Fellowship of Ss. Alban & Sergius, Day 4

Saturday began with a Eucharist at the Church of St. James the Less in Scarsdale. Paul picked me up at St. Vlad’s, and we followed the MapQuest directions provided to drive there.

Except that they were wrong, as we found out. We made the last right turn the directions called for, and within a minute or two of driving through a neighborhood that certainly looked like a place where Northeastern Episcopalians might live, there was no church. We backtracked and tried again; no luck. We also started to see faces we recognized in other cars clearly having the same dilemma. “We are meandering ecumenists, literally in search of a church,” Paul chuckled. Finally we figured out where the directions went wrong, and we arrived.

The Eucharist was Rite I, celebrated by Bp. Ackerman, with the choir singing a Byrd Mass in Latin for the ordinary. This was as high church as I’ve ever seen an ECUSA service be; if there ever was a time that this was representative, I can understand a little better where certain classical stereotypes of Episcopalians come. It certainly was never representative during my sojourn through ECUSA (and certainly no Episcopal church choir of which I was ever a part would have been capable of doing justice to the Byrd). All that was missing was a pointed psalm.

A couple of observations I might make about some practical contrasts between the Anglican Eucharist and the various Orthodox services which occurred during the conference: we Orthodox did a rather poor job of preparing the Anglican participants for our services — as in, we didn’t do any. By contrast, a well-arranged and easy-to-read service order was provided for us at St. James the Less.

And, frankly, as much as I think the St. Vladimir’s choir is good at what it does, the singing at St. James really put into stark relief what I think some of the problems are with a lot of Orthodox singing in this country. That’s somewhat out of the scope of this write-up, however, so I won’t deal with that now.

Following the service was a very, very ritzy reception — again, not exactly representative of my time as an Episcopalian. We were lucky to have coffee at St. Margaret’s. Paul and Jeremy Bergstrom, the aforementioned Episcopalian student at St. Vladimir’s, hit it off famously; they’re both Purdue alumni separated by a year, they’re both from roughly the same part of Indiana, and it turned out that Jeremy’s uncle was one of Paul’s elementary school teachers.

Canon Jonathan GoodallAfter the reception was an introduction by Fr. Stephen Platt, pastor of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Oxford and General Secretary of the Fellowship, and a greeting from the Archbishop of Canterbury read by Canon Goodall. (I am told that this will eventually be posted on the Anglican Communion website, but I do not yet see it.)

Finally, Bp. Hilarion introduced Met. Kallistos. I encourage you to listen to the entirety of his lecture, “Primacy and the Pope,” for there is no way I will be able to do it sufficient justice here, but here are a few points I wish to highlight:

  • He found the removal of the title “Patriarch of the West” from the papacy to be disturbing; he is concerned that this represents a further expansion of Rome’s understanding of herself.
  • He nonetheless found a couple of points of hope within the Ravenna statement, saying that while it clearly accepts the fact of universal primacy, it also accepts that there is a question of how it is to be exercised and how it manifests. In addition, the Ravenna statement applies the language of the 34th Apostolic Canon (“The bishops of all peoples should know the first among them and recognize him as the head, and do nothing that exceeds their authority without his consideration. Each should carry out only that which relates to his own diocese and to areas belonging to it. But the first among them should also do nothing without the consideration of all”) at the universal level: the bishops are to do nothing, outside of their own dioceses, without the head, the pope; but the head is likewise to do nothing without consultation of the bishops.
  • As such, he suggested that there might be a form of universal primacy, perhaps a certain power of initiative, which would be acceptable to the Orthodox.

The final lecture session was Igumen Jonah (Paffhausen), and I missed a very large portion of what he had to say, alas. What I did hear I had some issues with until it became clear that his talk on the nature of the episcopate was very much in the context of the recent leadership crises in the OCA, and his own impending elevation to the episcopate. I feel I must largely confine my comments, therefore, to the observation that there were many in the room who were visibly moved, some to tears, by the picture he presented of what the episcopate should look like (or the icon that he wrote of the episcopate, to use Fr. Peter Jacobsen’s words). As a seminary under the OCA and therefore with a front seat to the controversies, I can only imagine how healing his words might have been — I have said before that I count myself lucky to be under Bp. MARK; my hope is that the OCA Diocese of the South is at least as blessed with Fr. Jonah.

The afternoon concluded with a group discussion of where to go from here. The Fellowship would very much like to revive its presence in North America, and would like a conference on this side of the Atlantic to be a recurring event. Based on the discussion, it seems likely that it will alternate between St. Vladimir’s and Nashotah House; Nashotah House certainly seems like a focal point for the kind of Anglican(s) who would be interested in participating, and there is definitely a relationship between many Orthodox and Nashotah House, it being the alma mater of certain clergy (such with Fr. Chad Hatfield) or a sometime employer (as with Fr. Patrick).

This raises an issue, however, which presented itself most visibly at this particular session but would appear to have been bubbling under the surface throughout. One thing that Fr. Stephen Platt mentioned as a regret was that certain Anglicans whom they invited to be at this conference took one look at the list of speakers and said, “All you’ve done is invite the Orthodox and the most conservative Anglo-Catholics in this country. No thanks.” It would seem that conservative Anglicans do not agree amongst themselves what they wish to be; some, perhaps, wish only to be conservative Protestants — “mere Christians,” if you will. Others, on the other hand, want to be Anglo-Catholics — and still others “Catholic Anglicans,” who would be indistinguishable from a Roman Catholic save for the accident of history preventing communion. This division also manifested itself in some of the responses I heard after the morning’s Eucharist, particularly regarding the use of the Byrd Mass. “Too many people fought and died for the use of the vernacular and the right to participate in the liturgy for us to hold a concert in Latin and call it representative,” was the grumbling I heard from more than one person.

What is also clear for many of these people is that they feel like they have no place else to go, and I wonder if that isn’t part of what’s the heart of this kind of disagreement. At least one person said this explicitly to Paul and me; they rattled off various very frightening things within the ECUSA to us, but then shrugged and said, “Where else can I go?”

Regardless, I very much hope that a renewed North American presence becomes a reality; perhaps, at the very least, it can function as some kind of a safe haven for those Anglicans in this country who do not otherwise have one. Met. Kallistos (as I recall) admonished the attendees that the purpose of the conference needed to be something other than nostalgia; if the only aim was to go home at the end and say, “What a nice time with great speakers,” then the whole exercise was pointless. I do think that to some extent the future of the group will depend on its younger membership; the median hair color of the attendees, if you take my meaning, was on the grey side, but there were a couple of younger Orthodox there and certainly a decent-sized handful of younger Anglicans. This is hopeful, but only if we keep in touch with each other and try to keep the momentum going — if we don’t think it’s important enough to continue, it will die. I’ve attended conferences, such as the PSALM gathering a couple of years ago, where there are a lot of ideas and a lot of big things said, but ultimately just pulling everybody together for the event takes all the resources the organization has and there’s nothing left for any follow-through. (PSALM, as I understand it, is still recovering from what it took to stage the Chicago conference.) Hopefully that doesn’t happen here.

An important point which was raised was that wherever we do it in the future, common meals are a vital element of the fellowship enjoyed, and need to be retained. I agree with this; it’s such a simple thing, but it accomplishes very much, and there’s part of me that wonders if it so important and accomplishes so much because of the Meal which we cannot share as part of such a gathering.

That, really, was that; Great Vespers followed, and then there was a wine-and-cheese reception for the participants, but all of that was after-party stuff. I don’t have a ton to say about it, except that there was something that seemed apt about the Vespers service being for the Fathers of the First Council of Nicaea. The next morning I attended Divine Liturgy elsewhere (a separate, but good, story which I will relate in a separate post) and flew home.

If I may, if you’ve found these write-ups at all intriguing or useful, I would ask that you join the Fellowship of Ss. Alban and Sergius. The American presence, as demonstrated at this conference, certainly exists, but it is definitely on the small side (although not as small as I would have thought!). You do not have to be Anglican or Orthodox to join; there was, for example, an ELCA pastor there as an attendee. I would say that the Fellowship, being an “officially unofficial” group, exemplifies what I’ve said before — issues of dialogue and concelebration are out of the pay grade of most of us, but conversation and cooperation, preferably over wine and vodka, are very doable and perhaps more useful for us anyway. Membership really costs very little, and the journal, Sobornost, is definitely worth it. So, please, I encourage you to join if my account has at all piqued your interest.

(You are also still welcome to give to the tip jar, of course.)

There is much yet to process regarding the conference, so I may still have things to post as time goes on, but I’ve done my best, for now, to present what I experienced. The synthesis will occur over time. I will say that I left Crestwood infatuated with the place and with an aching desire to go back; more importantly, I left with a number of new friends with whom I very much hope to keep in contact, and to pray for. Given that the official mission of the Fellowship is that “it exists to pray and work for Christian unity, and provides opportunities for Orthodox Christians and Christians of Western traditions to meet and get to know one another, and so to deepen their understanding of each other’s spirituality, theology and worship”, I’d say that the mission was very much carried out at this conference.


7 Responses to “Fellowship of Ss. Alban & Sergius, Day 4”

  1. 1 antypas 11 June 2008 at 8:25 pm

    Thank you for the posts on the Conference. I listened to all of them I found each one informative and insightful in there own way. I did not find Bishop Hilarion a ‘downer’ or ‘stick in the mud’.
    As for the Anglican situation, it comes as no surprise to me. Back in the late 60’s I began my spiritual journey and the episcopal Church was my first stop (not counting my Methodist cultural-Christian upbringing. I loved the Church I sometimes attended but by the end of my time in Lousiana I detected problems. You see, what many in the Anglican Communion deem it’s strength, is its greatest weakness; diversity of theologies and practices. Many like myself had hoped that the High Church/Anglo-Catholic position would win out and the AC would take it’s place as a fully Catholic, fully Orthodox Western option. It seemed so close and then…………. the rest is what is.
    As one who was received into the OCA in 1982, I had no idea that what has happened in recent years would befall any segment of the Orthodox Church. I am deeply saddened, and pray that a restoration will occur in the OCA or I feel a disintagration may happen. Probably, parishes and perhaps even dioceses will split and form a new body or return to the MP/ROCOR alignment.
    My heart goes out to all Anglicans/Episcopalians and OCA Orthodox that God will answers their cry.
    Time will be the tell.

  2. 2 Richard Barrett 12 June 2008 at 10:45 am

    Thanks for commenting, Antypas.

    Met. Kallistos shares the concern that the diversity within Anglicanism is what makes it so problematic. It strikes me that it is difficult to even assert, as used to be common, that Anglicans are united by liturgy.

    In terms of the OCA, being an Antiochian, I feel like it’s difficult for me to have much to say. It strikes me that perhaps a return to being a patriarchal church, perhaps folded in with ROCOR, might not be a bad idea, but I offer that with the admission that it is a very uninformed opinion. Ideally, I agree with Fr. Thomas Hopko in that I would like to see administrative unity between Antioch and the OCA as perhaps a first step toward ending the jurisdictional situation in this country, but I don’t know what the likelihood of that actually is anytime soon.

    All we can do is pray for healing and unity.


  3. 3 01varvara 13 June 2008 at 10:56 am

    The OCA joining AOCANA? One hopes NOT!

    THe OCA is nothing more than the old Metropolia and it belongs back in the bosom of the Russian Orthodox Church. Before one can talk of “Orthodox Unity” in the sense of a unified Orthodox hierarchy, the various diasporas must be united first. This has happened with the Greeks and Serbs, it is occurring amongst the Romanians as we speak, the Russians (OCA, MPUS, and ROCOR) should unite, probably under the banner of the ROCOR.

    An overarching Orthodox unity shall be the work of generations (we shall not see it in our lifetime), and impatient Anglo-Saxon converts must be reined in and reminded of reality. There is much too much “young eldership” in that cohort, and they need to be pulled down to earth for their own good. The OCA was a fanciful attempt to short-circuit that process. It is not surprising that it failed. It was nothing but a pseudo-intellectual still-birth.

    As for Thomas Hopko, he is not a good example of an Orthodox theologian, he owed his position solely to being Alexander Schmemann’s son-in-law. Neither Schmemann or Hopko are fit to tie the shoelaces of the late Ivan Mikhailovich Andreyevsky. the first two were mere academic windbags, whilst Ivan Mikhailovich was a true confessor; he was a Confessor for Christ’s Sake on Solovki.

    The Church reveres its martyrs and confessors, as for self-preening intellectuals… best not to complete that thought, I say.

  4. 4 Richard Barrett 13 June 2008 at 11:19 am

    A word about the above comment from 01varnava.

    It showed up in my moderation queue; with trepidation, I approved it, but primarily as an example of what I will not approve and/or what I will delete in the future, and because, frankly, I think it speaks for itself.

    Disagreement is fine; it happens. What is is not cool with me, here or anywhere else, is disrespect shown to brothers and sisters in Christ, in the Orthodox communion or any other. That is absolutely not what we should be about. We can disagree, even strongly, without resorting to name-calling and personal attacks.

    If you’re not able to abide by that request, then please don’t bother commenting, because I will simply delete what you post.


  5. 5 Andrew 15 December 2008 at 5:35 pm


    I would just like to state as a member ROCOR that I find the writings of Fr. Alexander Schmemann to be quite profound and enlightening. Fr. Alexander was one of the brightest shining lights of Orthodoxy in the last century, and I for one am very thankful for all he did to benefit the Church.

    In Christ,

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