Acceptance Address of Archimandrite Seraphim

Bishop Seraphim : Speech
Saint Herman of Alaska’s Church
Edmonton, Alberta
12 June, 1987

Response by Archimandrite Seraphim (Storheim) to the Proclamation of Election

“Inasmuch as the Holy Synod of The Orthodox Church in America has found me worthy of the office and dignity of a bishop, I respond with a grateful heart ; I humbly accept ; I say nothing to the contrary”.

Your Beatitude, Most Reverend Archpastors, and all my brothers and sisters in Christ,

I stand before you all in both fear and trembling as I try to be obedient to God’s call to me. My desire for some time has been to try to escape. Yet previous experience in trying to avoid God’s call has shown me how obedience in all things, obedience out of love for Him is what He desires ; and so I am here now waiting to serve Him, waiting to serve my brothers and sisters, waiting to see how the Lord will act in and amongst us all to build up the Body of Christ, the Church, here in Canada.

I was reminded recently by one of our brothers (in a homily) that it was ninety years ago that a priest and deacon struggled to reach the new homesteads northeast of Edmonton, and to serve the first Divine Liturgy on Canadian soil. Very quickly, the Orthodox Church strove to meet the needs of her newly-arrived flock in Canada. All across the prairies, the faithful were gathering, and building beautiful churches at great sacrifice and cost to themselves.

It was about ten years later that my great-grand-parents, my grand-parents, and my father arrived also to homestead in these parts, and to settle in Edmonton itself.

After twenty years from the first Divine Liturgy, Canada could be recognised as a diocese. Then began the testing times in earnest for this diocese, testing times which continue until now. The revolution in Russia cut off the supply of missionary financial aid, and the supply of clergy. From that time, the growth of the diocese was slow because of the poverty of resources, and the disturbances produced by international politics.

Twenty years ago, I was being introduced to Orthodox Christianity ; and I was being introduced to members of the founding families of Orthodox Christianity in the Edmonton area. I was also privileged at that time to visit many times with Bishop Ioasaph, the previous Auxiliary Bishop of Edmonton : to hear of his life, and to see the depth of his love for Christ. The Lord has been merciful to show how this love bears fruit in the lives of other hierarchs as well, in the midst of all sorts of adversity.

Now I stand in your midst, aware of my sinfulness and weakness, hoping in the Lord’s mercy, and depending completely on the prayerful support of my brothers and sisters in Christ. These two days will see the ordinations of a bishop and a deacon, one on each day, which together constitute a single event. This is the first time this happens on Canadian soil. As we participate in this, we can recall the fundamental pastoral images of our life together in Christ. As we hear in the prayers of the consecration, the bishop must be an imitator of Christ the true Shepherd, who laid down His life for His sheep. Many years ago, I was taught by a wise man (and later in the Middle East I saw it with my own eyes) that a shepherd must lead the sheep. He must make the way ; he must know, and must love each and all of the flock. Now, as the fields are ripe for harvest, the Lord is gathering His flock in love, and He is establishing it. For my part, I must constantly remember the direction of the Apostle Paul, “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behaviour, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well”. […] (1 Timothy 3:2-4). The fact that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) means that as our ancestors were faithful to His call, so we, all together, must be faithful to that same call. Out of this loving relationship with Him, we must all remember “to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men” (Titus 3:2), and to “avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law” (Titus 3:9).

The Lord has called us together, members of His Body. He has called us all, together, to exercise the various gifts given to us for building up this Body. And so I, who have been called to be a bishop, crave the prayers of all my brothers and sisters together with those of the Hieromartyr Serapheim, Archbishop of Phanourion and Neochorion in Epirus, that we all, together, may be truly beloved brothers and sisters : “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord [our] labour is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).