Congress Article 3
41st Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress
July 1-5 – Phoenix, AZ
Theme: “Chosen and appointed by God to go and bear fruit”
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Our reflections on the theme for our 41st Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress, “Chosen and appointed by God to go and bear fruit,” lead us to consider how we fulfill the commission we have received from Him. He has chosen and appointed us (John 15:16) to go to all who need the saving and transforming presence of Christ and to bear fruit by offering a witness of divine grace, by strengthening faith, and by guiding others into a sustained and growing relationship with Him. To accomplish this sacred work, it is essential that we recognize those who need to connect or reconnect with God. In the previous article we examined our calling to go to those who are searching for God and seeking answers in the midst of the questions and challenges of life. In this article we address our ministry to people who have had some connection with the Orthodox Church in the past, but currently, they are not active participants in a parish.
The first priority in going to our own “unconnected” people is identifying who they are. This necessitates an awareness of those who are part of the community but have not attended in some time, those who identify as members but have limited engagement in worship and parish activities, or those who have active family members but their participation is limited. We need to recognize that these people need our prayers and our consistent efforts to reconnect them with the life of faith and with God.
When you organize and participate in outreach programs through your local parish, you are fulfilling the command of God to go, and you are creating the potential for great, spiritual fruit to be produced in the lives of others. Outreach is not just a part of pastoral ministry. While our clergy are called to seek those who are not active participants in the community of faith and to guide them back into communion with God, this calling is also extended to every Christian. Each one of you is chosen and appointed by God, and through all of us laboring together, His work is broadened and the fruit is multiplied as more people find healing, peace, fellowship, and salvation through our witness.
This fruit will be produced in their lives when you go to them—when you go and engage with the lives of those who are disconnected, offering friendship, comfort, and the love of God, and inviting them to come and experience grace and joy in the worship and fellowship of the Church. Fruit will be produced through the renewal and recommitment of those who find forgiveness and restoration in Christ. It will be produced through patient and compassionate ministry to interfaith families, guiding them into worship and service together. It will be produced through our gracious persistence with those who struggle with God’s call to return to Him, and through our readiness to respond in the love of Christ to the challenges and needs in their lives.
As you answer the call to go to those who are disconnected from the life of faith and the community of believers, may you find assurance in knowing that you are chosen and appointed by God for this great work. Through prayer and communion with Him, you will have an attitude of outreach and an awareness of the spiritual needs of those around you. Our Lord’s presence will guide you in what to say and do, so that others encounter His grace and receive His call to return to a saving and transforming relationship of faith and abundant life.
In your preparations for our 41st Clergy-Laity Congress, July 1-5 in Phoenix, Arizona, I ask you to examine your lives and the work of your communities in the light of our theme, “Chosen and appointed by God to go and bear fruit.” Evaluate your efforts to reach those who are disconnected from our communities and consider the means and resources you need to reach them. Certainly, our attention to this theme will encourage you to strengthen your work of ministry. May it also lead you to consider how the coordination of our work and resources at all levels of the Church in America can bear great fruit in the lives of more and more people by reconnecting them with God.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America