We are an inclusive Old Calendar Orthodox Christian community but our worship services conform to the theology of the Slavonic (Russian) typicon. We are not a local Church in Hayward but a small Orthodox metokian skete, dedicated to worship, study, and service to Orthodox and Catholic Christians from any historic jurisdiction in the greater San Francisco bay area. We also have a unique (among Orthodox Christian communities) focus in service of the marginalized, including the LGBT community as well as their welcoming non-LGBT friends.
We are part of the American Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church under the omophorion of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Nestor.
The large Orthodox and Catholic jurisdictions continue to publicly humiliate LGBT folks with declarations like: “homosexuality is intrinsically disordered.” This attitude is so prominent that some LGBT folks assume that our Russian jurisdiction must be homophobic, judgmental and concerned all about sex as these jurisdictions seem to be. Very seldom do clergy talk about knives which can be used for good or for evil. We think the same way about sex so we seldom discuss it. Some of the best advice about sex might be found in Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book, appropriately enough to be found on page 69:
Those members of our community, as well as any visitors, who are still catechumens (learners), are welcome to approach and kiss the Holy Chalice, the cross, and the priest's hand. We also welcome those who are prepared to receive Holy Communion, have been Chrismated in their own Orthodox jurisdiction.
Beginning in 1980, Axios, an organization of Eastern & Near Eastern Orthodox, and Byzantine & Eastern-rite Catholic Gay & Lesbian lay Christians was founded in Beverly Hills California. They did not include Roman Catholics at that time because the LGBT Roman Catholics already had their own support group called Dignity which had been founded earlier in San Diego, California.
Details about the history of Axios.org can be found on the Axios website. Axios marched in Pride celebrations for five years until two anti-catholic members insisted on ousting the two Eastern-Rite Catholics from the group. Axios, following its charter, voted unanimously (except for the 2) to uphold their membership. The two disgruntled members sent the Axios mailing-list to the OCA bishop in San Francisco. California membership has been mostly underground ever since. Anyone interested in working with Axios may contact them directly.
While Catholic and Orthodox Church hierarchy still continues to see each other as schismatics of sorts and argue over authority, the overwhelming majority of LGBT Orthodox and Catholic lay people, I have met, perceive each other to be in cultural jurisdictions of the one Church established at Pentecost with valid and effective sacraments. Therefore, our Saint Seraphim community, serving the San Francisco bay area of California, in solidarity with all LGBT Orthodox and Catholics, welcome each other to pray and commune with us.
We celebrate Divine Liturgy, as a community, almost every Sunday morning at 10 AM in our Saint Seraphim skete chapel in the hills of downtown Hayward, CA 94541. Our Saint Seraphim phone line for messages is (510) 856-3611. Please phone ahead for directions and to make certain we are not out of town that Sunday. If you enjoy singing Russian chant in English, please do ask about singing with us. We enjoy hearing from anyone who is interested in our work.
Christ is in our midst!
Today is the Sunday of Forgiveness and a week before Lent proper begins. On St. Valentine's Day we read or heard about the horrific events of Parkland, Florida when a 19 young old former student gunned down 17 of his schoolmates and injured many more in a senseless act of violence. One can only guess what possessed a young man to do something so horrible. Blame for this event has started to come from many quarters. From the Right, we heard about how “abortions, same-sex marriages and the lack of school prayer” caused this to happen. From the Left, we heard about how “too much guns and the NRA insistence on no gun control” caused this to happen. Even Mr. Trump has offered his “opinion” (via Tweet, of course) about this event, blaming it on the “Mueller investigations”. Hmmm…
Regardless of blame, absurd or otherwise, the fact remains that a great evil has been committed (once again) against the most vulnerable among us - children. How can we digest this terrible tragedy and reconcile it with our Christian faith? On this Sunday of Forgiveness, we are asked to “forgive those who trespass against us”. How do we forgive someone so callous, so devoid of humanity that before he was apprehended, the gunman even went for a drink immediately after murdering 17 innocents and injuring dozens of others?
It is no easy task. Yet, we ARE called, as followers of Christ to do that. Not to forget, of course, but to forgive. On the cross, Our Lord Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) Even while being crucified, Our Lord teaches us what it means to follow Him. Truly follow Him. No one said that discipleship was easy. In Matthew 16:24, Our Lord says,“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” That is the blueprint for true discipleship. Calling oneself “Christian”, going to church every Sunday, reading the Bible or what not, does not make oneself a disciple of Christ. A true disciple of Christ is called to “deny” himself or herself, take up his or her “cross” and then follow Him.
In this coming season of Great Lent, it is usual to fast, pray and give alms to the poor. In other words, to deny food to ourselves, to occupy ourselves in prayer instead of wasting time doing useless things like worrying over something and denying ourselves something we value by instead giving to the poor. But I think Our Lord is also telling us to deny or give up our anger, our pride, our quarrelsome or vengeful nature and to forgive others.
The cross we are to carry is the difficulties we will face if we keep doing the right things. Our Lord bore His cross to Calvary, falling and getting up each time with great difficulty even though the end of His journey was to be nailed to a cross. What gave Him the courage and the strength to get up each time He fell? I think it was His love for us. His death gave us life. “For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God.” (1 Peter 3:18) So let our motivation to forgive start with love, as Our Lord loved us. In the midst of so much pain and hatred, we have to be the light that Our Lord calls us to be. (Matthew 5:16) We have no choice. There is already too much darkness in our world.
The Church gives us the Sunday of Forgiveness in response to Our Lord's call for us to forgive each other before we perform our religious duties (Matthew 5:23-24). It is a preparation for us to undertake before we begin our Lenten observances. Let us heed the words of the Lord, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15) God bless you!