Archpriest Paul Wesche
St Herman’s Orthodox Church - Minneapolis, MN
January 29, 2017
His Grace gave an address to the Diocesan Assembly last October, 2016, in Chicago, that I present in abridged form to the faithful of St Herman’s as part of this year’s “Pastor’s Report”. You can read the full report of His Grace at: “http://www.midwestdiocese.org/files/55th_ASSEMBLY/2016-bishop-address.pdf.”
His Grace spoke to the topic: “Sowing Seeds: the Proclamation of the Gospel in the Age of the New Normal”. By the “New Normal”, His Grace includes the following:
1) Many Youth (including our own) are sexually active from early teens and see no problem with it as it is not seen as a sin. In fact, many believe the church needs to change her views to accommodate the times.
2) It is common for couples to live together before marriage and not see this with no sense of this as sinful.
3) Older people after divorce are sexually active and live together prior to marriage.
4) Single parent families, divorced families, and reconstituted family systems are common.
5) Families live and breathe off their I-phones, twitter, snap chat, and Instagram.
6) The two sports, two instruments, two whatever school activity oriented family was an issue 20 years ago and it is even more so today. Try scheduling a youth activity in your parish today.
7) Homosexual behaviors are increasingly seen as a normal alternative to a heterosexual lifestyle. It is no longer an issue of sin. It is now a civil right protected under the constitution.
8) Hollywood, and the Public Media encourage and portray the normality of this in TV shows, movies, and news programs.
9) Lesbian/Gay/Bi-sexual/Transgender rights are being imposed with no time to reflect: is this a good thing?
10) More and more Orthodox families (including clergy families) have a son or daughter or former/current spouse who is lesbian, homosexual, or has married a same sex partner.
We still live in a fallen world in need of Christ and the good news. But, if we begin with issues and not with Christ:
1) We come across as a church with rules and regulations.
2) Morality, and sanctity of life become legislated issues and instead of the gospel, a moral code is preached.
3) Issues of social justice, social welfare becomes secularized; ends in themselves when separated from the Gospel.
4) All the above become ends in themselves offering nothing transcendent
The starting point is the announcement of Christ: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” Our beliefs about how to live in this world are founded on the call of Christ to sell all we have, give to the poor, to follow Him, and make the Kingdom the treasure we seek. We joyfully renounce all things, (passions, desires, love of mammon) which would be obstacles to seeking His kingdom. This is the motivation of the monastic. They renounce all things out of joy to pursue treasure in heaven! Marriage in the Orthodox Church is a witness and icon of the Kingdom that reveals Christ’s love for the Church. Those images are male and female.
Answering the call of our Lord to follow Him is a choice, not a law we have to follow. Our faith is transcendent and fulfilled in His Kingdom which is revealed in this world through God incarnate; but, it is not of this world. This is a joyful journey we undertake. If this joy is not in us first, I don’t know if we will ever have much to share with those in the world we interact with.
One cannot know this joy if the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, and regular sacramental confession are not part of the ascetical work we do to nurture and form the Christian virtue of joy and the other virtues in us. Living the ascetical life opens to us a divine joy that only Christ can give. We take the kingdom by force by doing violence against those internal passions run amok that seek to rob us of the Kingdom and the joy we are called to embrace.
How do we lay a good foundation in our personal witness of sowing seeds? No matter how distorted the image of God in us has become, it is still there. In their own way, many are seeking a “stairway to heaven” (from the famous Led Zeppelin song). The popularity of this song tells me that many people are seeking a stairway to heaven. The Holy Theotokos is for us the stairway to heaven who leads to Jesus Christ. We must strive to find and speak to the part of each person who deep down wants to know who she or he is in relationship to the one who made her or him. We lay a good foundation by:
1) Sharing our experience of how Jesus Christ has worked in our life; leading us to the Orthodox Church.
2) Avoiding religious discussions and comparisons with other faiths.
3) Starting with Jesus of Nazareth and who He is!
4) Loving in deed and truth. In doing so we are to be “wise as serpents, innocent as doves.”
5) When called to, speaking the truth in love, we are not to be embarrassed about our faith.
Lay people are the primary evangelizers of Christ and witnesses to the Orthodox Church. All of us who are received into the Orthodox Church have a network of hundreds of people we know that we bring with us. The potential seeds of growth can be laid through our ongoing witness in these relationships and we pray for the Holy Spirit to bring about this growth.
If we want visitors to come back, then worship needs to be the foundation of our Church life. This means:
1) Committing to the fullest possible cycle of services in our liturgical calendar.
2) A commitment to excellence and doing the services decently and orderly.
3) A commitment to a disciplined effort to sing the responses to the services so that they can be understood and sung with beauty.
The number one question I have fielded by far in my parish visits has been “How do we keep our youth in the Church?” We don’t get our youth to do anything. We don’t keep them in the Church. As they get older, they have to own this as their choice and see the need for staying in the Church or to come back to Her. Do we pray for our youth? Do our kids have a place in the church besides Sunday liturgy and church school? What can we do to help them believe they are not outside observers but active participants in parish life? What gifts can they offer in the way of service to the Church to build up her life?
Many of our youth live in the public school sphere of life. We need to understand the challenges they encounter. We need to listen with compassion when they speak about their experiences with the realities I have described at the beginning of my address. We need to help them in coping with what they encounter.
Furthermore, it is important to view the family as an icon of a little church. Christian Formation happens in the home life of our youth. If family life is to be reflective of a little church, that means we should be making time for family meals, prayer, scripture reading etc.
We lay a good foundation in the development, and building of our temple (the physical plant) and how we beautify and care for it. We need to have high standards in the area of temple beautification. When a parish is ready, a program of Orthodox iconography needs to be a necessary part of beautification. But, a beautiful temple can be compromised by one that is in disorder and unclean. Altars should be clean, communion cloths regularly washed, and should hold only the items that should be on it! Churches should be cleaned on a weekly basis. We can spend all kinds of money on iconography, but when people see uncut grass full of weeds or messy landscaping, that will have a negative impact.
The Church is in the business of making saints. If we were to use a business model for running a church, the product we market is sainthood. The business plan for making saints is summarized in St. Paul: “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come the unity of the faith, and of knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things unto him who is the head – Christ – from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does it share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:11- 16)
May the Lord bless you in this coming year with the joy of taking up your Cross to follow Him, to sell and give all to the poor, and have treasure in heaven.
With love in Christ,
The unworthy +Paul Bishop of Chicago
Let me speak to certain points in His Grace’s address. Worship, he teaches us, is the foundation of our Church life. He speaks of making our homes a “little Church”. That means that the worship of the Church is the foundation of our home life, as well. The rhythm of our home life should be rooted in the rhythm of the Church life. We should strive to make the life of the Church our personal inner life so that it is natural and unfeigned. Then, our home will naturally and unfeignedly be the life of the Church.
My work as pastor, then, is centered on the worship of the Church. His Grace urges us to commit to the fullest possible cycle of services in our liturgical calendar. Our doing that, however, depends on my personal stamina. When I schedule our services, I need to honor my stamina and I want to be careful I do not overload myself. Knowing from personal experience the importance of honoring one’s stamina, I do not require or expect the choir director or readers or anyone else to be present at those services beyond Vespers and Divine Liturgy for the major feasts and Sundays. It is a testament to their devotion and love for the Church that you will see them, however, at almost all those “added” services. On this point, let me emphasize again that I actually do not want anyone to be present at these “added” services who doesn’t want to be present. The reason is selfish: I want to pray; and if I am worried about how you’re doing with the length of the service, I can’t pray. Please feel free to come and go to, say, a vigil when and as you want to. As a matter of ascetic discipline, however, you should be present, at minimum, at Saturday evening Vespers and, even more minimally, Sunday morning Divine Liturgy.
His Grace directs us to commit to excellence and doing the services decently and orderly, and to sing the prayers with beauty and so that they can be understood. It is my experience that when the rubrics for a service are followed, the services are beautiful in their orderliness. Sincere thanks are owed to our choir director and her “assistants”, and to our readers who have “signed on” to our program to elevate the dignity and beauty of the singing and the chanting so that our services are done with beauty, decently and in order and with all due reverence to and fear for the WORD that is being proclaimed in the words of the hymns and prayers of the Church. If that WORD is honored both outwardly and inwardly, it will ennoble us within and without and create an ennobling culture in our parish and in our homes, even as it makes us children of God and deifies us.
The generosity of our parish is itself edifying. Because of it, we have beautiful mounted icons of saints and martyrs all around the nave. I would promote the initiative of producing a map of those icons, even attractive labels for each icon, with the name of the saint and a brief history, so that everyone knows who the saint is – since the names of a number of them are not in English!
We are blessed with more and more children in our parish! This makes His Grace’s call to make our homes into little churches all the more pertinent for us! Please share with Fr Paul or Presbytera Nancy any resources you would recommend to help us with this truly sacred work of raising our children in the love of Christ and His Holy Mother. In the bulletin over the last several Sundays, I have included a notice suggesting one way that we can teach our children to be reverent in the Church, by having them stand quietly at certain points in the Divine Liturgy. It is a blessing to me that the parents of our parish want to know these kinds of things. But, I feel inadequate to the task of providing wise counsel on the matter of Christian parenting. That is why I welcome the wisdom of our own parish mothers – much if not all of which they have gained not from books but from their own experience!
On the matter of establishing a solid foundation to our Christian life, let me remind the faithful of the ascetic practices of the OCA. We fast from meat and dairy on Wednesdays and Fridays and during special fasting seasons. When preparing to approach the chalice, we fast from everything (all food and all drink) from midnight on. Following this ascetic practice as members of the OCA is a form of obedience for us; and obedience to the Church – the crucified and risen Body of Christ – is healing and life-giving. At the same time, we observe these ascetic practices according to our strength and circumstances. If we have not kept the fast accordingly, let’s not approach the Chalice. That is one way that we as adults can foster reverence for the sacred mystery of the Church in ourselves.
- Under the direction of His Grace, the diocese is working on a new way to fund the Diocese, moving away from the “head tax” or Diocesan Assessments, and towards “proportional giving”, which is believed to be closer to biblical principles. Included in my report is a letter from His Grace, written Sept 22, 2016, addressed to all the faithful, providing an update on that work.
- Over the last two years, parishes of the Diocese have been working to comply with Policies, Standards and Procedures (PSP) for protocol in cases of sexual misconduct, and to insure that parishes are doing all they can to prevent sexual misconduct on the part of parish leaders and workers, altar servers, church school teachers, camp directors, etc.; i.e., all who work with the children of our parishes. This includes procuring background checks on all the above. The diocese is now in the final step of compliance, which is to procure background checks on all church school directors, and to keep confidential records of these background checks. Our parish council has appointed Becca to serve as our compliance officer. Her duty is to administer this process in our parish and to help us remain in compliance.
May the blessing of the LORD be with all of you as we now begin to make our way to Holy Pascha
Archpriest Paul Wesche
As an Orthodox parish, our task is to adhere strictly to the theology of the Orthodox Church. This “defines and protects from human distortion the teachings of Jesus Christ” (Theosis: The Purpose of Human Life, p. 12). It guides and informs “the only truly Orthodox form of pastoral guidance: that which is intended to lead to theosis.” (p. 15) This and not worldly measures of success governs everything we do and say.
Our goal as a parish, then, is not to increase in numbers or programs. These are worldly measures of success. Our goal actually is to decrease, in the way of St JnBapt, that the LORD may increase. We must therefore live like St JnBapt – in the wilderness; i.e., in the wilderness of our soul where we thirst for the living God. It is in the “wilderness” of the Church’s ascetic disciplines that we begin our ascent to the Kingdom of Heaven that is within us. (Lk 17:21) Here is the inner mystery of the Red Sea and the Jordan.
The beauty of the Church’s liturgical worship reflects back at us the joy of Christ that is found in the “wilderness”. Surely, it is pastoral guidance, then, to serve the prayers of the Church with beauty and reverence; for in this we produce a liturgical icon that mirrors clearly the mystery of God within us, which is Christ in you (Col 1:27), the hope of glory, the divine treasure who hides in the field of our soul calling all men to salvation through the promise of blessings to come. But, the sanctuary, the nave and the narthex of our Temple are icons, too, mirrors reflecting the beauty of Christ’s Heavenly Kingdom that is within us. And so, it is an act of reverence and love for Christ to attend as well to the beauty of the Church building.
Our Parish Council this year established a beautification fund for donations toward the beautification in particular of our worship space. Your generous response to this initiative has enabled us to undertake the re-plating of our Chalice; to order a vessel for holy water, and to order icons for the north and south walls of the nave as well as lampadas to go with them. Among the liturgical items we still would like to acquire are a nice baptismal font, one or more chandeliers, and an icon of the Theotokos above the outside door (it was actually Archbishop Job who suggested this idea to me years ago). We are also talking about expanding the ambon to create more of a soleia, and adding another step to decrease the height of the steps so that Doug’s heart doesn’t go into palpitations whenever I have to go up the ambon stairs.
Ok, I said that our goal is to decrease. But that doesn’t mean we can’t increase. In fact, we did increase in 2015. On January 5, we baptized the fifth child of Dan and Kelly, Annalise Marie – having just received Dan and Kelly and their other four into the Orthodox Faith just before Christmas, 2014. On February 21, we baptized Olympia’s newborn brother, Damian Michael. On Saturday, Nov 21, 2015, we received Scott Sandersfeld into the catechumenate. On January 4, 2016, he set off for Georgia to begin basic training as a newly enlisted soldier. We continue to remember him in our prayers and we hope to see him again, safe.
We’re also increasing the number of charities we support as a parish. In addition to IOCC, OCMC, FOCUS, Holy Dormition Monastery, we are adding Hogar Raphael Orphanage in Guatemala (the ministry of the Orthodox women’s monastery there), and ZOE, a non-profit organization of the OCA that helps women during crisis pregnancies, assists Orthodox Christians seeking to adopt, and provides an Orthodox Christian education for pure living.
Presbytera and I are most grateful for the blessing you are to us. You are in our prayers. Please keep us in yours that by God’s grace, we may all remain faithful to Christ.
Members of St. Herman’s Orthodox Church,
Once a year we gather to reflect and discuss the “state” of our Parish community. As the current Parish Council President, it is my honor and responsibility to share with you some of the highlights of 2015 and present a vision for objectives we have for 2016.
Looking back on 2015 I was struck by how active and supportive the St. Herman’s community was on variety of different fronts. Philanthropically, we continued to support a number of organizations through our prayers and financial support. Further, under the steady guidance of Nicole and Brent Heffron we facilitated the wonderful work done by FOCUS with consistent and valuable donations of our talent and time. This past year also saw another devoted group of St. Herman faithful make the trip to Michigan to spend time praying and working at the Holy Dormition Monastery.
Closer to home, we continued our strong financial support of St. Herman’s through our regular Sunday donations and via two fund raising activities that were hugely successful last year. First, thanks to the leadership and many hours of work provided by Christina and Emanuel Sas, we held a rummage sale in the spring. Many hours of work along with dozens of donations by community members allowed us to exceed expectations. Second, our annual fall Mittel European Dinner under the guidance of Helen Pregl and Gene Rebeck set a record for number of guests served. Both of these events not only help us financially but they also provide a special opportunity for us to socialize together and learn more about each other. It is another way that helps build and strengthen our community. Another special opportunity for us to live our Christian faith occurred this fall when we all pitched in and helped Fr. Paul recover from his long overdue hip replacement surgery. I’m delighted to say that his gait looks wonderful and the pained look on his face is now gone.
I have mentioned in previous reports that one of our greatest strengths is that we all contribute to the best of our abilities to the betterment of our community. We do it by helping clean the church, mow grass, plant flowers, shovel snow, teach our children, sing during services or provide caffeinated drinks and cook delicious food. At last year’s Annual Meeting we discussed and agreed as a community that we needed to focus our attention and resources to the maintenance and repair of our church building. A Structural Condition Study was donated to St. Herman’s by Vlad Scheglowski from Clark Engineering Corp. in July 2014. To that end, this past year saw us make significant progress in some of the ‘DIY’ projects identified in Vlad’s report: notice the brand new (looking) window grates protecting the freshly repaired, cleaned and painted basement windows. Take a stroll around the church and you will notice that with a few exceptions, all the windows are now freshly painted and looking sharp. You also can’t fail to notice all three exterior doors were stripped, sanded and painted a brilliant and distinctive dark green.
Thanks to the kind and generous offers of time and treasure, we are blessed to come into a beautifully decorated and clean church each and every week. Donations of icons, candles, wine, the replating of our Chalice, new and improved vacuums, even the cups, plates and utensils we use every week to from all come from the generosity of the St. Herman’s community. We are ‘the staff’, and a mighty fine one indeed.
One last point that is both noteworthy and very beneficial to St. Herman’s. When is that last time you checked our website? If you haven’t been there is a while, I suggest you do so and see the incredible transformation it has under gone. Under the guidance of Tim Ketcher and Fr. Paul, our in-house “techie” group set out to bring our on-line image into the 21st century. Today we have an informative, engaging and attractive website. Some may even say it is ‘cool’. A special thanks to Myron Meinhardt for his tireless effort and professional quality work in creating all the photos for the website.
Looking ahead to 2015 we have some ambitious plans I am proposing. First, we would like to increase the number of philanthropic organizations we support from four to six. Second, we want to continue and improve upon our two fund raising activities; the spring rummage sale and the fall Mittel European Dinner. Third, under the leadership of Helen Pregl and me, we will be posting a list of DIY projects we would like to complete in 2016. Fourth and final is the big one. We want to organize, plan and implement a Capital Campaign with the goal of raising $100,000.00. The purpose of the Campaign will be to act on the recommendations suggested by the Structural Condition Study. Laurie and Doug will be spearheading our efforts for this important task.
To accomplish these objectives we will need the involvement and support of everyone in our community. I would ask that you think and pray about how you can contribute. We will need philanthropy advocates to educate and keep us abreast of changes and developments going on at the respective organization we will be supporting. We need leaders to take charge of our two fund raising activities and we need workers who can tackle the DIY projects scheduled for completion in the coming year. Last, we need people who can contribute to the success of our 2016 Capital Campaign. This is a work in progress and one that requires many different skill sets.
In closing, let me thank each and every one of you for all that you do to make St. Herman’s a special community. A special thanks to Presbytera Nancy and Fr. Paul for their leadership, thoughtfulness and kindness. May God bless you.
Joseph F. Slater-Parish Council President
January 18, 2015
Members of St. Herman’s Orthodox Church,
Our annual ritual of holding a Parish Meeting every year is a wonderful time for us to reflect upon the experiences of the past year together and to prioritize and focus on the challenges we face moving forward. It was an honor to serve as Parish Council President in 2014 and I would like to thank each and every one of you for your confidence and trust.
The year 2014 was a good year for our small community. Under the steady guidance of Laurie Rother we transformed our kitchen from a dark and dismal environment to a new, bright and inviting gathering place suitable for preparing the dozens of meals we are able to share together throughout the year. This was truly a “group” effort and one that we should be very proud of accomplishing. From the planning committee meetings to fund raising activities at Target Field, followed up by the actual remodeling work, our community showed their love and commitment to the parish (and each other) by contributing their time, talent and treasure.
During the past year we also were able to tackle a number of other projects that contributed to the continuing improvement and safety of our church home: beautiful icons and icon stands, exterior painting, reorganization of west storage room and fire safety measures to name just a few. We once again were able to send a contingent of our parishioners to the Holy Dormition monastery, we were able to financially contribute and support four outside organizations and under the leadership of Nicole and Brent Heffron we once again were instrumental in supporting and facilitating the wonderful work done by FOCUS.
Today, St. Herman’s finds itself in a very good place. We are financially stable thanks to the generous sharing of our members and the very capable management of our treasurer John Pesonen. We continued to grow in numbers this past year as we welcomed in new members to our community as well as a few old ones who have moved back home. We are blessed.
Looking forward to 2015, the Parish Council is in the process of establishing a list of priorities to target and complete. While not complete at this time, expect it to include both short and long term plans for maintaining and beautifying our church home (both inside and out). It will also include an upgrade to our “branding” (website and social media), fund raising events as well as efforts to share our Orthodox faith with others.
Thank you for your kindness and consideration in reading this report. Thank you also for all that YOU do in making St. Herman’s a truly exceptional community. May God bless you.
Joseph F. Slater-Parish Council President
Review: The Standard of Success in an Orthodox Parish.
Two years ago, we faced a budget shortfall at the end of the year. At that time, we resolved not to give in to panic, but to keep our eyes firmly fixed on faithfulness to the Gospel. Since then, we have been blessed, thanks to the generosity and good will of the faithful of St Herman’s. Year end 2013 marks the second consecutive year that we are seeing a budget surplus at the end of the year. Our goal, however, is the same: to keep our eyes firmly fixed on faithfulness to the Gospel. Let us take this Pastor’s Report as an opportunity to review – again and again – what the standard of success is by which an Orthodox parish is measured.
If the Church is the body of Christ, then she is in movement: the descending and ascending movement of the crucified and risen Christ, incarnate in the sacramental mysteries of His Holy Church. In the mystery of His Holy Pascha, Christ descends even to hell to gather the lost sheep, and, carrying them on His shoulders, He ascends into the heavens that have been opened by His Holy Baptism and Pascha. To those who receive Him and follow Him, He gives Himself as their food and drink, revealing Himself to be the Fruit of the Tree of Life, and so He unites Himself to them and them to Himself, even to the point of making them partakers of His own divine nature in the uncreated glory and virtue of God. (II Pt 1:3-4)
The LORD formed Adam from the dust of the ground to become a living temple of God. When Adam disobeyed God’s command, he could no longer hope to become the dwelling place of God. But, in expelling Adam and Eve from Eden, God did not leave them without hope. Their return to the dust of the ground in death (Gn 3:) was revealed in Jesus Christ to be the way of their salvation – part of the mystery, perhaps, that was hidden in God from before the ages and revealed only in Christ in these last days. When Christ the God-Man died, He returned to the dust of the ground and put death to death. When He was raised from the dead, He raised Adam with Himself, a new creation. In Christ’s descent to and ascent from the dust of the ground, our original destiny to become a living temple of God is again open to us.
Descending and ascending with Christ in the likeness of His death and resurrection to become a new creation is the “program” of an Orthodox parish. Such a program is conducted in the world but it is not of the world. It is the “program” of “Christ in you”. The “success” of an Orthodox parish is measured by how effectively it leads the faithful into this “program” of inner transformation. The success of an Orthodox parish, that is to say, is not measured by its numbers or by its treasury, but by the faithful decreasing so that Christ may increase in them and raise them up in the glory of His Holy Resurrection as children of God, born “from above”.
Let us not forget that the descending and ascending movement of numbers and budget balances does not effect in any way the inner transformation of our souls. As a parish, regardless of our numbers or our treasury, our work is the same: to encourage each other, by our words and deeds, to keep our attention on what is needful: prayer, fasting and charity in the regular confession of our sins; i.e., descending daily with Christ to the dust of the ground that we may ascend with Him in glory, decreasing that He may increase in us, to become children of the Light in whom is the Life of men, so that our mouths show forth His praise, and we become members of Christ’s body in whom He descends to gather the lost and to carry them to heaven on His shoulders.
Wot Hoppen’d at St Herman’s Last Year
This. It pleases me that the annual highlight of our parish, other than Holy Pascha, is not a big fund-raiser but our annual pilgrimage to Holy Dormition Monastery in Rives Junction, MI. Our pilgrimage in 2014 is planned for July 29-31, Tues – Thurs, pending the blessing of Mother Abbess Gabriella.
Even so, we do seem to be creating something of an annual fund-raiser with Gene’s wildly popular and incredibly delicious Mittel-Europischen Dinner, featuring absolutely scrumptious well-marbled stew marinated in Gene’s own secret sauce recipe (am I helping you prepare for Great Lent?). That event will be served again on the Saturday evening in early November or so when we turn our clocks back an hour and get an extra hour of sleep. Mark your calendars, and those of all your friends and neighbors as well!
Speaking of fund-raisers, let’s not forget our annual Chili Cook-off. We held it on the Sunday before Meat-fare Sunday last year. That worked well; it gave us a whole week to eat any left-over chili before gearing up for the Lenten fast. Not that there is a lot of left-over chili, it’s all so good! Laurie took the apron last year. Will she keep it this year, or will she have to hand it over to another champion? This year, let’s have the cook-off on the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, Feb 16. Chefs, start your ovens!
That. We wish to do all we can to insure the continued presence of FOCUS (Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve) MN in the Twin Cities. We thank Nicole Heffron who serves as our liaison with FOCUS, letting us know when it’s our turn to host and serve Sunday afternoon dinner at the FOCUS center on E. Lake St. She also oversees our donations of clothes for the clothes closet, food for the food shelf, and she lets us know when volunteers are needed to help with the different ministries FOCUS MN offers. Beyond that, we have established a St Herman’s FOCUS “Team”. Myron Meinhardt and Dave Thomas have stepped forward as this team’s leaders. The job of this team is to keep the needs of FOCUS (like monetary needs to pay the utility bills and the rent, so that FOCUS doesn’t dissolve for lack of funds) before us and to organize coherent efforts to respond to those needs. We would like to have two or three more serve on that team with Myron and Dave. Please see me, Fr Paul, if you’d like to do so.
The Others. Four years ago, Robert and Liz Gauvain moved with their family to South Canaan, PA, and Robert began studies at St Tikhon’s Orthodox seminary. Last Spring, he was ordained to the diaconate as Dn Ignatius. This Spring is his final semester. Dn Ignatius and Liz don’t know what the future holds for them; but, they are most appreciative of the financial support they have received from St Herman’s. They have expressed their gratitude several times, and we would like to continue our support. Those who are willing and able may donate $10 a month toward our “Seminarian Fund”. You will find a basket for that purpose downstairs. We may want to continue this support until Dn Ignatius and Liz are secured in their next assignment, whatever and whenever that may be.
Our parish council this year identified three critical “moments” when a visitor comes into our parish: when he first enters the narthex, when he first enters the nave and sees no pews, and when the service is over and he chooses to leave or come downstairs for the coffee hour. We want our visitors to feel welcome, especially at each of these critical moments. Let’s each one be aware of those around us (and behind us!), and be sure that no one goes un-greeted. We are still looking for four to five faithful who would serve as greeters at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy on Sunday mornings. Our greeters would stand in the narthex to welcome visitors and help them with any questions they may have 15 minutes or so before the beginning of Divine Liturgy, and up to the middle, let’s say, of the First Antiphon. If our Greeters’ Team consisted of four to five faithful, they could each take turns so that each would serve as greeter for one Sunday a month. Please let me know if this interests you. I believe that this is a very important ministry.
We received with joy a number of souls into the Orthodox Faith this last year. They are blessing to us and we thank God for them. On Lazarus Saturday, Doug, Maureen and Corinne Johnson, along with Miriam Julian were received into the Orthodox Faith through the sacraments of Confession and Chrismation. (Miriam is currently on a study abroad in New Zealand!) In May, Jocelyn Long was received into the Church through Holy Baptism and Chrismation.
A source of great joy and blessing, entertainment and amusement – and for some, a test – at St Herman’s is all the children! And more were added this year! We baptized the new-born infants, Nectarios Phillips, Richard Gregory Boac, and Lilian Jane Axvig. Presbytera and I also had the joy of baptizing our second grandson, George Athanasius, born of our son, Sean and his wife, Rachel, here at St Herman’s; and, in July, we flew out to Las Vegas to baptize our first granddaughter, Olympia Aurelia Sas, born of our daughter, Christina and her eMANuel.
And, wouldn’t you know it: more baptisms are on the way! Elizabeth was born to Igor and Yuliya in December and made Costa into a big brother. Igor and Yuliya plan to have her baptized when Yuliya’s mother comes to the states soon for a visit.
And, well, guess what! I know of at least two more babies who are on the way. Can you find them? Might there be others?! Look for more infant baptisms in the coming year!
In September, we married Giulia Lang to her Texan, Christopher Chatfield – and then they off and moved to Texas, of all places. And, well, not to start any rumors or anything; but, another wedding very probably will be happening here at St Herman’s before the summer’s out. This, however, is not the time to announce it, so forget I said anything – for now.
Also in September, we were visited by a certain young lass; her name was Katrina, and it still is. She’s a freshman at Northwestern. She didn’t stay a visitor for very long. On Saturday, December 28, she was received into the catechumenate. We look forward to receiving her into the Church on Lazarus Saturday (April 12).
Finally, do we dare risk introducing all the new faces that have joined us in the last year, lest we forget some? There’s Aaron Smyth, Artur and Dasha Dzhalalov and their two boys, Pavel and Nicolai, George Contolatis, and Olga Epstein. Did I forget anyone? Welcome to St Herman’s! We are very glad you found us.
Let us strive to be the kind of Christian community St Paul describes in his epistles: a community where all are encouraging one another with spiritual hymns, goodness and kindness, to take up their cross and follow Christ into the joy and glory of His Holy Resurrection. Amen!
Members of St. Herman’s Orthodox Church,
As I sat down this year to pen my thoughts to you all regarding the state of our community, I was struck by two very powerful thoughts; First, I was really, really cold! It’s been a “good” Minnesota winter so far and the Slater furnace is working double time to keep the homestead warm. Second, it dawned on me that I needed to “CC:” the congregation. By this I mean I need to publically confess and convert. Neither of these actions are ones I am particularly good at or comfortable with doing. (By now Fr. Paul is a little concerned with where this report is going…no need to worry). I must confess that I normally don’t like long lines one bit. In fact, anyone who knows me well might actually say I am impatient and prone to sarcastic comments whenever I need to wait in line. Well, my conversion is that the ever increasing communal lines at St. Herman’s during our celebration of the Divine Liturgy has given me a much different perspective on long lines. What a beautiful visual testament to the growing and vibrant state of our community.
Looking back on 2013 I am struck by the growth and development we have witnessed. Under the steady and thoughtful leadership of Fr. Paul and Presbytera Nancy we continue growing in our journey as Orthodox Christians. As a small community of faith, each and every one of us has personally had an impact on the life of our St. Herman’s family. I’ve said this before and will say again; the more you are able to participate and contribute the more rewarding and satisfying will your experience will be. Take a moment and think about how many of the tasks and functions required to operate St. Herman’s we hire out….not many. Thanks to each and every one of you for your contributions of time, talent and treasure. Please reflect on whether or not you are able to find new ways to contribute to our special community. We need you!
One specific area I would like to highlight for everyone from the 2013 calendar year is the growth we made as a parish and as individuals in taking our Christian faith outside the confines of our comfortable home and helping the less fortunate. If you remember, we made a decision at our meeting last year to change our approach when looking outside our community and not allocate a specific dollar amount to the budget for philanthropic causes. Instead, we chose to dedicate one period throughout the year to four different worthy causes. The results were nothing short of amazing. We donated $2,870 to the following organizations:
Q1 IOCC $470.00
Q2 OCMC $500.00
Q3 Seminarians $450.00
Q4 FOCUS $1,450.00
In addition, we provided $1,200 to Deacon Robert and his family; we sent a spirited delegation to the Dormition Monastery and we were an integral part of the local FOCUS office in their efforts to assist the needy within our own community.
Looking to the year ahead of us, we have a number of goals pertaining to the upkeep of our parish home that I would like to see us meet. First on the list is some much needed exterior building maintenance. We hope to have a professional assessment back to us detailing specific repairs that are needed in the short term to maintain the structure integrity of the church. Some of these repairs we can do ourselves, but some will require us to hire professionals. Second, the council is proposing that we undertake a remodeling of our kitchen. More information and discussion will follow on this but I feel confident in saying that this is a long overdue project and will be a tremendous enhancement to the countless meals and functions we hold downstairs. Please be attentive and supportive to the work we will be undertaking this year. Throughout the year we will be asking for volunteers to pitch in help with the work. If you have the time, skill and/or money to help, please be generous.
In closing, allow me to both thank and congratulate all of you. Because of your unique and special nature as well as your commitment to the St. Herman’s community, we are indeed blessed.
Joseph F. Slater
Parish Council President
The Business of the Church
Archimandrite Vasileios of Iveron Monastery, whom I and those with me met when we were on the Holy Mountain in May 2011, in one of his lectures published under the title, The Meaning of Typikon,” describes the essence of the monastic vocation in a way that I think expresses the vocation of an Orthodox parish as well:
Each monastery (i.e. parish) has a vocation:…to help each particular brother (and sister) to sanctify his vessel with repentance, asceticism, humility, love; so that there ultimately bursts forth from within him (from within them, the faithful of the parish) like a flower of life, a “Glory to God!” Glory to God that I am human, that I am a monk (an Orthodox Christian), that I have so many gifts, that I have so many afflictions, I have been through so many trials, and through all this I have come to know the love of God, and with all this, God has saved me, and is saving me, and by His Grace, I am progressing from the image to the likeness. (pp. 12-13)
According to St Symeon the New Theologian (949 AD – 1022 AD), our hearts are like a candle; God is the unapproachable fire (I Tim 6:16) of divine love. The worship of the Church is like an oven in which that unapproachable fire burns. The ascetic disciplines of the Church – prayer, fasting, vigil according to our strength and our station in life, and sincere confession of sins – are the wick by which we draw the unapproachable fire from the oven and put it to the candle of our hearts to ignite them so that we begin to burn with the unapproachable fire of God’s love. That is what makes us worthy (or, strong enough, if we use the Greek word, ikanow - cf. Col 1:12) to approach the unapproachable fire in the fear of God, with faith and love. If we only occasionally or half-heartedly come to Church, and if we do not practice the ascetic disciplines of the Church according to our strength and our station in life, our hearts will never catch fire and our vessel will never be sanctified. Working to kindle our heart with the fire of divine love is our chief work, the liturgy of the Church.
Areas of Stewardship.
So very many in our empty post-modern age are hungering and thirsting for meaning, for beauty, for joy. These qualities are actually rays that emanate from the unapproachable fire of divine love, which is to say that the Orthodox Church, the body of Christ (Eph 1;23), the body of Him who is the very radiance of the Father’s Glory (Heb 1:3) is where these are found, as we sing at the close of the Divine Liturgy: “We have seen the True Light, we have received the Heavenly Spirit, we have found the True Faith, worshipping the undivided Trinity!”
Orthodox Christians are stewards of the fire of divine love that burns in the worship of the Orthodox Church. Let’s therefore join together as responsible stewards of that fire so that our parish glows as a beacon calling out to those who are searching for the Light. To facilitate this responsibility, we have organized our parish life into different areas of “stewardship”. These are the “teams” that we have formed in the past, which address the needs of our building and communal life.
God has blessed us with many new faces. It may be useful to set forth these stewardship teams again, to introduce them to the newcomers and to remind us old-timers to consider on which team/s we would like to serve as stewards of the mysteries of God. A table showing the stewardship teams and their respective functions is attached to this report; it will also be posted on the bulletin board downstairs.
In Orthodox worship, we do not talk as we would in the world. We sing or chant everything to create an audible icon of the beauty of the Kingdom of Heaven. We say in the Orthodox Church, those who sing their worship pray twice: they pray in the words and in the singing of the prayers. We are blessed at St Herman’s to have a choir director who is patient and always cheerful. And we are blessed to have a core group of beautiful singers with beautiful voices that blend, no one voice sticks out and dominates – and that is very important! I think it is something of a miracle that we also have a number of “monotones” who like to sing, loudly; and yet, what I hear standing at the altar is harmonious, beautiful singing. When the singing is reverent and on pitch, the worship of the Church can open the soul onto heaven, producing the experience of the emissaries of St Vladimir: “O King, we did not know if we were in heaven or on earth!” On the other hand, nothing halts the ascent to heaven more quickly than a pitch or melody that cannot be found!
This is to say that the music of Orthodox worship can have an evangelical character; and, we want to make it as beautiful and as reverent as we can. May I therefore encourage more of you to commit yourselves to attending Saturday afternoon choir rehearsals? See it as an offering to the Savior in love, and as a way for us to proclaim the beauty of the Gospel to those who come to us in search of the Christ to whom the Holy Scriptures bear witness.
Wot’s ben hopp’nin at St Herman’s?
In February, our Diocesan Bishop awarded me with the jeweled cross, a high honor, to be sure, but not so uncommon. What is uncommon is for the faithful of a parish to honor the priest’s wife with a jeweled cross of her own; and this is what the faithful of St Herman’s did to Presbytera, to her complete surprise, and mine. The award was most worthily bestowed. I am very proud of my wife. I believe she is worthily addressed as “Mother Nancy”, not just because she is the wife of the parish’s “Father” Paul, but even more because of her love for the faithful of St Herman’s. I know that Presbytera was deeply moved by this expression of your love for her, but I don’t know that anyone was more pleased by your kindness to her than I was. It is with much love for you that we say to each of you, Thank you for this wonderfully kind gesture.
Through our annual pilgrimages to Holy Dormition Monastery to Rives Junction – this last summer was our 7th – when we work, pray and eat with the mothers and sisters for two full days to help them prepare for their patronal feast day on Aug 15, a spiritual bond of Christian love has grown between our parish and Holy Dormition Monastery. So, when Mother Abbess Gabriella sent out an appeal for donations to purchase needed items for the new monastery Church, there was no hesitation among St Herman’s faithful to donate toward the purchase of an Abbess Chair for Mother Gabriella. And, when I received a special invitation from Mother Abbess Gabriel to attend the consecration of the new monastery Church in October, and to serve at the Divine Liturgy with other priests and bishops, it was clearly the mothers and sisters of Holy Dormition monastery acknowledging with gratitude the faithful of St Herman’s who have worked so hard to help them over the last seven years. And, while I was there, I got a picture of the Abbess Chair that was our gift to the monastery! The picture is posted on our website.
Our seminarian family, the Gauvains, enter what could be their final year at St Tikhon’s next Fall? Our goal last year was to recruit ten of us who would pledge $10 a month so that we could send the Gauvains $100 each month. I think there were more than ten of us, and that we were able to send more than $100 a month. The Gauvains have graciously expressed their gratitude to us – Liz’s latest post is posted on our website – and we intend to continue our pledges until they are finished with their seminary schooling.
Let us be sure to express our pride in our St Herman’s book store. Inside the parish, we are most grateful to Yulia and Igor who have put together this excellent resource for parishioners and visitors alike. To those outside the parish, we find ourselves puffing out our chest in pride when we point to our book store. Thank you, Yulia and Igor!
Reaching out to those in need is either part of our ascetic discipline that helps us to crucify our self-centeredness as we work to cleanse our heart, or it is the expression of our love for Christ that we want to share with others as we go forth from our heart that has been purified and transfigured in the joy of Christ’s Holy Resurrection. Thank you to Nicole and Brent who oversee our volunteer work with FOCUS and who keep us abreast of what FOCUS needs from us so that we can practice this ascetic discipline of charity together as a parish.
Last Pascha, we received into the Church through the sacraments of confession and Chrismation the servant of God, Ben Julian. Then, Ben had the nerve to move back to his parent’s home in Appleton, WI, on the excuse that he needs a cheap place to live while he looks for a job. Ah, but Ben says he’s looking for a job in the Twin Cities. We hope we’ll see him back here sometime soon. In the meantime, we’re glad to welcome his sister, Miriam, to our parish, while she attends Northwest Christian College in St Paul.
June was a busy month. First, we had the joy of baptizing Irene Phillips on June 3. She was four years old, I believe, and you’d expect she’d have been afraid to be get dunked in the water three times in front of all of us. But, what a trooper! She was fearless and beaming with pride when she came out of the water the third time, I think not just because the dunking was over, but I dare say because she was now a Christian! At the time, she was the “baby” of her family. No more. On the Sunday after Christmas, she let us all know that soon, as in July, she would be a “big sister”. Congratulations Daniel and Emily!
Now, the fact of the matter is that Daniel and Emily are not the only ones working on Church growth at St Herman’s. Would all the expectant moms of our parish care to step forward and present themselves at this time? You’ll have to sooner or later – and if you wait till later, we may be announcing it to you!
On June 23, Fr Paul was blessed to perform the wedding of Jonathan Peasley and his sweetie, Mary Nelson at the Orthodox Church in Sioux Falls, SD – where most of Mary’s family lives. Then, on the very next weekend, as though to make sure the newlyweds understand how marriage can change one’s life, Andrew and Erin Scheglowski brought their newborn, Elijah, to St Herman’s to be baptized.
Meanwhile, the Macioleks continued their work of building a Church in Northfield. Their labor has borne fruit. Fr Christopher’s labor has brought forth a young mission that is now substantial enough that it has started to serve the Divine Liturgy every Sunday in Northfield. And Gretchen’s labor brought forth John Bartholomew, who was baptized at St Herman’s on Dec 15. (Are you catching how clever this segue is?) Of course, we will miss the Macioleks at St Herman’s; but we are most pleased that we can say we helped them start the mission in Northfield and that we will continue to do what we can to help them grow the Church in Northfield.
Isaac John Swenson, son of Jessica Swenson, grandson of Clayton and Laura Swenson, was baptized at St Herman’s on September 23. We commend Jessica for bringing her baby to full term. May God bless her and her son with the joy and peace and love of heaven.
On September 30, I believe she was 94, Mary Tkach, the matriarch of our parish, the mother of Barb and Dan, and the grandma of Caleb and Hannah, “passed over” the Jordan and into the heavens that are now opened to us in Christ, whom Mary loved with all her heart. And, because we loved Mary so much, we felt that we were participating in some measure in her pascha. Her funeral was filled with the light of paschal joy. It was a beautiful and sacred event. May her memory be eternal!
We welcome all those who have come to St Herman’s and made this their parish home in the last year: Tim Ketcher and his daughter, Thecla Alexandra; Daniel and Emily Phillips and their children, Madeline, Eleni, Isaac and Irene; Andrew and Erin Scheglowski and their newborn son, Elijah; Leilani Embrey and her children, Clara and Finnan; John and Michelle Pesonen; and George Contolatis, Welcome back Matthew and Becca Axvig, and their sons, Aidric and Caleb; Joshua and Malene Ford and their three children, Aidan, Zoe and Edward (we will be sharing them with Holy Trinity oftentimes because Holy Trinity is so much closer to them than St Herman’s), Darren and Jessica Lukensow! Did I miss anyone? There are so many of you, and we are so blessed to have each one of you with us!
Finally, have you all heard the news? Doug, Maureen and Corinne Johnson will be new catechumens of St Herman’s by the time of this report’s presentation. We want to keep them in our prayers as we prepare to receive them into the Church through the sacraments of confession and Chrismation on Lazarus Saturday, April 27. Welcome, Doug, Maureen and Corinne. All of us join together in saying to you: “It’s about time!”
On this final note, I want to introduce you to Corene Mattson before signing off. I was introduced to her through the Johnsons; she is their neighbor. She is being treated for cancer. She grew up in New York and was baptized in the Antiochian Orthodox Church and, through the Johnsons, has begun to attend St Herman’s when she feels up to it. Let’s keep her in our prayers and be sure to make her feel welcome and loved when she is able to come worship with us.
Glory to Jesus Christ! Christ is in our midst! Most holy Theotokos, save us!
Fr Paul Wesche
Members of St Herman's Orthodox Church,
Our Annual Parish Meeting is a wonderful time for us to perform the intellectual gymnastics of looking back at the year just completed and look forward to the joy and excitement of the year ahead. It was an honor and pleasure to serve as Parish Council President in 2012, and in that capacity, allow me to share some thoughts on the journey we travelled and the road that lies before us.
In 2012 we witnessed (and participated) in the distinctly human events that make life bittersweet. Fr Paul noted many of these events in his Pastor's Report. This past year once again saw an incredible display of many people working together to create a communit of worship, love and friendship that we call St Herman's. Under the spiritual leadership of Fr Paul, Presbytera Nancy, Fr Chistopher and Presbytera Gretchen, the music direction orchestrated by Barb and the community outread of Nicole and Brent, the faithful of St Herman's are putting our Orthodox faith into action. Thanks to the countless hours donated by Tony and the cleaning crew, along with the dedication of Brad and Dave to keep the church beautifully illuminated, we have a church that is both spiritually and aesthetically comforting. Thanks also to each and every one of you who invests your time and talent into making St Herman's what it is today. Being a member of a small community takes work ... hard work. A saying that my father told me years ago is very applicable to being a part of a small organization: "the more you put into something, the more you get out."
This past year we welcomed back friends who had been away from St Herman's for various reasons and for varying amounts of time. We were blessed by an influx of new members who, in a very short amount of time, have made our church a better place because of their participation. The year 2012 witnessed our continued growth in helping others and in taking our faith beyond the boundaries of our church walls. Financially, we performed exceptionally well in a very difficult economy. For all these and the many blessings we experienced last year, we should be both proud and thankful.
Looking ahead to 2013, I would like to focus my thoughts on three main areas:
1. Building Maintenance.
Last year, we were offered an extrememly generous gift by Vlad Scheglowski, a partner at Clark Engineering. Vlad volunteered to do a structural analysis of our physical building at no cost. His complete report will be finished sometime before the spring of 2013, and our expectation is that we will have certain projects that need to be addressed. At this time, we do not know the extent or potential costs of the suggested repairs. It is expected that the costs will be such that one or a combination of the three payment options listed below would be required to pay for the repairs.
- Capital campaign
- Bank note
- Access our Northland Security Investment Fund.
Of course, if there are other ideas anyone has, please Rob Morse or me. We will share Vald's entire report with the Parish once it is completed.
It is expected that most of the structural repairs will require professional expertise. One major job that we can do ourselves is paint the exterior of the church (windows, doors and trim) along with repairing and cleaning the windows. Please consider if you are able and willing to volunteer some time and labor this summer. There is a sign-up sheet posted on the bulletin board downstairs.
It is with almost 100 percent certainty that I can say most of us (dare I say all?) don't like the idea of fundraising. Understanding that, our task is imple - make fundraising fun! With that in mind, here is our 2013 challenge ... Although we have our "signature event", the Mittel European Dinner in October, which is a delicious, fun and successsful event for St Herman's, we need to do a better job promoting it. We also need to come up with another event or activity that provides us with the opportunity to generate outside funds AND grow our faith. I'm asking for (2) serious and committed volunteers to help me with this. Our objective is to have both events planned, organized and presented to the entire parish by the end of March, 2013.
Last year was the first time St Herman's formally budgeted monies to be donated to charitable organizations. At the time, we had differing views on whether it was better to send a small amount of money to a number of worthy causes or if we should consolidate our funds to one or two organizations. Another thought would be to take the philanthrophy money out of the budget and designate a specific organization (e.g., Holy Dormition Monastery, MEOCCA, IOCC, etc.) each quarter of the year and have donations given for that specific cause above and beyond "normal" church contributions.
Thank you all for making St Herman's a very special place. May God bless you.
Joseph F. Slater
Parish Council President
January 22, 2012
The Measure of Success in the Church.
Many parishes throughout the country ended 2011 in a deficit. We did, too; although, our deficit wasn’t as large as we anticipated because of the generosity of several. Thank you! Our year-end deficit gives us a chance to reflect on what it means to exist and to function as Christ’s Holy Church in the world. In other words, what is success in the Church?
The Church is in the world, but she is not of the world. When we measure our success against our balance sheet, we become the world that the Church is not of. The success of our parish is not measured against our balance sheet but by the mystery of the Divine Liturgy. Our success as parishioners is measured by the faith and love of our heart. Regardless of the color of our final numbers, we are always able to do the work of faith. This is to crucify the old man in us in our baptismal union with Christ, and, in the joy of Christ’s Resurrection, to partake in Holy Eucharist of the divine nature at every Divine Liturgy. The work of faith and the grace of the Holy Spirit come together to enkindle in our heart the divine fire of God’s love that transforms the heart. A successful Orthodox Christian parish is where this gracious transformation of the human heart is happening. This evangelical success of the Church is altogether independent of our balance sheet.
Such success is achieved by following God’s will, not ours. We suffer a year-end deficit in faithfulness to the Gospel. We enjoy a year-end surplus in faithfulness to the Gospel. In either case, we do not consider worldly strategies – bingo, for example, or a “casino night” or any other gambit that profits off the ignoble inclinations of man’s fallen nature and so betrays the evangelical success of the Church – to address a deficit or pad a surplus.
To this point, Archimandrite Vasilieos (whom I met on the Holy Mountain last May) says in Hymn of Entry:
“What is important is not that we should achieve the project we have set ourselves to achieve, but that the Holy Spirit should do with us and within us what He wishes, when He wishes, regardless of whether this seems or is disastrous for our projects and our good resolutions.” (p. 110)
Working to Succeed at St Herman’s.
I intend with the remarks above to set forth the vision that guides us as a parish. Now, let me describe our work as a parish that proceeds from this vision. This is what we are funding with our offerings and donations. I divide this work into areas of descending priority to guide the management of our revenues in times of scarcity or plenty in a way that serves the evangelical success of our parish.
1. Our work (our liturgy) as an Orthodox Christian parish begins with each one of us taking up our cross through the ascetic disciplines of the Church (fasting, prayer, obedience to the commandments of Christ, reading of Scripture, lives of the saints, regular confession, faithful participation in the divine services of the Church) in order to “enlarge” our heart (2 Cor 6:11-13) in the joy of Christ’s Resurrection with love for Christ and one’s neighbor.
2. We need to maintain the beauty of our building and grounds because the temple is an icon of the Kingdom of Heaven. Its appearance, moreover, can attract or repel seekers. We want our building and grounds to be inviting.
3. Love of neighbor is the natural expression of the heart “enlarged” with love for Christ. Let’s not allow the year-end deficit to be a reason for withdrawing into ourselves. Let’s accept our year-end deficit as a test of our faith and commitment to the Gospel. Let’s challenge ourselves as a parish in 2012 to give something, in spite of our deficit, and even if it’s a token amount, to charity. Because our resources are limited, we need to be judicious in our choice of charities to support. We have adopted five charities: FOCUS (Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve), IOCC (International Orthodox Christian Charities), OCMC (Orthodox Christian Missionary Center), seminarians, and Holy Dormition Monastery. I would like to add a sixth: deanery missions.
a. FOCUS. Did you know we have a separate fund for FOCUS? We draw from that fund to cover the cost of a meal when it is our turn to provide the meal. Even if you are unable to donate to our fund monetarily, you can volunteer yourself by lending a hand in the many jobs FOCUS needs done, such as sorting of clothes, distributing food from the food shelf, and serving the meals.
b. IOCC and OCMC. I propose that we contribute $100 to each of these two charities in the year 2012. At this annual meeting, let’s discuss this amount I’ve proposed and the means for collecting it; i.e., should we make this a line item in our general budget, or should we raise this amount outside of our budget with special collections?
c. Seminarians. One of our own is a seminarian in his second full year at St Tikhon’s seminary. Are there 10 of us who would pledge $10 a month during the remainder of his studies, so that as a parish we can give $100 a month to him and his family?
i. Please remember the Deanery Seminarian Fund-raising Dinner at Jax Café in Northeast Mpls on Sunday, Feb 19. It will be about $60 a plate, over half of which goes to a diocesan fund earmarked for our diocesan seminarians.
d. Holy Dormition Monastery. Mother Abbess Gabriella has sent out an appeal for donations of items needed for the interior of the monastery’s new church. Can we as a parish raise money to donate one of those items? I believe we can. Which item shall it be? The list of items, with pictures, is on the bulletin board downstairs. Take a look before the annual meeting and let’s decide.
e. Deanery Missions. Fr Christopher was ordained to the priesthood two years ago, Jan 30 (Feast of the Three Hierarchs), with the charge to establish a mission in Northfield. While he works on that charge, he is attached to the altar of St Herman’s. Currently, a portion of diocesan assessments is given to a diocesan mission fund. That is the only church source of monetary support for missions. None comes from parishes in whose deanery the mission is being established and nurtured, except through the assessments each parish gives to Chicago. Finding effective means to encourage and support mission work in each deanery deserves more study on the part of the bishop and the diocesan mission council. And, in our deanery, we do have currently other ongoing mission endeavors that would benefit from more active support from the deanery parishes and the diocese. In the meantime, how might we as a parish support Fr Christopher’s work in Northfield? I have nothing specific to suggest – nor does Fr Christopher. With this bullet, I intend only to introduce the principle of actively supporting deanery missions into our parish consciousness, using Fr Christopher’s work in Northfield as a platform, so that we can begin to think about it.
4. Website. An effective website enhances our accessibility to seekers. As follow-up to the discussion of last year’s annual meeting on making improvements to the website, let’s put together a website team. We’ll launch it with a meeting following a brief coffee hour next Sunday (Jan 29). Come to the meeting next Sunday if you’d like to be on this team.
5. Raising Revenue. If we have entered a stretch wherein we are unable amongst ourselves to meet the monetary needs of our parish, then we are not unlike a monastery, such as Holy Dormition. And so, we can look to the monastery as a model for raising needed revenue in evangelical ways. Let’s put together a fund-raising team with the charge to organize and oversee evangelical ways to generate revenue to help us meet our monetary needs. Is there someone who’d volunteer to lead this team?
6. Handicap Access. Let’s make our worship accessible to those unable to negotiate stairs. We have someone in our parish who has offered to donate the materials for a ramp. Do we have individuals in the parish with the skills and desire to build the ramp, and so save us labor costs? Step forward! After we get the ramp built, we can look next at making our basement accessible beyond our current state-of-the-art HAB (Handicap Accessibility Brigade, consisting of three to four strong backs).
Wot Hoppen’d at St Herman’s this year?
We received Graham on Lazarus Saturday, then Sonia on July 24 into the Church through the sacraments of confession and chrismation. A week later, we saw them joined here at St Herman’s in the sacrament of marriage. We are delighted that Providence has put them in the Twin Cities so that they can continue their membership at St Herman’s.
Our son, Mark, was wedded to his sweetie, Nadia, at St Mary’s Cathedral, Nadia’s home parish, on December 30. They have set up in Denver, where Nadia is in medical school and where Mark has launched the Denver branch of his “On the Mark Handyman” business.
Over the summer, Jonathan and Mary engaged themselves in more than conversation. They plan a June 23 wedding at the Greek Orthodox Church in Sioux Falls, SD, near Mary’s family farm.
We had three baptisms this year. We performed a double baptism on June 5, which happened to be the 35th wedding anniversary of Fr Paul and Presbytera. We baptized Caleb Axvig and Henry Chrysostom Wesche. Caleb is the second son of Matthew and Becca, born just a couple of weeks before Pascha. A week after the baptism, the Axvigs moved to San Francisco because of Becca’s job; but, we’re holding them to their promise to return to the Twin Cities and St Herman’s this summer. Henry is the son of Sean and Rachel. He is Fr Paul and Presbytera’s first grandchild. That makes Fr Paul a grand dad, even though he’s not. Henry was born on Holy Saturday. On October 3, Svetlena and Richard Jones gave Illiana her second grandchild, and – whew! – gave him a name that grandma approved: Elliot Alexander. He was baptized on Nov 13.
Sadly (and with a lot of nerve, I’d say), a number of our faithful moved to other parts of the country because of jobs or school or disgust with Minnesota winters. We miss them. But we are delighted to welcome Myron, Igor and Yulia and Constantine, Peter, and Sonia and her children into our parish family. Sonia says she’s just passing through on her way to Alaska. I believe that’s near Tipperari, since both are “a long way.”
Donald Patterson passed away on December 10, after living the last four or five years on the Alzheimer’s unit at Mt Olivet Careview Home. A Navy veteran, he was buried from St Herman’s at Fort Snelling with military honors. May his memory be eternal!
Did you know that St Herman’s has expanded into Bemidji? Bemidji residents, Dr John and Suzie, are working with the deanery to explore the possibility of establishing a mission there. For now, they are considered, somewhat informally, a “chapel”; and, as a chapel, they need to be attached to a parish. They are therefore attached to our parish (because ours is the Dean’s parish). Practically, this means we’ll want to contact our insurance agent to learn if there are any liability issues for us because of our association with the Bemidji chapel.
And, did you know that St Herman’s can actually boast a clergy staff? We know that Fr Christopher is attached to our altar. You also should have known that Fr Vladimir Lecko, priest-in-charge of the mission in Minocqua, WI, and Fr Oliver Herbel, priest-in-charge of the mission in Fargo, ND are attached to St Herman’s altar. So also now is the recently ordained Fr Dunstan Lyon. He is currently “on loan” to Twelve Apostles Greek Orthodox Church in Duluth (pastored by our sympatico, Fr Tim Sas, so-called because he is the brother of our daughter’s husband), but he is officially attached by His Grace, Bp Matthias, to the altar of St Herman’s.
There are no dues required to be a member of St Herman’s. What is required is not our money but our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and the desire to obey His command to take up our cross and follow Him. To be a member of St Herman’s, you must, of course, be a baptized, chrismated Orthodox Christian. You must receive the sacrament of confession at least once a year; you must participate in the divine services of the Church regularly and faithfully; and you must be making a sincere effort to live the life of your baptism 24/7.
Even so, you see that our parish does need money to exist and to function in the world as a visible witness to the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ. On this point, I call two notices to your attention:
1. Our parish is not an entity unto itself. We are in the communion of the Orthodox Church throughout the world. Members specifically of the Orthodox Church in America, we join all the other parishes of the OCA in funding the ministries of the OCA on the diocesan and national levels. For every member of our parish, we give about $200 a year to our diocesan chancery in Chicago, out of which the diocese then forwards a portion to the national chancery in New York to fund the ministries of the national church. This means that about $200 of whatever we give to St Herman’s goes each year to Chicago. We need to remember that as we consider what we can give to meet the earthly needs and to serve the evangelical vision of our parish.
2. The Gospel does not require those who are called to live in the world to live in poverty. Indeed, the Gospel calls those living in the world to provide for their needs and the needs of those entrusted to their care (cf. I Tim 5:8). But, the Gospel, not the world, is our life. The world is our death. In this world, we live for God, not for the world. In faith, we offer our worldly life to God that He may transform our heart and raise us from death to life in His Heavenly Kingdom. Our money is part of our worldly life that we offer to God as an expression of our love for the Lord Jesus Christ and His Holy Mother. And so, out of our abundance, we should remember first the Church, her earthly needs and her evangelical work; and then, we should remember that we are called through faith to be co-workers in the evangelical work of the Church, which is the salvation of the world. Let our giving, then, be an offering of joy and love for Christ and His Holy Church. Let us each one seek first the Kingdom of God and trust Him to provide for our needs, believing that He knows what we need even before we ask (Mt 6:8).
The triennial All-American Council of the OCA was held this year in Seattle, WA, the first week of November. Our annual diocesan assembly was held on Monday morning and afternoon of that week at the venue of the All-American Council. We did not have the funds for me to attend either of these meetings. To review the proceedings of those two meetings, you may read the minutes on the OCA website (www.oca.org) and on our diocesan website (www.midwestdiocese.org).
Members of St. Herman’s Orthodox Parish,
It has been a privilege and honor to serve as the Parish Council President at St. Herman’s during the past year. As we all look forward to a new and exciting year ahead of us, I wanted to share some of my reflections for a moment on the past 12 months with you.
To varying degrees we were all aware of (and affected by) the tremendous economic and social changes that played out in 2011. I am both happy and proud to say that throughout the year members of St. Herman’s successfully worked together to create a faith based community that actively lived the tenets of the bible. The leadership provided by Fr. Paul, Fr. Christopher, Presbytera Nancy and Presbytera Gretchen set a clear example for all of us and was critical to our growth and development. Our services are special not only because of the rich Orthodox history and tradition we follow, but also because of the effort and talent each and every one us brings to Church. Great job, Everyone!
Our Parish is a combination of many components, not the least of which is the physical building itself. This past year, due to the selfless sacrifice of many parishioners, we have been blessed with the ability to worship in a beautiful, clean and welcoming church. Most, if not all of this work is done in relative anonymity. To mention just a few projects: we have finally addressed and corrected the source of water leaking into Fr. Paul’s office and have renovated the office so that it is now a room in which we can proudly host visiting clergy or for Fr. Paul to meet with parishioners/visitors. St. Herman’s now has a beautiful bookstore in our basement that adds an elegant touch to our lower level and provides us and visitors the convenient opportunity to purchase icons, crosses, books on Orthodoxy and many other relevant materials. Some of you will notice there is no longer a cold draft coming through the south side entrance door thanks to a recent door replacement. I could go but I think the message is clear. We have much to be proud of and thankful for.
In Fr. Paul’s Pastor’s Report, he touched upon a theme that I had been thinking of for a number of months. To borrow a phrase from a Disney movie, our community experienced firsthand the earthly “Circle of Life”. Birth, baptism, marriage and death all took place within our small community last year. Each of these events provided us with a wonderful and powerful way to share the mysteries and wonders God has provided us. One very personal request that I ask of each member of St. Herman’s is to remember in your daily prayers one of our own, John Faas, who gave his life in August of 2011 protecting our freedoms, not the least of which is our ability to practice our Orthodox faith.
Our Treasurer’s report will touch upon the financial results of 2011, but allow me again to share a few thoughts. When we met last year for our Annual Meeting, we collectively committed to set our goals high. In some respects we fell short of those goals, but in the process we became a better and stronger parish. We stayed true to our commitment to take our faith outside the confines of our church. We honored all of our financial commitments in the face of a brutal economy and we were able to provide a beautiful gift to Fr. Paul on the occasion of his being awarded the Jeweled Cross by the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America. Most important, we did all this with a positive and warm attitude. Once again, great job everyone.
Looking forward to 2012, I see many opportunities for all of us to grow not only as individuals in our Orthodox faith, but as a community. Our spiritual guidance will come from Fr. Paul and Fr. Christopher. Could we ask for two better Priests? On the more worldly matters of maintaining and growing our parish, we have a solid foundation, good leadership, willing contributors and an unbreakable spirit. Our finances are tight, but manageable. We need each and every member to participate to the best of their ability towards the achievement of our financial objectives. In addition to our individual monetary contributions, we MUST establish and grow some other revenue streams. The Middle European Dinner held in October has proven to be a St. Herman’s signature event and will be continued. We are establishing a small steering committee to explore and analyze other service-based revenue generating events and ask that everyone give some serious thoughts on appropriate ideas that may a good fit for our Parish.
Not only do we need to continue meeting our “regular” expenses, but we must look at those who are less fortunate and do what we can to give them a “hand up” in their lives. Time, talent, treasure and prayer are all effective tools we have at our disposal to treat people with the love, kindness and respect our faith teaches us to exercise. We also must continue maintaining and repairing our church building. We are blessed with having such a beautiful church and with that blessing comes the responsibility of taking care of it.
I have gone on much longer than anticipated so I will end here. Thank you for your kindness and consideration in reading this report. Thank you also for all that YOU do in making St. Herman’s a truly exceptional community. May God bless you.
Joseph F. Slater-Parish Council President
No doubt, I expose my shallowness introducing my Pastor’s Report with a comic strip and not a passage from Scripture or the holy fathers. (Someone kind please say it shows I'm well-read.) So, what point is Zits making for me?
Even in our day, we hear reports from certain places in the world, Egypt and Niger, for example, of Christians persecuted and even slain because they are Christians. Meanwhile, the Lord grants to our “civil authorities and armed forces peaceful times, that in their peace and tranquility we may lead a calm and peaceful life in all godliness and sanctity.” My purpose in this year’s pastor’s report is to offer practical recommendations on how we can be more diligent to live in all godliness and sanctity in expression of our gratitude to God for this blessing He has granted us in this country. Let me introduce these recommendations with the following reflections.
Given all the diversions that can keep us excessively diverted in our American culture at any time of the day, and given how much more pleasant it would be to spend Sunday morning at the kitchen table with the morning paper (or Kindle or I-pad) in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other, with the smell of bacon sizzling on the stove promising more delights to come, I am impressed that you choose to make your way to Church every or even any Sunday morning, foregoing not only the coffee and the bacon but all food and drink in order to stand for long periods of time with but one break (the sermon; and, you should be glad for long sermons because they give you a long break from standing). Choosing to fast from all food and drink on Sunday morning in order to come to Church to pray and, after standing for an interminably long time, to receive a tiny piece of bread and barely a sip of wine – even though we do call it Holy Eucharist, Holy Thanksgiving – when you could be giving yourself to an excessively diverting three strips of bacon and a morning cup of coffee in your warm home kitchen, shows somewhere beneath all your annoying idiosyncrasies, your faults and personality disorders (just kidding!) a measure of living faith that sets you apart from the world (2 Cor 6:17). I pray that God will bless you for it.
But, let’s not forget that while we are showing praiseworthy dedication when we choose to suffer the discomfort of standing for a long time, hoping for a long sermon so we can sit for a long time, our brothers and sisters in certain parts of the world are suffering the threat if not the actuality of martyrdom, as did Christians of old, simply for the reputation of being a Christian.
Speaking for myself, I don’t need or desire even the lowest seat at the table of the Messianic banquet. I’ll be happy just to be one of the saps who plays go-fer to the doorkeeper of the House of God. (Ps 84:10) So, I’m fine getting no closer to martyrdom than hearing reports about it.
Yet, such reports like to change media and play like a mirror; and the face looking back at me in these reports looks not a little like those whose portrait is drawn by the Psalmist: “Our souls are sated with the scorn of those who are at ease, the contempt of the proud” (Ps 123:4); or, like Zits: “so cranky from the suffering of not having suffered.” It makes me wonder: am I sufficiently redeeming the time of these evil days (Eph 5:16), am I living in enough godliness and sanctity to qualify even for a position as the sappy go-fer of the doorkeeper of the House of God?
A New Role Model?
Maybe I need a role model less cranky than Zits, maybe even someone more biblical. I may have found such a one in the scripture assigned for our daily reading not many days ago: “By faith, Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered abuse suffered for Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he looked to the reward.” (Heb 11:24-25)
How about that? Moses, too, raised as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, suffered the suffering of not having suffered. Was he cranky? I think it unlikely because the Scripture says that he chose to share ill treatment with God’s people over the pleasures of Egypt, and that he considered abuse suffered for Christ to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt.
Okay, so we can’t say – or rather, let’s hope we can’t say – that we’re choosing ill treatment or abuse like Moses did when we choose to come to Church on Sunday morning. But, even though the suffering we endure when we choose to come to Church on Sunday morning may be the suffering of never having suffered compared to what our brothers and sisters suffer in other parts of the world, still, we may find ourselves feeling not so cranky when we come to Church and we catch a glimpse, a faint perception, of the heavenly joy that awaits those who draw near to God in fear and trembling, with faith and love. This joy, I believe, is the affect of the sacred call that goes out to all those of faith, to all of you who choose to come to stand in Church on Sunday morning rather than sitting in your excessively diverting kitchens. Whether we live in peace and tranquility or under the threat of martyrdom, we are called to the sacred responsibility of serving God as stewards of His mysteries. That is a call for us to redeem the time, whether it is peaceful and tranquil or not, to live in all godliness and sanctity, because God wants us to walk wherever we’re walking as children of the light and of the day (Eph 5:8). He wants us to be lights set on a hill (Mt 5:14), witnesses to the highest destiny for which He created man, the destiny to become partakers of His divine nature. (II Pt 1:4)
My Point, Finally.
This brings me to the practical and accessible ways I offer to you as ways to help us use the peace and tranquility that we enjoy in this country to full advantage in order to redeem the time of our earthly sojourning, striving to be conformed no longer to the world but transformed by the renewing of our mind (Rm 12:2) in the Mind of Christ (Phil 2:5-11), making ourselves ready for the life of the world to come, even if it is only as a sappy go-fer to the doorkeeper of the House of God. Here are my pastoral recommendations to us at St Herman’s for taking full advantage of the peaceful times God is granting to our country that we may shape our lives in all godliness and sanctity:
1. Up your participation in the divine services of the Church a notch or two. St Herman’s offers services throughout the week: Vespers, Matins, Akathists. These are preparation for our coming together to celebrate the Divine Liturgy on Sunday, the Day of Resurrection. We observe all twelve major feasts, and a few of the lesser feasts. If these feasts fall during the week, we observe them with a Vesperal Divine Liturgy in the evening after most of us have come home from work (to our excessively diverting kitchens).
2. When you wake up each morning, call your mind immediately to the remembrance of God with a prayer, such as: “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Find time each day to read the daily assigned Scripture lessons. Put a bible where it can be easily reached from where you like to camp out in the evening, and reach out for it while you are sitting there, camped out. Open it and read from it. Open to the Psalms and pray what you read. Do the same thing with the Philokalia, the Festal Menaion, the Lenten Triodion, and other spiritual texts of the Church. As you lie in bed falling asleep, rather than allowing your mind to be drawn after fantasies of the night, settle on the remembrance of God by turning your mind to reflection on the heavenly reality to which the Scriptures and spiritual texts of the Church bear witness, and by saying a prayer, such as: “Lord now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace…” The goal is to put ourselves in the light of God that shines in His Holy Word so that the eye of our understanding is illumined and we are slowly transformed by the renewing of our minds in Christ.
3. Establish a time and place to enter your closet and pray in secret each day. Observe the fasts of the Church, in secret, with all of us in the Church. In other words, work to call your mind again and again to the remembrance of God through prayer and fasting – in secret so that your effort does not lead to spiritual pride but to a keen consciousness of our sinfulness and of God’s mercy, and so to humility and a thirst for repentance. Our goal isn’t that people know we are praying and fasting. It is to put to death what is earthly in us (Col 3:5) and to become like God, to acquire the mind that was in Christ who emptied Himself and humbled Himself and was obedient to God even to the point of death on the Cross (Phil 2:5-11), and so to become lights set on a hill, shining with the Light of Christ, with the humility and kindness of Christ, in the darkness of this world.
Now, everything I’ve said up to now really is context and set-up for these next two bullets:
4. Sign up and become active on one or more of the teams we have established at St Herman’s. Through active participation on these teams, ministering to the Church and her physical needs becomes imbedded in the fabric of our lives. Then, devotion to the Church isn’t just theoretical but concrete. Church becomes less peripheral and more central to our life. The Church building, because it is built specifically as a Christian temple, is a silent, ever-constant witness on the corner of 54th and 38th to the Orthodox Christian Gospel of Jesus Christ. By attending to the needs of the Church building both within and without, we witness in a very concrete way to our love for the Orthodox Church and her Gospel. Not only that, if our building shows that we care for it by keeping it clean, attractive and in repair, at the very least we show we are responsible and conscientious; and we won’t scare away any seekers of the Spirit who look at our building and its upkeep as a reflection of our commitment to the faith we profess.
5. Of the teams at St Herman’s, let me draw special attention to our philanthropy team. I have directed this team, under the leadership of Rachel Wesche and Pat Rolston, to identify a select number of Orthodox ministries and one non-Orthodox ministry, and to direct and organize our efforts as a parish in devoting time, energy and money to these ministries, over and above our donations and offerings to the general operating expenses of our parish to ensure a balanced budget at the end of each year. Chief of the Orthodox ministries, of course, is FOCUS. Beyond that, I have recommended that we include Holy Dormition Monastery, IOCC, OCMC and our seminaries: St Herman’s in Alaska, St Tikhon’s in South Canaan, Pennsylvania, and St Vladimir’s in Crestwood, NY. The philanthropy team is working to identify the one non-Orthodox ministry or charity that they will recommend we support as a parish.
A BIT OF WOT’S HOPPENIN’ AT ST HERMAN’S
v Converts help us stay fresh in our zeal for the Faith. We were blessed to receive Justin Gronbach, Giulia Lang and Laura Simantz on Lazarus Saturday last year. This coming Pascha, we look forward to receiving Graham Pardun into the Church. That will leave Ben Julian as our lone catechumen for now. He was received into the catechumenate on Saturday, Jan 22. His sponsor is Robert Morse. We are hopeful to chrismate Ben around Pascha, 2012.
v On a very warm July day last summer we saw Alex Zonn, son of St Herman parishioners, Dennis and Neva Zonn, marry his sweetheart, newly chrismated Laura, here at St Herman’s. Alex and his new bride serve our country as a marine and wife of a marine. Alex and his bride now live, I believe, on a military base in California.
v In September, Robert Gauvain moved with his family to Pennsylvania to matriculate at St Tikhon’s Orthodox Seminary in South Canaan. He joins Joshua Ford as a St Herman’s seminarian. He did not join Joshua at St Tikhon’s. Joshua is at St Vladimir’s with his wife, Malene, and their two children. They are in their third and final year at SVS. Depending on how things unfold for Joshua and Malene, we may see them return to St Herman’s sometime this summer. We sure hope so!
v Shortly after Robert and his family settled at St Tikhon’s, new St Tikhon’s graduate and newly ordained priest, Fr Christopher Maciolek and his family settled at St Herman’s, Fr Christopher having been attached to the altar of St Herman’s this summer. They are a blessing to the life of our parish. Fr Christopher and his family bought a home in Northfield. There, they hope to begin an Orthodox mission. Those plans, however, are on hold for now. Fr Christopher and his family are serving Christ the Savior in Anoka for the deanery (that’s why we don’t see them here on Sundays) until a new priest can be assigned there.
v In November, the Holy Synod elected a new bishop for our diocese. Archimandrite Matthias will be consecrated and installed on Bright Saturday weekend in Chicago. I plan to attend those events, hopefully with Presbytera. Let me also announce that I have been invited to go on a pilgrimage to Mt Athos with Fr Tim Sas, Fr Rick Andrews, Fr Tom Begley, Dr Harry Booslais (Dogmatics Professor at St Tikhon’s) and Paul Karos, May 23 – June 1. On the two Sundays of my absence, when I will be in Chicago and on Mt Athos, St Herman’s will be served by Fr Christopher.
v Our National Church this year holds its biennial National Assembly (Sobor or Council) in Seattle, WA, Mon Oct 31 – Fri, Nov 4. To ease the burden on parishes by funding one rather than two sets of travel expenses for clergy and delegate, our Diocese will hold its annual Diocesan Assembly also during that time. I will be attending, of course. We may send one lay delegate to this assembly. However, our practice has been to ask the delegate we send from St Herman’s to pay his or her own way to keep our St Herman’s treasury quiet.
v By God’s grace, it looks like there will be the baptism of four St Herman newborns before our next annual meeting in 2012. Can you name the mothers of the four?
v Finally, our parish council president for the last (he says four but I say at least) five years, Gene Rebeck, is stepping down for a much deserved break (he’s been President for such a long time – kinda like standing in the Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning instead of sitting in our excessively diverting kitchens – that we’ve lost count of how many years it’s been). Thank you, Gene, for outstanding service to the parish. We are in the good place we are today thanks in no small part to the way you handled the parish council presidency.
 From the anaphora of the Divine Liturgy.
Unless you vote otherwise today, I expect this will be my last report to you as president of the parish council, at least for some time. It has been my honor to serve you these past four years, and I hope I haven’t served you too badly. I know there is more I could have done. But thanks to all of you, we’ve gotten some things done.
In 2010, the most notable achievements (in my mind) were finally repairing the bell tower and fixing the north undercroft leaking. We should be in good shape there for some time. (We've sprung a few new leaks since then, but we're working on 'em.)
But in this report, I’d rather focus on what you have done this year. However imperfect my leadership, St. Herman’s thrives because of all of us—because of the love each of us bears for the parish.The members of the council, as always, have all worked hard this past year. They’ve debated wisely, given excellent counsel, and have kept the Parish’s health always forefront in their minds. Many, many thanks to Mary Kaye, Rob, Joe, and Fr. Paul for all the time they’ve taken, and for all their love, work, and vision.
And thanks to all of you for all you do. Many of us, perhaps most of us, don’t know all of what each of us gives the parish in terms of time and work. I suspect that’s the way each of us prefers that our gifts be looked upon—not done for recognition, but for the joy we receive in giving them. As president, I may know a little more than most of all that’s done behind the scenes, so to speak.
But I’m sure I know far from everything. Even so, it would make for a very, very long report were I to list what I do know. And still my gratitude—our gratitude—would be insufficient. We all keep St. Herman’s going.
And of course, at the risk of embarrassing my fellow German-American (I’m only part German by ancestry, actually), may I offer Fr. Paul a large verbal bouquet of love and gratitude for his leadership, both practical and spiritual? I may, and will.
Thanks be to God. For this parish. For all of you.
Parish Council President
Using the pastor’s report as an occasion to set forth a “New Year’s Resolution” for the parish of St Herman’s, I hope in what follows to inspire us to a deeper love of the Gospel and to awaken thereby a desire for deeper repentance, taking up the spiritual work of absorbing our baptismal vow, which is to unite ourselves to Christ, into our everyday lives on a deeper level so that the life of the Church – the life of Christ’s Holy Resurrection – is becoming less and less a part of our lives, and more and more our very life.
The New Year sets before us the fact of the passing of time. Let’s reflect on the Gospel from the perspective of the passing of time.
The Shape of Ancient Thought. In ancient thought, the shape of space-time was a circle. Time moves in a circle so that it is always coming back to where it began. You could say that life is just a spinning of our wheels. We’re never getting anywhere except closer to death, which only takes us back to birth, which leads again to death which leads to rebirth and to death and so on and on and on. Different schemes of salvation sought escape from this circle of life by distinguishing the immortal part of the soul from its mortal parts and from the body, and so also from ‘history’, so that the soul at death could break away from the circle of space-time and soar into the “eighth sphere”, into a timeless eternity where it dissolved back into the One whence it came in the “bliss” of an undifferentiated unity.
The Shape of the Gospel. Theology, from the Greek theos (God) and logos (word), is not talk about God; it is an understanding of God and an engagement of space-time from the perspective of God the Word, who is Christ Jesus, the Son of God through whom all things were made who became flesh and dwelt among us. Christian theology, then, is grounded in the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures, which teach us that the shape of space-time is not an endless circle but more like a line, with a definite beginning when the world was brought from non-existence into being and a definite end when the world will be in God, man will fulfill his having been made in the image and likeness of God and become a partaker of the divine nature, and God will be all in all.
That end, actually, has already been accomplished in Christ. In the mystery of his Incarnation, he has united man to God, and God to man. He has united man not just in his soul but also in his body to God, and God to man not only in soul but also in body; and he has united God to man not in an undifferentiated unity where the many are dissolved into the one, but in the love of the Holy Trinity which is not an undifferentiated unity but a differentiated unity of communion.
In Christ, salvation is not escape from space-time but the healing of space-time. Christ healed space-time when, on the Sixth Day of the Week (Holy Friday) he finished his creation by destroying death, so that even death now is united to God, and Christ is all in all. In the salvation of space-time accomplished by Christ on his Cross, time is revealed to be moving in meaning. History has meaning. And so, we pass from year to year not as in an endless, meaningless cycle from which we seek escape but as from Egypt to the Land of Promise, from darkness to light, from non-existence to being and from being to well-being, and from well-being to eternal being (St Maximus the Confessor), from the narthex in the West to the baptismal font and to the Holy Chalice in the East, from having been created in the image and likeness of God to becoming partakers of the divine nature, communicants of life eternal, children of light, living eternally in God in the pure joy of the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God the Father and the Communion of the Holy Spirit.
This is the theological revelation of the true essence of love. It is not an undifferentiated unity, as the ancients saw it from the perspective of their own wisdom. In such a unity, the beloved dissolves into the lover and disappears; and so love disappears. This, if you will, is what proves the error of philosophy: it cannot support or explain what we know of love. It betrays our own intuitive experience of love.
Theology reveals love to be a mystery of communion in the love, the life and the light of the Holy Trinity, Three in One, One in Three, where the Three do not dissolve into the One but are even so absolutely One, not according to the mystical character of Number but according to the mystery of Love. For, God is Love because he is Three in One. In the Holy Trinity, Lover and Beloved, Receiver and Received, Offerer and Offered never dissolve into each other, even as they are eternally one in each other in a mystery of personal, loving communion. In God, love never disappears, because the Beloved never dissolves into the Lover even as they are eternally and wholly one in and with each other.
The Meaning of Life According to the Gospel. The theological vision of the Church reveals that the meaning of life is to unite ourselves to Christ. In Him we realize the principle of our nature, which is our having been made in the image of God. We become one with God as partakers of the divine nature, communicants of life eternal. Theology, then, reveals to us the path our life should be following. Each year should find us farther along the path of divine love, loving God with our heart, soul, strength and mind more than we did last year.
We are like seeds that have been sown in the field of the world by the Holy Spirit, the Seed of God. And, like God the Holy Spirit, we are free to move about, to “blow” where we will. That is to say, we are free to choose in whom we will place our trust: in princes and sons of men, or in God. But we are created in the image of God, which is Christ. The root of our being is in Christ in the communion of the Holy Spirit. Our natural purpose is to “blow” toward the East, where the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God, has risen from the dead, trampling down death by death. Our dogmatic Tradition teaches us that we are not truly free until we are in Christ, “blowing” toward the East. To attain to the freedom that is ours by nature in God, we should be moving along the narrow path that leads to the rising Sun, that we may grow into a tree of life, bringing forth the fruit of life, which is Christ.
The Iconography of Baptism. In a word, the purpose of life is to become one with God in love. In our baptism, our bodies were made wet with the blessed waters and made clean. Then, we were clothed with the Robe of Light and led to the Holy Chalice where we received into our bodies the precious and all-holy body and blood of Our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ. We were incorporated bodily into Christ’s body and his body was incorporated bodily into our body. We were rooted again in Christ; the roots of our being were translated from the soil of death to the soil of life, from darkness to light, from earth to heaven.
The ascetic disciplines of the Church include unceasing prayer, fasting from the soul-destroying passions of the flesh, regular confession of our sins, practicing the holy commandments of God, training our minds on the study of God’s Word in Holy Scripture, the teachings of the Holy Fathers, training our ears on the preaching of the Church (the body of Christ and so the continuing incarnation of Christ on earth) as it is proclaimed in her holy dogmas and in the prayers and hymns of her liturgical, sacramental worship, and constant repentance (mindfully and in constant vigilance turning our secret heart’s desire away from the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life and toward the Light of Christ on Mt Tabor). Through the Church’s ascetic disciplines, we make our inward being wet with the living waters of the Holy Spirit and we clothe our inward being with the Fire of the Holy Spirit as with the Robe of Light.
We must wear that Robe of Fire unceasingly. We must strive never to take it off. That’s why ascetic discipline is so vital. It is the way by which we keep our inward being wet with the living waters of the Holy Spirit and clothed in the Robe of Fire. As we do so, the watery fire of the Holy Spirit warms our inward being down to the marrow of our soul and makes it moist with the spiritual seed of divine life. Slowly but surely, it breaks up the ground of a hardened heart and makes it soft until by and by, that heart begins to glow from within with the fire of God’s Holy Spirit, the fire of love for God; and, in that love for God, the heart is created anew. The bride opens her chamber to the Heavenly Bridegroom and the two become one in the ineffable mystery of what the Church has called the Spiritual Marriage, the Marriage of Christ and his Church.
Why the World Needs the Church. This meaning of life is realized in Christ’s holy Church, not in the world. In Christ’s holy Church, the world is not discarded; moments as they pass away into the past are not discarded and lost. Rather, in the Church, the world is cleansed and sanctified. Moments as they pass away into the past are not discarded and lost because they have been united to Christ. In his holy Incarnation, he stretched out his arms on the Cross and embraced the whole of space-time. He brought the past and the future into the eternal Today of his Holy Resurrection. This is the Day into which we “pass over” in the Church’s liturgical and sacramental worship. In the Church, Christ is always present “in our midst”! And, in the Church, the whole of space-time is always present in Christ. In Christ, nothing is lost except sin and evil. All that is good is saved.
The deepest need of mankind is the healing of the soul wounded by the devastating effects of sin. The source of the world’s woes is to be found in the hidden depths of the human spirit, in the heart, which is the ontological center of our being. There, we are all connected to one another. There, we open onto God. And there, we have each one chosen to go our own way. There, the choices we make send ripples throughout the waters of human nature affecting it for good or evil. There, into the bridal chamber of the heart, having become a tomb because of our sin, Christ descended and by his death and resurrection he rolled away the stone to the tomb and opened the human heart to God. In his Holy Resurrection, he blazed a path from earth to heaven, and in Holy Pentecost, he flooded the human soul with the uncreated fire of his all good and life-creating Spirit.
The faithful cultivate unceasing prayer in unflagging repentance for the purpose of descending into the heart in order to step into the healing touch of Christ’s Holy Spirit, to be bathed in the living waters of his Spiritual love, and to rise out onto the other side of the tomb as a new creature, a child born from above, in the Holy Resurrection of Christ. In the love of Christ, we unite ourselves to all of mankind in the interior depths of our heart, and there, in the sanctuary of our heart, we offer ourselves in Christ to the Father on behalf of all and for all in the fervent prayer that all may be saved and come to the knowledge of the Truth, which is Christ Jesus, the Wisdom of God and the Love of God, the Way, the Truth and the Life.
The acquisition of God’s love for the world, which the Christian begins to feel in his heart, expresses itself in loving deeds of service but above all in the loving deed of intercessory prayer for the world. It sends ripples of divine healing throughout the waters of human nature that reach down to the marrow of the soul, to the personal center of the heart. This is why it so important for the faithful to lay hold with zeal the effort of repentance to attain to the dignity of their high calling in Christ, and to the stature and the fullness of Christ.
Renewing Our Resolve. It was a joy to go around, invited or not, and bless all the homes of the St Herman’s faithful. I was heartened by the joy with which you, the faithful, welcomed me. You were sincerely glad to receive me, like Zaccheus welcoming the Lord into his home. Bringing the waters of the Jordan from the Church into each home is an icon of how we are all united together in the holy joy and the uncreated light of Christ that shines forth in the glorious Feast of Theophany.
Our homes have now been touched by the blessed waters of Theophany. The love of the Holy Trinity has quite literally been sprinkled on the walls of our homes. Let us resolve to open our hearts to the joy of that divine love. Let us take up our cross so that the old man in us begins to wither away and the New Man begins to rise, so that the life we live at home is less and less the life of the world and more and more the divine Life of the Holy Spirit in the joy of Christ’s Holy Resurrection – so that the life of the Church is less and less a part of our life and more and more our very life; so that what is shaping our life and the lives of our children is not the values of worldly wisdom but the theological mysteries of the Church’s Holy Wisdom.
We move into the New Year and set our sights again on the blessed seasons of Great Lent and Pascha. Inspired by the beauty and glory of the Church’s theological vision, let’s renew our baptismal resolution to unite ourselves to Christ. Let’s resolve to make full participation in the life of the Church’s worship our priority so that the Spirit of Christ is what shapes us within and without, and not the spirit of the world. Let us resolve to center our daily life on the worship of the Church, to come together on the corner of 38th and 54th as often as our circumstances allow in the Eucharistic Joy of the Cross to render incarnate and to make manifest the mystery of Christ’s body that is “in our midst” here and now in the world. Let us resolve to come to the Light of the Church’s worship that we might become Light and so bear witness to the healing Light of divine love by walking in the Light of Christ’s holy commandments as he is in the Light.
Pausing to Give Thanks. In the light of Theophany, where nothing good slips away into the darkness of the past, but even the past is made light in its union with the ever present Today of the Savior’s Holy Resurrection, we look back over the past year as though over a field of time bathed with the light of Eucharistic joy. What joy it was to receive Darren and Jessica into the Church on the Sunday of the Cross; and then Joe, Jonathan, Robert, Matthew and Becca and Phyllis on Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday, and finally Rachel only a few weeks later. The baptism of an infant is an especially beautiful manifestation of God’s love and grace, and we were blessed to baptize Veronika Zoe Gauvain this last year, and then a few months later, Zoe Geneva Ford. It was sad but we were at the same time very proud to send Zoe Geneva and her brother, Aidan, and their parents, Joshua and Malene, off to St Vladimir’s Seminary in New York where Joshua began his studies in the Masters of Divinity Program.
Only a few weeks after her Chrismation, Phyllis then gave us the gift of a wedding at St Herman’s: her own. And then I suppose we gave Phyllis as a gift to her new husband, Paul Twedt, and he received the gift with love and moved out to Tacoma, WA with her. We need to remember Paul and Phyllis in our prayers as they must suffer the sight of Mt Raineer rising high into the sky just outside their window every day. My family and I had a chance to visit the newlyweds, Paul and Phyllis, when we took our vacation this summer on the Olympic Penninsula. We can report that Paul and Phyllis are putting up with the Pacific Northwest and Mt Raineer well enough that they won’t be returning to the Midwest anytime soon. They have been attending the OCA mission parish in Tacoma.
Shortly after his Chrismation, which was itself just before his college graduation, Jonathan left us for a time to work for the Peace Corps in some unpronounceable country of the Near East, that only the French can spell, one of those whose last names is “Stan”. We sent him off with our love and pride, and we are so very glad to receive him back again safe and sound. He returned home around Christmas time.
Because of her work schedule, Linda Marks, who was newly chrismated just a couple of short years ago, wasn’t able to be with us in worship as she would have liked; and so many of our newcomers didn’t get to know this sweet woman. Her work schedule finally changed. Unfortunately, it changed because she retired and then she fulfilled a dream years in the making and moved up to the UP. She stays in touch through e-mail and promises that we will see her again from time to time whenever she returns to the Twin Cities for a visit.
Turning around from our vantage point here in the light of Theophany, we cast our eyes forward to see what blessings God might have in store for us in the months to come. Another infant baptism is coming up! Congratulations to Matthew and Becca on the birth of Aidric Daniel on Wednesday, January 21. By the grace of God, we plan to baptize Aidric Daniel during the Divine Liturgy either on Meatfare Sunday, March 1 or on Orthodoxy Sunday, March 8.
We also see two more weddings coming up. Wait a minute! They’re our kids! Nancy and I are pleased to announce that Christina found her man and will be marrying eMANuel Olimpiu Sas on Memorial Day Sunday, May 24th. eMANuel is the brother of one of Fr Paul’s dear friends, Fr Tim Sas, who serves the Greek Orthodox Church in Duluth, and their parents are Fr Aurel and Lidia Sas who serve the Romanian Orthodox Church in Las Vegas. Look for an overload of priests in their white paschal cassocks standing beside a couple of weeping presbyteras on that Sunday of May 24. And then there’s our oldest, Sean, who set his eyes on Rachel Johnson when he first saw her, and never took them off. They are planning a wedding on Sunday, July 26th. Rachel is Emily’s sister. They are the daughters of parents who were missionaries to Papua New Guinea, whereas Sean is the great grandson of the Rev Kenneth Plank and Pearl Wesche, who were missionaries to China in the 1930’s and ‘40’s. You have watched Sean and Rachel’s romance blossom before your eyes, right here in our parish, and no doubt are not at all surprised at the flower it is about to produce.
And so time passes on. But in the Church, time doesn’t so much pass on as it “passes over”. As each moment dies away, it dies in Christ, and it passes over into his Holy Resurrection; and in Christ’s Holy Resurrection the momentous moments and the ordinary moments of our life are each one filled with meaning and purpose. We see our children growing and getting married – just like we did; we see our loved ones dying and passing away – just like we will one day. Apart from the light of the Gospel, it all seems to be a spinning, meaningless round in which the present moment is always slipping away to become nothing but a memory in an empty past that no longer exists. But in the vision of the Gospel, each moment is illumined in the light of God’s love for the world manifested in the mystery of His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ; and, in Christ, each moment is meaningful because it is filled with love, the love of Christ who is All in all. The love of Christ illumines all. The love of Christ heals all. The love of Christ unites all. The love of Christ fills all with hope and meaning. Let us resolve to take off the rags of this worldly life that is dead in its trespasses and put on the Robe of Light of divine Love and from this day, from this hour, from this moment, let us walk in the light of Christ as he is in the light, and so we shall ever be with the Lord. Amen.