SOMERSET, N.J. – The 22nd Regular Sobor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the U.S.A. was held at the Metropolia Center of the UOC-U.S.A. on October 16-19, and attracted more than 170 delegates and participants. The Sobor is the highest administrative body of the Church.
The three-day Sobor held at the Ukrainian Cultural Center mainly focused on financial matters concerning the Church and ongoing expenses related to the maintenance of properties and buildings owned by the Church.
This year’s Sobor theme was “Lord, I love the beauty of Your house and the place where Your beauty dwells.” (Psalm 26:8) Following the official opening with a Moleben service led by Metropolitan Antony and Archbishop Daniel, and the singing of the U.S. and Ukrainian national anthems, Metropolitan Antony reminded the delegates of their responsibilities during the sessions of the Sobor, underscoring that all must act under the guidance of the Holy Spirit throughout the Sobor.
Metropolitan Antony read a message of greeting from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who offered his warm greetings and well wishes for the Sobor, as he offers continued prayers for the UOC-U.S.A., its hierarchs, clergy and faithful.
Archbishop Daniel was recognized by Metropolitan Antony for his work, not only in the U.S.A., but for the Orthodox in Ukraine as well by assisting in Patriarch Bartholomew as an exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate who played a key role in the granting of the Tomos of Autocephaly to Metropolitan Epifaniy and the creation of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
Archbishop Daniel, as president of the Consistory, delivered his remarks and report, noting that the future of the UOC-U.S.A. has been given to us (for it is not ours, but Christ’s) for “nurturing and edification.” Regarding the future, the archbishop also underscored the need to adapt to technological advancements, meeting the needs of the faithful and cultivating the next generation of leaders of the Church. The Church continues to develop and implement the Strategic Plan of the UOC-U.S.A., with a focus on spiritual renewal, educational opportunities and responsible stewardship, he said.
The majority of the Sobor discussions were focused on the financial report, presented by the Very Rev. Stephen Hutnick and Natalia Honcharenko. Metropolitan Antony reminded Sobor participants that the Metropolia Council needed to hear thoughts and concerns about the finances of the Church because the council is the body charged by the Church Constitution with stewardship decisions, including finances and property development. It is the primary goal of any discussion of finances to protect the Metropolitan Mstyslav Endowment Fund for the future, he said.
During the Sobor, funds were being collected for the Endowment Fund, and the Rev. Hutnick challenged the delegates to raise $1,000, noting that an anonymous donor would match that same amount. The bar was raised when $1,000 was reached, and it was announced another anonymous donor would match $10,000 if the Sobor was able to meet the challenge. During the course of the Sobor, the participants were able to raise more than $21,000 for the Endowment Fund.
With the conclusion of the financial report, other reports were presented by the Audit Commission, St. Sophia Seminary, the Ukrainian Orthodox League (both senior and junior branches), St. Andrew Society, and the Ukrainian History and Education Center. Consistory Offices of Ministry reports were presented on stewardship, Christian charity, youth and adult ministry, religious education, liturgical publications, public relations, archives, external affairs, clergy development, St. Sophia Seminary Library, St. Andrew Cemetery, All Saints Camp, and the Strategic Plan of the UOC-U.S.A.
During the Sobor banquet held on Thursday evening at the Ukrainian Cultural Center, the special guest for the evening was Bishop Apostolos, chief secretary of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, who represented Archbishop Elpidophoros of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.
During the banquet, Archbishop Daniel spoke intermittently between the concert performances and speeches. Performers included the Barvinok Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, the musical duet of Lida Dzus and Zina Dzus-De Bole (accompanying themselves on mandolin and guitar), and the St. Sophia Seminary Choir (Deacon Sviatoslav Hot, Mykola Zomchak, Yurii Bobko [now a deacon], Ihor Protsak, Myroslav Mykytyuk, Yaroslav Bilohan, Maksym Zhuravchyk, Pavlo Vysotskyj and Andrij Vatrych).
On Friday, the Youth Sobor, organized by Natalie Kapeluck-Nixon, director of the Office of Youth and Adult Ministry, delivered its report. Although only a handful of youth participated in the fourth such Youth Sobor, their suggestions and recommendations to the Sobor, as Metropolitan Antony said, showed maturity with forward-looking ideas and thought-provoking suggestions. The youth report showed a need for a closer relationship between adults and youth, promoting love, understanding, a clear explanation of the faith with gentle encouragement from their elders. The Youth Sobor received a standing ovation for its work and Metorpolitan Antony urged the students to remain strong in their faith and devoted to God and His Holy Church.
On Friday afternoon, delegates and participants were invited to view the Rushnyky exhibit at the St. Sophia Seminary Library, as well as the new museum building that is nearing completion. Additional donations are being collected for interior finishes to the museum building.
The Sobor concluded with the election of a new Metropolia Council, Ecclesiastical Court and Audit Commission.
Elected to the Metropolia Council were: the Revs. Robert Holet, Hutnick, Taras Naumenko, Andriy Pokotylo, Vasile Saucier, Victor Wronskyj, Gregory Czumak, as well as lay members John Holowko, Olga Lyskiwska, Aleksandra Kocelko, Dr. Paul Micevych, Howard West, Elizabeth Symonenko, Dr. Gayle Woloschak, with Karen Ferraro (UOL president), and Protodeacon Dr. Mahlay (St. Andrew Society president). Alternates to the Council are: the Revs. Vasyl Sendeha, Gabriel Rochelle, John Charest, Mykola Andrushkiv, Richard Jendras, Deacon Charles Sanderson, Deacon Valentine Olynyk and Michael Dobransky (layperson).
Elected to the Ecclesiastical Court were: the Revs. Stephen Masliuk (chair), Theophan Mackey, Silouan Rolando, Martha Misko (layperson), Deacon Michael Abrahamson. Alternate: Christine Charest.
Elected to the Audit-Control Commission were: Elizabeth Davies (chair), the Revs. James Cairns, Andriy Matlak, as well as laypersons Tamara Host and Wolodymyr Katolik. Alternates: the Rev. Borislav Kroner and Alexandra Stryzak (layperson).
Following the induction and pledge by the new council members, Metropolitan Antony graced each member with a medal signifying the office and then blessed the newly elected members, along with all the delegates, with holy water. He called upon the delegates to carry the message of this Sobor home to their individual parishes and to their parish family members, and stressed the importance of the Metropolia Center in Church life and the need for the prayers of the faithful for himself and Archbishop Daniel, “for without them, it would be impossible to function,” he said.
The Sobor benediction was led with the singing of “It is Right in Truth,” to officially close the Sobor.
Delegates and participants enjoyed a final dinner together, at which Archbishop Daniel presented a poetry book written by one of the orphans in Ukraine who is supported by the UOC-U.S.A. The girl is wheelchair-bound however, her mind flies free over Ukraine and she puts her dreams, wishes and love of her homeland on paper, which the archbishop gathered and worked to compile into a book, printed by the Church in support of the orphanage. The text was typed by Victoria Zomchak, sister of Seminarian Mykola Zomchak.
Iryna Bilohan, mother of Seminarian Yaroslav Bilohan, created a number of hand-crafted teddy bears that she donated for auction, with the proceeds going toward the orphanage fund.
Another book, “Sacred Grounds of St. Andrew Cemetery” was presented by Archbishop Daniel, who introduced its compiler, Lev Khmelkovsky, editor of the newspaper Svoboda. Mr. Khmelkovsky explained the historical significance of important people in the Ukrainian community who call St. Andrew Cemetery their final resting place. Mr. Khmelkovsky stressed the importance of telling the stories of over 9,500 people buried at St. Andrew Cemetery.
Divine liturgy was celebrated each day of the Sobor, with Archbishop Daniel celebrating on Wednesday, Metropolitan Antony on Thursday, Archbishops Daniel and Jeremiah (Eparchy of South America) concelebrating on Friday, and Metropolitan Antony and Archbishop Daniel concelebrating the closing hierarchical divine liturgy on Saturday.
Following the concelebrated hierarchical divine liturgy closing the Sobor in prayer and thanksgiving, Archbishop Daniel reminded the faithful of Christ’s words, “Follow Me.” The Lord calls to each of us, he said. “The time is at hand, and we need to hear His voice, get up and follow Him.”
Participants then had an opportunity to venerate the Icon of the Mother of God of Pochaiv, which hangs above the solea in front of the Royal Doors. The icon was mechanically lowered for the faithful to venerate the icon.
A farewell brunch was held at the Ukrainian Cultural Center. With final blessings, parting hugs and kisses, exchanges of contact information, and final handshakes, delegates departed for home. Following brunch, the first meeting of the new Metropolia Council was held at the Consistory Offices.
Based on reporting by Elizabeth Symonenko, secretary of the Consistory and Metropolia Council member