The Latest News in the Diocese

Bishop Benjamin in Kiev for OCA

On Tuesday, November 23, 2010, the Orthodox Church in America was represented at the festal celebrations held in honor of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev and All Ukraine at the Kievo-Pechersky Lavra in Kiev...

St. Raphael Celebration at Raphael House

It was with great joy for the Live-In Orthodox Community of Raphael House in San Francisco to welcome His Grace Bishop Benjamin to celebrate the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy for our Patronal Feast of the Holy Archangels on Monday, November 8th. All weekend long the Community busied itself like “bees at a BBQ” in the final preparations for the service and the Feast following.

New Website Launched

With the blessing of His Grace, Bishop Benjamin, the Diocese of the West officially launched its new website on November 18, 2010. We invite you to take a look around and familiarize yourself with our new look. Should you have any questions or comments, please direct them to our webmaster.

Coffee for Orphans

With our beloved Bishop now on the board for Project Mexico, and hundreds of faithful throughout our diocese having participated in and benefitted from the work of Project Mexico, we would like to offer the following funding opportunity.  ”San Inocencio” is an extremely nice Fair Trade Organic roast that benefits our neighbors to the south twice:  1) it originates from the Oaxaca region of Mexico from a limited number of small family farms; 2) 100% of all proceeds will benefit the ongoing work of St. Innocent’s in Tijauna.

Future Deacons Gather

A dozen men from Oregon, Washington State, and California gathered at Milwaukie's Annunciation Church for a weekend practicum in diaconal liturgical practice.

The participants are enrolled in the Orthodox Church in America's Diaconal Vocations Program or are in the process of discerning a diaconal vocation.  Archdeacon Kirill Sokolov, coordinator of diaconal and late vocations for the Orthodox Church in America, led the retreat. Archpriest Mathew Tate, Rector of Annunciation Church, Archpriest George Gray, Priest Nicholas Kime and other local clergy took part in the divine services and in panel discussions on the holy diaconate.  The practicum was organized by the Diocese of the West with the blessing of His Grace, Bishop Benjamin of San Francisco and the West.



To the Reverend Clergy and Faithful of the Diocese of the West

Dearly beloved: 

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

[Jesus] assumed a body capable of death, in order that it, through belonging to the Word Who is above all, might become in dying a sufficient exchange for all, and, itself remaining incorruptible through His indwelling, might thereafter put an end to corruption for all others as well, by the grace of the resurrection. It was by surrendering to death the body which He had taken, as an offering and sacrifice free from every stain, that He forthwith abolished death for His human brethren by the offering of the equivalent. For naturally, since the Word of God was above all, when He offered His own temple and bodily instrument as a substitute for the life of all, He fulfilled in death all that was required. Naturally also, through this union of the immortal Son of God with our human nature, all men were clothed with incorruption in the promise of the resurrection. (St. Athansius, On the Incarnation)

As we gather once more to joyously celebrate the Lord’s Incarnation — His taking upon Himself human flesh — we are left to ponder God’s infinite love for us. Were any of us given the gift of acting as God, it is abundantly clear that we would not have dealt with the Fall, Death and corruption in the wondrous manner God chose. No, we would probably choose some sort of divine infliction of “power” — some type of coming in glory, maybe with thunder and lightning, striking fear in all of creation.

Instead, in complete and self-emptying love, He became one of us. He took upon Himself everything that we were and are, including sin and death. In uniting the divine nature with our own fallen, human nature, He ensured the destruction of death and has given us the hope and, indeed, the Promise, of resurrection. His coming has restored hope to all of creation. All of creation can now look to the Kingdom made present in the Lord Himself as His gift to us.

But this coming, and the promise that came with it, demands of us a response. We live in a redeemed creation that still groans under the weight of sin and corruption trying to seduce us into a rejection of the Gift. Look at our world right now; we can witness the raging fires that destroy everything in their path, we witnessed in our own diocese the horrors of the October 1 attack in Las Vegas, and we can look around our own neighborhoods and see crime, homelessness, hunger and the distortion (and destruction) of family and the unborn.

So what is the response demanded of us? It is simple, and yet so difficult. The response is to witness to the Coming of the Lord, to respond in faith to His eternal presence in His Church, and live lives worthy of the calling He has given to each of us, His beloved creation. We reflect the new-born Christ in such fidelity, holding on to His teachings and precepts in the face of a creation and culture that is soaked in blood, pornography, and death. Only by living such lives of faith can we, as His children and servants, begin to transform the world around us into the Cave that shone with His divine Light, but also foreshadows His death and resurrection.

In the incarnation in the flesh of our Savior, we are indeed “clothed with incorruption in the promise of the resurrection.” Let us not diminish this great and holy gift by reducing our celebration to the dim lights and consumption that our culture suggests is the real celebration. Let us strive with every fiber of our being to be clothed daily in the incorruption which He, and He alone, offers us!

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

In the new-born Child,

Archbishop of San Francisco and the West

Scenes from SF Walk for Life

His Eminence, Archbishop Benjamin, began the West Coast Walk for Life with a prayer and led the numerous Orthodox Christians present. Thanks to Subdeacon Johann Morse for pictures.

Go Fund Me Campaign For Matushka Priscilla Shipley

After years of suffering from chronic pain and other enigmatic symptoms, Matushka Priscilla Shipley was recently diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). According to the MS Society, symptoms of MS are often mistaken for other conditions including Lyme Disease for which she tested positive for several years ago.  Mat. Priscilla has tried every treatment under the sun to address what doctors thought were Lyme symptoms, all the while leaving her MS untreated for years.  Unfortunately, the MS progressed rapidly and just recently Mat. Priscilla was rendered blind in one eye and unable to walk.  Last week they went to Stanford, and had a very long informative appointment. It turns out that not only does Mat. Priscilla have MS, she also has a rarer disease called Neuromyelitis Optica or NMO. It's similar to MS, but much more serious and can be fatal. She will have to do more tests to rule out cancer, and then if there is no evidence of cancer start treatment for the NMO as soon as possible. This means immune suppressing infusions and steroids, among other things.

Her husband, Fr. Ian (the full time priest at Sts. Cyril and Methodius in Chico, CA) has been caring for her at home.  Doctors are unable to tell whether these debilitating conditions will be permanent or not.  Until then, the family is in great need of outside assistance while they travel to Stanford and UC Davis so that Matushka can begin her tests and treatments.  We ask for everyone’s prayers, and we also ask that you please consider helping to contribute financially, not only so that they might be able to work with home health aides who can provide much needed support, but also to help fund necessary renovations to their bathroom (to accommodate a wheelchair), travel expenses to and from Stanford and probably UC Davis and any additional medical costs not covered by insurance.  Thank you.  

To help support the Shipleys in their time of need, click on the link: https://www.youcaring. com/priscillashipley-1089613


by Father John Dresko

            Annually, our country pauses to honor and remember, at least officially, workers in our country on Labor Day. It is important to reflect on the words of Saint Paul from his first letter to the Corinthians during liturgy that weekend regarding a labor dispute in the early Church. In that reading (1 Cor. 9:2-12), Saint Paul talks about the rights of the apostles to make their living from the Church because they have worked so hard in the Church.

            Now I know that in the Orthodox Church none of our parishes have ever had a dispute about whether their pastor should be paid more or less (!), but nonetheless, it is a very important reading for us to dwell on. What's important is not just that Paul defends very vigorously the fact that the Church has a responsibility to care for its workers, but also that Paul points to the Church, to the Corinthians, as the sign that he has worked in the Church.

            He says to them, "Am I not an apostle?...You (meaning the Corinthians, the faithful of the Church) are the seal of my apostleship." (1 Cor. 9:1-2) He is saying, "You are the example that what I have done is work very hard in the vineyard of the Lord and that work has brought forth fruit, because you, the people of Corinth, are the seal of what I have done." They prove the apostleship of Paul; they justify his labors.

            In America, we have a funny idea of labor. Generally speaking, we have laws that prohibit people from working until they're about 16 years old. We also have laws that say when you reach a certain age (about 65 or 70), you have to stop working. You have to retire.

            We have really three areas of labor that we have defined for American society: labor, retirement and, perhaps most important, inheritance. The American ideal is to reach working age, start out in your life's career, make your money, put away enough for retirement, and then, by not squandering it, leave an inheritance to those loved ones whom you choose. The problem in America is that we tend to take the same ideas and ideals about labor, retirement and inheritance and apply them to our Church life and our individual spiritual lives.

            We look at labor and say, "You aren't supposed to work until sixteen." But in the life of the Church, if we waited until everyone is sixteen and then expect them to take up some of the burden of the life of the Church, we will shoot ourselves in the foot. They will not be involved enough in the life of the Church to want to stay until they're sixteen.

            Labor, in the life of the Church, has to be part of a person's life literally from the moment he/she is baptized. When a child is brought into the life of the Church, they are baptized and chrismated and immediately the priest gives them Holy Communion. They are full members of the Church and they are expected to bear the full responsibility of full membership in the Church in as much as their abilities allow them. For example, it is important to nurture children, to educate them, expect them to sing in the choir, take care of the candlestand, serve, read, etc. That is the way they become incorporated into the life of the Church.

            As time goes on, we live out our lives in the Church and we are called to do the things that need to be done in the life of the Church. We serve, we sing, we pray, we worship, we serve on the Parish Council, the Sisterhood, the Brotherhood, the PTA, we light candles and clean up, we help at fund-raisers, etc. - all the various things that are done in the daily life of the Church.

            But then, God willing, we reach a certain age and we think that we are entitled, because in America it is true, to be relieved of that burden. To retire. But in the life of the Church, that is simply not so. God does not tell us, "Before you are sixteen, to have no responsibility in the Church: you don't have to pray, you don't have to fast, to don't have to learn, to don't have to come to church services." As a matter of fact, we even begin to expect repentance from children at about the age of seven.

            Likewise, God does not say, "When you reach a certain age, then I don't have any more responsibilities for you. I have taken away everything that I have given to you. I'll give it to someone else - even if there is no one else."

            Saint Paul felt the tug of that feeling so strongly, that to the Philippians he says these words:


...I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I shall not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If it is to be life in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. (Philippians 1:19-24)


If I die, that is gain- because I am with Christ. But if I live, that means fruitful labor for me. Saint Paul's desire was to depart and to be with Christ, for that is far better. "I want to die," Saint Paul says to the Philippians, "because then I can go to the Kingdom of God and be relieved of all these burdens - all the burdens of caring for you, for the Corinthians, the Romans, etc. in the life of the Church; I would rather just die."

            Anyone who has worked in the Church - any priest, any bishop, any Christian who has tried to do anything in the life of the Church - can understand that feeling. There are times when it would be so much better to lay down and just be with the Lord, to be relieved of all the struggles.

            But then Saint Paul says, "But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account." He would rather die, but he knows from the Lord that he is not going to die, because he has labors to carry on in order for them (the Philippians) to increase in stature - for them to grow as a Church.

            So Saint Paul is tired. He wants to retire. He wants to die. But the Lord says no. It is better for the Church, and ultimately for Paul's salvation, that he remain in the flesh because then he could continue his work, his labors. So we don't have a young age, and we don't have an old age, when the Lord does not demand something of us.

            But we must not forget inheritance. We know that labor is the life of the Christian, labor is the life of the Church. We know that there is no "pre-labor," and there is no "retirement" in the Lord. We spend our lives in this world working and slaving, saving up and putting away, etc., in order that something might be left for those who come after us.

            It is obvious that we as Orthodox Christians do not take that same ethic of inheritance and apply it to the life of the Church. Not only, generally speaking, are we not generous with the Church, but we don't think about inheritance in the life of the Church. Most people do not think about putting something aside or leaving something as our legacy to the Church. We don't put bequests to the Church in our wills, we don't leave money to the Church, we don't leave property to the Church. It happens occasionally, but that is the rare exception rather than the example.

            But that's not even the point.

            The point is that we spend all our time on this physical, material, tangible inheritance - building up our bank accounts and building up our retirement accounts and building up our IRAs, making sure that our mortgage is paid off and leaving property and, most definitely, writing a will to ensure that not one penny goes where I don't want it to go.

            At the same time, we ignore the inheritance that we must leave to the Church. We ignore the inheritance that we must give to our children. At the same time that we accumulate our bank accounts, we allow our children to go astray. At the same time that are socking away money in our IRAs, our children are running around in the streets. At the same time we are spending hours poring over our tax returns searching for that last little deduction, our children are spending time watching TV, playing Nintendo and never praying. We don't give our families the inheritance of faith.

            That's the inheritance that God is worried about. That's the inheritance that the priest mentions, when he says after Communion, "O Lord, save Thy people and bless Thine inheritance." Bless Thine inheritance - bless what is left to us.

            But what are we leaving? We worry so much about these earthly anxieties that we don't give ourselves to the life of the Church. We don't give ourselves to a life of prayer. We don't give ourselves individually to God. And the material inheritance we leave is spent in a short time, and in a generation, no one knows a thing of what we did in our lifetimes.

            Inheritance is something that God give us not to accumulate in a bank account, but to accumulate in the Kingdom of God. Saint Paul says these words to the Colossians:


Whatever your task (that is, whatever you are called to do in life), work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:23-24)


Whatever you do in life, the inheritance that you can receive is already prepared for you. It is the reward from God for the way you live your life today.

            And so, we are called to labor. We are called to labor from the moment we are baptized to the moment we die. We are called to remember that the retirement plan in the life of the Church, in our spiritual lives, the moment when we are freed from all responsibilities and obligations is the moment we take our last breath. That is the moment we peacefully retire from the life of the Church. And we are called to remember that the inheritance is the Kingdom of God. That Kingdom has already been prepared for us. The only thing that we can do is squander it. We can't lose it unless we want to. If we turn to the Lord and go to Him, we have it.

            Lastly, as we remember labor, we remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ. Whenever we are tired, whenever we feel like the Lord (or the priest) has asked us to do just too much, whenever we feel that "someone else can do it," remember these words of our Lord:


"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)


If we are too tired to carry the burden of the Church, if we are too tired to carry the burden of Christianity, if we are too tired to carry the burden of spirituality in our own lives, it's because we have been trying to carry it by ourselves.

            We do not labor alone. We labor with Christ, and if we allow Him to carry our labors and bear the yoke, the labors and the burden will be light. But they will not go away. The inheritance is ready for us. Whether we accept it or not is our choice.