|2022 Pastor's Report|
Fr Paul's 2022 Annual Pastor's Report for the Annual Meeting (Jan 30, 2022)
The Purpose and Mission of St Herman’s Orthodox Parish
A devastating consequence of ‘this present darkness’ (Eph 6.12) that has descended on our world is the disintegration of the family and of traditional family values. Coming out from this disintegration is loneliness, depression, despair, even mental illness—the result and cause of hopelessness stemming from fear that there is no meaning in life, a fear that is itself the result of the belief that has captured the minds of people in this world that there is no truth; or, that ‘truth’ is whatever I want it to be.
If the Church is the Body of Christ, the Fullness of Him who is all in all, then the fullness of God dwells in Her and She is the Light of Christ Himself that shines in the darkness, and that the darkness cannot extinguish.
Our purpose and mission, then, as a temple of the Body of Christ, is to ‘shine as lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.’ (Phl 2:15)
‘Exhausted from vain labors,’ writes Elder Joseph in his account of St Joseph the Hesychast, ‘humanity asks idly: Is the Gospel the Truth? Is it true religion? Is it reality? How much of this we hear every day! To questioning of this kind, no answer could be more appropriate than the description and presentation of the actual lives of true Christians; godly Fathers, who bore witness to this good confession not ‘in those days’, but today. What confession is this? That ‘yesterday and today and forever’ (Heb 13.8) God in Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit remains the same, with all His Truth, with all His Grace and with all His Love, to gather into His embrace man, every human being, wherever and however and always. How needful this witness is amidst today’s ‘signs of the times’ scarcely needs to be said.’ (p. 224-225)
I fear that the darkness is deepening. My prayer is to be made stronger in the fear of God. This is what determines my pastoral vision for St Herman’s. Our parish, if she is to be truly the Body of Christ, the Light Who shines in the darkness that cannot be extinguished, a divine haven for the lonely and fearful looking for meaning and hope, even for the salvation of their souls, must be centered on prayer, which is the true theology. Our goal should be for each one of us to become ‘theologians’, lights shining in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. Our parish, then, must be a place of and for prayer, where it is the LORD who is working in us, and not our own vainglory or self-righteousness. May it be so! To the degree my stamina allows, our service schedule is established to serve this purpose.
The Measure of a Healthy Parish
Not that many years ago, we came into December looking at a projected deficit of several thousand dollars. But we took this as an occasion to remember that the health of our parish is not measured by our bank account. It is measured, intangibly, by faithfulness to the Gospel; it is rooted in the Faithful struggling, each one, to love God with all his heart, soul, strength and mind, and his neighbor as himself. This is an ascetical struggle that is centered on and worked out in prayer, both singly in the closet of one’s heart, and communally, in the sacramental and liturgical worship of the Church.
As it turned out that year, once the Faithful were informed of the projected deficit, they increased their offerings and donations, and we actually ended the year with a surplus of a few thousand dollars. I saw this as a concrete expression of the faithful’s love for God and His Holy Church, and their commitment to the mission of St Herman’s: to answer through faithfulness to the Orthodox Christian Faith, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the questions of those genuinely seeking the Truth.
This year, we left the old year with a surplus of over twenty-three thousand dollars. But this, too, is another occasion, albeit much more pleasant than a few years ago, for us to remember what is the measure of a healthy parish. It still isn’t our bank account. It’s the measure to which we are pursuing, singly and communally, the ascetical work of prayer, the spiritual struggle of acquiring humility and holiness. For this is what gives birth in us to genuine love for God and our neighbor; and this is what answers, in a divine way, the deepest questions of those seeking the Truth.
Some Parish Credentials
The LORD is blessing our parish with a steady stream of visitors. We see new faces almost every Sunday. A number of these visitors are sticking around. Some have become catechumens; others have expressed interest in becoming a catechumen. I am especially struck by the number of young people who are visiting us. In my mind, it is an exceptional young person who is seeking the Truth, who is seeking the LORD Jesus Christ, in this day and age. Let us each one pray for our visitors, that the Holy Spirit will extend the blessing of the LORD to them and to everyone who passes through our doors, and especially to those who are seeking the Truth.
Turning now to mundane matters: I count 58 adult members of St Herman’s parish in 2022. This is the number against which we will establish what constitutes a quorum for our annual meeting. Since the annual parish meeting in January, 2021, we received into the Church, through Holy Baptism and Holy Chrismation, the servant of God, Michael Thompson, and the infant of God, Elizabeth Thweat. On Pentecost Sunday, June 20, 2021, we performed the marriage ceremony in which God joined together the handmaiden of God, Katarina Marie Wesche, to the servant of God, Jerrius Jubran. They shortly thereafter moved to Ft Smith, AR, where Jerry is attending medical school.
A Final Word
I close this report with these words of St Paul, hoping that they will ring in our ears to reshape our inner man in the work of the Church that we are called to do: (Phil 3.8-14) Let us count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus Our Lord. For his sake, let us pray Our LORD for the courage of faith that is glad to suffer the loss of all things in order to gain Christ, and to be found in him, not having a righteousness of our own but the righteousness of faith that is from God; that we may know him and the power of his resurrection, that we may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, so that, if possible we may attain the resurrection from the dead. Let us not consider that we have already obtained this or that we are already perfect; but let us lay hold of that by which Christ Jesus has laid hold of us [His Cross], and leave what lies behind us and press on, our spiritual eyes fixed firmly on the call from above that is from God the Father in Christ Jesus.
ARCHPRIEST PAUL WESCHE
Annual Report to Parish