“Thine own, of Thine own, we offer unto Thee”
With the inception of the year 2002, the final preparations for the 36th Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress have commenced. With eachpassing day, my excitement grows as I see the diligent efforts of our planning committee maturing and bearing fruit. I am enthusiastic because of the fantastic program of events we are planning and the Congress theme, Offering our Orthodox Faith To Contemporary America, which will prove exceptionally timely for both our Church and our nation, in light of the challenging events of September 11th.
The rich implications inherent within the theme of the Congress may be demonstrated by simply considering one of its words: “offering” (prosfora). What is this offering to which we are called, and how is it to be made? A key to answering this question is found within the liturgical life of the Church. We know that the Divine Liturgy represents the collective offering of the entire community; it cannot be performed by the clergy without the active participation of the laity, nor by the laity without the ministry of the clergy. This offering is not the domain solely of the ministerial “professionals.” As clergy, we must learn to more fully respect and honor the unique gifts and charisms with which God has entrusted the laypeople, and to train them to excercise these gifts to His glory. Nor does this offering belong to the laity alone, without the guidance and pastoral oversight of the clergy. Rather, the vocation of offering is the province of the whole people of God, both clergy and laity alike.
Within the life of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, the Clergy-Laity Congress is a unique instrument whereby Orthodox laypeople and ordained clergy come together to learn from one another, to be encouraged by each other, and to discover together the future of our Church within God’s design and providence. It is therefore essential that both elements, clergy and laity, be fully represented at the Congress. Unfortunately, although the Archdiocese Special Regulations instruct each parish to send three lay representatives in addition to its clergy, in the past the lay component has been consistently underrepresented. I therefore take this opportunity to urge each parish to strive for full representation at the Congress, so that every voice, clergy and lay alike, may be clearly heard.
The following newsletter is the first in a series of informational bulletins which we will be sending in order to keep you apprised and to aid in your preparations for the Congress. I ask that you take a moment to read it, and also to visit our website, www.clergylaity.org. I pray that God may bless you and your parish community throughout the new year, and look forward to seeing you in Los Angeles this summer!
With Paternal Love,
+Metropolitan Anthony of the Dardanelles
Bishop of San Francisco