After Great Vespers on Saturday, 10 February, St George Orthodox Church in Troy hosted a banquet celebrating the formation of Holy Incarnation Orthodox Church. His Grace, Bishop MARK, was the guest of honor and Fr Joseph Antypas, Dean of the Michigan Deanery and priest at St George, was the master of ceremonies. Several speeches were given. As the one assigned to serve Holy Incarnation, I was also asked to address those who attended. The following is an excerpt of my address.
The Lord’s abundant and undeserved mercy is the context in which we live. It is the setting in which we strive to live soberly, and justly, and godly in this world. As such, our Christian striving is part of the mercy of God, even as it is blessed by God.
During this striving, we are supported and encouraged by the prayers of the saints, the blessed dead and all the faithful. For the man who strives alone quickly falls prey to either pride or despair. But the man who strives with the help of others; the man who is cheered on by those who have finished the race, and who runs with those who work as a team to reach the same prize—this man perseveres. He may stumble, but the others will help him up. He may get discouraged, but the others will urge him to stay the course. And so he will persevere precisely because he strives not alone, not by himself, but in a supportive community—a community that prays for him even as it strives with him.
Permit me to suggest that what is true of each Christian is also true of each parish. Each parish as a whole strives to be a godly Christian community. Each parish faces struggles, heartaches, set-backs, fears, and hard times. Yet each parish perseveres in order to obtain the prize—not the prize of being the biggest or most active, but the prize of entering the kingdom of heaven.
The parish which strives on its own, the parish which strains and endeavors by itself to be what it should be—that parish quickly falls prey to pride or despair; and it runs the risk of devolving into a social club. To avoid the risk of running the race but losing the prize, a parish must not run alone. Instead, each parish must seek the prayers of the saints—and especially its patron. And each parish must also see that it strives together with other parishes.
For the parish that runs alone dies.
In the same way, the parish that is left alone and not supported by fellow parishes also dies.
So parishes must support another. Each parish must be supported by the prayers, the encouragement, and the kindness of other parishes. And when the parishes support each other, they must do so not only in word but also in deed and in truth. They must do so because they love one another. They must do so because they race not against each other, but run together toward a common goal. And they must do so because each parish is straining to obtain the goal that the same prize.
With the blessing of Metropolitan PHILIP and Bishop MARK, Holy Incarnation will strive to run the good race as a fledgling parish. And because of the blessing of His Eminence and His Grace, I am absolutely confident that this new little mission will continue to have the support of our good Father Dean, and the gracious members of St George, and the priests and parishioners of many other churches, and our local monastic communities.
And you can be just as confident that Holy Incarnation will not run alone. We will not strive in isolation. It is our earnest desire also to run together with all the parishes and monasteries of all Orthodox jurisdictions.
For despite our different homelands, despite our varieties in rites and ceremonies, despite our different strengths, and even in spite of our different jurisdictions, all Orthodox parishes of whatever kind have the greatest thing in common: “We have seen the true light. We have received the heavenly Spirit. We have found the True Faith, worshipping the undivided Trinity, for He hath saved us.”