2018 Pastor's Report

Fr Paul's 2018 Annual Pastor's Report for the Annual Meeting (Jan 28, 2018)

Diocesan Proposal to move to Percentage or Proportional Giving

Many years of many people campaigning in our Midwest Diocese for a more biblical form of funding the work of the Church will culminate at the Diocesan Assembly this October 8-10 (location yet to be determined). At this assembly, delegates from the parishes of the Midwest Diocese will vote on the proposal presented by the Diocesan stewardship committee, appointed by Bishop Paul two years ago, to move from assessments (head tax) to “percentage” giving. If the motion passes, we will join other Dioceses who also have moved to proportional giving. 

Assessments or “head tax” has been the form of funding the work of the Church here in America forever. The amount each parish is “assessed” is based on the number of adult “heads” in the parish. The Diocesan budget has been funded by dividing the Diocese’s projected annual budget (which includes what the Diocese is assessed by the OCA Chancery in Syosset, NY) by the number of adult members reported to the Diocesan Chancery by each parish every new Church year. Each parish, then, is “assessed” by the “quotient” of that equation multiplied by the number of adult members reported by that parish. The “product” of that equation is the amount each parish is “assessed” as moneys due to the Diocesan Chancery in Chicago. From the moneys the Diocesan Chancery collects from her parishes, a portion is due to the OCA’s national Church administration in Syosset, NY. What the Diocese owes the national Church does not change up or down depending on whether or not the Diocese is able to collect all that is due from her parishes. Thus, a parish does not pay its assessment, that parish’s portion due to the national Church comes out of the Diocesan treasury, which, obviously, effects the ability of the Diocese to fund its own budget.

Our assessment in the Midwest has not been increased for the last ten years or so; but, the total membership of the Diocese has been declining and the budgetary needs of the Diocese have been increasing. The result has been a deficit budget for the last three years of about $20k annually. If the proposal to move to “percentage” giving fails, diocesan assessments will go up to realize a balanced budget. Currently, fyi, the assessment is at about $180 per adult member.

If, on the other hand, the proposal to move to “percentage” giving passes, each parish of the Diocese will pay a percentage – anywhere between 9% - 12% is the expectation – of its net annual income, as calculated against a formula put together by the Diocesan stewardship committee. Our treasurer can explain what that would mean for us.

The proposal to move to “percentage” or “proportional” giving follows the generally recognized biblical “guideline” of 10%. We understand this as a practical guideline of – no pun intended – “economia”; for, the truly biblical guideline is “100%”. (I actually wrote a paper on this subject, delivered at a stewardship retreat held at St Mary’s Greek, way back in 1989 or so, which was published by Light and Life Publishing Co. under the scintillating title, “The Theology of Stewardship” – for anyone who wants to beat the rush and rush out to purchase a copy!)

His Grace, Bishop Paul, strongly believes the Diocese should move to “proportional” giving. I do, too, for the same fundamental reason: membership will then be based not on our pocketbook but on our participation in the sacramental life of the Church. (At St Herman’s, however, this has always been the case. We have no financial requirements for membership, and intentionally so; the faithful give offerings and donations as their means and circumstances allow and according to their love for the Church.)

Given the importance of this proposal, the Diocesan Council believes ample time should be given at the Diocesan Assembly for discussion. And so, the Diocesan Council has decided not to hold the next Diocesan Assembly in conjunction with the All American Council taking place this July in St Louis, as is normally done in the year of an AAC so that parishes do not have to cover the cost of two assemblies.

From this pastor’s report, then, we are presented with an action item for this annual parish meeting. We as a parish need to let our wishes known (to ourselves) with regard to the proposal to move to “percentage” giving; and we will want to elect a delegate to send to this next Diocesan Assembly to vote according to the expressed mind of the parish.

This Summer

I mentioned the All-American Council (or Sobor) in St Louis this summer. It will be held the week of July 22. His Grace, Bishop Paul, is asking the faithful of the Diocese to donate toward travel costs for delegates from Mexico and Alaska; and also for youth to encourage their attendance at the Council and their participation in the many youth activities conducted that week (under the direction of our own Fr Benjamin Tucci). Any donations we are able to give would be over and above our donations toward our capital campaign and our six charities (we’ll present those as part of the treasurer’s report on the parish’s projected annual budget), not to mention our offerings toward the general operating costs for our parish’s annual budget.

The Synod of Bishops has announced that it will recommend the All-American Council be held henceforth every four years instead of every three. The next AAC, then, would be in 2022.

Annual Pilgrimage to Holy Dormition

The dates of this year’s All-American Council fall during the week we would normally head out on our annual parish pilgrimage to Holy Dormition Monastery in Rives Junction, MI. With the blessing of Mother Abbess Gabriella, we therefore have scheduled our parish pilgrimage to the monastery for the following week. Those wishing to join us on our pilgrimage may plan to gather at the monastery on Monday late afternoon, July 30, returning on Thursday morning, Aug 2. That means that we’ll be with Mother Abbess Gabriella and the mothers and sisters for the beginning of the Dormition Fast on Wednesday, Aug 1.

Baptisms and Catechumens

Since last January (2017), we have seen three baptisms. It looks like Eve and Evangeline Sophia were born from above and received into the Church through baptism and chrismation on Lazarus Saturday last Pascha. That would indicate that they are getting very close to their one year old birthday!? In October, we baptized and chrismated Lucia Emelia. The “we” in reference to Lucia’s baptism has a bit of “umph” to it: “we” means “we” quite literally as in we, her Grandpa Fr Aurel, her Uncle Fr Timo, her Uncle Fr Cyprian, and me, her Grandpa Fr Paul. Might that explain why she’s so “chill”?

We were blessed to enroll Jessie into the catechumenate this year. Jessie was born and raised in the communist, atheistic culture of modern day China. It has been an especially fun challenge finding that point in the Orthodox Christian Faith that addresses intelligibly the radically different world view and vision of human nature and destiny that shaped her. Her gentle and kind soul has been a blessing to the culture of our parish. We look forward to the time she is ready, along with her and Matthew’s son, Albert, to be baptized and chrismated and received into the Church to join her husband, Matthew, and their daughter, Eleanor, who was chrismated at St Herman’s on January 8 this last year. We also sorta hope that that time will coincide with Albert getting old enough not to be overly traumatized by a good dunking in the font with his mother!

In the months ahead, we may have the joy of enrolling others into the catechumenate. Receiving seekers and inquirers into our midst is a joy. The Orthodox Christian Faith is walking into the garden of the Savior’s Resurrection; but it is not a walk through the park. It requires the denying of oneself, going into the wilderness of one’s soul, working to put to death all that is earthly in us in the power of Christ’s cross – which we don’t just talk about. We are called to engage this “spiritual warfare” within our souls “from this day, from this hour, from this moment” by taking up our cross in the form of the Church’s ascetic disciplines of prayer and fasting, walking in the way of obedience to the commandments of Christ. This means suffering in one way or another; but, the mystery, the “secret” is that we find healing and joy in this suffering of the Cross that illumines our life with meaning and hope. It is this joy and light that we love to share with all who pass through our doors in the hope that they, too, with us, may sing: “We have found the true faith; we have seen the true light, we have received the heavenly Spirit, worshipping the undivided Trinity who has saved us! Amen!”