St. Vladimir’s parish has been received under the omophorion of Bishop Andronik of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, joining those who remain independent and separate from the Moscow Patriarchate.
On Saturday, March 1, 2008, the parish of St. Vladimir’s in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, made a very important decision.
St. Vladimir’s parish had been part of the ROCiE (Russian Orthodox Church in Exile) since its beginning, when in 2001, ties were severed with ROCOR under Metropolitan Laurus. The parish always held firm against any union or ties with the MP (Moscow Patriarchate). Our expectation and belief was that the ROCiE would carry on the legacy of Metropolitan Vitaly and the “old ROCOR.” However, after seven years and numerous schisms and intrigues, the remaining ROCiE hierarchs have been unable to function as a Sobor, let alone maintain the royal path of Metropolitan Vitaly and his predecessors.
Almost two years earlier, Fr. Andrew and members of the parish council executive could see that ROCiE was not fulfilling its mission and that something was very amiss. With the blessing of our Bishop Bartholomew, before he completely lost his health, we had made inquiries to go elsewhere. But we always hoped that we could stay with our ROCOR roots, and so we agreed to wait a while longer, still praying things would get better.
After the unification of the ROCOR and the MP May 17, 2007, we learned that Bishop Agafangel and many clergy and laity all over the world did not go along with the union. We were encouraged by this but wanted to wait and see how things would develop. In late 2007, there was discussion in the parish about informally inviting Bishop Andronik to St. Vladimir’s and have an open question/answer session to clarify conflicting information and answer many questions. Some parishioners left St. Vladimir’s because they wanted to remain in the ROCiE. This rift with old friends has been very painful and upsetting. Nevertheless, the majority voted to move ahead. We could no longer live under the spiritual chaos and hopelessness of the shattered ROCiE.
Finally, a visit was arranged to take place the first weekend in March 2008. Bishop Andronik came with Protodeacon Iov. The meeting, with a light lunch, lasted about two and a half hours. At the conclusion of the questions and discussion, Vladika Andronik and Fr. Iov left the room to give the parish members time to discuss their response to the meeting and an open vote was brought forward. The parish voted unanimously to accept Bishop Andronik as our bishop. The decision brought us peace and we felt relieved that this difficult time of transition was completed. We understood that we had returned to where we had moved away from. We understood that God had been very merciful to us and through a lot of suffering had now brought us back to our ROCOR roots.
Following the meeting, the Saturday evening Vigil was served and Bishop Andronik and Fr. Iov served with the rector, Fr. Andrew Kencis. The service was a blend of English and Slavonic. After the Vigil, several parish members stayed and we had an informal meal with Vladika in a smaller, cozier dining room. It gave us a chance to get to know Vladika better. He told us about remarkable and holy monastics he met at Jordanville and in the Holy Land during his twenty-five years there.
The next morning, a hierarchical liturgy was served. Again, the service was a blend of English and Slavonic, which flowed from one language to the other, with ease. Most of the parish members had prepared to receive the Holy Mysteries at our first liturgy with Bishop Andronik. As usual, a trapieza followed the Sunday service. This gave another opportunity for parishioners to get to know the bishop better. Bishop Andronik’s visit to St. Vladimir’s concluded joyfully, giving our parish renewed hope.
Before leaving Edmonton, Bishop Andronik went to visit Bishop Bartholomew in the nursing home. They had known each other in the Holy Land. Bp. Andronik was able to see firsthand how ill Bp. Bartholomew has become. After that, a drive was made to the Protection Convent in Bluffton to meet Abbess Amvrosia and the sisters there, and share a meal before returning to Dormition Skete in Wildwood.
As news has spread, Fr. Andrew has received warm greetings offering congratulations to St. Vladimir’s.