On Tuesday, March 22nd, forty clergy from across the United States and Canada gathered together on Zoom for the Spring Clergy Peer Learning Synaxis.
The Synaxis is organized by the Office of Pastoral Life, and hosted by His Grace Bishop Alexis. Promoting clergy health and well-being is a dynamic goal for the Office of Pastoral Life. The Metropolitan Council has approved funding to sponsor and expand the Synaxis program. This includes using trained clergymen to serve as facilitators for small group breakout rooms.
The Synaxis “Zoom Room” opened at 1:30pm for informal fellowship and a chance for participants to greet one another. His Grace Bishop Daniel of Santa Rosa, was the keynote speaker. He opened the event with prayers for His Eminence, Archbishop Paul, and an adaptation of the prayer before reading the Holy Gospel.
Bishop Daniel is the Bishop of Santa Rosa and Auxiliary to the Diocese of San Francisco and the West. Having been raised in the Catholic Church, he attended Saint Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, CA, and later earned a degree in canon law (JCL) from the Catholic University of America, Washington, DC. His Grace was received into the Orthodox by Bishop Tikhon of San Francisco, and vested as a priest. He was consecrated to the episcopacy on January 24, 2015, and has since then served as the auxiliary to His Eminence Archbishop Benjamin of the West.
His Grace Bishop Daniel spoke about the challenges facing our current world. Our world is currently marked by divisions. While acknowledging that everyone is tired of talking about the Covid pandemic, he also identified how the pandemic divided so many people in the face of differing challenges. He spoke about the political and societal unrest that has divided our country. His Grace also spoke about the situation in Ukraine, and how the 20th and 21st centuries have been marked by violent conflicts. Since the time of the apostles, as recorded in the book of Acts, there have been conflicts and differences in the church. Through all of the crises of leadership in the last two years, the task at hand has always remained the same: to bring the good news of salvation to our people and to the world. Our task is to stand firm, given our strengths and weaknesses, for ourselves and each other.
After the bishop’s address, the attending priests and deacons entered breakout rooms. Every small group brought together priests or deacons with a variety of backgrounds and length of ordination, and was led by a trained facilitator. Small groups were given just over an hour to discuss the bishop’s talk, how to be effective pastors and leaders during times of conflict, as well as their own health as priests.
The Synaxis closed with a return to the large group. One of the facilitators, Father Vladimir Aleandro, was invited to present his group’s thoughts to the bishop. Father Vladimir asked the best way to approach our elders for advice, instead of consulting media or the internet. Bishop Daniel responded that we need to always respect the humanity of each other, rather than the impersonal internet. We need to cultivate the idea that we are all brothers in ministry together, and grow the familial relationships with our leaders. Bishop Daniel spoke about the practicality of a phone call over the text-only format of emails. Father Vladimir asked Bishop Daniel’s opinion about how Saint Nectarios lived with injustice within the Church, as depicted in the new movie, “Man of God.” When the injustice was against others, Saint Nectarios spoke out in defense of others, but not when it was a personal slight. He was willing to bear with insults against himself, because he understood the human condition. He was always an advocate for others in his humility to bear the burdens of others.
The meeting was closed by Bishop Daniel with prayer. Thank you to our bishops, facilitators, and participants for attending the event; it is the camaraderie and brotherhood of the participants that makes Synaxis events a success.
The next quarterly Synaxis will be a special two-day event to present and reflect on the recent interview project conducted by the Office of Pastoral Life. This event will be held via Zoom on June 21-22, 2022, from 2-4pm EDT both days.
For more information about clergy peer learning, please visit the Thriving in Ministry website.