Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Letter October 2, 2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Thursday afternoon was a special time for the people of Cottonwood Heights, the state of Utah and our St. Anna Greek Orthodox Church. After twelve years of municipal incorporation, nearly three years of planning, the purchase of eight, separate, residential properties and the excitement/stress of a massive, building project, the city held the Ribbon Cutting Program for its new City Hall Building.

Our parish cannot cease to express thanksgiving and gratitude to the fine people of St. Thomas More; their clergy, leaders and parishioners who continue to embrace St. Anna’s with Christian love, support, fellowship and general enthusiasm. And really, both of our communities are blessed to be located in this beautiful city.

Several weeks ago, I was asked to give the Invocation at the Cottonwood Heights Police Department Awards Banquet. It was a lovely evening. The city reached out to our parish once again, and asked that I give the Invocation at their Ribbon Cutting Ceremony. To be sure, any time we can offer an Orthodox presence, witness the love we have for our Savior, Jesus Christ, or thankfully oblige the request of the police chief or mayor, we begin to be contributors to our surrounding area. We can be counted on for doing good things with, and for our neighbors.

Following is the prayer which was offered to the people of Cottonwood Heights on the occasion of their City Hall’s opening:

“Let us Pray to the Lord. Lord Have Mercy.

God Almighty, who made the heavens in wisdom and set the foundations of the earth firmly in place, who through our Lord, Jesus Christ, establishes us, unshaken upon the rock of faith, do You, the same Lord, the benevolent creator, the imaginative Architect, the master Builder, the generous Provider, the ultimate Sustainer of this world and the entire universe…look down and bless these grounds, this building, those whose hands shaped and formed it, those who will work here, and those who will be served here – the citizens of Cottonwood Heights, Utah.

Let the pathways that lead to this City Hall be paved with the purest of intentions to fulfill the needs of the people. Let the doorways that lead into this building be portals of humility and dignity. Let the walls of this building support the ideals of a model municipality. Let the windows of this building allow us to look upon the picturesque and formidable mountains which define our lovely city, and allow these same windows to serve as symbols of transparent practice, clear vision and honest government.

Good and gracious Lord, allow this building not to have been built upon the sand, but upon You, the ever-stable and steadfast rock. If the rains should pour, if the rivers overflow, if the snow weighs down, if the wind blows, if the earth trembles, may it never fall or be disturbed in any way. For this land was not acquired by fire or the sword, but rather through the peaceful undertakings of a city whose purpose is to serve, inspire, protect and promote. You have richly blessed, and bestowed great trust in your faithful Stewards… the mayor, council, executives, employees, officers, firefighters, citizens, community volunteers and all associated with the City of Cottonwood Heights.

This is their building. This is their legacy. This is the work of their hands.

Bless, Oh Lord, this work, for to You belong all glory…our Father who is in Heaven, Your only-begotten Son and creative Word, together with your holy and life-giving Spirit. Now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.”

I gratefully crafted this prayer with the intention of imparting God’s blessing upon their efforts, hoping that those who work there will always be safe, and those who are in need of the city’s services will always be attended to with joy and humility. I also wanted the people of our city to hear how we pray. To understand the Lord’s presence in our lives, the way we do. To give Him the praise, credit, honor and glory for any accomplished task; great or small. It was also a prayer of anticipated joy.

Anticipation of what?

I truly believe, that it was no small coincidence, that in one hour I was blessing the completion of a municipal building project, then nearly the next hour, I was blessing the first steps of our own aspirations, dreams and goals. Last night, for the first time, our joint committees of Capitol Fund Raising, Long Range Planning and Real Estate came together to plot our course for the future.

By God’s grace, I believe that we will continue to grow, that the spiritual hunger of our parish will continue to rise, the pastoral needs of our people will continue to increase, and that God will demand more of us in terms of outreach, Orthodox evangelism and service to the greater community.

It is one thing to pray for the completion of a secular building (as beautiful as it is). How much more, must we pray for our own house of worship? Can we hope to sustain our vision? Can we count on continued enthusiasm? Will we acquire an even greater sense of sacrificial awareness and commitment? The answer to these questions is, of course, “yes” of we are with God, doing it for God and wishing to serve God.

Pray for our efforts. As specific plans, goals and needs arise, please get intimately involved. This blessed task will most certainly take the dedication of every one of us who are blessed to call St. Anna our Matron Saint, and who lift her up in prayer as our great Intercessor.

The Cottonwood Heights City Hall is a most spectacular building. Today we prayed for its success. Let us continue to pray for the safety of the police officers who are dispatched from there, and the firefighters who are attached to there.

Let us also pray for ourselves. Let us pray for our endeavors. Let us pray for our blessed future.

With Much Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony