In an open letter addressed to His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah; the members of the Holy Synod of Bishops; and the membership of the Orthodox Church in America in mid-October, Matushka Juliana Schmemann shared her insights into the forthcoming 16th All-American Council of the Orthodox Church in America.
Matushka Juliana is the widow of the late Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann, dean of Saint Vladimir’s Seminary. Father Alexander, as is well known, was most instrumental in the granting of autocephaly to the OCA and was a key figure in the OCA’s All-American Councils from the 1960s until his repose in 1983.
Matushka writes, “As we assemble with hope and anticipation to share our care and our love for our Church in America, we are painfully aware that the past few years our beloved church has been torn asunder by an overwhelming amount of trouble, both personal and corporate. We went through anger, mistrust, suspensions, reinstatements, accusations, hope and discouragement: all of this endangering the very existence of our OCA.
“And yet, in spite of this, the bells of our churches continue to ring, gathering the faithful to celebrate and to give thanks to God. The people come, the Eucharist is celebrated, the church lives.
“We keep the vision with hope and trust in the Lord. Chaotic changes, discouraging events lacking love, peace and truth have not kept the faithful away.
“On the feast of Transfiguration we hear the story of Elijah as he seeks to hear the voice of the Lord [1Kings 19:11-12]: ‘And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.’
“We have become deaf to that ‘still small voice’ of the Lord. We are looking for it in the wrong way and in the wrong places. Indeed we have to work on finding solutions to the crises that our church is drowning in. But when the solutions are reduced to condemning words, dramatic expulsions, blind reliance on rules and limits then we are going about this the wrong way. If resolving our problems is not centered on listening to the still small voice of the Lord and on feeling the gentle breeze of the Holy Spirit, we are not leading our beloved church to a life filled with love and peace.
“This assembly must return to what is essential for all the members of The Orthodox Church in America. We cannot tamper with what we as an American church have achieved through hard work, loyalty, dedication, and love. The efforts of generations of American Orthodox are evident in the parishes both large and small, the missions, the monasteries, the institutions, the outreach programs. The hard work of countless priests and their flocks is evident from coast to coast.
“So in the midst of fire and wind and anger and destruction, let us listen carefully to that still small voice of the Lord. Let us listen with an open humble heart and by so doing we can have a peaceful, a glorious and a truly Christ centered assembly.”
Matushka Juliana resides in Montreal, Quebec.