Pastoral Letter June 23, 2019

What does the priesthood mean? It means to be an enduring witness to human suffering and to take it upon your own shoulders. To be the one who warms the leper at his own breast, the one who gives life to the miserable through the breath from his own mouth. To be a strong comfort to every unfortunate one, even when you yourself are overwhelmed with weakness. To be a ray of shining light to unhappy hearts when your own eyes long ago ceased to see any light. To carry mountains of others’ sufferings on your shoulders, while your own being screams out with the weight of its own suffering. Your flesh will rebel and say, “This heroism is absurd, impossible! Where is such a man, where is the priest you describe so that I may put my own suffering on his shoulders?” Yes, nevertheless, he does exist! From time to time there awakens within us the priest of Christ who, like the Good Samaritan, will kneel down by the side of the man fallen among thieves and, putting him upon his own donkey, will bring him to the Church of Christ for healing. And he will forget himself and comfort you, O man of suffering.

Father George Calciu (1925-2006)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The above quote is from the sanctified Fr. George Calciu of Romania. He lived through great hardships in his home country and eventually served here in the United States. What a blessed soul! I love his description of the priesthood. He articulates the very ideals and virtues that should be expected of every Orthodox priest. To take all the sadness of the people upon our shoulders. Lovely! To be  a man of suffering. Of course! To embrace the leper while freely giving my literal, last breath for the sake of the souls entrusted to my care. Naturally!

Of course, my Beloved in the Lord, you know better than I, that Fr. George’s description of his priesthood; the priesthood that should be the mirror of Christ’s, because the priesthood belongs to Christ alone, is nearly unrecognizable in me. I try. Prayerfully I try to serve with with the same measure of love, commitment, love, sensitivity, love, long-suffering, love, patience, love, sacrifice and love as the description above. Some days I hit it, and I’m grateful. Most days I fall well short, and I am ashamed. But please know that I am always striving and attempting. 

To minister is to be of service. To support, guide, assist and uphold. To willfully do these things means that one has answered the Call that God put forth, awaiting a response. Of course, the priest is only one person, and the parish is only a relatively small group of people. In the case of our St. Anna parish, I estimate over 400 souls are directly attached to our church family. But what of the larger world around us? What of the grater community of which we are a part? What of the people outside the doors of our church who are not “us”? Who will embrace them? Who will bear them upon their shoulders? Who will be the ray of shining light to those who suffer in and around Sandy City?

Well, it should be us. It will be us.

From the moment we started working to pursue a permanent church home for ourselves, I prayed for, and preached about the blessed responsibility we will have to serve our community. Once we move into the Atrium building, we cannot build a protective wall around ourselves and ignore the good people up and down 1300 East. I’ve often asked “Once we establish ourselves in Sandy, what will we be known for”? Will we sponsor the nicest Holiday Boutique? Will we sell the best baklava? Will we have the most beautiful church? Eventually, yes, we will indeed worship in the most beautiful church. But to what end, for what purpose and to Who’s glory? If we are to properly celebrate our precious Orthodox Christian Faith, we have to practice our faith. And that means being known in the community as civic partners. I am so, so grateful that our parish leadership and Women’s Ministry Team share this vision. 

In the coming weeks, we will reveal our entire scope of what we hope to do in partnership with our neighborhood. Even though we are purchasing property in an exceptional part of town, there are individuals, schools and shelters who are in need of our hands, hearts, resources, facilities and man hours. It’s been said that a church that does not engage itself in the life of its city is nothing more than a country club. I do not believe that the founders of our parish sacrificed their comforts, friendships, history in the Greek community and familiar ecclesiastical settings to establish a social center. We are a church. We are the Body of Christ. We have inherited a fantastic legacy which compels us get our hands dirty and share in the well-being of humanity. You will read in the attached Bulletin, the following announcement:

The Women’s Ministry Team is once again sponsoring parish-wide donation drives as part of our community service outreach program to help those in need.  During the month of July, St. Anna parishioners will be collecting needed items to donate to the Midvale Family Support Center. A list of specific items will be posted in the bulletin and at Church starting next Sunday. We look forward to sharing the love and generosity of St. Anna’s with those less fortunate.

This is our next step in developing such a heart; a move-in-ready heart in our new space. There are countless joys to be had. Five years in, we’re only getting started! 

With Much Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony

Please pay special attention to the attached announcement concerning this Saturday’s Enthronement of our new Archbishop. His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America comes to us with great hope and enthusiasm for the direction of our National Church. We offer him our support, prayers, and humbly ask his blessings as he begins his own ministry, guiding the faithful of our Greek Orthodox Church. He is indeed capable. He is worthy.