Pastoral Letter May 21, 2017

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” – Matthew 7:24-27

Dearly Beloved in the Lord,

Christ is Risen!
Truly He is Risen!

In the church office, still waiting to be hung with my other artwork, is a framed print of a beautiful lighthouse, inscribed with a portion of the above scriptural text. It was given to me many years ago, by my godmother, Sylvia Petrulakis, as a cherished gift when I was ordained a deacon. The lighthouse stands firmly embedded on the rocky coast as the waves crash violently against the jagged stones. Nothing, seemingly could possibly prevail against this fortified beacon…or frustrate its ultimate purpose…for its foundation had been properly established and sturdily built.

You see, this parable is not so much about houses, storms, rain, or even challenges and tribulations. But the primary lesson our Lord imparts…is about foundations. Buildings can be designed as whimsically or pragmatically as the architect’s talent, ability or imagination might allow. But the foundation, never lauded…or even particularly noticed for its aesthetic value or beauty, must simply perform its function – that is to keep the home…the building… the skyscraper…the bridge; standing upright and steadfast.

This Sunday, we will end our third year of Sunday School at St. Anna’s. I’ve written it before, and I’ve heard it said many times: “Has it really been three years?!?” Three years of hard work. Three years of joy. Three years of steady growth. Three years of Orthodox witness. And three years of tending to the emerging Faith of our precious youth. Yes. It’s been three years.

I remind our advancing students and our one graduate, that your parents, families, parish, priest, deacon, and Sunday School teachers did not work earnestly and faithfully to develop your intellect, character, spirit and judgment upon the weak and transitory properties of sand.

Your foundational roots are deep…they are powerful and complex. And they were nurtured here in the nurturing environment of St. Anna’s. The hours spent in class listening to teachers, engaged in dialogue, participating in creative role-plays, making crafts, and even coloring in the obligatory pictures of icons, have given you step-by-step, week-to-week, Sunday-to-Sunday building blocks that form the strong fortification of your Christian experience.

I remind our parents that in Sunday School, and throughout the spectrum of our Youth Ministry activities, we are striving solely for the building of foundations.

The Foundation that is Christ.

Our prayer is to equip our children for storms that we hope will never come. We stand as your partners in Faith and our Orthodox Christian values & traditions. Thank you for recognizing the importance of Sunday School in your children’s lives and for making sure they were there.

I gratefully remind our teachers, that for a few years, before attending Seminary, I enthusiastically held your position. As a Sunday School teacher at Holy Trinity Cathedral, I enjoyed the preparations, research, readings and prayers before each class. I especially cherished the interaction and discussions with the kids. Of course, I owe a great debt of gratitude to my own teachers who dedicated themselves to my spiritual education. I think they did a pretty good job!

So, in the spirit of offering thanks and gratitude to our teachers, please pray for the continued strength and inspiration of:

Heidi Varechok
Elaina Simos
Rebecca Shand
Cindy Johnson
Barbara Hillas
Jamie Cayias
Tanya Holbeck
Bob Varechok
Harry Hillas
Brandee Mau
Georgette Lowe
Elaine Peterson

and, especially, though she does not like to be singled out,
and since I’m already in trouble anyway for mentioning her…

Kim Mallas, our ever-dedicated Sunday School & Youth Director.

The good news: there were 78 students registered in our Sunday School Program this year.
The better news: we are losing only one student to graduation (Congratulations, Alexia Savas!) So the program should be more vibrant than ever, next year!

The sad news: Brandee Mau made an instant and massive impression in our high school students during the one year she taught. She and her lovely family will be moving back to Wyoming this summer, and they will all be greatly missed. It is my humble prayer that we, as a community, will send them with Christ’s love and our appreciation of having known them.

If Sunday School is the building of a foundation, then standing in front of our 10th,11th, and 12th graders is the finishing touch and the final word. Brandee and Harry have done such a wonderful job.

This was truly a blessed year in our Sunday School Program!

Lots of rock.
No sand.

Hardly the ideal setting for a day at the beach. But the perfect environment for Orthodox Christian education!

With Love in our Risen Lord,
Fr. Anthony

AS A REMINDER:
THIS WEEKEND IS SUNDAY SCHOOL GRADUATION, MAY 21ST, 2017, FOLLOWING THE DIVINE LITURGY.
THERE ARE 78 STUDENTS ENROLLED IN SUNDAY SCHOOL.
I WOULD LOVE TO HAND OUT 78 CERTIFICATES TO 78 STUDENTS.
PLEASE SEE TO IT THAT YOUR CHILDREN ARE IN ATTENDANCE, TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS BLESSED MILESTONE OF THEIR SPIRITUAL FORMATION.