Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Letter February 26, 2017

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” – 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This morning I had a wonderful experience, in that I was invited to offer the Invocation at the Senate Chamber of the Utah State Capitol. Driving up State Street to the massive building, a source of great municipal pride in our state, I had forgotten just how large it is. The last time I remember being inside the Capitol was at a high school dance that took place under the rotunda.

That was a long time ago.

Driving up to the building, climbing up those massive stairs, feeling strained to pull open the heavy, bronze doors, and walking into the vast, beautiful space was a wonderful reminder of the grandeur that is required of public monuments, civic spaces and official structures. If the buildings are tall, spacious, elaborate, gilded and fortified, then the governments they house must, in turn, be stable, grounded and powerful.

To be sure, the Utah State Capitol Building is impressive and beautiful. So many buildings, now, and in history evoke similar feelings of awe as one would approach. I’ve had similar experiences as I climbed the Acropolis to see the Parthenon, waited in line to enter the vast entrance (still to me, the Cathedral) of Aghia Sophia in (while we’re at it, Constantinople) Istanbul, our Nation’s Capital in Washington D.C., the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem and the Louvre Museum in Paris.

For different reasons, and under different circumstances, approaching these places was just as marvelous as entering them. All impressive. All hallowed. All beautiful.

But all…just buildings.

The Parthenon, to prove the point I’m about to make, isn’t even a building anymore – just ruins of what was once a building.

St. Paul, in the above mentioned verse, reminds us, as Christ Himself spoke of, that as important as buildings and structures, and temples and churches may be, the real Temple of God is in the creation of the person. When Christ said that he would destroy the Temple (His Crucifixion) and raise it up, again, in three days (His Resurrection), He was not speaking of the Temple in Jerusalem. He was referencing Himself. Attached to that concept is St. Paul’s affirmation that the person means more to God than the building. The worshipper, not the place of worship is paramount to Him.

We need those places more than He does.

Today, I walked up to, and into an impressive, secular building. In the past, I have approached and entered inspiring houses of worship. But on this day, as we contemplate the Temple as the person, not a building, I call upon our parish to accomplish something of great worth.

We need to build something.

No, I am not speaking of building a church dedicated to St. Anna. That will come in its own time, on another day.

We need to build a home in Mexico. We have been called to participate in the home building initiative of Project Mexico. Under the prayerful guidance of our own Fr. Nicholas Andruchow, Project Mexico is a pan-Orthodox ministry in Tijuana, Mexico, concentrated on building homes for the poor. Faithful parishioners from throughout the world take week-long missionary trips to Project Mexico and participate in the construction of humble structures, arguably, more lovely than any State Capitol, so that those in need can attain shelter, protection, dignity and safety. In their own words,

“Since 1988, Project Mexico & St. Innocent Orphanage has been building secure, safe and weather-tight homes for some of the most impoverished families in northern Mexico. Built strictly by volunteer labor, these homes provide families economic security and hope for a brighter future. While serving these families, the volunteers discover that they have been transformed. Through their service to others, they realize that they have received much more than they had given. To date, we have hosted well over 11,000 volunteers on our 16-acre ranch as we continue to humbly bear the burdens of others in the name of Christ.”

St. Anna’s is currently scheduled to lead a trip to Project Mexico, August 16th-August 23rd, 2017. We have spots for approximately 15 people. We are currently looking for a chairman to champion this venture and help us to organize, plan, and embark!

If you are interested in leading this amazing opportunity, please contact me at Walking into vast buildings, gazing up, looking around, soaking it all in is an exhilarating experience. However, “recognizing the least of our brethren” as God’s holy Temple, and erecting a small, one-room brick box that will protect his family, is something that is truly impressive. Actually, impressive. Perhaps, even, to God.

With Love in He Who is the Builder of the House,

Fr. Anthony