His Eminence, Archbishop Benjamin of San Francisco and the West, presided at the annual pilgrimage of clergy and faithful from the Diocese of the West to Fort Ross State Historic Park on Saturday, July 4, 2015.
Situated north of San Francisco on California’s coastal Highway One, Fort Ross flourished during the first four decades of the 19th century as an outpost of the Russian-American Company. Faithful have been gathering at the site every year since July 4, 1925 for the celebration of the Divine Liturgy and fellowship at the first Orthodox Christian chapel in the lower forty-eight. Following the Liturgy, the faithful went in procession to the cemetery of the 19th century Russian settlement, where they celebrated a memorial service.
Originally built in the mid-1820s, the Fort’s Most Holy Trinity Chapel was the first Orthodox Christian house of worship in North America outside of Alaska. Although the colony had no resident priest, Father John Veniaminov — glorified in 1977 as Saint Innocent of Alaska — visited the settlement, where he celebrated the sacraments and the Divine Liturgy. Father John later became the first resident Bishop in North America, where he was engaged in extensive missionary work throughout Alaska until his appointment as Metropolitan of Moscow in 1868. [Read the life of Saint Innocent.]
“The chapel is constructed from wooden boards,” Saint Innocent wrote in his 1936 Journal. “It has a small belfry and is rather plain; its entire interior decoration consists of two icons in silver rizas. The chapel at Fort Ross receives almost no income from its members or from those Russians who are occasional visitors.”
The original chapel was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake; only the roof and two towers remained intact. Between 1916 and 1918, the chapel was rebuilt with timbers from the Fort’s Officials’ Quarters and the Warehouse. On October 5, 1970, the restored chapel was entirely destroyed in an accidental fire. Again it was rebuilt in 1973. The chapel bell also melted in the fire, but was recast in Belgium using a rubbing and metal from the original Russian bell. The bell’s Church Slavonic inscription reads, “O Heavenly King, receive all who glorify Him,” while a second inscription along the lower edge reads, “Cast at the foundry of Michael Makar Stukolkin, master founder and merchant at the city of Saint Petersburg.”
“Bay Area Orthodox Christian faithful worked with the State of California and other benefactors in the 20th century to preserve the Fort and the Chapel,” according to Archdeacon Kirill Sokolov of San Francisco, CA. “The annual Fourth of July pilgrimage to Fort Ross offers a beautiful opportunity for the faithful of the Diocese of the West to gather and to offer thanksgiving to God for those who brought the faith to this land and for the United States, where we are free to worship the Most Holy Trinity in the Orthodox manner.”
Similar gatherings are held at Fort Ross on Memorial Day and other occasions.
A revision of the Finance Resolution, slated to be presented at the 18th All-American Council of the Orthodox Church in America in Atlanta, GA July 20-24, 2015, has been approved by the Holy Synod of Bishops and the Metropolitan Council. The text, which replaces that of the resolution already posted, is now available on the OCA and AAC web sites.
In light of issues that arose with regard to the Finance Resolution presented in the Delegate’s Handbook, revisions had been made to the resolution. Voting on the proposed resolution will take place at the AAC’s Third Plenary Session, scheduled for Tuesday, July 21.
By way of background, at the February 2015 meeting of the Metropolitan Council, a Finance Resolution, to be presented at the AAC, was passed. Archpriest John Jillions, OCA Chancellor, and Melanie Ringa, OCA Treasurer, immediately began to travel to various Diocesan Council meetings to discuss, explain and garner support for the resolution.
“It became apparent within the first month that the resolution as proposed by the Metropolitan Council would not pass at the AAC, as there was tremendous objection to the ‘floor’ in the proposal,” said Ms. Ringa. “At the Holy Synod meeting in March 2015, the Finance Resolution was revised, with a compromise being reached by removing the floor but increasing the proportional rates and increasing the contributions from the ethic dioceses. This is the resolution that appears in the AAC Delegate Handbook, and is attached as Exhibit A.”
Further movement on the resolution occurred when the members of the Holy Synod met for their annual retreat June 8-11, 2015.
“The Holy Synod again amended the resolution, and it is attached as Exhibit B,” Ms. Ringa added. “The revision in this version was to remove the section regarding increasing the contributions of the ethnic dioceses.”
As a result, according to Ms. Ringa, the financial impact of the resolution before the Holy Synod’s revision was a reduction in the Central Administration budget of $400,000.00 over three years, whereas after the revision this reduction increased to $495,000.00 over the same period.
“Meetings with the Dioceses of the South, West and Midwest and the Archdiocese of Washington, DC immediately before and after the Holy Synod retreat indicated that while there is support for the overall resolution, the cuts to the Central Administration budget over the next three years were of deep concern,” Ms. Ringa continued. “Therefore, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, asked the Finance Committee to propose a revision to the latest Holy Synod resolution, and that this proposal then be communicated to the Metropolitan Council. If the latter agreed to it, it will be presented to the Holy Synod for their blessing.”
“The resolution had attempted to take all the dioceses down to a proportional rate of 34% by 2018,” Ms. Ringa explained. “While this rate is still our goal, we realized that it is unrealistic to take those dioceses that are in the 50-60% ranges down to 34% in so short a period of time. Exhibit C takes these dioceses down to a maximum rate of 46% by 2018, and the overall proportional rate falls from 46% to 41%.”
During the last week of June, Metropolitan Council members weighed in in favor of the new resolution proposed by the Finance Committee. The resolution was subsequently presented to the Holy Synod, which gave its blessing to post it in lieu of the previously posted resolution.
According to Archpriest Eric G. Tosi, OCA Secretary, the posting does not need to fall within the 60 day/30 day time frame indicated in the current Statute of the Orthodox Church in America, as resolutions may be received at any time with the Holy Synod’s blessing.
Ancient Faith Ministries [AFM] announces the re-design of www.ancientfaith.com, which now features the full integration of all of its divisions—Ancient Faith Radio, Ancient Faith Publishing, Ancient Faith Blogs, and Ancient Faith Films. The new site officially launched on Monday, June 15, 2015.
The new site uses a magazine format to feature four different types of content. It will also allow users to search podcasts by “groups,” “themes,” “authors,” “freshness,” and “recent episodes.” The content on the site is almost fully tagged and categorized, which makes the search function much more accurate and robust. There is also a complete authors’ list with bios of all contributors of podcasts, books, and blogs.
“Ancientfaith.com is no longer just the home of Ancient Faith Radio; rather, it is the home of each division of Ancient Faith Ministries, combining all of our content—print, audio, video, and retail—into one seamless, integrated, and complementary package,” says AFM CEO John Maddex.
“The new site has a clean, attractive design, yes, but what we’re most excited about is the new organizational interface that makes it easier to navigate around the site and locate content,” says Ancient Faith Radio Operations Manager Bobby Maddex.
The totally new web site will be enhanced over the next several months, adding the ability for visitors to customize their experience by creating playlists which can be shared.