Statement by the Chancellor and the General Counsel of the Orthodox Church in America
SYOSSET, NY [OCA]
With the blessing of His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon, the Chancellor, Archpriest Alexander Rentel, and the General Counsel to the Orthodox Church in America, Judge E.R. Lanier, made the following statement:
While it is not the practice of the Office of the Chancellor to comment on every rumor or baseless charge published on the internet that cause scandal and aggrieve the faithful of the Orthodox Church in America, we have seen fit to make this comment now. The situation in society and the Church has improved because of the steps that were taken in response to the present pandemic, and so it seems fitting to take a moment a reflect on what has transpired in and for our Church. We offer this statement in order to testify to the faithful of the Orthodox Church in America that our Church has faced well the challenges posed by novel SARS CoV-2 and COVID-19 in a hierarchical and conciliar manner. The Church acted, in other words, in a manner totally and completely consistent with its high calling.
From the beginning of this pandemic, His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon and the Holy Synod of Bishops have met regularly to formulate policy and draft accompanying pastoral messages of encouragement to the faithful. Their work has drawn on and was informed by the immense talent found within our Church. Pastors, theologians, medical doctors, healthcare workers, lawyers, and insurance professionals meeting in small groups, or together, or even with the Holy Synod have, in fact, assisted the Holy Synod in their work. Out of love for their beloved children in the Lord, in consultation with experts who are faithful members of our Church, the Holy Synod reasonably decided to comply with the directions of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, as well as the further guidance and orders provided by different levels of civil government in the United States, Mexico, and Canada.
An informed decision to comply with civil directives was also made by the Metropolitan Council, which has also met during this pandemic under the presidency of His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon. In fact, the Holy Synod and the Metropolitan Council issued a joint statement regarding the response of the Orthodox Church in America to the coronavirus.
The diocesan bishops each took steps to engage different constituencies within their dioceses – diocesan councils, clergy meetings, parish councils – in order to carefully navigate the challenges posed by this virus. His Eminence Archbishop Mark and the Diocese of Eastern Pennsylvania even created a survey and called for all members of this diocese to reflect and respond to it. The results of this survey help guide His Eminence and his diocesan response.
Additionally, the steps that our Church has taken have been in accord with the Catholic nature of the Church. His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon has consulted with the heads of other, local Orthodox Churches where he has had the chance to discuss the precautionary measures these Churches have taken to prevent the spread of the virus. His Beatitude has also regularly joined meetings of the Executive Committee of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America, where similar discussions have been held.
Almost simultaneously to the day when state governments began to issue their first regulations designed to thwart the spread of the coronavirus throughout the United States, lawyers from the Orthodox Church in America contributed to the work of an ad hoc Task Force of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops. This pan-Orthodox Task Force, headed by His Eminence Metropolitan Gregory of Nyssa and composed of lawyers from different Orthodox jurisdictions in the United States, took immediate action to establish and serve as a source of information and as an immediate counterweight to regulatory provisions which even remotely touch upon any aspect of the beliefs and practices of our Orthodox Faith. Consisting largely of experts in the fields of public health and legal affairs, that Task Force has labored long and hard to track the evolution of state regulatory measures where these bear on Orthodox praxis even tangentially.
Although the labors of the Task Force have largely been at the level of almost mind-boggling detail and backbreaking minutia, at least two fundamental lessons learned by the members of the Task Force in their contact with state authorities have made themselves apparent: (1) the regulatory environment established by the states is kaleidoscopic in nature and changes on an almost daily, sometimes hourly, basis, a fact which mandates constant, unceasing surveillance and monitoring; and (2) state administrative regulators are well-intentioned and hard-working civil servants burdened with an almost insurmountable task, but who are largely unfamiliar with the tenets and practices of the Orthodox Faith. The ongoing interactions of the Task Force with these state-level regulators has most often taken on the hue of an educational exercise.
Laboring in informal tandem with a significant number of other organizations and individuals committed to the protection and preservation of American constitutional religious liberties, the Task Force has recently witnessed substantial progress in relations with state officials charged with the onerous task ensuring the health, safety, and welfare of the American public. These advances have been real. A state along the East Coast, to take an example, originally stipulated in its administrative regulations that Holy Communion “administered person-to-person” ... “is not permitted at this time.” That state has revoked this objectionable language which has now been replaced by a provision allowing “person-to-person” administration of the Holy Sacrament, requiring now only that the clergy must use hand sanitizers only when “he or she believes incidental [physical] contact has been made with the communicant.” States which had initially stipulated a one-hour limitation on religious services have now deleted that obnoxious and unnecessary restriction. In other instances, states have backed off of other religious restrictions and have reduced these to voluntary, hortatory recommendations. The Task Force is confident that, with the abatement of the current pandemic, all such regulatory provisions in each of the states will be abandoned and that state intervention in the religious life of all American faith communities will become nothing more than a footnote in history.
Metropolitan Hilarion, Chairman of the Russian Orthodox Church's Department of External Church Relations (DECR): Any attempt to change the present status of Hagia Sophia will violate the interreligious balances established in Turkey.
Apprehensions for the preservation of the ancient church of Hagia Sophia built in Constantinople (now Istanbul) in the first half of the 6th century have been raised by the recent events when on 29 May, 2020 Muslim leaders read the Quran in it.
On June 6, commenting on the current situation at a request of the host of ‘Tserkov i mir’ [The Church and the World] programme, Ms. Ye. Gracheva, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate department for external church relations, reminded the audience that the compound of Hagia Sophia has been a museum since 1934 by the decision of Kemal Ataturk and since 1985 it has been included in the UNESCO world heritage list.
“For millions of people around the world, especially for Orthodox Christians, this church is a symbol of Byzantium and a symbol of Orthodoxy’, the archpastor said, ‘It was built in the 6th century by Emperor Justinian precisely as an Orthodox church of the Eastern Roman Empire. We, Russian people, hold this church dear also because it was precisely in it that Prince Vladimir’s ambassadors felt during the liturgy that they did not know ‘whether they were on earth or in Heaven’ and decided to tell about it to Prince Vladimir. As a result of this mission Prince Vladimir made the historic decision to baptize Rus’.
‘Any attempt to change the present status of Hagia Sophia as a museum will violate the fragile inter-confessional and interreligious balances which have been established by now’, was the DECR chairman’s conviction.
In this connection, His Eminence expressed hope that ‘this church will remain a museum and that access to it will be open to all those who wish to come to it and that such developments will not provoke interreligious tension’.
The associate dean Archpriest Thomas Soroka advised today that His Eminence, Archbishop Melchisedek will celebrate Divine Liturgy, this Sunday, 14th June, 2020, in our parish.
The chancellor Very Rev. Archpriest William Evansky has advised that His Beatitude, Metropolitan Theodosius is currently hospitalised in an area hospital for treatment of some significant health issues.
Please keep Met. Theodosius in your prayers.
Protocols for St. Andrew Orthodox Church
re-opening on 31st May, 2020
All parishioners (including Altar Servers) will be required to wear a MASK to enter the church and keep it on at all times during the service except when receiving Holy Communion.
The Choir will be allowed to remove theirs only while signing.
. A Mask will be provided at the door if you do not have or can’t afford one.
. Every person entering the church will have their body temperature taken with an approved digital medical thermometer.
. For the now, we are asking that no one kiss the icons in the church.
. The pews in the church that have a Yellow tape on the end at middle isle please do not sit in them to assist in social distancing.
. There will be no Coffee hour after church.
. The Choir loft is closed. The Choir will be limited (to a four (4) singers plus the choir director) and will stand in front of the church on the Saviour side of the church.
Will be given on a wooden spoon. 1 for each parishioner. These spoons after they are used will be placed in a bin and burned after church.
A pile of paper towels will be available for each communicate to take one and to hold under their mouth. After being communed the communicate is asked to place it into a waste container. The paper towels will be burnt with the wooden spoons.
We will have people come up for communion 1 row at a time and please respect distancing while in line.
The infirm will be communed in the pew where that they are sitting, They do not have to leave their seats.
Remove your mask just before receiving communion. The priest will be wearing a mask during Holy Communion.
Please do NOT kiss the chalice and your mouth will not be wiped with the cloth.
. The Altar Servers will wash their hands with soap and water and will wear gloves and masks at all times in the sanctuary.
An Altar Servers or a Parishioner with gloves will hand the antidorim (the bread) to each person after communion.
Parishioners may light their own candles and place the cost of the candle in a basket at the candle stand.
The collect basket will be placed on the tetrapod.
The kissing of the cross will NOT happen and please do not kiss the priest’s hand. Instead the priest will stand at the back of the church and bless all with the hand cross. Parishioners will exit the church one row at a time beginning with the last pew and then moving forward to the front pews.
Parishioners who do not feel comfortable coming to the church during this pandemic should NOT come to the church and follow what is in their heart and stay home. Should you wish to receive Holy Communion at home, please call the priest for him to make arrangements to do so.
Requests for panikhidas or any other service should be telephoned to Fr. Lowe at (724) 285 1336 the day before the Sunday liturgy.
. Parishioners will be emailed or sent a letter on these protocols.
. Should you have any questions please call the Parish President Jeff Campbell or the Fr. Lowe.
. Visitors to the church are asked to telephone the priest in advance on (724) 285 1336 for them to be appraised of our protocol.
. A cleaning regiment sheet will be posted in the toilets that will display when they were last cleaned (time and date) and initialled by the house keeper when that was done.
. The church will be sanitised after each and every service and please be assured that the parish council is doing its utmost to keep everyone safe to the best of its ability given advice from CDC and PA Dept. of Health.
The blessing of the Lord!
May Yahweh bless you and keep you. May Yahweh let his face shine on you and be gracious to you. Yahweh show you his face and bring you peace.”