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Русская Версия

July 4, 2009
"We must not be like the sign post which points the way, yet does not move from where it stands
Interview with Bishop George of Mayfield

On December 7th, 2008, Archimandrite George (Schaefer) was consecrated Bishop of Mayfield and vicar of the Eastern American Diocese. On May 7th, Bishop George was elected abbot of the Hermitage of the Holy Cross in West Virginia, where he currently resides. Not long after the recent meeting of the Diocesan Council, His Grace answered several questions during his second interview as a hierarch.  

Three months have passed since the Diocesan General Meeting in Jackson, NJ. In that time, the Diocesan Council has met three times, and the last session was presided over by Your Grace. What would you say are the most significant accomplishments that have been achieved in these last three months?

Bishop George: I would say the most significant accomplishments are establishing a working council for the diocese, so that we can actually discuss the affairs and problems of the Eastern American Diocese and propose plans and solutions, as well as establishing youth and music committees for helping the parishes and the youth of the diocese, the future of the parishes. Another big accomplishment is the launching of our new website, which hopefully will serve as a focal point for communicating with everyone in the diocese, as well as people throughout the world, since there are so many people who use the internet these days. I think this will serve as a great educational tool as well.

Two of the main recommendations of the Diocesan General Meeting were transparency and accountability. Have these recommendations been addressed by the Diocesan Council, and what steps are being taken to create a transparent and accountable administration?

The newly established auditing committee has been examining the books and records of previous years. There were problems with the bookkeeping methods in recent years, so there are some questions that need to be answered before we can move on. Once that has been completed, we can have monthly audits with full transparency and accountability. We are now having regular council meetings so that we can have better communication and together deal with problems that arise in a timely fashion.

In the last five years, our diocese has experienced many hardships, especially over the question of reconciliation with the Moscow Patriarchate. Our diocese was divided and unfortunately some of our brothers and sisters left the Church Abroad and entered into schisms. What would you say to those who left the Holy Church, and what would you suggest we do to encourage them to return?

I think this division was fueled mainly by fear of what might happen after the unification. If they still have doubts and questions we would be happy to speak with them and discuss these issues, if they wish. In general, we must leave the door open for their return, and not drive them away by attacking and vilifying them. Our mutual enemy is the one who wants to continue this division.

Aside from schisms, the question of division within the diocese was addressed by members of the General Meeting. Many clergymen said that they felt disconnected from the administration and from their brothers in Christ. Has the Council addressed this concern and what steps are being taken to improve the situation?

I think some of this sense of being estranged from the diocesan administration was simply because there really was not much of an administration to connect with. Everything was being run at the Synodal Headquarters, and diocesan matters were being mixed and confused with Synod business, even relating to finances. The removal of the diocesan office from Manhattan and the new website, where everyone can see what is happening throughout the diocese and where you can see that there are actual people you can turn to with your concerns, should certainly help in this regard. We have also issued an ukase, similar to what Archbishop Nikon would do in the past, calling for the clergy in the Northeast to close their parishes on the approaching feasts of the Royal Martyrs and St. Vladimir, so that the clergy and laity may unite in joint prayer for the feast of the Royal Martyrs at the church of St. George in Freewood Acres on July 16-17, and for St. Vladimir at the Memorial Church in Jackson, NJ on July 25-26. We are planning a pastoral conference in Atlanta, GA in October for the clergy and their families. Hopefully these will all bring about a greater sense of unity within our diocese, but this depends on the actual attendance of the clergy.

There are many written and oral accounts of the magnitude of diocesan celebrations from the 1950’s-1970’s. Thousands of people would come from all ends of the diocese, along with their parish clergy and choirs, to be with each other and their hierarchs on these great Russian feast days. Would you like to see these traditions resurrected, and why is it so important for diocesan clergy to take part in these celebrations?

I would definitely like to see these traditions resurrected and brought back. These gatherings are very uplifting and inspiring, not just for the lay people, but also for the clergy. This is especially true for those in parishes that are geographically distant or isolated from other parishes. We need to get the youth more involved in these gatherings as well, so that it becomes part of their tradition, and is something they look forward to each year.

Your Grace, as a member of the delegation traveling to Russia with the Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God, can you explain the significance of this visit for our brothers and sisters in Russia and for those of us abroad? Will this trip strengthen the bonds of unity within the Local Russian Orthodox Church?

We have the miraculous Kursk Root icon as our common heritage as members of the Russian Church, and by God’s Providence it was brought to the Diaspora as a spiritual guide, inspiration and consolation for Russians abroad. It is a visible sign of our unity, and now it will bring much spiritual consolation for Orthodox Christians in Russia, most of whom have never had the opportunity to see it or venerate it. Similarly, the myrrh-streaming icon that was present at the recent Sobor in Moscow will be coming to the US soon, perhaps at the same time the Kursk icon is in Russia, and will return to Russia, just as the Kursk icon will again return here.

Glory be to God, the Hermitage of the Holy Cross has been growing at a steady rate in the past few years and has become a spiritual center in our diocese. Having been recently elected the abbot of the hermitage, and having served under Metropolitan Laurus for so many years, what is your vision for the monastery?

Our community is fairly new, and we need to become spiritually and financially stable. We are supported mainly through our business, selling various handiwork, such as candles, incense, soap and icons, but glory be to God we also have our benefactors who help us immensely. May God reward them. We always have pilgrims visiting us and we try to help them as much as we can. Our main purpose is to live a life of repentance, and if we fail in this, we cannot help anyone. If we are successful in this endeavor we will save our souls and will be able to help others as well. Hopefully we will not be like the sign post which points the way, yet does not move from where it stands. Vladyka Laurus was a shining example of forgiveness, patience, and long-suffering, always trying to help others. I hope we can follow this example, with God’s help.

Thank you for your time, Vladyka. We greet you with the upcoming feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist - the feast day of your cathedral in Mayfield.

Thank you, and may the Lord continue to bestow His blessings on our diocese.

Reader Peter Lukianov
Media Office of the Eastern American Diocese
Howell, 2009