Clergy-Laity Congress Theme Article
“You are the Voice of Christ in a Changing World”
As the Father has sent me, so I send you (John 20:21).  You are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).
Part IV

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In a few weeks we will gather in Nashville for our 43rd Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress.  As we prepare prayerfully for this time of fellowship, discussion, and planning, we continue our reflection on the theme of the Congress: “You are the Voice of Christ in a Changing World.”  In previous articles we have examined the priority of knowing Christ and His voice in order to offer the Gospel to all in a world that is rapidly changing as well as challenging us in many ways.

In this article our focus is on how we are offering the voice of Christ in a changing world through the ministry and service of our Greek Orthodox Church in America.  During our discussions in Nashville, our primary work should be evaluating the current ministries and resources at all levels of our Holy Archdiocese and planning for more opportunities to offer the voice of Christ.

First, we offer the voice of Christ through worship and ministry in the parish.  Through worship, the parish becomes the Body of Christ, gathering in His presence, communing with Him, and offering a witness of the power of His presence and grace.  It is in the parish that physical and spiritual needs are met through service offered by dedicated clergy and laity.  In words and actions the voice of Christ is spoken, heard and experienced so that the parish becomes a home, a place of comfort, renewal, and hope. 

The parishes of our Archdiocese have been and must continue to be the focus of our planning and resources.  To do this we need the input of our hierarchs, clergy and laity from throughout the Church in America in the forum of our Congress.  This is an opportunity to share struggles and success, to discuss the current challenges facing our communities, and to explore new opportunities for being a light of faith and grace in our changing world.

Second, we must continue the vital work of offering the voice of Christ to families.  We have seen ministry and resources grow significantly throughout our Archdiocese since our last Congress.  However, the challenges to the family are tremendous and growing.  Many other voices and demands are pressuring families to conform to the world and to live by temporal standards of success and happiness.

We cannot relent in our efforts to care for families and to offer the voice of Christ in a changing world that is attempting to alter radically what God has created.  Family ministry and our Center for Family Care should continue to be a major focus of discussion and planning at our Congress so that we are equipped to share the voice of Christ in truth and grace and provide clarity, love, and guidance in the midst of so much confusion.

Third, related areas of service in our parishes and throughout our Archdiocese are age-related ministries to our children, youth, and senior adults.  In a changing world filled with tremendous pressures, debates about the value and quality of life, and challenges of substantive nurturing and quality care, the voice of Christ must be offered and heard through consistent ministry in these areas.  We should be engaged in our communities and on a societal level in discussions regarding education, families, technology, medical and social services, as well as many other pressing and social issues so that the voice of Christ is heard.  From the foundation of strong national and parish ministries, we must be diligent in sharing the light of the Gospel so that our children and youth receive guidance in Christ and our elderly are blessed with quality care and fellowship within the community of faith.

Fourth, as we are called to be the light of the world, we are sent into a changing world to offer the voice of Christ to those who are not connected to the Church.  This includes those who have never heard the voice of Christ, others who have not been prepared to listen, and still others who need a new invitation to return to Him.  For these and even others who are distracted by disparate and deceptive ideas, the voice of Christ through us offers meaning and purpose in truth and love.   In fulfilling our commission from God, we must continue to strengthen our ministries of outreach and evangelism so that our clergy and laity have the guidance, programs, and resources to offer His voice clearly and effectively.

This focus on our ministry and service at all levels of our Holy Archdiocese is part of the essential work of our Clergy-Laity Congress.  Our goal is to ensure that all we are doing offers the voice of Christ and reveals the light of the Gospel.  In an atmosphere of prayer, faith in God, and commitment to His will, we will be able to address these areas and many more in a manner that will bring Him honor and glory.  I look forward to seeing you in Nashville, and I ask that you continue to join with me in prayer for a Congress that will be a blessing and inspiration to us all.  In addition, I ask you to consider how you are offering the voice of Christ.  So many people need to hear His voice so that in Him they will find true and abundant life. 

With paternal love in Christ, 

Archbishop of America

The Holy Scriptures tell us that prior to the Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, He began to prepare His disciples for the time when He would no longer be with them. He announced to them that he would "go to the Father" and "prepare a place for them," assuring them with the promise that He would return some day so "that where I am, there you may be also" (John 14:2-3).

Our Lord also prepared His disciples for the hatred, persecution, and suffering they would face in the world as they proclaimed the Gospel. While some would believe, others would respond violently to the message of love and salvation. Jesus said, "The hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God" (John 16:2).

These words of separation and anticipated travail filled the hearts of the disciples with sorrow and their minds with confusion. At that point in time, they did not fully understand how Jesus' ministry and mission would be fulfilled. They could not envision the dramatic physical and spiritual events that were about to take place, events that would break humanity's bondage to sin and destroy the power of death. Thus, our Lord comforted His disciples by assuring them of His love and the coming of the Spirit of truth, and by granting to them the peace of God. He said to His disciples, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid" (John 14:27). Knowing that many of them would flee in fear when He was arrested, knowing that as they preached and healed in the power of the Resurrection that they would be persecuted, He imparted to them a divine peace that would protect, preserve and keep their hearts and minds in Him.

This peace granted by Christ to His disciples and to us as His Church is an eternal peace "which passes all understanding" (Philippians 4:7). It is a peace that is offered to us through the presence of the Holy Spirit who guides us in truth and assures us of God"s inseparable love for us. In the "eyes" of the world, it is an incomprehensible peace, because it provides Christians with the ability and the power to live and remain faithful to God even under the harshest and most violent circumstances.

It is also a peace that guides us in working for peaceful conditions and environments and for non-violent resolutions to conflict throughout our world. While we know that all of creation "groans" under the burden of sin (Romans 8:20-22), awaiting the return of our Lord to be free from the bondage of war, terrorism, torture, crime, racism, and their tragic and violent effects, we also know that we are called to live in and promote relationships that establish and sustain peace. We know that when peace prevails in our homes, communities, societies, and between nations, when the social and political conditions of our world sustain and protect life, people are blessed with the opportunity to see the love and presence of God in the lives of others, children live and play in a nurturing environment that instills trust and values, and all know the power of peace to direct their lives beyond merely existing to the realization and experience of the potential God has given to every person.

It is in this spirit of the power and promise of peace revealed to us by Christ, that the World Council of Churches refers to the first decade of the new millennium as "The Decade to Overcome Violence." As Christians living in a world troubled by violence, we have a tremendous treasure to offer all peoples and nations through our example of peace by revealing the love of God and through our efforts to share the Gospel of peace, a message that grants true and enduring peace to those who believe in Christ.

Just as our Lord assured His disciples, He assures us through the presence of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whose coming we celebrate this month on the Feast of Pentecost. It is the Holy Spirit who grants to us the peace of God, unites us in peace as the Church, and directs us in living peacefully in this world. May our prayers and our lives express our commitment to follow the guidance of the Spirit, and may we reveal to the world the power of peace to heal and the promise of peace to save.

Archbishop of America