Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ecclesiastic Trust

"The days of leadership by intimidation are over!" These words were the heart of the speech that Bishop Jonah gave to the OCA leadership on November 11, 2008, which were met to choose a new patriarch.

The Church had undergone 30 years of corrupt leadership and Bishop Jonah fearlessly described the situation: "Christian leadership is based in love", he said. "Obedience to leadership is cooperation out of love and respect. Authority is responsibility AND accountability. It's not power." [View his speech here.]

Because of how he manifested these principles to those gathered, Bishop Jonah was chosen the next day to become the new metropolitan virtually by acclamation after only two weeks in office as bishop. Before that he lived a monastic life in California.

As the song says, "God moves in mysterious ways his wonders to perform." In this new beginning may the ecclesiastical order reflect and justify the trust that our young Metropolitan Jonah has won. God bless him and us!


On November 30, 2008, I was Chrismated a member of the Orthodox Church in America as Arseny Pavel Kovalenko by Father John Hennies of St. Dimitri of Rostov Mission Parish in Los Alamos, New Mexico. It felt like a full circle generational coming together of my father's baptism in the Russian Orthodox Church as an infant in Melitopol, Ukraine in 1903.

I chose the name "Arseny Pavel" in remembrance of two Russian Orthodox priests of the Soviet era whose exemplary lives and writings impacted me most. Father Arseny, priest and prisoner, is the single most convincing example of a Christ-like life that I have ever read. Most transformative of all was his mode of confession: he had that rare gift of seeing into the soul and spirit of people and loving them unconditionally, whatever their station or flaws, as did Jesus. His life is reflected by a cloud of witnesses whose lives were permanently changed.

Father Pavel Florensky exemplified an integrity, intellect and courage that also reflected the life of Jesus. And he paid for it with his own life when he was executed by the KGB in 1937. His final work Iconostasis, written in 1922, is a must read for any serious scientific mind. I would not be surprised that Fr. Pavel played a key role in the transformation of Soviet leadership that evolved the concepts of glasnost and perestroika and which led to the near bloodless transformation of the USSR.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Before Chrismation

A week or so before my scheduled Chrismation, I asked Fr. John to discuss the service text, word by word, so that I could enter the Church community wholeheartedly, without reservation. He agreed.

The review took more time than expected, which was interrupted by typical demands on Fr. John's priestly ministry. When we finally completed the review, he paused to look at me and then softly exclaimed, "Why, you have been Orthodox since your conception!"

At that statement I experienced a surprising "rush" of recognition, which was followed immediately by the lifting of a burden that I had felt and carried since birth. Conception predates birth. My Orthodox conception preceded my Mormon birth. It was as if my father's spirit had come into our midst to ratify the Orthodox path I was now on.

This brought to mind the last of six "Dialogues with Joseph Smith", which I'd finished writing two years earlier in November 2006. At the end of the sixth dialogue, the spirit of my dad came into my consciousness to encounter the protesting earth-bound spirit of Joseph Smith, which was still attached to mine. Then Dad gently, but firmly escorted the still protesting Joseph into the LIGHT.

The following month I received the Ancient Echoes musical files, which launched this Orthodox Odyssey.