The annual Diocesan Assembly of the Diocese of the West took place from October 24 to October 26 at St. Seraphim Orthodox Cathedral in Santa Rosa, CA.
The assembly unofficially kicked off on Tuesday the 24th at 1 PM with a meeting of Diocesan Chancellor Archpriest Kirill Sokolov with clerics new to the Diocese within the last 5 years in the original Protection Church. The aim of this gathering was to make sure the new(er) clergy were aware of diocesan procedures and best practices. Fr. Kirill was joined by several deans, as well as Diocesan Administrative Assistant Priest Andrew Smith.
Vespers was served at 5 PM by Priest Paul Hamner (St. Paul the Apostle Church, Las Vegas, NV), a native son of Protection Parish/St. Seraphim Cathedral. By this time most delegates had arrived, including honored guests His Grace, Bishop Alexei of Sitka and Alaska and Orthodox Church in America Chancellor Archpriest Alexander Rentel. After Vespers the guests and the Diocesan Council were invited to the home of the Anderson family, longtime benefactors of the cathedral, for dinner.
Wednesday’s business began with the molieben (prayer service) to begin a council in the cathedral. The morning’s business, including addresses by the hierarchs and chancellors, the passing of the 2024 budget, and the passing of a few minor changes to the diocesan bylaws, advanced so efficiently that many agenda items from the scheduled afternoon session were heard in the morning.
After a lunch break, the assembly delegates went off to meet with their respective deaneries, after which everyone reconvened in the cathedral to be spiritually nourished by His Grace, Bishop Alexei’s talk entitled “Watching Over Our Thoughts.” (Listen here) Once again, the delegates broke off, this time into eight randomly selected clergy-moderated groups, to discuss and reflect on various provided prompts designed to get everyone thinking of effective parochial, deanery, and diocesan ministry. After these fruitful discussions, the rest of the afternoon’s business led the assembly up until Great Vespers, served by Priest Ignatius Strange (St. Jacob of Alaska Mission, Bend, OR) and Deacon Paisios Daniels (Archangel Gabriel Mission, Ashland, OR).
Bishop Alexei addressed the assembly at that evening’s banquet, outlining the history (and challenges) of the Diocese of Sitka and Alaska, and inviting all to support His Grace’s initiative of the Alaska Clergy Endowment Fund. After an address by Fr. Alexander Rentel and closing remarks by His Eminence, Archbishop Benjamin, the delegates retired from the very full day to prepare for Liturgy.
The Hierarchical Divine Liturgy on Thursday was celebrated by Archbishop Benjamin and Bishop Alexei. Serving with the hierarchs were Archpriests Alexander Rentel and Kirill Sokolov, and diocesan deans: Archpriests Lawrence Russell, Stephen Soot, Matthew Tate, Lawrence Margitich, and Michael Anderson. Also serving were Deacons David Greenfield (SS. Cyril and Methodius Mission, Chico, CA), John Weiss (SS. Peter and Paul Church, Phoenix, AZ) and John Gallagher (St. Anne Church, Corvallis, OR). Bishop Alexei gave the homily, recounting the life of St. Demetrius of Thessalonica (October 26th).
At the end of the post-liturgical brunch, the business of the diocesan assembly was brought to a close with the clergy moderators from the previous day’s break-out sessions sharing the results of their discussion, and the election of 2024’s audit committee and diocesan council delegates.
Many thanks to Archpriest Lawrence Margitich and the parishioners of Holy Protection Parish/St. Seraphim Cathedral for sharing their beautiful temple, community, and hospitality with all who came to this year’s assembly. We look forward to reconvening at Annunciation Church in Milwaukie, OR in October 2024!
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