Bishop Seraphim : Talk
25 June, 1994

We have gathered here in this Temple in order to serve a Parastas and this Bicentennial Moleben. In the Parastas we prayed for all our ancestors in the Faith, the pioneers and builders of our Church in Canada particularly. We gave thanks to God in the Moleben for all the people who have gone before us in establishing the Church in North America, and who prepared a firm foundation for the future. In giving thanks regarding the past, we also ask the Lord for strength to persevere on the same path.

We are celebrating in a Temple which somehow gives us a sign of how things are in Canada. For a long time, our Church in Canada has been a sort of insignificant branch-plant of The Orthodox Church in America in the United States. We certainly understand that historically the overall condition of the Church in the United States has been very much better than amongst us poor Canadians. In the same way, this Temple has been sort of a branch-plant for many, many years. (There are not too many close parallels here, you understand.)

In the course of time, this community began to be able to support more frequent services ; and now, in the past few years, has managed to be able to afford full-time service. In the process of this, this community has even decided to renovate. These renovations are the envy of anyone who sees them, and the product of the hands of the faithful here (not hired-in). In other words, the rebuilding and expansion of this Temple, its service, its witness in this area is a work of love.

The same thing seems to happen with the diocese. It is not as though we have been exactly a branch-plant all along, because we have had our own bishops since 1916 (you heard their names today). Many of them lived in the mother-church in Winnipeg until World War II. They were close at hand. Many of you even knew some of them.

Nevertheless, even though we have had bishops in Canada since 1916, our Church has suffered all sorts of trials and tribulations in this country. Now there seems to be much more hope in our diocese, even though we are still small and forgotten and hidden. As few as we are, after we have been pruned for so many generations, there is, in fact, life. If we count how many generations there are since the founding, in Alberta (and it must be the same case in some parts of Manitoba and Saskatchewan) there are some families that can count their sixth generation in this country. That is a lot of generations of Orthodox people. In all that time, our Church has had plenty of pressure against it. That pressure does not stop to this day.

In our multicultural, multi-ethnic Canada (apart from any other little squabbles we may have in our inter-Orthodox family), so much formed as we are with our multicultural principles, we have a hard time understanding that Orthodox Christians can be in Canada and simply be Canadians. In Canada, in order to be Orthodox, it seems to be required that we have some sort of national tag tacked on, indicating where we come from (even if we did not come from such a place). It seems that people will only understand if we say : “Ukrainian, Russian, Greek, Serbian”, etc. However, if we say “Lebanese”, people will say : “What ? I thought you were Muslim”. So we are not the only ones to be misunderstood.

Our country does not know this Faith, even though we Orthodox are very numerous. There is a substantial movement of rebuilding in progress right now in this country. There are big changes in the hearts of our brothers and sisters who did not understand us for a long time. Things have changed greatly. The Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops in America is an example. It usually is known by its acronym SCOBA. Some people may think, on hearing the acronym, that we are referring to a cleaning agent (indeed, perhaps it ought to be). Nevertheless, SCOBA is about to assemble a meeting of all the canonical bishops in North America in one place at one time. This is the first time since 1917 that all the canonical bishops in North America have been able to be in one place at one time for a particular purpose. We will be gathering in order to pray together, and have a talk about life. What will come of it, God knows. But the fact that we can actually be in one place and talk together is a wonder. It is a real wonder. Who knows ? If we can actually make some steps forward in that department, maybe all our Greek-Catholic brothers and sisters will be able to see the light, too, and come home to us where they belong. That is up to Saint Alexis of Wilkes-Barre to pray for. In his life, he was directly responsible for bringing 30,000 people back to Orthodoxy. Besides this, he was indirectly responsible for bringing (through his co-workers) up to 100,000.

Here we are in Narol. This is not a wide representation of the diocese, but it is a good representation of the prairie deanery (Manitoba and Saskatchewan). It is a good representation of rural and urban Winnipeg. Today, it is for us to continue to pray together, to enjoy each other’s love and friendship, brotherhood and sisterhood in Christ. It is for us to give thanks to God for all His blessings, to encourage each other to continue doing what we are doing ; and to see in each other that we are all actually doing the same thing. We are all working hard, serving because we love Jesus Christ and for no other reason.

Therefore, let us persevere and continue to struggle to be faithful to Jesus Christ with that in mind. I myself want to try to do everything that I am doing, and endure everything that I have to endure because of the love of Jesus Christ, and for no other reason. If I have brothers and sisters around me who are struggling and having difficulties (even though we may sometimes step on each other’s toes), we are still doing what we are doing and we are who we are because of Jesus Christ. Let us see that in each other, and encourage it, and fan these fires of love so that this yeast that we are in this country will be good leaven for the whole loaf of bread.