On April 2, 2017, Holy Virgin Cathedral hosted the annual Western American Diocese Lenten Retreat. This year’s retreat marked the tenth anniversary of the diocese putting on these retreats at the cathedral (since there was no retreat in 2014, this was the 9th actual retreat). As has been the case every year, retreat attendees spanned a range of ages and came from a large number of parishes across northern California. For the third straight year, attendees have also included people from out-of-state parishes who amended their travel plans so that they could attend.
The speakers this year were Archpriest David Moser from St. Seraphim Orthodox Church (ROCOR) in Boise, ID, and Archpriest Moses Berry from Theotokos “Unexpected Joy” Orthodox Church (OCA) in Ash Grove, MO. The retreat theme was “Love Your Neighbor,” and, as with previous years, each speaker provided a powerful interpretation of that theme. Fr. David reminded the audience in his talk “Love Your Enemy” that every other person we encounter is our neighbor by Christ’s definition and that we cannot ‘other’ any of them but must show Christian love to all. In his talk titled “And Who is My Neighbor,” Fr. Moses had more of a storyteller’s approach as he regaled retreat attendees with stories about his encounters with Orthodoxy prior to converting, his family’s history (the church where Fr. Moses serves sits on land which his great-great grandfather received from his slave master), stories of his parishioners, and his encounters with people of all races who did not know about the African component of the early Orthodox Church. Fr. Moses also spoke about his missionary work, both in the African American community, as well as amongst the “hill-billy white folk” who make up a majority of the population in his corner of the Ozarks. Many of the eighty-two retreat attendees spoke during the fellowship hour about how spiritually edifying, uplifting, and inspiring they found the two speakers.
As it has since the beginning, the retreat began with the “early” Divine Liturgy in English, followed by a splendid lenten breakfast repast of piroshki, fruit, and bagels. Lunch, which was served between the two talks, featured salads donated by parishioners of Holy Virgin Cathedral and catered Chinese food.
At the close of the luncheon, Bishop Irenei of Sacramento addressed a few words to the retreat and then Dimitry Bobroff announced an appeal which would be going out to parishes in the diocese to raise funds for the repair of St. Tikhon’s church, the house church which had been the home of the orphanage which St. John founded and which is the location of his cell. The close of the retreat found attendees touring the crypt where St. John’s relics were in repose prior to his glorification and then attending Vespers in English in the cathedral.
The date for next year’s retreat will be the 5th Sunday of Lent, March 25, 2018. Anyone who is interested in helping to organize should contact firstname.lastname@example.org. All help is welcome, though we have an especial need for those with graphic design and marketing experience.
Author, Irene Hanlon