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His Grace, Bishop JOSEPH’s Address to the 2008 Diocesan Fall Gathering
October 11, 2008
Riverside, California

The Right Reverend, Very Reverend, and Reverend Fathers and Reverend Deacons; the Esteemed Officers and Members of the Fellowship of St. John the Divine, the Antiochian Women, SOYO, and the Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch; And all the Faithful of the Holy Diocese of Los Angeles and the West:

Whenever we come together as a diocese we represent what is called in our theology, the Local Church. When the term “Local Church” strikes our ears, we tend to think that it means the parish that is nearby. This is not what the Local Church means in the Orthodox Tradition.

We may define the Local Church, in simple terms, in this way it is the diocese, with the bishop presiding at the Eucharist, surrounded by his clergy, with the laity gathered together with him. When we celebrate the Divine Liturgy at a Diocesan Parish Life Conference we meet this definition and we constitute the basic “unit” of the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

When we come together in our meetings, either at the Diocesan Parish Life Conference we never fail to celebrate the Divine Liturgy, and other divine services with the Bishop presiding. Our worship is the foundation of our Church life, including our charitable work, our social and fellowship events, church administration and yes, our organization meetings. Thus when we gather from all points of the Diocese to discuss the work of the Diocese we can do this in one of two ways: We can either have “business meeting” in which we act like we are legislators or corporation board members and struggle with our various personal agendas to accomplish personal goals, or we can purposely strive to truly continue the work of the Divine Liturgy, as the Local Church, to seek and to do the will of God.

It is this “MO” (method of operation) that I exhort you to follow in your meetings. Be asking yourselves these kinds of questions: Is what I want to say going to further the Gospel of Christ? How can we make the action we are now contemplating one that will build up the Body of Christ? Is it something that is God-pleasing? Do I wish to speak in order to edify my brothers and sisters in the Lord, or do I just want my opinion to be heard?

This is the mindset we need to bring to the administrative and organizational activities of our diocese and our parishes. It is only the degree to which we as individuals and as a body submit our minds, hearts and souls to our Savior that we can work together as His Holy Body and truly bear witness to His Death, Resurrection, Ascension and Second Coming.

Perhaps this approach sounds too “theological” or “spiritual” for mere meetings. I tell you that it is not. Recall the oft repeated phrase we hear in the services of the Church, “let us commend ourselves and each other and our whole life unto Christ our God.” The phrase “our whole life” indicates our common life the life we share as the Body of Christ. 

Meetings and committees are necessary in Church life so that we can share ideas, formulate plans of action and gain from one another’s enthusiasm and talents. Good order and courtesy are needed so that all have a reasonable chance to be heard and at the same time that decisions are made in a timely fashion. What is needful for us, as believers, is to actively invite the Holy Spirit into our presence.

Let us therefore not treat lightly the prayers with which we open our meetings. These prayers should be more than the “first order of business” and then forgotten. Rather they should resonate in our ears as we go on to agenda items that follow. Just as the Holy Spirit created unity on the day of Pentecost, He will do so for us if we only actively invite Him to be in our midst.

Let us therefore proceed with the rightful concerns and activities of our Diocese seek to find the will of God and to faithful do it.

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