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From the Desk of Bishop DAVID                            Around the Diocese
Fiftieth Anniversary of the Fire in Sitka, St. Michael's Cathedral
Up From the Ashes

Up From the Ashes

By the Rt Rev. Bishop David, Bishop of Sitka and Alaska

Fifty years ago, on a cold night in Sitka, Alaska, the worst possible tragedy that could happen to an historic building happened to St. Michael’s Cathedral.  A fire that began in the nearby hardware store leaped across the street and set the historic structure ablaze.  It would consume the entire structure and burn it to the ground. 

Valiant firefighters fought the blaze as best they could.  Fire hydrants were frozen and a water supply sufficient for the fire would not be found.   They were dealing with a hopeless situation, but even in that desperate night, people came together.  As word spread about the fire, many of the townspeople, Orthodox or not, came out to salvage what they could from the burning building.  Human chains were formed and every single Icon, Chalice, and church object were brought out to safety and taken to the Sitka Telephone Company garage nearby.  Everything that wasn’t nailed down, and even some things that were, were carried to safety.  Even the chandelier, known as the Sitka Star, and the Royal Doors, all items weighing hundreds of pounds each were removed or handed down by one man. Seemingly superhuman strength made the saving of these priceless items possible, and the Hand of God was with everyone who helped.

Everything of value was saved, including some of the vestments, except for the Icon of the Last Supper over the Royal Doors. The Cathedral was rebuild thanks to the assistance of the National Park Service and the rebuilt structure stands today as a testament to the commitment of one community to preserve its most valuable asset, the landmark that was the most identifiable part of the skyline of Sitka.  It is not possible to imagine Sitka without imagining the Cathedral that stands as a testament to the life of both the Russian American Company and the Orthodox Church in America. 

In the midst of destruction God brought about creation.  In the flames of the fire came the light of Christ with a new illumination of the people of Sitka.  While not everyone in Sitka worshipped God in that church, everyone in Sitka did recognize what that church represented and did everything they could to preserve as much of it as possible.  They all came together and took the risk to their own personal safety to do what needed done.  Dodging the hot pitch falling from the roof and suffering burns, piece by piece they carried each item to a safe haven.  Up from the ashes of that site came a rebirth and a new Cathedral that serves the people of Sitka to this day. 

Today that same beautiful community monument and place of worship for hundreds of Sitkans is again in trouble.  The enemy this time is not fire, but water.  Too much water.  It has been seeping underground and affecting the foundation of the church for years.  Now the affects are showing and causing deep structural damage to the building itself.  The walls are sinking at an uneven rate and literally pulling the church in half.  If something isn’t done, we are looking at possibly at the second demise of St. Michael’s Cathedral, the American Cathedral for all Orthodox Christians on this Continent.

A preliminary engineering study has given us the reality of the situation and soon a complete assessment of the situation will be undertaken, provided we are able to get a grant to cover the $25,000 cost.  Once we have all the information and data needed, we will need to initiate a Capital Campaign to raise the funds necessary to repair St. Michael’s before it is gone a second time.

As we commemorate the bravery and unselfish sacrifice of those people who fifty years ago fought to preserve every thing they could from St. Michaels, let us reoffer their sacrifice in a new way.  Let us be the ones who make a small sacrifice of financial effort to remember their heroism and love for our Cathedral.  In that way we honor their work and provide for the future in Sitka so that St. Michaels will remain what it has always been, a beacon of hope and a light of Orthodoxy for all to see.

May those who aided in the saving efforts that night and have fallen asleep in the Lord memory be eternal; and may those who remain be granted many more years in health and salation.

You can send donations to the Cathedral directly at:  

St. Michael the Archangel Cathedral, P O Box  697, Sitka, AK 99835-0697

Tithing Presentation
Sowing Our Tithe
A Homily on II Cor. 9:6-11

 

By Bishop David of Sitka and Alaska

Today you heard St. Paul’s words to the Corinthians, telling them the one who sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully shall reap bountifully.  What is it about the Corinthians that caused St. Paul to talk to them this way?  What point is he trying to make to them?  Were they farmers that needed to grow more crops?  Were they rich financiers from which he wanted money?  We know that St. Paul had so many problems with the Corinthian Church that his two of his longest Epistles are written to them.  Corinth was a city free from persecution, it had pagan temples, its Christians were weak spiritually; they were surrounded by people of greed, lust, drunkenness, polytheism, freethought and divisiveness.  In short, it wasn’t that different from the land we live in today.

St. Paul had asked them at different times to help raise money for the suffering church in Jerusalem.  Because of its status and freedom, it was also wealthy and capable of helping others, if taught to do so.  So it is that we have this revealing passage on his thoughts on the relationship between giving and God’s response.

It is simply stated, but true.  It is stated in a way that shows the relationship between the giving and receiving in Faith, and it tells us how it is to be done by all of us.

When we give to God, we are not just giving something away.  We are not exchanging one type of bounty for another.  We are not doing something because we are looking for a reward, although we could, in reality be doing all of these things.  St. Paul makes it clear we should be doing so with real joy, cheerfully,  because we want to, and for no other reason.  Orthodoxy does not believe in the so-called “Prosperity Gospel”, the belief held by many of the televangelists that if you give them what they ask you will be highly rewarded in a financial way.  If fact, St. Paul is careful to present his idea about giving in a way that demonstrates the way our Creator has always operated in relation to his creation.

He uses the term “sowing”, a farming term related to how a farmer plants his seeds to collect a crop in the fullness of time.  As anyone knows who has ever been around farming, your yield from the seeds you plant is directly related to the quantity of seeds you put into the ground.  In a given area of ground, a farmer knows how many pounds of seeds he needs to have a good crop yield.  He also knows that if he skimps on the seeds, he’ll be looking at a poor harvest, but if he plants liberally, his chances of a bumper crop are much greater.

But the farmer also knows that it is not just the amount of seeds he puts into the ground, it is type of soil, the amount of rainfall, the warmth or coolness of the climate all are factors in the outcome.  We may ask what has this to do with giving money to God?  We find the answer in the further explanation that St. Paul when he states everyone has to give as he “purposes in his heart”, meaning as he intends to give because he has looked at all the needs around him and made a good choice.  Its not just in giving the money away, its giving it away for the right reasons at the right time.  And even more than that, it must be done cheerfully.  In other words, we should receive joy in the act of giving. 

When the farmer plants his seeds in the spring, he has no idea how wet or dry the summer will be, nor how warm or cool the weather will be, all he knows is that each time he did this in the past, he received his crops in their time.  He realizes that if he lets the seeds remain in the sacks he will have no crop, he has to put his faith in the way God works, the way the seeds, the soil, the water and the wind work together to receive his reward in its time.

All of this brings us to our current situation we find ourselves in.  God has given all of us a great amount of “seeds” for our benefit.  We can use them however we want, we received it freely for one reason, we are citizens of Alaska.  Nowhere else in the United States is there such an act of honor placed on its citizens.  We didn't put the oil in the ground, nor did we create the oil companies that harvested the oil, we didn’t even formulate the system from which we receive this bounty.  Only our act of being born, or moving to, Alaska made this possible for us.  We can be thankful for a good governor, like Jay Hammond, and a legislature that had the foresight to make this possible, but in the end, it is almost entirely an act of God that has given us this gift. 

So, seeing how little we have actually done to receive it, should we not be willing, with joy in our heart, return back to God a portion of what we have received?  Is it not in our interest and for our own benefit that we should be willing to over back to God from this seed that is ours to plant for our own future, the same way that our state planted those first oil revenues as seeds for growth, so that they would multiply and make this blessing possible? 

Beloved, with joy in our heart, let us plant the seed of faith, and do so not grudgingly, but cheerfully, so that we will be able to see the fruit of our efforts in due time.  Let St. Paul’s prayer for the Corinthians be his prayer for us, and “May He who supplies the seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the sedd you have sown and increase the fruits of your won righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.

Thank you, God, for the PFD

What follows is a posting on FaceBook by the Dean of the Kuskokwim Deanery and Rector of St. James Church in Napaskiak, Fr. Vasily Fisher.  It is well written, concise and to the point.  I pray we all heed his words and pledge a tenth of our PFD to our local Church.

Greeting in the Lord!
Today, and soon we all, will begin to be blessed with a free gift which is given to us each year. The PFD. It is a gift that we do not work to receive. It is a gift that is a blessing from the State of Alaska, and a blessing from God.
This is a rather touchy subject to write about but we need to remember that as Baptized Christians tithing is what we do. Tithing is part of who we are. The scriptures speak of giving back to God that which is His. If we are Christians, we tithe. Its that simple. To give to God out of the Joy of our hearts. Give back to God with thankfulness for all the blessings He gives to us.
2 Corinthians 31:5 - "As soon as the command was spread abroad, the people of Israel gave in abundance the first fruit of grain, wine, oil, honey, and of all the produce of the field. And they brought in abundantly the tithe of everything."
Leviticus 27:30 - "Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or the fruit of the trees, is the Lord's; it is holy to the Lord."
We all as baptized Christians tithe, Bishops, Priests, Deacons, Readers, Choir, those who work in the church, and all laity. We all give back to God ten percent of what He blesses us with. It is an opportunity to feel the Joy of giving back to God with Faith and Love. In this day and age, it is God who we must remember first, for the sake of our loved ones and our children so that they too, may know the true JOY of giving back to God as Abel did in the old testament.
Genesis 4:3-5 - "In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel for his part brought of the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.
Let us all Joyfully give as did Abel, in thankfulness and prayer because that is who we are, Christians who give back to God. ALL of us. From this Joyful giving our loved ones and children WILL learn about the Joy of giving back to God. Glory to Jesus Christ.





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