Springtime is here, the fast is nearing its end, and Orthodox Christians look forward with joyful anticipation to the Resurrection. Pascha presents those who have participated in the liturgical life of Great Lent, observed the spiritual disciplines of the Church, and confessed to their spiritual father with a concrete opportunity to re-experience the new life in Christ, deepen their faith, and to recommit themselves to the relationship that was established on the day of their baptism.
For the faithful of the Metropolis of San Francisco, Resurrection, renewal, and reawakening are not theoretical terms, for, as the most recent Clergy-Laity Assembly revealed, the western seven States of the Archdiocese are living through an era of rebirth, resurgence, and renaissance. The conference employed formal and informal presentations from His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos, lectures from church growth and leadership expert Father Evan Armatas, and small group discussions to build and expand upon the Conference theme “Reclaiming the Great Commission.”
Jesus’ command to the Apostles to “make disciples of all nations” defined the mindset of those who participated in Clergy-Laity. Parish and Metropolis leaders recommitted themselves to making parishes healthier and focusing their attention on strengthening and developing ministries. Clergy and laity left the Ranch with an optimistic urgency that the best days of the Metropolis of San Francisco lie in the future.
Just as most Orthodox Christians begin Great Lent already oriented toward the Kingdom, only to arrive at Pascha with a more focused understanding of what it means to follow the Lord and deeper relationship with Him, the Metropolis of San Francisco is not beginning the journey toward “Reclaiming the Great Commission” from a standstill. The Philoptochos has a long tradition of putting love into action. Summer Camp, Young adult and GOYA retreats, FDF, and the Greek Village set the standard for Youth and Young adult ministries. The Family Wellness ministry helps to ensure that our parishes will be incubators of spiritual and emotional health. Recently instituted Clergy Koinonia Groups have become a catalyst for the Metropolis priests to grow closer to one another and Christ. The Missions and Evangelism Ministry (formerly COME) has been the leading edge of church planting and parish revitalization on the West Coast for over a generation.
From the above it is obvious that the Metropolis’s journey toward “Reclaiming the Great Commission,” does not require an institutional overhaul—far from it! Rather, fulfilling this lofty and life-saving vocation depends on an interior change of every member of the Body of Christ. Holiness must become a way of life, so that persons and parishes can bring a light to the world which is both comforting and attractive. Abundant generosity of time, talents, and treasures will fuel the engine of evangelism by providing resources of manpower and money upon which Church growth and renewal depend. Even though it might take some out of their comfort zone, the reality that the Church does not exist only for those “born or married Orthodox” must be seized upon and proclaimed clearly, confidently, and courageously.
April 28, the faithful will gather to proclaim: Christos Anesti!” In many ways, the Metropolis of San Francisco celebrates two Paschas in 2019--the literal Resurrection of the Lord on the Feasts of Feasts, and the metaphorical Anastasisthat was proclaimed during March’s Clergy-Laity Assembly: Reclaiming the Great Commission!
- Rev. Father Aris Metrakos, Proistamenos
Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church - San Francisco, CA