian Orthodox Church and her faithful.

The dynamics of previous Sobors were so evident during the breakout ad plenary sessions, - that the Council of Metropolia and Consistory of the Church entered into a new phase of studying this desire of our parishes for a vibrant parish experience and life. Over a year ago, Metropolitan Antony granted his blessing to initiate the creation of a “study” group of our clergy and faithful, who worked diligently – learning about the strengths and weaknesses of our Church, listening to voices from our parish families, learning about their dreams, hopes and aspirations. A blueprint was generated under the leadership of Metropolitan Antony and Attorney William Marianes that mapped out what might be described as STRATEGIC PLAN OF THE UOC OF THE USA – concentrating of Spiritual Renewal, Educational Opportunities and truly Responsible Stewardship. The next several days of our SOBOR will provide an opportunity for us to listen, to learn and to decide whether we are willing to act in the Name of Christ and for the benefit of the next generation of Ukrainian Orthodox Christians in the United States of America.

The Bishop the presented his report as President of the Consistory during which he expressed his gratitude to each and every Church employee outlining their responsibilities and accomplishments in the many ministries and work areas of life at the Metropolia Center and throughout the entire Church. He discussed the various buildings located at the center and the increasing maintenance problems with each of them, along with the usage of each of these buildings.  Over the three years since our last Sobor, much has happened at the Metropolia Center, which was all managed by our very capable staff.

Bishop Daniel’s report was followed by the reports of the Director of Financial Affairs, Fr. Steve Hutnick and Audit Commission Chairperson, Hanja Cherniak. The reports outlined three years of financial activity in the life of the Church – under the still very difficult circumstances created by what seems to be the never ending recession of our nation.  The afternoon session concluded with approval of reports from St. Sophia Seminary, the Sr. Ukrainian Orthodox League, Jr. Ukrainian Orthodox League and St. Andrew’s Society – the central organizations of our Church.  The reports of these organizations will be posted to our Church’s official website in the coming weeks.

Following dinner the delegates were privileged to view a wonderful exhibit in the in the UOC History and Education Center’s temporary exhibit gallery located in St. Sophia Seminary/UOC Library – “From Social Realism to Church Art: the Work of the Ukrainian Lemko artist Nicholas Bervinchak.  The participants were able to view glorious iconography and participate in a lecture presenting historic information.  While some delegates remained at the event catching up with friends and discussing various topics, others made their way to the Seminary Chapel for Evening Prayers. The first day of Sobor concluded on a positive note with everyone hopeful and eager to continue.

Thursday began as it should with Divine Liturgy at the St. Andrew Memorial Church, celebrated by His Eminence Metropolitan Yurij. His Eminence set the tone for the day’s work at the Sobor expressing the importance of the faithful and clergy gathering together as the highest governing body of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA to contemplate what has been accomplished over the past three years and what changes and plans must be adopted to accomplish even more in the next three years.  He prayed for the continued success of the ancient tradition of the Sobor throughout all the history of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The days plenary sessions heard the reports of all the ministries of the Church including the Offices of Stewardship, Christian Charity, Youth & Adult Ministry, Religious Education, Liturgical Publications, Public Relations, Cultural Affairs, Archives, External Affairs, Clergy Development, St. Sophia Seminary Library, St. Andrew Cemetery, and All Saints Camp. While the reports were lengthy, they were nonetheless informative and received positively. The Sobor body learned of the various successes that the ministries of the Church have experienced over the years.  They heard of the joyous times the campers have at All Saints, not only enjoying good camaraderie, but, learning about the Faith and how to live it.  They were informed about the vast amount of knowledge stored in the books of the Library, and they learned about the many accomplishments of stewardship that have occurred over the past three years.  These reports will also be posted to the uocofusa.org – our church’s official website.

Following the reports and discussion of them, Bishop Daniel and Metropolitan Antony asked all the delegates to respond to the Bishops’ Annual Appeal for contributions to the UOC of USA Metropolitan Mstyslav Endowment Fund. This Endowment Fund is necessary in order to sustain the ministry of the Church.  They asked the Sobor delegates to take the message about the Appeal home to their fellow Ukrainian Orthodox Christians urging them to calculate how much they spend on a daily basis for their own entertainment or physical appearance and to compare these expenditures with what they contribute to the Church each year.  The Bishops’ Annual Appeal for the Endowment Fund is particularly important as we prepare to celebrate the Centennial of our Church in 2018.  His Eminence reminded everyone of all the success stories that were heard while discussing the various reports, not to mention the difficult financial situation the Church finds itself in.  While the past three years were productive, the next three years will be even more so, and the Church needs your help desperately. He requested that everyone consider making a five year pledge to the Church.  While some are able to give more, others should give whatever they can, as every little bit helps.  No amount of money was ever greater than the widow’s mite. Therefore, please give whatever you can.

After lunch the nominations committee reviewed all submissions for the various positions on the Consistory for the Council of the Metropolia, Audit Commission, and Ecclesiastical Court.  Once the elections were concluded, the nominations committee retreated to count the votes, and the Sobor sessions were concluded for the day. 

Metropolitan Antony addressed the Sobor body before dismissing them. He stated that so many people has spoken to him about the many and huge responsibilities undertaken by His Grace Bishop Daniel over the ten years of his episcopacy – the enormous number of people to whom he ministers not only in our Church here in the USA, but also in Ukraine and the priceless work he does for the Church and her people, giving of his time, his skills and efforts – that His Grace should be nominated for elevation to Archbishop.  With a roar of approval and a standing ovation the entire Sobor body resonated with agreement and exclamations of “Axios!  Axios! Axios!”  His Grace was visibly moved as he approached the podium with tears in his eyes and humbly addressed those present, voicing his gratitude and appreciation.  He stated that some days this path which God has chosen for him is difficult and he is uncertain if he can continue, but, the love of his flock, and their support and prayers carry him on and encourage him.  With mutual love and admiration the entire room broke out in a loud chorus of Mnohaya Lita. His Eminence Metropolitan Antony informed the delegates that the nomination will be presented to His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholmew and the Holy Synod for formal election and inclusion in the Dyptychs of the Holy Ecumenical Church.

His Grace Bishop Daniels urged the faithful to participate in the Vespers that evening.  As the sun was setting people starting walking towards the seminary.  As the candles twinkled, the gold of the iconostas glowed warmly and invitingly.  The golden halos of the saints shimmered and moved, as if the saints themselves where shuffling for space, because space became at a premium.  The chapel was not only filled but, overflowed. There wasn’t even any standing room. The faithful came to pray and ask for God’s assistance in their lives, with the Sobor and in all things. People were standing in the hallways, heads lowered in prayer, while others were standing outside on the back patio and participating through the open seminary door, as the prayers and voices carried outside, joined with the singing voices of the evening crickets. It was truly a rewarding, yet humbling experience for everyone who attended.  Fr. Anthony Perkins, who led the service, stated how moved he was by the crowd, feeling the impact of so many prayers and so many voices raised together to glorify God.  It was the perfect way to finish the day’s work.

With the joy and exuberance from the Vespers still visible on their faces, people began to arrive back at the Cultural Center for the Grand Banquet. The beautifully decorated hall overflowed with guests, as many individuals arrived just for the banquet, to visit with old friends, make new ones and to simply enjoy the beauty of the Consistory and her faithful.

The evening began with a procession of the Council of Metropolia, followed by the hierarchs, including His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarch and First Hierarch of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North America.  Other guests included the Consul General, Igor Sybiga, the Mayor of South Bound Brook, Caryl Shoffner, and Fr. Martin Ritsi from the OCMC (Orthodox Christian Mission Center).

Conversation flowed, and laughter echoed off the walls of the banquet room as those gathered enjoyed the warmth of each other’s company.  As the splendid meal concluded the seminarians of the St. Sophia Theological Seminary took to the stage to dazzle the public with a variety of pieces sung acapella.  The room grew hushed as the strong all male voices permeated to their very souls, with soothing renditions of prayers to the Mother of God, as well as traditional Ukrainian tunes.

His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios was invited to speak to those gathered, to assure them that he is praying for the success of their Strategic Plan and the success of the Ukrainian Orthodox people.  He expressed his positive impression of Ukraine and her faithful, their vibrancy and enthusiasm.  His Eminence shared a very positive vision of his participation, along with our own Metropolitan Antony, as part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate delegation to the Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church, which took place in June of 2016 on the island of Crete in Greece.  He spoke of the extreme importance of this meeting, the first such important gathering of Orthodox Hierarchs in over 1,300 years, since the last Ecumenical Council of 787.  Even though four of the fourteen Orthodox local churches were absent from the Council, it still serves as a valid meeting because all the documents considered and adopted by its participants were agreed to unanimously by all the local churches in council preparatory commission meetings which took place over the past few years. The original preparations for this Council began all the way back in the 1960’s – over 50 years ago.

His Eminence took note of how much effort went in to preparing the banquet that evening, in particular with the table place tags, the reservations signs, the programs and the souvenir All Saints Camp glasses, which decorated each table.  He noted how creative and loving the Ukrainian people are, but, he also reminded his listeners that God works through us.  We do not make that choice. We do not choose Him, instead He chooses us and assigns us various missions appropriate to our abilities and we cannot say no.  He concluded by wishing us good participation and success in our Strategic Plan and ensured us of his support and love.

At this time His Eminence Metropolitan Antony announced the results of the elections for the Council of Metropolia, the Audit Commission and the Ecclesiastical Court.  The following were elected to the Council:  Clergy - V. Rev. Robert Holet, V. Rev. Stephen Hutnick, V. Rev. Anthony Perkins, V. Rev. Andriy Pokotylo, V. Rev. Vasile Sauciur, V. Rev. Victor Wronskyj and V. Rev. Bazyl Zawierucha; Laity – Hanja Cherniak, Michael Dobransky, Aleksandra Kocelko, Paul Micevych, Charles Sanderson, Elizabeth Symonenko and Gayle Woloschak. Presidents of Central Organizations are automatic members of the Council: John Holowko, Ukrainian Orthodox League and Protodeacon Ihor Mahlay, St. Andrew Society. Alternates elected were: V. Rev. Michael Hontaruk, Rev. Andriy Matlak, V. Rev. Myron Oryhon, V. Rev. Robert Popichak and V. Rev. Gabriel Rochelle, Luba Lewytskyj, Lydia Djus and Valentine Olynyk.

Elected to the Audit Commission were: V. Rev. Oleh Hucul, Rev. Michael Danczak, Elizabeth Davies, Tamara Host, Stephanie Remedio.  Alternates – Protopresbyter Taras Chubenko and Edward Zetick.

Elected to the Ecclesiastical Court:  V. Rev. Stephen Masliuk, Chairman, Rev. Gregory Czumak, Rev. Theophan Mackey, Dr. James Guba and David Mukai.  Alternates – Rev Silouan Rolando and Protodeacon Anthony Szwez.

The Council of Bishops of our Church established the highest award – “GREAT BENEFACTOR” – for a life-time of service and dedication to our Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.  Individuals receiving this award are those who have served in various capacities on the national, regional and local parish level for decades exhibiting leadership and example for the faithful of our Church to emulate. Receiving the “Great Benefactor” award, which is awarded only during our Church Sobors, were:

Stephen Sivulich – 30 years of service on the Executive Board of the Ukrainian Orthodox League as President and in other capacities, as a founding committee member of St. Sophia Seminary, Director of the Consistory Office of Development for eight years, Head of UOL Fund raising committee to purchase and establish All Saints Camp, Chairman of the Metropolitan John Scholarship Fund and the LSSK Scholarship Fund, President of Parish Board and other offices of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish, Carnegie, PA, head of parish kitchen and Senior Social affairs at the parish and visitor to the parish shut-ins.

Helen Greenleaf served as President of the Ukrainian Orthodox League, over 20 years as a member of the Council of the Metropolia, member of the Church Constitution Commission, Secretary of the Consistory and in various capacities of her local UOL chapter in St. Vladimir Cathedral, Parma, OH.

Michael Heretz – Founding member and President of St. Andrew Society for 20 years, member of the Council of the Metropolia for 20 years, member of the Church Constitution Commission, Ukrainian community leader and commentator in Ukrainian media.

Gayle Wolocshak – President and other offices on the Executive Board of the Ukrainian Orthodox League, member of the Council of the Metropolia for over 20 years, Chairman of the Metropolitan Council Strategic Plan committee, our Church’s representative on the Executive Committees of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center, International Orthodox Christian Charities, President of the Orthodox Theological Society of the USA, President of the Orthodox Association of Medical, Psychology and Religious healing professionals, professor and lecturer at five Orthodox Theological Schools, including St. Sophia Seminary.

Protopresbyter Taras Chubenko – Member of the Council of the Metropolia for over 20 years, Pastor of St. Demetrius Cathedral, Carteret, NJ for 30 years, Adjunct Professor of Pastoral Theology at St. Sophia Seminary, Dean of the New York-New Jersey Deanery for 20 years, Vice-President and member of the Consistory for 20 years.

Olga Coffey – President of St. Andrew Cathedral, Silver Spring, Md, following retirement committed to a five year term of dedicated and devoted service in the Consistory of the UOC of USA refusing to take any salary as Administrator of St. Andrew Cemetery, collecting tens of thousands of overdue income to the cemetery – which had simply not been billed.  Funded complete renovations on the home in which she lived for her five year term of service and major donor to the Church’s History and Education Center.  Olga served not only as Cemetery Administrator but also as the real Consistory Office Administrator organizing for all the meetings normally occurring at the Metropolia Center, such as Metropolitan Council meetings and Sobors.

Ukrainian Orthodox League – This central organization of our Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA has served our faithful for 70 years. It has provided many educational materials for the illumination and edification of our faithful, was the primary sponsor and promoter of All Saints Camp, provided the leadership and research, which led to the establishment of St. Sophia Seminary. Created the Metropolitan John Scholarship Fund in 1964, which has awarded $200,000 in scholarships to our seminarians.  Created the Lynn Sawchuk-Sharon Kuzbyt Scholarship Fund – named after two teen members of the Jr. Ukrainian Orthodox League who fell asleep in the Lord – which has awarded another $200,000 to Jr. UOL members who have exhibited long-term leadership skills and devotion to our Church.

The evening concluded with the musical selection of Ukrainian Folk songs and melodies presented by GERDAN trio: Dr. Andrei Pidkivka, Dr. Solomia Gorokhivska and Dr. Richard Miller.

Gerdan - Kaleidoscope of World Music is a professional ensemble in Washington DC area. The ensemble is named after Gerdan, a multi-colored, intricately woven beaded necklace from Carpathian Mountains in Ukraine. Like this dazzling and exquisite necklace, musicians bring alive rich arrangements that reflect their passion for tradition Eastern European folk melodies and rhythms.  Inspired by their native roots and heritage, they create and perform their own special blend of world music that brings together the old with the new, in a style that is fresh, lively, and beautiful. Gerdan’s musicians have been acknowledged for their technique and exquisite musical presentations performing an exciting repertoire of Eastern European folk music. The music of Gerdan is diverse, energetic and charming, bringing the fire and the edge of new melodic ideas and rhythms that capture the listener.

The Gerdan concert program features contrasting musical styles in the musical traditions of Eastern Europe. Traditional songs and folk melodies get original arrangements in diverse and fascinating combinations of acoustic folk art instruments from Eastern Europe. The dialogue of spoken languages: Ukrainian, Slovak, Czech, Gypsy, and musical languages that are rich in history, and speak lively in the artistic creative impulse of modern musicians who travel joyfully in the musical arts to new horizons. Exceptional musicians, skilled, experienced, and dedicated to the sonic nurture of this art, reveal their passion for the modalities and rhythmic colorations that define folk music of Eastern Europe. The musicians of Gerdan share the direct life of their Eastern European multicultural music experience from generation to generation.

The final day of the Sobor began once again with Divine Liturgy in St. Andrew Memorial Church, celebrated by His Eminence Archbishop Jeremiah. The church filled as the prayers once again rose high up to the rafters, resonating off the walls and back down to the faithful.  Having partaken of the Holy Mysteries, the faithful rolled up their sleeves and were ready to begin work on the presentation of the Strategic Planning portion of the Sobor.

Metropolitan Antony introduced the Strategic Plan explaining how crucial it is that everyone participate in order for it to be successful.  This is a wonderful opportunity to be a worker in the Lord’s vineyard.  His Eminence reminded those gathered that the Lord had picked them and they needed to heed the call.

Along with Bishop Daniel, His Eminence spoke to the faithful – not only those present at the Sobor, but throughout our Church:

Holy Scripture admonishes us that “Where there is no vision, the people will perish.” (Proverbs 29:18) With that powerful guidance, we are pleased to present to you a new and exciting vision of our Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and its parishes.

A faithful and dedicated group of your peers that reflect the great and rich diversity of our Church have diligently toiled together for over a year to identify such a vision. With the prayerful guidance of the Holy Spirit, we pursued a strategy that acknowledges our significant challenges yet focuses on our many blessings and opportunities to sere our Lord in His Vineyard here in the United States.

After an invigorating and comprehensive effort, we are honored to present this Strategic Plan to you.  Its primary focus and purpose is to strengthen our parishes and parishioners.  We fully researched our challenges and weaknesses and identified a comprehensive step-by-step process and action plan to achieve 25 very critical and strategic goals.  We have also recruited an incredibly capable team from the membership of our UOC of USA to achieve these important goals.

The only thing missing is you.  We need you to review and understand this great work and identify the goals that interest you most. We respectfully ask you to prayerfully discern where God has called you to serve and how you can help us create parishes that “embrace those who hunger for love, comfort, fulfillment and hope.” We need your help to grow our parishes and the entire UOC of USA and “make disciples” as we all continue to spiritually mature together in Christ.  It is in this holy work that we ask you to join.

The future of the Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, its parishes and its faithful depends on how diligently we seek to achieve this Strategic Plan as stewards of God’s many blessings, while at the same time posing no threat to our historical traditions and our rich spiritual legacy.  We truly look forward to sharing this journey of faith and fulfillment with you!

Bill Marianes captured everyone’s attention with his vibrant presentation, filled with eye catching photos and verses, designed to inspire those gathered to realize what is at stake – the very future of the Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church.  This is a monumental moment, a pivotal time in the history of the Church.  This is your time, he reminded those listening. Your time to make your own mark, to make your own sacrifice, to offer back to God your skills, your effort and your love.

The Task Coordinators of each goal came before the gathered body of the Sobor to introduce each on of them to the numerous goals and opportunities.

1. ADMINISTRATION – Mrs. Daria Pishko-Komichak

1.1 - Empirical Metrics - Olga Liskiwskiy

1.2 - Skills Matching – Natalia Honcharenko

1.3 - UOC of USA Operational and Personnel Needs – Karen Melnyk/Ferraro

2. CLERGY – Fr. Anthony Perkins

2.1 - Clergy Development Program – Fr. Robert Danczak/Paul Micevych

2.2 - Clergy Compensation and Wellness – Robert Danszak

2.3 - U.S. Clergy Recruitment – Fr. Silhouan Rolando

3. COMMUNICATIONS – Elizabeth Symonenko

3.1 - Welcoming Ministry – Fr. John Haluszczak

3.2 - Comprehensive UOC of USA Communications Platform – Ginny Ulbricht

3.3 - Cohesive UOC of USA Brand – Fr. Theophan Mackey

4. EDUCATION – Mark Host

4.1 - Orthodox Education Lifelong Learning Program -  Fr. Anthony and pani Elaine Ugolnik

4.2 - Orthodox Leadership Development Program – Michael Kapeluck

5. FAMILY AND YOUTH – George Cepynsky

5.1 - Family Lifecycle Program – Pani Elaine Ugolnik

5.2 - College Student Outreach Program – Andew Smyk

5.3 - Adolescent Outreach Program – Teresa Linck

6. HEALTHY PARISHES – Dn. Ihor Mahlay

6.1 - Healthy Parishes Program – Dr. Dinah Fedyna

6.2 - Caring Ministry Program – Luba Lewytzkyj

7. OUTREACH & EVANGELISM – Jeremy Oryhon

7.1 - Outreach & Evangelism Ministry – Natalie Bilynsky

7.2 - New Successful Mission Parishes – Fr. Gregory Czumak

7.3 - Philanthropic Outreach – Dn. Michael Abramson and Cathy Bucharew

8. STEWARDSHIP – Tanya Tschaikowsky

8.1 - Comprehensive Stewardship Program – Charles Sanderson

8.2 - Long Term and Planned Giving – Pete Brush

9. TECHNOLOGY – Eric Senedak

9.1 - Parish and Ministry Web Resources – Tim Hladon

9.2 - Church Services App – Chris Haluszczak

9.3 - Parish Cloud Administration – Dn. James Stickel

9.4 - National Collaborative Website Port – Lisa Ryan

Having been introduced to the various goals, the entire Sobor body dismantled and each person headed to one morning and one afternoon breakout session corresponding to whichever goal interested them.  All the rooms were filled, and walking down the hallway one could hear all the discussion going on, the laughter, the questions and suggestions. People were enthused, they were leaning forward in their chairs, taking notes, asking details and deciding how they could be a part of the revitalization of our Church. While some people scratched their heads and wondered at the logistics and time allotted for the tasks, not a single person voiced any opposition or cast a negative light on any of the goals. When the breakout sessions completed, all the members of the Sobor gathered once again for a final review of the Strategic plan and goals.  With the motion made to accept and implement the Strategic Plan, the entire Sobor body seconded the motion and it passed by acclamation. The Plan will be introduced at the parish level over the coming weeks and months when individuals within each parish are sought out as volunteers to coordinate efforts with the goal captains, chairpersons and our hierarchs.

After the Sobor decision, Metropolitan Antony and Bishop Daniel stepped up to the podium to honor Bill Marianes, who was moved, humbled and honored to be the recipient from our hierarchs of the beautiful Sts. Borys and Hlib Medal (Orden) for outstanding service in Christian charity.  This award was given to acknowledge the appreciation of all the hours he dedicated to ensure the success of the Strategic Plan for the good and growth of our Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The Final day of the Sobor while cloudy on the outside, was sunny on the inside, as the faithful gathered once more at St. Andrew Memorial Church for the hierarchical Divine Liturgy.  It is a rare opportunity to be able to pray alongside four hierarchs, and what a blessing it was to those who were able to participate. At the conclusion of the Liturgy, the newly elected members of the Council of the Metropolia, Audit Commission and Ecclesiastical Court were inducted into their respective offices, promising to give their all to fulfill the obligations of those offices purely for the glory of God and not for personal praise.

As the people began to disperse it was evident from their faces that they were excited and revitalized.  There is a new vigor, a new life starting within the Church.  A tiny flame has been lit in the hearts and souls of those who attended, and they are carrying it out in to the world to ignite others.

“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.” (John 15:16)

We have been truly called by Christ.  We have no option other than to accept, and realize that we are not alone, but, that the Holy Spirit has gifted us and will help us in this calling.

The Sobor may be over, but, the work is just beginning. Let us roll up our sleeves and multiply those talents which God has so graciously bestowed upon us.

XXIst Sobor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA

XXIst Sobor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA - 10/24/16

Photos and Text by Elizabeth Symonenko

(291 images)


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Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA
P.O. Box 495;
South Bound Brook, NJ 08880
732-356-0090 (Phone) / 732-356-5556 (Fax)

Offices:
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA
Metropolia Center
135 Davidson Avenue; Somerset, NJ 08873

Email:
consistory@uocofusa.org
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