43rd Annual Assembly Held in Bethlehem, PA

Divine Liturgy / Assembly

Bethlehem, PA – The Diocese of Eastern Pennsylvania held its 43rd Annual Assembly here on November 17th and 18th, 2006. Over 60 Clergy and Lay delegates gathered for an expanded two-day meeting at St. Nicholas Orthodox Church.

On Friday evening, following Vespers and the formal opening of the Assembly, His Grace, Bishop Tikhon, presented some reflections on Unity, the theme of this year’s Assembly. In light of the current crisis within the OCA, His Grace spoke of the need to preserve an attitude of sobriety and prayer. He encouraged the clergy and faithful to actively cultivate unity on a personal level, by beginning with true repentance that blames oneself rather than others, and on a Diocesan level, by participating in the work that will help the Church to preserve unity which is a gift of Christ.

After a discussion period, everyone partook of a common meal, during which a reading was offered from the Homilies of St. Gregory Palamas, On Peace with One Another. The next day, His Grace concelebrated the Divine Liturgy with Diocesan Clergy, after which the sessions of the Assembly resumed with the Reports of the Diocesan Bishop and of the Chancellor.

Expanding on his comments from the evening before, His Grace highlighted the good work that has been done within the Diocese over the past year, including the establishment of new OCF chapters, successful events sponsored by the Department of Christian Education, and the growth of Holy Apostles Mission in Mechanicsburg.

Changes within the Diocese were also announced: the Rev. Martin Browne was appointed Treasurer, and the new budget will reflect increases for missions, for seminarian scholarships, and for the Department of Christian Education. In addition, the Diocesan Magazine will be published twice, rather than three times, a year. The Chancellor further expanded upon the report of the Bishop in his address, highlighting some of the activities of the Diocesan Hierarch and the Diocesan Parishes, such as the generous response to the appeal for All Saint Church in Olyphant following a devastating fire.

After lunch, the Very Rev. Michael G. Dahulich, Dean of St. Tikhon’s Seminary, offered a presentation in which he encouraged all those gathered to keep their hearts and minds focused on the Lord, the Divine Head of the Church, and on their responsibility to continue the work of the Diocese, reflecting the Gospel message in all that we do. He added that the current financial issues should not be the focus of our total involvement; citing St. Paul’s analogy that if one part of the body is ill, we should not let the rest of the body become paralyzed by the infection. He stressed that while treating the illness, we need to resume nourishing the whole Body of Christ and move toward healing and spiritual growth.

During the afternoon sessions, further reports were offered from the Diocesan Deaneries and Departments as well as from the Metropolitan Council Representative who fielded many open and direct questions concerning the progress of the present investigation into the financial crisis.

Elections were held for Diocesan Council and Metropolitan Council Representatives and the Assembly concluded with a recommendation from the floor that, in the spirit of fair share giving and in an effort to restore our entire Church to solid financial ground, His Grace Bishop Tikhon call for a special collection requesting all members of the Diocese to voluntarily offer a contribution which would be forwarded to the Central Church Administration and applied directly towards the principal of the $1.7 million loan. His Grace accepted the recommendation and will consider the proper procedure to implement this positive effort.

The Assembly concluded with prayer at 4:30 p.m.

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