Clergy meetings have been a regular feature for more years than anyone alive can remember. Traditionally St Nicholas eparchial clergy have met twice-a-year—once for a spiritual retreat, once for a “business meeting”.
These events were noted in the New Star since the inception of the newspsper more than fifty years ago. Reference has often been made to the fact that the priests and deacons have had to drive, fly, take a train or bus—whether to Chicago or some other location, usu-ally within the eparchy, giving Illinois residents a way to become acquainted with other areas in which our parishes are located.
We’ve been to California, Colorado, Arizona, Michi-gan, Texas—or by joining priests of the Metropolitan See—to Pennsylvania and Washington, DC. An agenda is always provided, and often a chance to sight-see or emulate a tourist.
Late in March a message from the Chancery an-nounced a Clergy Meeting on April 2: an agenda was sent, and everyone was expected to be present. One slight detail was changed: due to prevailing conditions of recently-imposed travel restrictions and directives to limit the size of groups allowed in any confined space, and limits on physical proximity—a new ap-proach had to be implemented.
With electronic communications being readily avail-able, all were given instructions on how to participate in the gather-ing. Rather than by car, bus, train or plane, priests, monks, and deacons were to attend using a computer, smart phone, or landline, at a time convenient to the four time zones in which parishes are lo-cated. Bishop Benedict conducted the meeting to focus on some of the emerging developments (at a rapidly-changing pace) precipitated by the new coronavirus.
And so it was—the agenda was simple—a discussion of three doc-uments that had been sent out in answer to the question “how do we deal with this phenomenon?” Guidelines were given, and some time for individuals to ask for clarification and discuss the feasibility of practical solutions. Especially important was concern about soothing the parishioners’ anxiety over inability to attend services.
It was a most inopportune time to have this crisis arise: Holy Week was approaching. How to handle blessing willows—to conduct the services of Holy Week—processions, the plaschanytsya? More pro-cessions—Resurrection Matins—blessing Paschal Foods!
Directives from His Beatitude were announced, and we were put at ease with the instruction to follow the restraints deemed necessary by civil authority, and—as in the use of communication tools for the meeting—parishes were to stream their services so parishioners would not be left without spiritual contact. All were advised to “stay home to stay safe, and keep others safe” and as time allows, return to a normal schedule. This varies state by state.
And, at the end of April, another gathering of clergy was an-nounced. By the same arrangement, all clergy were called to meet again—on April 29, the second-last day of the month—for a tour of the South-West Deanery. Ten parishes were visited with a brief pres-entation. Each visiting cleric was able to be at his own office, den, front porch or living room.All that was missing was the expense and perils of travel, and the pleasure of in-person greetings and the chance.
Source: NewStar (Volume LV, No. 5, May, 2020)