must not be like the sign post which points the way,
yet does not move from where it stands"
Interview with Bishop George of
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.
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
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.
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?
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
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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
you, and may the Lord continue to bestow His blessings on our diocese.
Media Office of the Eastern American Diocese