Friday, February 24, 2006
The Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas
8 East 79th Street, New York, NY 10021
March 5, 2006
Sunday of Cheesefare and Mission Sunday
Then He said to His disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.' (Matthew 9: 37-38)
The Hierarchs of the Standing Conference
of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas
To all the Clergy and the Laity of the Holy Orthodox Churches in the Americas
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As the Hierarchs of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), we greet you in the peace of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ on this Sunday of Cheesefare. This day immediately precedes the beginning of our spiritual journey of Great and Holy Lent, a day which it has become our custom to observe annually as "Mission Sunday." On this day, we commend the noble work of our Orthodox Christian missionaries everywhere who have realized Jesus' words that "the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few" (Matthew 9:37), and who have prayerfully responded to His call by going out as laborers to spread the Good News of salvation to all corners of the earth.
Jesus' exhortation 'to pray' that the Lord send forth laborers into His harvest stands as the focus of His appeal to His disciples, for it communicates the great urgency at hand, even in our contemporary world. The Lord's harvest continues to be as ripe as ever, the laborers continue to be few, and there continue to be those living in our world who, as Jesus acknowledged, are "harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:36).
It is here where the vital work of our Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC), the foreign missionary agency of SCOBA headquartered in St. Augustine, Florida, serves as a witness of hope and as an affirmative response to Jesus' exhortation to "pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest" (Matthew 9:38). For more than three decades the OCMC has earnestly endeavored to answer this prayer by sending and supporting priests, missionaries, teachers, mission teams, and medical workers around the globe. Accordingly, we see the good work of the OCMC grow substantially each year. With 25 missionaries and 272 mission priests currently serving throughout the world, the year 2006 demonstrates great potential for substantial prosperity. This year alone, OCMC plans to send 12 mission teams of priests, seminarians and lay volunteers abroad to teach, preach, feed and build. By the end of 2006, the OCMC looks forward to the benefits of moving into new, expanded facilities to enhance its work even further.
Today, Jesus' call to missionary work continues as a global invitation that is extended to Christian men and women of every race, nationality, and ethnic origin, and the call to preach the Good News of salvation is inherently inclusive. The work of missions serves to offer those who have not yet heard the saving Truth of the Gospel the blessing to enter into union with Christ and into fellowship with the global community of Christians. Therefore, we extend this invitation to each of you on this day by exhorting you, as Jesus implored, 'to pray' fervently that the Lord may send more and more laborers into His harvest. Through your prayers, perhaps you yourselves may be led to consider the immense spiritual rewards of participating in one of the many missions offered by the OCMC as a direct means of answering the Lord's call to go forth and "make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19). Alternatively, your fervent prayers may lead you to consider supporting the OCMC by contributing to its work through your financial and material support, according to your own abilities, supporting those worthy laborers abroad who have answered the Lord’s call to go forth into His harvest.
As we enter into the Lenten season, embarking upon a spiritual and disciplined journey toward our eternal salvation, let us remember Jesus' exhortation to pray that the Lord may send forth laborers into His harvest, so that all persons from all places of the earth may come to know His abiding love and saving truth. We wish you a blessed Lenten season, and we pray that it may bring you and your families a rich harvest of spiritual fruits this year.
With paternal blessings and love in Christ,
+Archbishop DEMETRIOS, Chairman
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
+Metropolitan PHILIP, Vice Chairman
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
+Metropolitan CHRISTOPHER, Secretary
Serbian Orthodox Church in the USA and Canada
+Metropolitan NICHOLAS of Amissos, Treasurer
American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese in the USA
Orthodox Church in America
Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America and Canada
Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church
Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA
+Bishop ILIA of Philomelion
Albanian Orthodox Diocese of America