This is the archbishop’s first visit since his historic election as Metropolitan in November 2008, just days after his consecration to the episcopacy.
“This means that he was chosen to be the Metropolitan just 11 days after becoming a bishop,” explained the Rev. John _______ of _______ Orthodox Church. “This is extremely rare, as the Metropolitan is the first among equals. For example, when bishops meet in Council, he presides at the meeting. It is kind of like a new junior senator being chosen as Speaker of the House on their first day in the Senate.”
Fr John went on to note that Jonah’s election as Metropolitan took place in Pittsburg, Pa., in November 2008, at the All-American Council – a meeting of the bishops, together with clergy and lay representatives from the Orthodox Church in America, which consists of more than 700 parishes, missions, communities, monasteries and institutions located in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Jonah is a native of Chicago and converted to the Orthodoxy while in college. He went on to study at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary in Crestwood, N.Y., and Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley, Calif. After his studies, he traveled to Russia, where he decided to pursue the monastic life.
His writings on Orthodox spirituality have been published in “Divine Ascent,” the journal of the Monastery of St. John. He is a well-known speaker and has traveled extensively, speaking to both the Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike. This summer, he joined the Rev. Rick Warren and the Rev. Todd Hunter in addressing the organizing Assembly of the Anglican Church in North America in Bedford, Texas.
Although Orthodox churches are commonly classified as either Greek or Russian, Fr John explained that the hierarchy of the Orthodox Church is not tied to any particular ethnic group.
“The Orthodox Church is a worldwide communion of sister churches all sharing the same faith and practice since the time of the Apostles. The word ‘Orthodox’ means both ‘correct faith’ and ‘right glorification of God.’ This network of churches, also referred to as Orthodox Christianity, includes the churches of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Russia, Georgia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Albania, Poland, the Czech Lands and Slovakia, and America,” he explained.
“Orthodox parishes are often identified according to the language in which services are celebrated or the national identity of parishioners. Thus, they have come to be known as ‘Greek Orthodox,’ ‘Russian Orthodox,’ ‘Serbian Orthodox,’ etc. But this can be misleading. There is only one Orthodox Church, and it is not tied to any particular nationality.”
The Roman Catholic Church was part of the network of Orthodox Churches until about the 11th century. The rift that occurred at that time had many causes, one of which being the tendency of the Western Church to invest more and more authority in the Pope.
Fr John explained that the Orthodox Church has never had a worldwide, centralized government like the Papacy; instead, each local church governs itself in mutual accord with all the other local Orthodox churches.
Today, there are some 200 million Orthodox Christians worldwide, representing the second largest unified body of Christians, next to the Roman Catholic Church.
The Metropolitan’s visit is coinciding with the new church year, which begins on Sept. 1, and the parishioners at the mission, which was established in 2000, are very excited about his visit.
“Anytime an Orthodox Christian bishop, one of the historical descendants of the Apostles, visits a local parish community, it is a special occasion. But, this time, we are pleased to welcome one who not only stands in this historical line but also has acquired the apostolic spirit,” said Fr John.
“In Metropolitan Jonah, we find a person who has devoted his life to acquiring an authentic experience salvation and freedom in Christ; a freedom not just from sin but –more importantly – a freedom to truly love and to serve. Because of this, God has granted him a unique gift for imparting the ancient and unchanging spiritual truths of our faith, those spiritual truths which our Lord said are able to set all men free,” he said.
“We look forward to Metropolitan Jonah’s first archpastoral visit to our community, and we welcome all who are searching for something more in their faith experience to come and join us in worship, fellowship and celebration.”
Jonah will serve Vespers at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 29. Vespers is an evening service, usually served around sunset, that includes psalm readings, hymns and special prayers. On Sunday, Aug. 30, he will serve the Divine Liturgy at the church at 9 a.m. and then share in a brunch.
The church welcomes all visitors, both Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike, to be a part of this special weekend.