For the first time in history, the Oriental Orthodox churches in Western United States celebrated one Divine Liturgy of the Eucharist together at St. Maurice Coptic Orthodox Church in Pomona, on Thursday, April 22, 2004.
This event was arranged by the leaders of the Oriental Orthodox in the Western United States: H.G. Bishop Serapion, Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles, Southern California and Hawaiiof the Coptic Orthodox Church; H.E. Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Orthodox Church; H.E.Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Prelate of the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Orthodox Church of America; and H.E. Archbishop Mor Clemis Eugene Kaplan, Patriarchal Vicar of the Syrian Orthodox Diocese of the Western United States. As H.G. Bishop Serapion mentioned at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, “We are deeply inspired by our fathers, the patriarchs…to come together in love and partake in this celebration.”
Also attending were the retired H.E. ArchbishopArsen Berberian, over 60 priests and deacons of the four Oriental Orthodox churches, and many congregation members of the four churches. During the Eucharistic liturgy, hymns were presented by the Armenian churches and Syrian church in Armenian and Aramaic, as well as the Coptic hymns.
With the help of Ladies Auxiliary members from each church, and a special ladies group from St. Maurice Church, lunch was served to all of the clergy and congregation.
His Grace Bishop Serapion then presented an overview of the celebration of the Feast of Resurrection in the Coptic Orthodox Church to the clergy, discussing the readings and rites of the feast in the Coptic tradition.
Following the spiritual talk, the priests divided into four groups to discuss the challenges of the Oriental Orthodox priest in America. Many issues of discussion were raised in the four groups, including:
· How can we do community services so we can be integrated part of the community?
· How can we get our youth involved in real church life?
· How can we unite our clergy and congregations to one another?
· How can we establish a unified position on social and moral issues such as same-sex marriages, abortion, and gay rights?
· How can we improve the Christian education in public and private schools?
Some suggestions proposed to these questions included involvement in interfaith meetings on college campuses, hold more ecumenical orthodox gatherings, one spiritual day, and catechism for adults.
The Council will meet next month to discuss these issues and proposals. We pray for the success of this Council and the unity of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church throughout the whole world.