May 6, 2014

Psalm 96

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice
(Psalm 96:11)

”...and let the earth rejoice”: Spring at the Chancery

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice
Let the whole world, visible and invisible keep the feast.
For Christ is risen, our eternal joy!
(Paschal canon, Ode 1)

Christ is risen!

In this paschal season Psalm 96 is a providential place to resume the chancellor’s diary. It encapsulates Pascha’s explosion of new and unexpected joy. It anticipates the spreading of the apostolic message that embraces all the peoples of the earth and the whole cosmos. It points to an assurance of hope in the Kingdom that is not of this world.

“O sing to the Lord a new song!” (96:1) is echoed in the new song of the saints in the Book of Revelation as they praise the Lamb, “for thou wast slain and by thy blood didst ransom men for God
from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and hast made them a kingdom and priests to our God…” (Rev 5:9-10).

And like Psalm 96, Revelation’s vision of the Kingdom foresees that the Lord will bring together and unite all that is good and holy among all the peoples of the earth, and He Himself will be the light of all. 

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light shall the nations walk; and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it, and its gates shall never be shut by day—and there shall be no night there; they shall bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean shall enter it, nor any one who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Rev. 21:22-27)

We’re not there yet, but Pascha keeps us looking up and looking forward.

Searching for a Pastor in Detroit

SS Peter & Paul
Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral, Detroit

Speaking of spreading the Gospel of the risen Christ, I had a letter the other day from Father Andrew Yavornitzky, dean of the Michigan deanery. With the blessing of Bishop Alexander he is asking that the OCA publicize the search for a priest to serve the currently vacant Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral in Detroit. Normally the search for a pastor is a quiet administrative process that takes place behind the scenes, but this is a demanding assignment and so far no one has stepped forward. But besides this, Father Andrew’s letter is inspiring and instructive to anyone who cares about the state of Orthodox mission, especially in our cities.

Father Andrew’s letter is a copy of what he wrote to Bishop Alexander.

Your Grace, when I was sent to chair the annual Cathedral parish meeting in January, 2009 I had no hope or expectation that I would ever be writing a letter like this five years later. A handful of faithful parishioners with enormous determination, stubbornness and no small amount of God’s Grace have laid the groundwork for an exciting opportunity for the right pastor. The Ss. Peter and Paul Cathedral community, in cooperation with the Orthodox Detroit Outreach and the surrounding deanery and pan-Orthodox community can become a model for urban parish revitalization throughout the country. Please make every effort to help us find that pastor.

There are lots of challenges. Renovation debts. The building is old and needs repair. The existing population of about 40 adults and less than 10 children is primarily aged, growing more feeble and on fixed incomes. Few live even relatively nearby the Cathedral. The neighborhood population is predominately Hispanic, but there has not yet been much outreach. The city and the neighborhood desperately need renewal. City services, including safety services, are not always reliable.

On the plus side: 

  • A federal Head Start program, Vista Nuevas, rents much of the school building. The income is invaluable for the continuation of Cathedral’s existence.
  • A recently (3 years) formed group called Orthodox Detroit Outreach is the catalyst behind a program for feeding homeless citizens at the Cathedral each Sunday afternoon. Members of Orthodox parishes from the Detroit area alternate the weekly preparation and food service.
  • Neighborhood outreach programs include a community garden on vacant lots owned by the Cathedral.
  • “Cookies with Santa” outreach to neighborhood children each December.
  • Thanksgiving dinner served to the families of the Head Start program; partnering with a civic group to allow fledgling entrepreneurs use of the hall kitchen (generates some income).
  • Rentals of the parish hall, especially by the local population, are on the rise.
  • There is a sense of a new credibility in the neighborhood. The Cathedral is no longer simply a domain of strangers. Vandalism, including graffiti, has waned. The neighbors and the homeless are now likely to look after the property rather than abuse it.

Here’s what the deanery and cathedral are looking for in a priest:

  • He should not be afraid to live in the cathedral neighborhood. This was amended to “he should have a desire to live in the cathedral neighborhood”.
  • Ideally he would have a working knowledge (or better) of the Spanish language.
  • He should have a heart for all people. This was referring to both ministry to the least of the brethren regardless of their beliefs as well as openness to any who are interested in the Faith.
  • Charismatic, energetic, young enough to do the work yet smart enough to do it wisely and well.
  • He should be interested in the renewal of the entire city. Some of the most exciting opportunities at the parish involve working with existing civic and other not for profit entities for the betterment of the community at large.

If you can help, or want more information, please contact Father Andrew Yavornitzky. His contact details can be found on the OCA website.