SCOBA Encyclical for Cheesefare Sunday 2003

March 9, 2003

Sunday of Cheesefare and Mission Sunday

The Hierarchs of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas

To all the Clergy and the Laity of Holy Orthodox Churches in the Americas

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We greet you in peace as we begin the season of Great and Holy Lent, the forty-day journey toward the feast of the glorious Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Along this journey, we are presented with the magnificent task of drawing closer to God, of being filled with His inexhaustible love, and of spiritually renewing ourselves through prayer, through fasing and through acts of charity. As we worship and minister together, may we rejoice in the treasure which is our Orthodox Christian faith. May we progress also in the knowledge that Christ invites us to share this faith with others, so that they too become members of the household of God (Ephesians 2: 19b).

As the Hierarchs of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), we are mindful of this global invitation. This is the reason why each year on th:e Sunday of Cheesefare, we ask all of the Orthodox faithful throughout America to be mindfull of the sacred work of missions. From the time of our Lord's coming over two millennia ago, faithful people of the Church have traveled to distant lands, have overcome barriers of language and race, and have given sacrificially so that others as welI may enjoy the unique gift of faith. Through their efforts and those of our missionaries serving today, untold millions are no longer strangers and foreigners. but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the Cornerstone (Ephesians 2: 19-20).

With God's guidance and with the power of the Holy Spirit, these efforts constitute today the work of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) located in Saint Augustine, Florida. This Center, the foreign missions agency of SCOBA, is the means by which Orthodox people and parishes all across America participate in the essential work of missions. Through the quality programs of the Mission Center, Orthodox Christians have the unique opportunity to be directly involved in sharing faith and grace with those in need of the truth and life offered by the Gospel.

Currently, OCMC is coordinating the support for over 20 missionaries serving in A1bania, Romania, Guatemala, and Uganda. In addition, 237 indigenous priests are receiving monthly assistance. During the history of the Mission Center, more than 800 dedicated Orthodox people have committed time and resources to serve on short-tenn mission teams that have labored for the sake of the Gospel throughout the world. This summer 10 mission teams will follow in this apostolic tradition and offer faith and love to others in Alaska, Ghana, Guatemala, Uganda, Romania, and India. Finally, numerous philanthropic and educational programs are funded directly through the generous contriburions of Orthodox faithful in America.

All of this must continue to grow as wc fulfill the commission of our Lord to offer the Gospel to more and more people. In the joy of being joined together as His people, we call upon you to support the work of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center and to contribute according to your available means to the task of building the Church throughout the world. Through this sacred work, those who do not know Christ will become citizens of the kingdom, those who are separated from God will become His beloved children, and together we will glorify the God of our joy and salvation.

May the grace of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ be with all of you.

With paternal blessings and love in Christ,

+Archbishop DEMETRIOS, Chairman Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

+Metropolitan PHILIP, Vice Chairman Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

+Metropolitan CHRISTOPHER, Secretary Serbian Orthodox Church in the USA and Canada

+Metropolitan NICHOLAS of Amissos, Treasurer Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese in the USA

+ Bishop ILIA of Philomelion
Albanian Orthodox Diocese of America

+Metropolitan HERMAN Orthodox Church in America

+Metropolitan NICOLAE
Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America and Canada

+Metropolitan JOSEPH
Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church

+Metropolitan CONSTANTINE
Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA