Historic Archangel Michael Cathedral here was the site of the installation of His Grace, Bishop Nikolai, as the 18th ruling bishop of the Orthodox Church in America’s Diocese of Sitka and Alaska on Monday and Tuesday, March 4 and 5, 2002.
The Diocese, the oldest in North America, traces its origins to the work of Orthodox missionaries who arrived in Kodiak, AK in 1794.
His Beatitude, Metropolitan Theodosius, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, presided over the two-day celebration.
On Monday evening, hundreds of faithful from across Alaska filled the cathedral for the singing of the Akathist Hymn in honor of the wonderworking icon of Our Lady of Sitka, after which a reception was held in the cathedral fellowship hall.
On Tuesday morning, Metropolitan Theodosius was the main celebrant at the Divine Liturgy, at which faithful from the Aleutian and Pribilof Islands added Unangan Aleut to the choir of Tlingit and Yupik voices.
“The Diocese that has been placed in your care is vast,” Metropolitan Theodosius exhorted Bishop Nikolai as he presented him with the pastoral staff during the Rite of Installation which followed the Liturgy. “Its faithful are descendants of ancient and diverse cultures. Therefore, I exhort you to know your people, their land, and their ways. Know their struggles and their sufferings. Comfort them with the Gospel which you are to proclaim in truth and in love so that together you may ‘grow up in every way into Him who is the head, Jesus Christ’ [Ephesians 4:15].
“Receive the love and affection of your flock with gratitude,” Metropolitan Theodosius continued. “Always remember that the obedience that is shown to a bishop is derived in and through the dynamic of mutual love and respect. True obedience—the obedience to which the Gospel calls us—cannot be imposed. It must be earned, making the spiritual and moral fiber of this diocese stronger so as to continue the work of Christ in Alaska.”
Concelebrating with Metropolitan Theodosius and Bishop Nikolai were His Eminence, Archbishop Herman of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania; His Eminence, Archbishop Gregory, Retired Bishop of Sitka and Alaska; His Grace, Bishop Tikhon of San Francisco and the West; His Grace, Bishop Seraphim of Ottawa and Canada; and His Grace, Bishop Jovan of the Western Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Protopresbyter Robert Kondratick, OCA Chancellor, and 30 priests and six deacons from throughout the diocese also concelebrated.
“The presence here of your brother hierarchs, of so many of your priests, deacons, faithful, friends, and distinguished guests should be a great encouragement and support to you,” Metropolitan Theodosius said in his address to Bishop Nikolai at the festive banquet at Centennial Hall that followed the Rite of Installation. “However, as we leave today, please be assured that our love and support will continue. You are remembered and will be remembered constantly in prayer by each one of us, especially at the Holy Altar. Please keep this in mind each day that the Lord blesses you to serve his people in this historic diocese and this great land of Alaska.
And may He bless you for this service for many healthy, happy, and fruitful years.”
Among the dignitaries attending the banquet were Roman Catholic Bishop Roger Schwietz of Anchorage, Episcopalian Bishop Mark MacDonald of Fairbanks, Mayor Valerie Nelson of Sitka, Alaska and Alaska Governor Tony Knowles.