|A Time of Jubilee|
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In April of 2001, Bishop Gabriel gave us his blessing to found our mission, dedicated to the Holy Apostles. On July 12th and 13th of that year, our first All-Night Vigil and Divine Liturgy were served, coinciding with the feast of our heavenly Patrons. While this coincidence arose from the pressure of external circumstances, we take this more-than-coincidental occurrence as a great blessing.
From then until the summer of 2002, our worship and parish life was lived in the house I grew up in, which is at the other end of town from where we are now. My mother had just passed away in June; and in agreement with my brother, Daniel, we decided that we would convert and use her house for our new church. Our parents were a living example of devotion in the Baptist context. It seemed to me most fitting, therefore, that prayers to God should be raised anew in the place of their godly-lived earthly sojourn.
On the 12th and 13th of this July, we are lifting our hands and hearts in prayer on that same feast of the Synaxis of the Holy Twelve Apostles and Saint Paul for the eighth time. This time, God willing, Bishop Gabriel who blessed our founding will be here to pray and serve with us.
So much has happened in the life of our parish in these seven years. We have been part of bringing people to the Faith for the first time through Holy Baptism; we have been part of bringing people back to the Faith after a long time away. We have grown, especially since the restoration of union within the Russian Church in May of 2007. This Pascha, a record number of people were present, including first-time visitors. Since last fall, 25 new people have been added to our number. Among these are catechumens whom we hope to bring soon into the Church. And new people continue to visit and express interest.
On this seventh anniversary, Bishop Gabriel will set apart two men as readers, Christopher Johnson and John Swensen, and a third, Damian Dantinne, will be ordained to the diaconate. As the grace of these offices is granted to these men, among the gifts that they may expect are our prayers for them. With the grace is a burden that our prayers can help them to carry.
Much fruit has been borne from the Holy Spirit’s grace poured out from the now-established unity of the Russian Church, achieved in large part through the devoted stewardship of our late beloved Metropolitan Laurus and his fellow bishops, including Bishop Gabriel. People always knew that we held true to the traditions, but tended also to believe without knowledge that we were somehow sectarian or “non-canonical,” and were therefore afraid to have anything to do with the Church Abroad. Once we were seen to be integrally within the Russian Church, against which no such aspersions could be cast, the fear disappeared. Thus our traditional witness is open to all and is attractive on its merits, being one with the faith and piety of the Church from the ages. One significant example of our new-found outreach is the joint membership in our parish young people’s group of our parishioners with those of non-Russian parishes.
Let us rejoice at the addition of new laborers in our little vineyard. Let us rejoice that the stewardship of the Church Abroad is passed to our new Metropolitan Hilarion, one so like in spirit to our late beloved Metropolitan. Let us give thanks for God’s blessings shown to us in the stewardship of Bishop Gabriel, and let our prayers accompany him as he assumes the episcopate of Canada.
Let us rejoice in all the things that God has done, both that which He allowed to happen that we would not have sought and in that which has fulfilled our hopes, knowing that, as we persevere in following His will, in the end, all our hopes in Him will be fulfilled.