Pastoral Letter October 8, 2017

“Lord of the Powers be with us; for in times of distress, we have no other help but You. Lord of the Powers, have mercy on us.”
– Troparion from the Great Compline

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Last Sunday evening, I went to bed glancing at a headline on my phone that read “Shooting in Las Vegas.” I was pretty exhausted so I didn’t click to read more. So, like so many other people around the world, I woke up to the news about what took place the evening before. As Facebook posts started pouring in throughout the morning, I read accounts of personal friends who were present. People who had attended that concert in the past. People who’s children have attended that concert in the past. I know people connected to my former parish who lost family in this shooting. What an incredibly horrific tragedy!

On Monday afternoon, Fr. John Hondros, the pastor of St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Las Vegas was kind enough to take the time to call me back. He is a good friend and an outstanding priest. He sounded exhausted, as you can imagine. Though there were no casualties connected directly to his parish, he was quick to point out that several of his young adults were in attendance. Many of his parishioners work in that hotel. Several people he knows worked at the concert venue. When things like this happen, we look for answers. And we look to the people who guide us and lead us in the Faith, to make sense out the senseless and convey hope to the hopeless.

Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco is the bishop who’s metropolis includes Las Vegas. His Eminence is a gentile pastor and a clinical psychologist. He understands brokenness and the need for healing. Though we posted his response to this tragedy on our Facebook page, I want everyone to read it so that we can all come together and pray, in our Orthodox tradition, for wholeness, peace, healing, love and protection to be showered down upon our fractured world. Please pray for Fr. John Hondros and his parish, that St. John the Baptist Church can be a source of comfort to the people of Las Vegas. And especially, let us pray for the victims and their families. We may never know why this man made the decisions he made, and acted out as he did. Evil exists. Sickness abides. But the love, strength and peace of God will always prevail.

The words of His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos:

Beloved in the Lord,

We are shocked and saddened by the violence that occurred in Las Vegas, Nevada last night, October 1, 2017, where people enjoying an outdoor music festival were confronted with rapid gunfire, killing at least 58 and wounding over 500 more. This senseless act has shaken our entire country and is now sadly the largest mass shooting in the United States.

I have been in contact with the parish priest in Las Vegas, Father John Hondros, who informed me that he is aware of parishioners that were in attendance at this concert but, by God’s grace, they are all are safe. I have also learned that faithful from parishes in other parts of the Metropolis were in attendance and, thankfully, they are also among those not injured in this attack. First responders from our clergy, in partnership with the International Orthodox Christian Charities, are en route to offer their support during this most difficult time.

There are also several Las Vegas parishioners affiliated with the police and fire departments, as well as crime scene investigators, who have been working throughout the night and will continue to labor over these next several days while this situation is brought under control. Our prayers are with them for God’s strength as they continue to serve the community with valor and selflessness.

The parish of Saint John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church will gather in prayer at 5:00 p.m. this evening to offer a Trisagion for those whose lives were lost, along with a Paraklesis Service for those who have been injured as well as for the peace and protection of their city, our country and throughout the world. If you are in the Las Vegas area, I encourage you to join with the community in prayer. For those located elsewhere in the Metropolis, please pause and take a moment to offer personal prayers for all those affected by this violence.

The Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco offers our deepest condolences to all those who are mourning the loss of loved ones, and we pray for the eternal rest of those who perished. We also ask God to bring healing to all those injured, and to grant His peace and comfort to the injured and their families, the musicians, and all those in public service who risked their lives for the safety of others.
With Love in Christ,
+ G E R A S I M O S
Metropolitan of San Francisco

With Much Love in XC,
Fr. Anthony Savas

REMINDER:

GOYA – Tuesday October 10th at the Home of Zachary and Jonathan Petrogeorge, 7:00 pm

TOPIC: WHAT ISIS CAN TEACH US ABOUT OUR ORTHODOX CHURCH

Does this topic sound absolutely crazy? This topic is literally closer to home than you could ever imagine!
Don’t let your kids miss out!

REMINDER:

Orthodox Married Life (OML) begins next Friday, October 13th at 7:00 pm
Please join us as we actually bless the marriage of Joshua and Vanny Lowery, our beloved parishioners who were kind enough to invite our OML Ministry into there household spiritual journey. We will celebrate their wedding and enjoy a discussion immediately following. This will be the most special OML Meeting to date!