On a warm, slightly overcast day, the Metropolia Center buzzed as the members of the Metropolitan Council gathered for their annual meeting. Present were His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, along with eight members of the clergy and seven laypeople, as well as the presidents of the Cental Organizations of the Church: Ukrainian Orthodox League and St. Andrew Society.
The Seminarians of the St. Sophia Theological Seminary, and the Consistory staff joined the Council members and hierarchs for the Moleben which opened the conference. Having prayed and asked for God’s guidance, everyone settled down to intently listen, confer, and discuss the status of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the U.S.A.
In his opening remarks, His Eminence Metropolitan Antony reminded everyone the true purpose of the Council, which was to follow in the footsteps of the Apostles, and nurture, support and further Christ’s Church. It is truly a heavy responsibility, and not to be taken lightly. To encourage and bolster his audience, His Eminence sited several quotes from Scripture, which he instructed his listeners to contemplate and live by. Vladyka Antony emphasized Galatians 6:9, “ Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
With everyone still pondering the Scriptural wisdom, His Eminence Archbishop Daniel reported on the life of the Western Eparchy. He was pleased to inform those gathered that things are looking good, and the future is bright for the UOC of the USA. While there are certain hardships to overcome, and issues to handle, overall, the Church is growing and things are hopeful.
Archbishop Daniel noted that some parishes are becoming parochial. This congregational thinking limits the scope and growth of parishes, as they begin to lose their connection with the greater Orthodox Church, and become more introspective and focus merely on their local parishes. Vladyka stressed that it is important for us to minister not only to our own parish families, but, to our local communities, and worldwide.
Another concern was the secularization of society, including our faithful. Our churches should not be run like a business. Instead they should be our spiritual homes, aiding us to acquire a Christian mindset. While the business end is important, we need to emphasis and refocus our goals, with the intent of nurturing our ministries, so they can further minister to the world.
Vladyka continued by stating how pleased he is to see the parishes filled with faithful when he visits. Whether actual dues paying members, or visitors, it is heartening to see so many people come to worship and pray together. We need to deemphasize our differences, and expound upon our commonalities, unifying us all as one Church, with the Metropolia Center being our Spiritual Home.
With great geographical distances dividing the parishes of the Western Eparchy, plans are under way to bring them spiritually closer together. It is crucial in today’s technologically savvy society to find new ways of promoting unity, spreading information, and working together for our common good and success of the Church.
Archbishop Daniel concluded his report on a positive note, stating that there exists a new excitement, and new energy within the parishes. Many people are living the Faith, attending more services and acknowledging the need of God in their lives. With several new Mission parishes opening, people are turning to Christ, and it is for us all to support each other and do our part to grow the Church.
Metropolitan Antony next reported on the status of the Eastern Eparchy. Vladyka noted that many parishes are suffering financial difficulties, mostly due to the deterioration of the vicinities in which they are located. However, he too stressed that the Church is doing well. The faithful gather and worship, filling the parishes and growing the Church.
The afternoon was filled reviewing reports of the various Church Ministries. Among these were the Offices of Stewardship, Youth and Young Adult, Religious Education, Christian Charity, Liturgical Publications, Public Relations, and Development. Each Office reported on the active work that is being done in the life of the Church and expressed their joy at seeing positive results.
In addition to the various Church Ministries, the Council members were updated on various aspects of the St. Andrew’s Cemetery, the UOC of the USA St. Sophia Library, the Bookstore, Cultural Center and Metropolia property.
After a quick break for lunch, the session continued with a review of the budget, the report of the Audit Commission, the Seminary, the Ukrainian Orthodox League, St. Andrew’s Society and All Saints Camp. The members deliberated at length upon various aspects pertaining to each area of discussion. While some concerns exist, there are solid plans to overcome them.
Overall, the Church as a whole is prospering. The parishes donate time, talent and funds to their local communities, to various interests in Ukraine, as well as support the IOCC, the OCF and the Prison Ministries. In other words, the UOC of the USA members are living the Faith and thereby, growing the Church.
Feeling hopeful and re-energized the Metropolitan Council ended the day with a prayer on their lips and hope in their hearts.
Tomorrow the Council reconvenes in the morning, as the members review the progress of the Strategic Plan, the Ukrainian Historical and Educational Complex, the upcoming Centennial Celebrations and discusses the next steps in growing our Church.
Council of Metropolia of the UOC of the USA Meets - 04/20/2017
Photos by Fr. Michael Hontaruk, Subdeacon Mykola Zomchak and Elizabeth Symonenko