14th Annual Diocesan Days Gathering in the West
It was a weekend of spiritual and social activities for all ages with the host bishop His Grace Maxim, guest speakers, clergy, monastics and faithful from all of the parishes and monasteries throughout Western Diocese.
It’s Labor Day weekend and all roads lead to Jackson, California. All the faithful of the Western diocese know this and a family trip to this small mining town southeast of Sacramento has become a tradition. In the last few year Jackson’s population has grown to a little over four thousand. Founded in 1848, Jackson became home to the oldest Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America, St. Sava church built in 1894. It was here that the earthly remains of the Apostle of the American land, Fr. Sebastian Dabovich (1863-1940), were laid to rest during the eleventh Diocesan days celebration in 2007.
The theme for the 2010 Diocesan Days gathering was “The Church and the Challenges of Contemporary Life” taken from the Gospel as described in Matthew 8:23-27, Mark 4:37-41 and Luke 8:23-25. Reflecting on this Gospel story we see that the effect of Christ’s powerful command was to calm the storm on the sea, but also to calm his disciples’ fears. By taking care of the troubling circumstances of life Christ was able to take away their fears and build their faith in Him.
This becomes the powerful thrust of this passage to all subsequent believers who are tossed about by the challenges of contemporary life. Even though there are so many things in life that threaten our lives and cause us to fear, the more we grow in communion with the Lord and know His power, the less we will be afraid. Our prayer for deliverance from our troubles will be less and less out of fear and desperation and more out of confidence and trust in God’s providence and care over His Church, the Ship, of which we are members. A powerful image of the Church as a ship: the people of God gathered in communion with God on board a ship with Christ as the Master of the vessel, was depicted beginning with the clergy meeting on Friday, September 3, and continuing with a presentation by Professor Nenad Milosevic, a students’ choir, guests from the School of Theology in Belgrade, Serbia who spoke on marriage as sacrament (mystery) in the Orthodox Church. The theme continued to be reflected upon in a interactive discussion with Metropolitan Nikitas of Dardanelles who is also a dean of Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute, and in his main address on Sunday. It concluded with a presentation by Fr. Dr. Andrew Cuneo from St. Seraphim of Sarov OCA parish, Santa Rosa, CA.
The Gospel story of Christ calming the sea storm is the image taken to describe the Orthodox Church as a ship. Its keel represents the Orthodox Faith in the Holy Trinity. Its beams and planks stand for the dogmas and traditions of the Faith. Its mast represents the Cross, while its sail and rigging represent Hope and Love. The Master of the vessel is our Lord Jesus Christ, whose hand is on the rudder. The mates and sailors are the Apostles, and the successors of the Apostles, and all clergymen, and teachers. The passengers on the ship comprise all Orthodox Christians. The sea symbolizes present life. A gentle and zephyr-like breeze signifies whiffs and graces of the Holy Spirit wafting the vessel on its course to the salvation. Winds, on the other hand, are temptations baffling it.
The fourteenth gathering of the clergy and the faithful in the west this Labor Day weekend has strengthened this growing and vibrant diocese. We wish many years to His Grace Bishop Maxim and the faithful of his diocese and
Assured that Christ’s hand is always on the helm of the ship, His Church, the faithful and guests returned home readying themselves for a prayerful beginning of the new ecclesiastical and school year.