Our parish is enjoying the afterglow of hosting the New England Diocesan Assembly for two days, October 25th–26th, on our church campus. Fellow Orthodox Christians representing parishes from Vermont to Connecticut gathered for their annual meeting. They enjoyed worship culminating in the reception of Holy Communion together, and warm fellowship encouraged by the incredible “comfort food” at meals prepared by our parish cooks.
We all were overjoyed to greet our fathers in Christ, His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon, primate of our Orthodox Church in America, and His Eminence Archbishop Nikon, bishop of Boston, New England, and the Albanian Archdiocese.
We also all were excited to re-charge our missionary spirit listening to a presentation by visiting priest Fr. John Parker III, chair of the Orthodox Church in America’s Department of Evangelization and evangelist extraordinaire (While on a quick walking tour of the neighborhood, and en Español, he invited the clerk at our local bakery Pan de Cielo and a passerby named Pedro to Sunday service. Click to listen to his presentation: Bringing People to Faith).
It was great to host such a successful assembly but it was even greater to prepare for the assembly. As a pastor, I observed how much our preparation for and execution of this huge event helped us grow as a parish. Let me count the ways.
One: we built up our organizational skills. Everyone learned how important it was to stick to the master plan and to follow the lead by our incredible Co-chairs Darlene and Debbie—all of which made the event run smoothly.
Two: we learned to depend on each other. Deep cleaning our parish hall required an assembly line; we dusted, swept, sponged, polished, and dried that room top to bottom until it gleamed. Some of us worked low to the ground, and some of us worked high up on ladders, but in cleaning that immense space, we realized we needed everyone, at every level.
Three: we learned that we collectively possess a great deal of talent. This assembly required executive assistants to plot a day-by-day and hour-by-hour plan on Xcel sheets; techies to install wi-fi and manage sound equipment; a designer-printer to make name tags for each delegate and signage for the parking lot and church building; an extraordinary kitchen crew to whip up everything from mushroom soup to gourmet mac-n-cheese to gluten-free muffins; a photographer to archive the event; seasoned altar servers for worship services; a translator to render from Russian to English the 1935 minutes of the first assembly of Orthodox clergy of New England, which then graced our historic display; singers who added their voices to the Diocesan Choir; greeters with ever-ready smiles and warm handshakes; and able bodies to break down and set up tables and chairs, 2 or 3 times!
Four: we learned that we collectively have a great deal of potential. Our visitors continually expressed wonder at our spacious church, hall, and property, and historical items, such as our six Russian bells and icons donated by Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra (Romanov), as well as our warm hospitality. Their remarks caused me to reflect on all we possess in material and spiritual assets, and all we can accomplish when we use them.
So…well done, good and faithful parishioners. You made me proud as a pastor, but even more, you made me remember the worth of good and honest work, especially when we work together, as Psalm 128 says: “You will enjoy the fruit of your labor. How joyful and prosperous you will be!” (v. 2).
Listen to Fr. John Parker’s special presentation on how to evangelize your neighborhood…and the world: Bringing People to Faith
Photos on this page by Richard Kendall; view a full gallery of Rich’s photos here