Tuesday, July 22, 2008

2008 Orthodox Conference, Erie, Pennsylvania, Part 4

Fr. John Berzins (now Bishop John), reading his confession of Faith on the eve of his consecration.

At the Vespers on Thursday, the Old Rite clergy from Russia began serving a full cycle of services, with the local Old Rite clergy taking a back seat, so as to observe them. One of the benefits of the Reconciliation between the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the Church within Russia was that now our Old Rite clergy could serve together. Unlike the parish in Erie, which had been priestless until the 1980's, some of the Old Rite parishes in Russia had been reconciled for two centuries, and so had a living tradition of serving priestly services in the Old Rite that our Old Rite clergy were eager to observe, to see if there were any refinements to their own practice that were needed.

These services were all in Slavonic, though despite the fact that the parish in Erie normally uses English now, their command of Slavonic was still quite good, and their own choirs with the help of some of the folks from Russia were able to chant the services without any noticeable difficulties. I should also note that the Old Rite guests from Russia had been chanting the services in English, in Znamenny chant, and despite the fact that they had never sang in English before, they fit in quite well in English too.

One other thing that was going on this week was that a long time parishioner in Erie had passed away. After the Liturgy on Friday morning, Fr. Pimen conducted the funeral, while the conference attendees went back to Mercyhurst for Lunch. Immediately following Lunch was a talk by Matushka Ann Lardas. With about one minute to spare, Fr. Pimen appeared at the podium, without appearing tired or flustered, to introduce Matushka Ann. He had a cup of coffee in hand, and I suspect that this was the only nourishment he had had after the liturgy. All during the week, it was a sight to behold to see Fr. Pimen's unending energy as he made sure everything went smoothly. The conference itself was more than most priests could have handled. Throw in a funeral, and even the best priests would generally begin to unravel... but Fr. Pimen is the Energizer Bunny of priests.

The Energizer Bunny

Fr. Pimen Simon

Matushka Ann gave her talk on "The Orthodox Woman". She is a great story teller, and tells her stories complete with impressions of the various persons important to the story, and it she was not only entertaining, but provided a lot of practical wisdom about the role of woman in the Church, and the raising of children.

At Friday evening Vespers began the the cycle of services in which Fr. John Berzins was to be consecrated a bishop. During the Vespers, he was taken before Metropolitan Hilarion, Bishop Daniel, and Bishop Peter, and he was asked questions, and gave responses about his confession of Faith. This was all done in Slavonic. This was followed by a sort of acceptance speech, which Fr. John gave in English (with a definite Aussie twang). You can see a video of it here, though the sound quality is not great:

This is a video taken during the hours, before the beginning of the hierarchical liturgy on Saturday morning, which gives you some idea of the beautiful iconography of the Church:

Here is a video of another part of the rites which lead up to the consecration of a bishop which took place on Saturday morning. Yours truly is seen behind the bishop elect:

This is a video of the actual consecration:

Here is a video of a homily given by Vladika Hilarion at the end of the Liturgy:

I had never been present at the consecration of a bishop before, and this was an especially beautiful occasion, to see Vladika John consecrated in the midst of a parish he has had such a long connection with.

You can read some interesting commentary on Vladika John's consecration by clicking here.

To be continued.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

2008 Orthodox Conference, Erie, Pennsylvania, Part 3

The west side of the Church of the Nativity in Erie. The Icon of the Last Judgment is partially visible.

As I mentioned, I missed the first Day and a half of the Conference. Fr. German Ciuba has posted about the conference, and discusses some of the parts I missed. You can read his reflections by clicking here.

After Vespers, on Wednesday, we went back to the College for the evening meal... which was especially nice. It was a fast free week, and we took full advantage... having steak (or fish, for those who do not eat beef). There is a picture of this meal here.

I was informed that one of the talks had been canceled because the Moscow Patriarchate Bishop who was going to give the talk could not come because of the Bishops Council that was going to be held the following week in Moscow. Consequently, some of the talks I had hoped to hear had already been given. Also, though I was originally going to speak on Saturday, I was informed I would be speaking after breakfast the following day.

After the meal, we saw a film about the history of the parish in Erie. You can read about the history here. I was much impressed by the leadership Fr. Pimen had shown in bringing his parish into the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, led them into using English, and led them into rebuilding their parish after a fire burned down their original Church -- all in a relatively short period of time.
There was a period of questions and answers after the film, and Fr. German Ciuba got up to answer a question on the question of abortion... and his rather fervent answer made me regret even more that I had missed his talk.

Afterwards, there was a social hour in what was sort of a Student Union building. I spent most of the evening talking to a group of priest who all happened to be citizens of the British Commonwealth: Fr. Andrew Morbey a Canadian OCA priest whom I have known via the internet since the 90's, but had never met in person before); Fr. Geoffrey Korz another Canadian OCA priest, who I had talked with during teleconferences of the Orthodox Fellowship of All Saints of China (as it turned out, his Matushka is also Chinese, and so we had a lot more in common than I was aware); Fr. Andrew Phillips, a ROCOR priest from England; and Fr. John Behr, who is the dean of St. Vladimir Seminary, and originally from England. Of the 5 of us, we were all converts, except Fr. John Behr, who is from a Russian Priestly family... I had always assumed he was a convert, just based on his name... but that only goes to show that one should not assume.

I knew I should be sensible, and should go and get some sleep, but we were the last ones to leave (with the exception of Fr. John Behr, who had been sensible), and had to be scooted out by security. Particularly in my neck of the woods, I don't get to visit with other Orthodox priest with any regularity, and so it always had to pass up the chance to do so.

Fr. Victor Potapov arrived at some point that evening, and it so happened that he and I shared a dorm room during the conference. We spoke a few times during the course of the conference, but he might as well have been rooming with Bigfoot, because he only once caught the briefest sight of me in the dorm itself... he too was being sensible. I generally wasn't.

The next day, after the liturgy, and breakfast, I spoke. My talk seemed to be well received. I spoke on how Orthodox Christians should and should not interact with those who are not Orthodox, and particularly focused on the pastoral questions that we have in terms of how we should relate to our friends, families, and co-workers who are not Orthodox. I intend to post the text of that talk, but I only prepared an extensive outline, and so that will be in the future. Personally, I find speaking from a text to be very clumsy, and so usually use an outline, even when I giving a talk based upon a complete essay.

Fr. Andrew Phillips

After my talk, Fr. Andrew Phillips gave his talk on the spiritual significance of the Russian Orthodox Church in the 21st Century. You can read the text of that talk here. I got to meet him in Russia in May of 2007, and have long appreciated his writings, his web site, and the information he provides about the Orthodox history of England.

Fr. Victor Potapov

After Vespers, and a break for dinner, next up, was Fr. Victor Potapov of St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Washington, D.C. He had a show on the Voice of America's Russian service for many years, and has a deep and impressive radio voice. You can read his talk by clicking here. It was on the subject of parish life in ROCOR, and I enjoyed his talk very much... I used part of it in my Sunday sermon in the following week.

To be continued.