On the cold November afternoon of November 17th, adhering to safety precautions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Consistory Board of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA met via ZOOM teleconference.
After the opening prayer led by His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, President of the Consistory, and prior to the agenda being discussed, Metropolitan Antony shared a few heartfelt words with the board members. His Eminence expressed his deep concern over the wellbeing of the flock, asking that while we grow weary of the restrictions and the isolation due to the pandemic, that we, nonetheless, remember those around us. At this dire time many feel isolated, lonely, fearful, and uncertain. It is the responsibility of every Christian to ensure their brothers and sisters in Christ feel the love and embrace of the Church.
He continued, by stating that the crisis we face is something we could not have foreseen, but, Christ has already provided guidelines, and instructed us in what to do. We must love one another. We must help one another. While many, especially the elderly, are staying away from our parishes due to valid health concerns, we need to encourage them to nonetheless participate in the liturgical life of the Church, attending prayer services and Divine Liturgy via Live broadcasts. While the Gospel Reading and sermons are powerful, the benefit derived from praying the entire Liturgy along with others is priceless. Vladyka asked that the clergy and faithful reach out to others, call one another, ask if anyone needs help with anything. We, after all, are one family in Christ, and therefore, are privileged to assist our family members, and all whom God puts in our path.
The meeting continued with a review of the Church’s Financial Report, which revealed unsurprisingly that donations are down as people struggle with the pandemic. Additionally, the Metropolia Center property and All Saints Camp, where discussed, confirming that all public events have been canceled for the time being.
The St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary continues offering classes, both for the resident and the Distance Learning Students. Additionally, the seminary has been extremely successful in bringing a sense of unity to the Church family, by broadcasting daily morning and evening prayers, as well as Divine Liturgy. Their service is invaluable to those who are struggling through the current pandemic.
The Ukrainian History and Education Center has continued producing informative exhibits during the shutdown. They have held many exciting workshops that have been broadcast to the public and are available via their webpage. In the coming months there are exciting seasonal workshops planned, including the youth decorating the Christmas Tree, iconographer Michael Kapeluck giving an explanation of the symbolism found in the icon of the Nativity of our Lord, plus a detailed description of the Holy Supper of Christmas Eve (Svyata Vecherya) and all the imagery surrounding it.
Further discussion revolved around various fundraising activities, and charitable works, which do not pause during a shutdown, as the need for assistance does not pause, only increases in times of crisis. The Church actively continues to care for others in these stressful times and encourages everyone to donate and assist their neighbors as much as possible.
The meeting concluded on the topic with which it began – Covid 19. New restrictions are coming out daily from city administrators, mayors and state governors. While often we hear arguments against the restrictions, fearing they are impinging on our freedoms, and slowly destroying our way of life, and even detracting from our religious freedoms, Archbishop Daniel, implored everyone to remain calm, and remember that we are Christians and must behave as confident followers of Christ.
His Eminence put trepidations to rest, as he stated that our current priority is to safeguard life – our life, the lives of our parishioners, and the lives of all the people around us. We must do all we can to preserve life, and to safeguard the temples of the Holy Spirit, Who abides within each of us. If it becomes necessary to fight for religious freedom in the future, we will do so at that time, but for now we must strictly adhere to all safety recommendations of our governing bodies, siting St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Romans 13:1) where he states, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”
Having concluded the meeting with a prayer, His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, bestowed his blessing upon everyone and prayed that the Lord keep the board members healthy and safe in these uncertain times. With his blessing everyone expressed their own well wishes and signed off, energized and encouraged to follow their bishops’ advice, putting fear aside, and not only taking care of themselves, but, making every effort to care for all those around them.
“He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)