ROCOR-MP Synod Eats Mahopac Alive

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Subject: Too little, too late

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Dear brothers and sisters!

We are inviting everyone to Mahopac this Sunday, September 21st (2008) to our Parish Feast of Nativity of Mother of God.

The Divine Liturgy begins at 10 AM and will be headed by Bishop Gabriel.

With deep regret we would like to inform everyone that the building of our church was recently condemned by The Synod of Bishops. With profit being the motivating factor, the church building will soon be closing, and the property might be put up for sale. We believe that this decision is a tragedy, not only for the Parishioners, but for the whole Orthodox community.

The Parish, and the land on which it stands, are very special and dear to many people.

Furthermore, the unique history of the Parish exemplifies the importance for the preservation of the church. It is crucial to mention that our holy place is the first home for the The Icon of Mother of God of Kursk, thus closely tying the history of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia to our Parish. The coming of The Kursk Icon to America provoked a stir amongst many prominent Russian Orthodox immigrants in this country. In fact the land on which our church stands today was donated to the ROCOR by the famous prince Beloselsky- Belozersky upon learning about the arrival of Kursk Icon to the United States. Thus in 1950 the original monastery was founded on the donated land. In order to restore the buildings and the land for the future Parish, donations were collected by the late bishop Seraphim. Also, there is a Russian orthodox cemetery located on the property, which is the burial place for many renowned Russian immigrants of the last century. Relevantly to our case, in 2004 we received an official blessing from The Synod to start our Parish. This blessing, granted not long ago, is now being revoked.

We have to stop this atrocity from happening. We have to preserve such precious Russian orthodox places, for not only do they embody a unique history, but they are also home to many prayers. Holy places such as our Parish of Nativity of Mother of God shouldn't become places for profit. Instead they must remain standing, both for us and for our children.

Please come and pray with us!

sub-deacon Nikolai Shevelchinsky
Ekaterina Piskareva (painter-restorer-iconographer )


 Appeal from Mahopac Faithful to ROCOR-MP Bishops:

Nativity of the Holy Mother of God Russian Orthodox Church 
P.O. Box 240, Mahopac, NY 10541-0240 


To: Metropolitan Hilarion and the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia 
From: a group of faithful in support of the parish of the Nativity of the Holy Mother of God Russian Orthodox Church in Mahopac 

Your Eminence, Your Graces, Bless! 

We are very troubled and concerned by the decision of the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia to shut down the Church building (under the excuse of its poor physical condition), and to close of our parish. 

In 2004, with the blessing of the Synod of Bishops, we officially registered our parish and formed a religious corporation, and since then our parish has been growing and gaining strength. Of course, anyone who has been to our church had to notice the fact that it has been in need of renovation for a long time. However, it is important to understand the true reasons for the very poor condition of the building. The parishioners have had the intent and desire to take on the renovation and to raise funds required to do this work. However, for reasons unknown to us, the Synodal Administration has prohibited this. For many years, our hands have been tied, as we are not the owners or even managers of the church in which we pray and which we love. 

Early this summer, we were honored by a visit to our parish by You, our new First Hierarch, and this visit ignited the hope of changes for the better. It seemed to us that the conclusions of one of the sessions of the 2004 Sobor of Bishops, that took place under the leadership of Metropolitan Laurus on the territory of Mahopac, would be honored. At that meeting, our bishops expressed support for the idea to preserve this holy place and its parish life, and noted the historical and spiritual significance of the first home of the Wonderworking Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God in the United States. It strikes us as very strange and inconsistent to suddenly decide to close and DEMOLISH the church, and possibly, to even sell part of the territory of the Hermitage of the Kursk-Root Icon, citing the poor condition of the church building. 

We perceive this decision as blasphemy (as a purely financial decision, which does not reflect the normal spiritual sobornost and churchly ways of decisions made by the pastors of our souls), and we are prepared to defend our position. To clarify our position, let us remember the history of the Hermitage of the Kursk-Root Icon – the first home of the Odigitria of the Diaspora, which is tightly interwoven with the history of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. From its very inception, the Hermitage of the Kursk-Root Icon was created on the basis of generosity and charitable donation. Having heard of the arrival of the Kursk-Root Icon in the United States, Prince and Princess Beloselsky-Belosersky, well-known for their exceeding generosity, donated their suburban estate to the Synod, where the Hermitage was created in 1950. With the funding of Beloselsky and the engineering skill of Vishnevsky, the building was reconfigured to include a “home church”. Vladyka Seraphim, inspired by and under the blessing of the Icon, collected funds for the establishment of the Hermitage, literally one penny at a time, from the financially struggling émigré parishes. The architects and artists worked in the same generous spirit for the creation and beautification of the Hermitage. There is a cemetery on the property of the Hermitage – the final resting place of many well-known émigrés (see the article in “Pravoslavnaya Zhizn” #6-2006 for further details).

In 1995, there was a fire in the church and the restoration was accomplished with the efforts of the dedicated faithful of this church. In this difficult time, the Synodal Administration, which conducted annual fund drives to benefit the Hermitage, did not contribute any money from the funds collected to assist in the restoration of the fire-damaged church, not one cent. There have also been significant bequests left for the benefit of the Hermitage which were never used to improve the Mahopac property. In light of all these facts, it is not difficult to see why the church is in such a desperate condition. And now, half a century after the establishment of this Hermitage, which survived only due to the communal efforts of many a Russian émigré, thus expressing their sincere love for their fatherland and the great and holy Russia, the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia has decided that it is now time, and even critically important, to eliminate the small, prayer-filled, church and to make a potential profit from the sale of a small portion of the property, blessed by the Wonderworking Icon, which is revered by the same Orthodox Russia, the resurrection of which was intensely prayed for within the church to be destroyed. What a wonderful source of income! 

The government considers Churches to be “non-profit organizations”, and as such, frees them from the payment of taxes. Even in secular consciousness, Christianity is incompatible with commercialism. This is fundamentally expressed in the treatment of Churches under the law. All of us – the parishioners and the Synod – are the successors of the spiritual traditions, preserved by our forefathers; better said: we have inherited a sacred object of Orthodoxy, which they managed to preserve under the adverse conditions of persecution and hardship of émigrés. Have we fallen so, that we can turn this spiritual treasure into an object of materialism and profit? 

How do we explain this to our children, in whom we are trying to instill the all important character traits of devout care for holy items, beginning with the crosses they wear and ending with all of the church’s property?! And what kind of association will they have, and adults as well as children, knowing how holy items and churches were destroyed in Soviet times?! But that was a godless power, here, the power is the church! What else can we say? 

We feel that it is impossible to look at a place, created by our spiritual fathers, benefactors and charitable donors, as merely a source of income. We are called to preserve, care for and improve this holy place in every way possible. But it is not just for us, the present generation, who can find solace here from life’s difficulties and sorrows. It is especially difficult for our children and grandchildren to preserve their Orthodox faith in the culturally diverse and atheistic environment. The words of the founder of this place, Archbishop Seraphim (Ivanov), are especially fitting: “Remember, dear compatriots, the quiet Russian Orthodox corner Kursk-Root Hermitage, which is under the protection of the Wonder-working Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God”! 

Let us also remember a similar story that took place with a parish in Glen Cove. At the time, the Synod was unable to furnish the funds needed to provide the upkeep for the building, and offered the parish the opportunity to take on the cost and become self-financing. Since the parishioners were unable to take on this cost, the parish was dissolved and the building was sold. However, in that case, there were two additional ROCOR parishes nearby, and the parishioners could easily travel. The nearest parish to Mahopac is in Poughkeepsie, which is an hour drive away. But this is not the only difference: contrary to the parishioners in Glen Cove, the parish in Mahopac has never been offered the opportunity to self-finance, which is exactly 
what the parish has asked for over the years. How do we explain such a radical difference in approach? 

There, in order to close the parish, it was necessary to offer the option, where in this case, the opposite is true, it is necessary to prohibit this option?! Can this really be so? 

By turning over the building, housing the church, to the parish, the Synod would be able to: 

• completely remove all responsibility from itself for any consequences from the “dangerous” condition of the building; 
• permit the parish to get started with the work needed to save and reconstruct this historically significant location; 
• eliminate an additional reason for the faithful to leave the Church Abroad; and 
• prevent the smearing of the good name of the Church, since negative publicity and outcry would be unavoidable upon the execution of such a plan.

“Resistance to the worldwide empire of evil, where the rights of the strong, cunning and contentious rule, where they live by the principle: “when forests are cut, chips will fall” – can only come from the union of God and Man that occurs in the body of the Church of Christ, with its sobornost, united in love, called to protect human frailties and help make sense of life’s difficulties; ensuring that each lost human soul has absolute and eternal worth. The Kursk-Root Hermitage is an inseparable limb of this body.” [Inok Vsevolod (Filipiev), Pravoslavnaya Zhizn, #6-2006.]

1 comment:

Joanna Higginbotham said...

I would really like to get to the bottom of why ROCOR-MP synod has the idea to sell it in the first place. I don't buy the "profit" theory - not with all the Russian MP money they have now - building new cathedrals in Cuba where there are only a handful of faithful, etc... It makes no sense for them to bulldoze down a loyal parish community. I'm certain there is some hidden motive. What is it?