St. Vladimir’s Seminary was host to the sixth Orthodox Church in America Town Hall Meeting on Saturday, July 12, 2008.
His Grace, Bishop Nikon of Boston, New England, and the Albanian Archdiocese attended the meeting with OCA Chancellor, Archpriest Alexander Garklavs, serving as facilitator. Also taking part in the meeting were the other three members of the OCA Chancery Administrative Team: Secretary, Archpriest Eric G. Tosi; Treasurer, Priest Michael Tassos; and Director of Ministries and Communications, Archpriest Andrew Jarmus.
In his greetings on behalf of the seminary, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Chancellor, Archpriest Chad Hatfield, said that these meetings were significant in directing the Church in its renewal and that the Seminary was very happy to be part of this process.
Approximately 60 people engaged in a heartfelt and open discussion about the Church. Many participants spoke of a need to regain the vision that was the foundation of the OCA in the first two decades its autocephaly.
Another common theme of the discussion was the need for genuine acts of repentance on the part of those involved in recent administrative mismanagement in the Church whether through their actions or through inaction.
Participants also shared a desire to feel a closer pastoral bond between members of the Holy Synod, as the chief shepherds of the Church, and the Church’s wider membership.
Regarding the forthcoming All-American Council, participants expressed the belief that, given the amount of work yet to do in the Church and the short time before the Council, the All-American Council could mark the beginning of a renewal process for the OCA.
“We can come out of the AAC with a sense of having turned the corner on this,” one participant said, “but then we need to give it time to rebuild in a genuine, prayerful way.”
Another participant added, “There is more work than can be done up to this Council. One thing that should come out of this Council is involving the Church as a whole in that work over the three years [i.e., to the next Council], not just having people go home and wait.”
In his final remarks, Fr. Alexander Garklavs said that all the hopes and concerns that had been articulated at the meeting regarding the OCA’s healing, renewal and the restoration of vision is shared by the four members of the Chancery’s Administrative Team. He invited all present to visit Syosset to see the work that is done there “We are all looking forward to the Council,” he said. “Having gone through a communal process of grief and catharsis, we hope to move forward with a strengthened vision and purpose.”
In closing the meeting, Bishop Nikon emphasized that the Council must be a unique event in the life of the OCA. “We have three days,” His Grace said. “The darkest days in human history were transformed into the brightest days in human history in three days. I pray that in the three days that we have we can experience a healing process and be revitalized in being the Orthodox Church here in North America. It is amazing to non-Orthodox that in the face of this crisis our people do not just leave. We stay because we still know that for all of our flaws and all of our sins this is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church that possesses the fullness of Truth.”
Notes from the sixth Town Hall Meeting will be posted shortly on the All-American Council blog.
The next Town Hall meeting will take place on Thursday, July 17, 2008, in Brooklyn, OH (Cleveland metro area) from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m.