Fr. George Morelli is the President of the Society of St. John Chrysostom - Western Region
In a recent interview Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev, new head of the Department of External Church relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, noted an ongoing problem that the church lacks a bridge to the outside world. He notes: “A person will have to surmount his own numerous barriers separating him from the church world – barriers psychological, cultural and linguistic.“ To accomplish this task he perspicaciously notes that the church has to break down the “… mechanism of alienating people … expecting indifferently that they will come and surmount all the barriers on their own.” Archbishop Hilarion notes that accomplishing this task will involve both clergy and active lay people.
Promoting dialogue between Eastern and Western Christian, making known the history, worship, spirituality, discipline and theology of the apostolic churches, is the stated goal of the Society of St. John Chrysostom (SSJC). The Society is one part of the body of Christ, as in the words of St. Paul: “As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.” (1Cor 12:20), which acts to work and pray that the Apostolic Churches will seek the unity Christ desired. We know this from His prayer for His Body, the Church at the Last Supper: “Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” (Jn 17:11). Archbishop Hilarion points out that the Church does not use “aggressive and importune methods of mission,” as do some Protestants, but we are to announce Christ to the world by the witness of our example. We can become missionaries in the sphere of our own personal life.
Every member to the SSJC-Western Region (WR) can do a self assessment of the gifts of teaching-witness which God has given them, to accomplish the mission of the Church and the goals of the SSJC-WR. A few examples: to distribute the Light of the East, (printed edition or by email) to our own parishes, neighboring parishes, family, friends and acquaintances; to announce and post flyers of upcoming SSJC-WR events; to acquire the knowledge of one’s own tradition and the tradition of others to further dialogue and understanding. (This may involve a self-directed study program, possibly under the guidance of a learned priest or monastic); to volunteer to be more active in the Society programs; to apply specific talents we may have, such as computer ability, public relations, or writing; to be able to have the skill to dialogue in charity and wisdom with others on the necessary unity of the Apostolic Churches of Christ. In other words, we must become, in the words of Archbishop Hilarion, the Church’s “bridge to the outside world.