It’s with a heavy heart that I write this month’s newsletter article. I’m very grateful to Fr. Matthew for asking me to take this issue to share some heartfelt thoughts with all of you.
First, I can’t even begin to tell you how much all of you mean to Presvytera and I. From the day we arrived you welcomed us with open arms and showered us with love. You have cared for and supported us in countless ways over the years we’ve been with you. You exemplify what it means to be a community that lives their Orthodox Faith, striving to put the teachings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into practice. May you continue to grow in grace and mature to the measure of the stature, which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
In recent years this parish has gone through some significant changes, most notably it’s growth and more recently, having to say goodbye to its founding and beloved pastor, Fr. Theodore. As we all know, change is inevitable as it’s a part of life. Though it’s often difficult, it challenges us to grow in ways that we may not think we need. Change can also teach us a lot about ourselves, if we care to know. Oddly though, when change occurs we typically want things to go back to the way they were. If life were only so simple!
I have to say that when my family and I have gone through changes, especially tough ones, we have struggled because like most, we don’t like being pushed outside our comfort zone and taken away from what’s familiar to us. (Sometimes, though, change is welcomed, especially if we’re already outside our comfort zone.) One of the things that life experiences have taught us in regards to change is that our Lord is always with us and cares for us beyond measure. We are greatly comforted knowing that our Lord always has us in the palm of His hands. He is our Comforter no matter what happens in life. We have learned that as time passes and we move through the seasons of life we see the wisdom and the wonder of God and it is only then that we look back and see how His divine providence has been guiding us and putting us precisely where He wants us to be.
The one thing that has always helped us through challenging times is gratitude. When Presvytera and I begin to go down the road of worry and fear we encourage one another citing numerous times where God has guided us in ways unknown to us at the time. When we focus on being grateful, fear and worry go away because we acknowledge the many times God has proven His fidelity and love for us, time and time again. Gratitude is the antidote to many things. If we chose to think of all the times God has blessed us and cared for us we would never worry. We would never feel threatened by change because we would trust in the providence of God. I share these words with you for my own sake, as a reminder for me, but also for all of you. God is guiding this community and will continue to, so be faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ and seek first His Kingdom. He will take care of all your needs, always!
There is a reason why this church has grown so much over the years, not simply in terms of numbers but even more so, spiritually. St. John was founded on services, sacraments, and study. First and foremost it has always been a truly worshipping community. Stay true to this. Attend the divine services whenever they are offered and whenever you can. This is seeking first the Kingdom of God. Second, the holy mysteries, especially Confession and the Eucharist have been the cornerstone of life and healing. Participate in them and prepare for both accordingly, thoughtfully and prayerfully. Finally, the emphasis at this church on learning Holy Scripture, the teachings of the Orthodox Faith, the Holy Fathers and the lives of the Saints—all have been the foundation of this community. God has blessed this church because the faithful who comprise it seek His blessings. Continue to do so.
God has blessed all of you so much! Don’t forget that and don’t lose sight of how the Holy Spirit has worked through the hearts and minds of the both the clergy and the faithful at St. John. Be humble, thankful, and servants to one another. Above all, love! Never forget the two greatest commandments and strive to fulfill them by asking our Lord to give you the love to love Him and all others. Presvytera and I have been so blessed to be a part of this community and your lives. We will be forever grateful.
With all our love,
Fr. Timothy, Presvytera Vicki and Family