“As the Holy Trinity, our God is One Being, although Three Persons, so, likewise, we ourselves must be one. As our God is indivisible, we also must be indivisible, as though we were one man, one mind, one will, one heart, one goodness, without the smallest admixture of malice – in a word, one pure love, as God is Love. “That they may be one, even as We are One” (John 17:22).”St. John of Kronstadt
Dearly Beloved in Christ,
With all of the talk and anticipation surrounding our new church building, God willing that will be in our possession by this coming fall, I enjoyed a blessed experience today that is linked to our new location at the Atrium.
I was invited to participate in the annual Sandy City Interfaith Leaders Luncheon. The City Council hosts this event so that the faith leaders of the area can come together and celebrate the spiritual diversity of our anticipated community.
From the time of my theological studies, and well into my ordained ministry, I have always appreciated ecumenical dialogue, the opportunity to share our rich, Orthodox Christian traditions and to learn from the beliefs of like-minded religious leaders who represent differing faiths and confessions. Sitting around a table at the Hale Center Theater today, was no different.
You will be happy to know that there is a dynamic representation of world faiths and Christian creeds in the Sandy area. I considered it a gracious expression of Sandy’s continued embrace to invite me to this gathering, though we are not yet members of their community. Once again, they have sent the clear message that St. Anna Greek Orthodox Church is a welcomed addition to the fabric of their city.
Having served many years in Los Angeles, I was used to a diverse, interfaith community, with fellow pastors who’s desire to work together was stronger than any division that our differing beliefs could cause. My experiences in those settings was consistent with my interactions today. We all live in the same, general area. We are raising our families. We love our nation. We are obedient to the Lord.
We, as pastors, priests, and other religious leaders are blessed with the awesome responsibility to stand in front of our congregations. We represent the work of the Lord to the people. And to the Lord, we stand on behalf of the people.
Each and every one of us who sat together, sharing a meal and swapping pastoral stories, understood the great gift that has been given us, and shutter at the awesomeness of the responsibility that has been given us. We are all small, unimportant sinners who have been charged with tasks that can only be accomplished through God’s grace, through His will and for His purpose.
The other beautiful aspect of today’s gathering, besides meeting spiritual leaders of the area, was to have yet, another opportunity to meet and know our leaders at City Hall. They called this meeting and extended the invitation. The city opened its heart and presented the opportunity to celebrate the common thread which binds us: to serve.
All of us; civic leaders and religious leaders alike, will always have that in common. We are servants. Our mission, our calling, our vocation is to serve the needs of others. We do it joyfully, thankfully and with all the energy that can be called upon. Tonight, my heart is filled with gratitude towards God and for all the dear parishioners who call St. Anna our spiritual home.
You have heard me say this many times…I’ve written it…printed it…preached it…prayed about it: that we as a community will also be called to serve our greater community. Once we are firmly planted in a permanent home in the City of Sandy, we will be counted upon to be civic partners, Christian neighbors and fellow sojourners on this journey that is life. Not that we presently neglect these callings, but it will be different once we have our own address.
Please, my Brothers and Sisters in Christ, pray for our present and future communities and all the people whom these cities represent. Pray for the people in the cities where you live and pray for the comfort and salvation of all people in all cities throughout the world.
Please pray for the spiritual leaders who are called to serve, that our hearts can remain pure and that our every action is honorable before the Lord. Please pray for the civic leaders at every level of government. Ask God to keep them grounded, humble, right-minded and without a lust for power.
Your bishop, your policeman, your priest, your mayor, your dog catcher and your clerk…we all represent those who are called to serve. Faith leaders of all backgrounds and confessions are called similarly, fulfilling the needs of their communities. And as St. John reminds us in the above-referenced quote, we are called to do it as one.
Doctrines, Theologies, Dogmas and Creeds can divide. Love and mutual respect will unite. This is the spirit that permeates our new city. I say with all humility; we’re going to fit in just fine.
With Much Love in Christ,