Farewell Blessing

“[Paul] prayed with them all. And they all wept and embraced Paul and kissed him, sorrowing most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they should see his face no more.” (Acts 2:36)

I’ve been contemplating the awesome partings of the Bible, such as Moses bidding farewell to the children of Israel on Mt. Nebo, as they would soon enter the Promised Land; except in my case I’m the one leaving and the spiritual children are remaining. St. Paul departs in several sorrowful scenes, such as the above from Acts.

A half century, shy two years, I’ve been at Holy Trinity Church, through four bishops of the Midwest Diocese. How many changes have taken place in that period, starting with the tempestuous Sixties and the start of change in America. We are a restless nation, ever eager to respond to whatever promises something new and better. The sexual revolution is a product of that time, and our nation has yet to digest its fallout. Woodstock and such exhibitions of utter release of all inhibitions produced a “freedom” that imprisoned us all into a redefinition of traditional Judeo-Christian morality based on the ethics of the Bible. It was a time of reverence for religions and respect for their ministers. A time of the Roman Catholic Church’s Vatican II and the changes that happened in its wake.

It was a time when so-called professional theologians were serious about ministering to a people who no longer believed in a higher authority, the infamous Death of God theology. We evolved, if that is the term, from godless religions to the 21st century and the revival of radical Islam, where the adherents not only believed in the deity they call Allah, but they would force all others to join them.

In the 1960’s our own theologians assumed that Communism would last long past the last quarter of the century, with nearly all Eastern European nations under its atheistic domination. And given that the Greek Orthodox Church in Europe was controlled by Muslim nations, it was the Orthodox Church in America – the sole Church free of all external bonds – that was the sole hope of religious freedom.

Holy Trinity was proud of having founded a parish for all Orthodox ethnic groups, with services in English, ultimately the pattern for most Orthodox Church in America parishes. However, I recall confessions of those whose native language was other than English, and a time when I would celebrate the weekday Divine Liturgy in Slavonic.

Within our parish, through its life, we had experienced glorious successes sprinkled with a few failures. We purchased an original plot of twenty acres on which we built our first spiritual home, adding six extra acres later. On our land we held exciting events, such as our “Marketplace in the Meadow,” “Good News, Charlie Brown,” and other such events, like our many and varied plays within our buildings. Of course, we realized the vision of a new and glorious temple with wall to wall icons. I had hoped to utilize our vast land for “Trinity Village,” housing for our elderly communicants to be able to live closer to the church and have ready access to all its happenings. People change in attitude as time passes; and, alas, it was nothing more than an architect’s dream in the end.

Four generations have experienced the life, worship and access to the Lord through our humble efforts, and for all that transpired in my pastorate, I can say: “Glory to God for all things.”