To the Reverend Hierarchs, clergy, monastics, and faithful of the Orthodox Church in America:
During the past year, I had the opportunity to visit many of our parish communities and to celebrate the Divine Liturgy with many of our faithful. In every instance, I have been filled with joy as I witnessed the personal commitment to Christ and His Holy Church evident among our faithful - a joy which reaffirms my belief that the Holy Spirit truly is guiding our efforts in the proclamation of the Gospel in North America.
Since receiving the gift of autocephaly in 1970, the Orthodox Church in America has taken the lead in planting and nurturing new communities across this vast continent, bringing the Gospel of Truth to all who would receive it, and welcoming thousands to the Orthodox Christian faith. The missionary work that began with the arrival in Alaska of Saint Herman and seven other missionaries in 1794 continues today through the dedicated efforts and zeal of the countless individuals who have committed themselves to reaching out to others. And I am pleased to see that older, well established parishes, as well as recently planted communities, have made the commitment to share their faith and the hope for salvation that it brings.
Our mission efforts cannot be limited to the work of our mission communities. Every parish and community of the Orthodox Church in America is called to continue the zealous missionary work initiated by Saint Herman and the other North American Saints: to care for others, to share the faith, and to build up the Body of Christ. When Our Lord charged the Apostles to “teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, ” He charged the faithful of every generation - including our own - to do likewise.
With this in mind, we are responsible for nurturing our mission communities through our prayers, our love, and our financial support. And it is through the Orthodox Church in America’s Church Planting Grant program that fledgling missions are offered the financial support so necessary to establishing and expanding the ministries to which they are committed. This year, five mission communities are receiving Planting Grants - and there are many others that are waiting for similar assistance, made possible through your generous contribution to the 2004 Mission Appeal!
Church Planting Grants enables mission communities to establish themselves and to grow under the guidance of clergy who, through the grant program, receive sufficient financial support that enables them to devote all of their time and talents to the Church’s ministry. Experience over the years has shown that granted missions grow to full parish status within five years. None of this would be possible without your positive response to our annual Mission Appeal.
Please join me in nurturing our existing Planting Grant communities while providing the resources so necessary for the planting of additional missions in the immediate future. There are numerous areas across this continent that are ready for the planting of an Orthodox community. With your generous response to our 2004 Mission Appeal, you will not only enable our existing missions to grow, but you will also be providing the means by which the vineyard of Our Lord will expand continually.
Thanking you in advance for your gift to the 2004 Mission Appeal, I remain
With love in Christ,
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada