Opening and Greetings
North Canton, OH - The 20th Triennial Church Assembly (Sabor) of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America began on Tuesday, August 11, 2009 at St. George Church in Canton, Ohio with the Divine Liturgy. A good number of clergy and delegates began their work with receiving the Holy Eucharist. The Invocation of Holy Spirit was then served by His Grace Bishop Dr. Mitrophan.
All the Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America are present: His Eminence Metropolitan Christopher of Libertyville-Chicago; His Grace Bishop Georgije of Canada; His Grace Bishop Longin of New Gracanica-Midwest America; His Grace Bishop Dr. Mitrophan of Eastern America, and His Grace Bishop Dr. Maxim of Western America.
The first Plenary Session began with a greeting by Bishop Dr. Mitrophan as host bishop. His joyful observation that we meet no longer as two different administrations, as two sides, but as one united, was greeted with sustained applause. He called on all to ensure that the Sabor be fruitful for our Church and our people, who are called to unity by God as the one Body of Christ.
The Plenary was then opened by His Eminence Metropolitan Christopher. He said that his feelings today are indescribable, as one who lived through the long history of the past decades. He called this Sabor a commencement, because we see ourselves today gathered as one body and family. He said that it was clear from observing the delegates meeting and greeting each other that this is a new and joyful beginning of a new era of unity and growth. He asked that all rise and join in singing Tebje Boga Hvalim, We Praise Thee O God, in thanks for this great gift of being together.
Bishop Longin also greeted the Sabor and said that he was sure that this unity would be for the good of our church and people and salvation of our souls. He said this unity is a great and holy gift of God to be guarded and extended. Bishop Dr. Maxim also extended his greetings.
Bishop Mark of Toledo and the Midwest of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese greeted extended his greetings as well. He thanked God for the unity he sees here, and said that he hopes this unity will also increasingly extend to all Orthodox in America.
Metropolitan Christopher also noted with joy the presence of two clergy under the omophor of Bishop Mitrophan present for this Sabor from South America.
St Nikolai of Zica Oratorical Festival
Then the delegates heard from the finalists of the second St. Nicholai Oratorical Festival, a project of the Youth Ministry Committee, which worked hard to organize the festival on a diocesan level and to provide guidance and support for the participants. Chris Radanovic presented the finalists, who had been chosen in competition in each diocese. The theme of this year’s Festival was “Light and Salvation: Why being Orthodox is crucial in today’s world.” The judges for this event were Protodeacon who serves at St. George Church in Canton, Fr. Daniel Rogich of the Greek Orthodox Church in Canton, and Fr. Joseph Cervo, retired pastor of the Antiochian Orthodox Church in Canton.
The participants are all heavily involved in parish life, school activities, and community service. They were:
Anney Mierski, 17, of St. Nicholas Church of Steelton, PA representing the Eastern Diocese,
Alexander Berger, 16, of St. Andrew the Fool for Christ Church in Anderson, CA, representing the Western Diocese,
Katherine Potkonjak, 17, of Milwaukee’s St. Sava Cathedral, representing the New Gracanica-Midwest Diocese and the Metropolitanate of Libertyville-Chicago.
The judges returned their verdicts, with the results being: First Place Katherine Potkonjak with a prize of $1,000; Second Place Alexander Berger with a prize of $750, and Third Place Anney Mierski with a prize of $500.
The Youth Ministries Committee plans to make the Oratorical festival an annual event within each diocese. Every three years a national festival with a representative from each Diocese will be held in conjunction with Sabor.
The Second Plenary Session began following lunch.
Appointments and reports
Frs. Ilija Balach, Dragan Petrovic, Nedeljko Lunich, and Rodney Torbic were appointed as secretaries for the Assembly.
The Credentials Committee offered a preliminary report of 209 total participants. This number is expected to increase somewhat as some delegates from distances arrive.
Fr. Lunich, Secretary of the Central Church Council, gave the highlights of decisions of the last Sabor and the Central Church Council.
The Standing Ministry Committees each gave its report. These Committees were established six years ago to aid the work of the church, dioceses and parishes in various areas of service. These reports include:
Christian Education, given by chair Protinica Victoria Trbuhovich;
Stewardship, given by chair Brian Gerich;
Youth Ministry, given by chair Prota Stevo Rocknage;
Liturgical Music, given by chair Dr. Nikola Resanovic;
Communications and Publications, given by chair Prota Rade Merick.
Following the Plenary, those interested were able to attend a workshop on Serbian liturgical music prepared by the Liturgical Music Committee. Others were able to visit with each other or sample the wares of a number of vendors present offering books and church articles. The standing committees are also offering various materials for delegates to take home and utilize.
Following vespers and dinner, the evening featured a panel discussion on “The Joyful Opportunities of Orthodox Christian Stewardship” led by the Stewardship Standing Committee. Those participating in the young adult program (aimed primarily at those 18-30) being held in conjunction with the Assembly used this time for a presentation on “Relationships in Christ.”
Wednesday at the Assembly is to include a keynote address by V. Rev. Dr. Paul Tarazi, the reception of further reports, diocesan caucuses and a workshop on developing youth leaders in the parish.