Putting St. Tikhon's Words and Vision into Action

The 18th All American Council

Archpriest Daniel Hubiak

(The following is a further reflection in preparation for the upcoming 18th All American Council of the Orthodox Church in America, to be convened July 20 -24, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia. The author, Fr. Daniel Hubiak, has been a tireless worker for the Orthodox Church in this country for over four decades.  He served as Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America for 15 years. In 1970, he was a member of the official delegation sent to Moscow to receive the Tomos of Autocephaly. For several years in the 1990s, he served as the OCA’s first representative in Moscow and Dean of the OCA Representation Church of the Great Martyr Catherine. Now retired, but still very much active in serving the Church, he and Matushka Dunia reside in Ocean Pines, MD.)

In 1907, the First All-American Sobor (Council) was convened at Saint John the Baptist Church, Mayfield, PA in conjunction with the Russian Orthodox Mutual Aid Society’s Convention. Because of this dual gathering, the Sobor was limited to one morning and three evening sessions primarily dedicated to establishing legal and financial structures. Therefore, the theme of the gathering found expression not in the working sessions, but in Archbishop (Saint) Tikhon’s talks at the sessions and at the farewell meal with the clergy.

As the gathering was ending, the Archbishop said, “We are strong… only in one thing – in possessing the True Orthodox Faith… the gift of God… Strengthen your brethren in the Faith and the love of Orthodoxy.”

In his last sermon before departing for Russia, Archbishop Tikhon stated,  “Guarding the Orthodox Faith sacredly and loving it is not enough.  Christ the Savior said that lighting the candle, one does not put it ‘under a bushel, but on a candlestick’ (Matthew 5:15), and the light of Orthodoxy is lighted not for a small circle of people.  No, the Orthodox Church is catholic;  she remembers the will of her Founder:  ‘Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature, teach all nations.’ (Matthew 28:19; Mark16:15). We ought to share our spiritual wealth, truth, and light with others…. Thus, each of us should consider this task of propagating the faith as his own task, dear to his heart.”

 The Archbishop indicated that, in order to expand the mission, a three-pronged approach was needed.

     Thank God daily for the gift of Orthodoxy.

     Strengthen each other in the Faith and in the love of Orthodoxy.

     Propagate the Faith by living it.

In his talks, Archbishop Tikhon encouraged the convening of more gatherings to share and offer initiatives. He said, “From the beginning, I gave my colleagues wide room for initiative. As long as the work got done, it was not important to me whether it began with me or others.  And the consequences of this were not slow in being told: parishes began to multiply, new churches were built, the number of parishioners grew, new institutions were established.”

The Archbishop understood that time brings change.  “I think that those things in which I was useful here for a while – for which I was perhaps even sent here – have now passed and are no longer needed, that you need something different, a different worker with a different approach and character.”

Things are different today. We have instant contact and the means for instant information sharing. We must be careful not to use these means for conflict and tearing down unity. Instead, we should be working to Expand the Mission by augmenting the modern techniques for information sharing with the three points proposed by the Archbishop:  Thanking God daily, strengthening each other in faith and love, and Living our faith.

In addition to instant information sharing, personal contact is of vital importance. We strengthen each other in the Faith and in the love of Orthodox Christianity by personal contact and by seeing each other as images of Christ. The kiss of peace cannot be accomplished via the internet. It is accomplished person to person, and by greeting one’s fellow parishioner or parish visitor.

The need to Expand the Mission of the Orthodox Church in America continues to be the sacred task and duty of each of us. By all means, let us use modern techniques of sharing and disseminating information and promoting programs, but let us really SEE each other, STRENGTHEN each other, LOVE each other and TALK to each other, that those around us might say, “Look how they love one another” (Apology of Tertullian).