Orthodox Church in America- November 2015
Clergy and lay delegates from as far as Atka Island in the Aleutian Chain, Fairbanks near the Arctic Circle, and elsewhere across the state of Alaska gathered at Saint Innocent Cathedral here November 6-8, 2015 for the annual Assembly of the Diocese of Alaska.
During the opening services, which coincided with the celebration of Saint Demetrius Memorial Saturday, His Grace, Bishop David especially remembered in prayer Matushka Olga Michael, who fell asleep in the Lord on November 8, 1979, together with the diocese’s faithful departed.
In his opening address, Bishop David emphasized the importance parish tithes play in supporting the work of the diocese. “The next year—the ‘Year of the Steward’—will be dedicated to all of us growing in our understanding of stewardship and how we should apply it,” he said. He also spoke of the need for ongoing support for Saint Herman’s Seminary, which provides full scholarships for all Alaskan students.
Bishop David went on to highlight the stewardship various agencies have displayed in making various ministries and missionary efforts in Alaska possible. The Florida-based Orthodox Christian Mission Center [OCMC] provides support for two missionary families in the diocese—Priest David and Matushka Rozanne Rucker, who minister at Saint Herman’s Seminary and within the wider Kodiak community, and Hosea and Pamela DiLullo and their family, who assist the diocese in a variety of capacities through their construction company and religious education efforts. He also expressed gratitude for the many OCMC summer mission teams that help in the villages. International Orthodox Christian Charities was cited for providing training for clergy and seminarians in the area of drug and alcohol counselor training, books for school children, and furniture for the seminary. ROSSIA—the “Russian Orthodox Sacred Sites in Alaska” organization under the leadership of Chugach CEO Sherri Buretta—has provided unmatched assistance in rebuilding and preserving the historic churches in Kenai, Juneau, Unalaska, Chuathbaluk, Tatitlek, Sitka, Karluk and elsewhere.
Bishop David also reported that the Holy Synod of Bishops had appointed him to the Orthodox Church in America’s Canonization Commission while sharing the work he has undertaken researching Matushka Olga’s life. He also spoke of the ongoing effort to locate the grave of Saint Jacob Netsvetov. [See related story.]
Three invited speakers addressed Assembly delegates. Archpriest John Jillions, OCA Chancellor, spoke on the importance of complying with the OCA’s Policies, Standards and Procedures on Sexual Misconduct and Best Practices, aired a photo presentation about the OCA Chancery, and fielded a variety of questions from the floor. Dan Christopulos, IOCC’s US Country Representative, reported on his work in assessing diocesan and parish needs for which the agency might offer assistance. In the summer of 2015, he and Gregory Manzuk, IOCC’s Senior Programs Manager, traveled across Alaska to speak with tribal and religious leaders in an effort to gather information on the struggles facing all Alaskans, and especially Native Alaskans. Michael Herzak from the Cleveland, OH-based Guide One Insurance spoke on the various types of coverage needed by churches and explained the liabilities involved in each situation. Churches in Alaska are largely under-insured and at risk.
In related news, it was announced that the blessing cross of Saint Herman of Alaska, damaged during the break-in at Kodiak’s Holy Resurrection Cathedral in June 2015, has been fully restored through the metalworking skills of the cathedral’s Deacon Innocent Philo. [Seerelated story.]