From Monday the 22nd through Wednesday the 24th of October, the triennial Eastern American Diocesan Assembly was held at the Diocesan Center at St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Howell, NJ. Hierarchs, clergy, and parish delegates met there to discuss the state of the Diocese and various affairs relating to Church life.
Attendees began to arrive on Monday evening, where they were treated to dinner, followed by All-Night Vigil in Our Lady of Tikhvin Church, before the relics of the Venerable Optina Elders.
The following morning, after greeting the Protectress of the Russian Diaspora – the wonderworking Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God, under whose aegis the entire Assembly would proceed – Divine Liturgy was served in the church. After Liturgy, a litia for the departed was served at the gravesite of the ever-memorable Protopresbyter Valery Lukianov – longtime rector of St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and one-time senior ROCOR cleric, who reposed in the Lord the May prior.
After a light breakfast, attendees gathered in the parish hall to hear Metropolitan Hilarion’s State of the Diocese address. The Metropolitan noted the growth of the Diocese and lauded the God-pleasing efforts of all the diocesan clergy and faithful. His Eminence also thanked His Grace Nicholas, Bishop of Manhattan, as well the diocesan administration, Diocesan Council, and Spiritual Court for their labors over that past three years, underscoring the importance of their insights and counsel and how they contribute to the success of the Diocese.
After lunch, reports were heard from the Spiritual Court (delivered by its chairman, Archpriest George Zelenin), Auditing Committee (by member Marina Zacharin), and Treasurer (Subdeacon Gregory Levitsky). The reports covered the last three years of activity, since the previous Diocesan Assembly. The Budget Committee, represented by Diocesan Council members Archpriest Mark Mancuso and Reader Nicholas Pokrovsky, then presented the committee’s vision for the future diocesan budget. The committee’s work include far-reaching changes to diocesan spending and budgeting policies, and will continue to be implemented and adjusted throughout the course of 2019. Elections were held for the Diocesan Council and Auditing Committee, with all current members reelected.
The Assembly also approved a message of greeting and support for the sole canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, addressed to its primate, the Most Blessed Metropolitan Onufry of Kiev:
Your Beatitude, Most Blessed Master!
We the archpastors, pastors, monastics, clerics, and laity, having been graced by God to gather for a triennial assembly of the Diocese of Eastern America & New York of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, in the presence of the Protectress of the Russian Diaspora, the wonderworking Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God, at the Diocesan Center of St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Howell, New Jersey, greet you and the God-loving people of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church with love and prayerful support.
While we have gathered to discuss and resolve our internal diocesan affairs, we find ourselves unable to fail to remember the struggles that Your Beatitude and those who serve and pray in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church have endured these last weeks from the uncanonical actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in appointing “exarchs” to Ukraine and unlawfully overturning the depositions of the former Metropolitan Filaret and Priest Makary. With this letter, unanimously and fervently supported by our entire assembly, we offer strengthened and heartfelt prayers for the peaceful and God-pleasing resolution of the difficulties besetting the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
After dinner, Vespers & Matins were served in St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral for the feast of the Optina Elders.
The following morning, Metropolitan Hilarion celebrated Divine Liturgy in the cathedral, co-served by Metropolitan Jonah (Paffhausen; former primate of the Orthodox Church in America), Bishop Nicholas, and diocesan clergy. At the Little Entrance, for his dedicated 23 years of service to the Holy Church, Priest Mark Tyson (cleric of St. Tikhon Church in Bristol, VA) was awarded the nabedrennik, kamilavka, and gold pectoral cross.
Upon conclusion of the Liturgy, Metropolitan Jonah delivered a sermon on the subject of the day’s Gospel reading, regarding the Apostles’ travels with Christ through the Sea of Galilee, when a storm arose and the Lord calmed His disciples, asking them, "Where is your faith?". His Eminence reminded those present of the importance of preserving unwavering faith in our storm-tossed sea of life.
Addressing the gathered clergy and delegates, Metropolitan Hilarion thanked all of the participants for their labors on behalf of their parishes and the Diocese, and wished for them that the Lord would grant unto all the wisdom to continue spiritually nourishing and illuminating the faithful and all those who seek the path to church. The Metropolitan especially thanked the choir for its magnificent singing. Throughout the conference, the choir was conducted by Maestro Vladimir Gorbik, choirmaster at the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra Metochion in Moscow, and parish choir conductor Alexandra Lukianov. The Metropolitan also thanked Alexis Lukianov on behalf of the entire Patriarch Tikhon Russian American Musical (PaTRAM) Institute for organizing the choir.
Bishop Nicholas thanked Metropolitan Jonah for his sermon, and said, in part: "We have a spiritual ark, and with us is our teacher – Metropolitan Hilarion. And no matter what might befall us, we feel your prayers and your tranquility, dear Vladyka, and we know that that you will always rescue us. And for this we are grateful to you. We wish you strength, fortitude, and every blessing, and we will always pray for you. Today we are presenting you with a hierarchal "suite" (two panagias and a cross – ed.), that these icons might adorn your service, and that your service might henceforth adorn our Church."
A lenten luncheon was served in the parish hall, where interaction between the hierarchs and all of the participants of the Assembly continued into the afternoon, after which all began to make their way to their home parishes.