80th Anniversary of
St. George Orthodox Church – Canton, OH
I am delighted to be with all of you on this joyous day . . . a time when we continue our celebration of the glorious Resurrection of our Lord . . . And a day we celebrate the 80th Anniversary of this God-protected Community… I bring with me to all of you the blessings and greetings of my brother in Christ, His Eminence Metropolitan Philip, and the best wishes of the clergy and faithful of the Midwest Region.
Although Pascha seems to be well past us by now, we must not forget that we are still in that Holy Season between the Resurrection and the Ascension of Our Lord…… During these forty days you still hear the greeting Christ is Risen!.. This powerful Paschal greeting contains the entire essence, depth and meaning of our Christian faith . . . . “Christ is risen, and our sins are forgiven! . . . . Christ is risen, and death is destroyed! . . . . Christ is risen, and life is transfigured!” . . . . We exult and rejoice in these great truths, but do they make a difference in our lives? . . . . Is there a way to live personally as families, and as a parish in the light of Christ’s Holy Resurrection?
My beloved, The Orthodox Church answers these questions with a thunderous and resounding “YES”!….. For we believe and cling to the fact that this unheard of victory over death actually changed every thing in the world – it transforms all of creation and makes it new.
It is for this reason that we are gathered here today . . . and it was for this reason, Eighty years ago, that the the founders of this holy community were compelled to build a Church here in Canton, bearing witness to the depth of their belief, and to their dedication to Our Lord and His Church.
Today, you rejoice in the accomplishment of Eighty years of witnessing to that most precious possession – the Orthodox faith.
You might ask yourself, “How did we use these many years . . . what did we do as a Church in all that time?” You can truly say: “Here, the Church prayed for Eighty years . . . here the Church fasted for Eighty years . . . here the Church made sacrifices for Eighty years. All of this was transformed into healing of heart and soul, and it became a sign of grace and a blessing to all.
Our celebration of this great achievement must not only look to the distant past . . . to what took place so many years ago…….. We must also recognize the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in each and every one of faithful of St. George Church who have lived in the past . . . are living now . . . and those who are yet to come to this God-protected community.
It is fitting that we take time to look back, and to reflect on the work of the founders of this great community, and to draw inspiration from them… In doing so, we find that we have cause to praise God for His action in the lives of these men and women.
How incredibly inspiring their story is, when one considers the great strength and determination that it took for them to leave their home-land in the Middle East to come to this country….. They came with great hope, and were faced with great challenges….. It was their faith in God, and their love of God and His Church that sustained them…… No matter what they were to accomplish, it was foremost in their minds to raise up a Church, because everything in their lives was centered in their Orthodox Faith.
With the experience of our past and of our present, we look forward to a bright future….. Each Anniversary we mark offers a unique opportunity to take intentional steps to renew and revitalize the vision of the parish. We never forget the admonition we find in Proverbs: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18)
Now is the time to renew our commitment to God, and to our Orthodox Faith – to enhance all aspects of Church life and ministry… Now is the time to reach out to your sister communities of faithful in the Midwest Region and to share your faith and gifts with them…… It is time to work to build a greater unity and strength within our beloved Archdiocese, making firm its legacy for the future.
The history of our Archdiocese has never been and never can be a closed door….. The future of our Archdiocese and each of her parishes must always be what it is today – an Open Door to everyone, a place where the Good News of Jesus is preached and proclaimed.
Today we celebrate the past and present and look with great anticipation toward the future…. We are filled with gratitude and love for the succession of committed clergy who have served this community faithfully, guiding it toward the Kingdom of God….. We honor the many lay leaders, both past and present, and the dedicated laity that built this parish up to be what we see today….. And we offer our prayers of support for those who will move it forward in to the future for the coming generations.
You must always remember that parishes are not just built from stone, glass and steel, but with living stones – the faithful who give witness and testimony with their lives of service and ministry…… Here is your greatest challenge – to build up your community with individuals who are truly committed to Our Lord and to the Holy Orthodox Faith.
Finally, I want to once again congratulate all of you for a blessed Eighty years of hard work, prayer, and devotion to Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ and His Church. There are so many challenges waiting for us in the coming days and years . . . only if we work together and trust in God can we hope to accomplish our goals.
May God shower His richest blessings upon St. George Orthodox Church, today and in the years to come, and each and every one of you.
Christ is Risen!