Alaskan Diary: Fr. Chad and Monk James Minister in Fairbanks
4–8 April 2013 • Off–Campus • Monk James (Stevens)
During the first week of April, The Very Rev. Dr. Chad Hatfield, chancellor/CEO of St. Vladimir's Seminary and Monk James (Stevens), a second–year seminarian, flew to Fairbanks, AK to offer side–by–side retreats for University of Alaska students, and parishioners and guests of St. Herman Church, Orthodox Church in America (OCA), Diocese of Alaska. This northernmost Orthodox parish in North America consists of a diverse group: people of Russian, Yupik, and Aleut backgrounds; cradle and convert Christians; soldiers and families from Ft. Wainwright and Eielson Air Force Base; and university students.
Assisted by their host, The Rev. Isaac Farha, Fr. Chad and Monk James spoke for several days on the theme "Orthodox Christian Discipling: Back to the Basics." Monk James, offered these dispatches and photos from the field.
Thursday, April 4
We arrived in Fairbanks and began our weekend by offering the Akathist to St. Herman at St. Herman Church. This Akathist is sung every Thursday evening throughout the Diocese of Alaska. Father Chad Hatfield and parish rector Fr. Isaac Farha concelebrated the service before the first installment of our weekend of lectures in an annual Lenten retreat hosted by the parish called "Orthodox Revive 2013."
Friday, April 5
The below–zero temperatures and snow are an interesting contrast to the spring weather we left behind in Yonkers, NY! Today Father Chad led a small discussion at a local book store and coffee shop, Gulliver's Books. He introduced the notion of Christian discipleship and discussed the setting for evangelism in North America.
In the evening, Fr. Chad served the Akathist to the Theotokos and gave another lecture on Mary and the church community, and the work of evangelization through baptism and renewal.
Saturday, April 6
This morning, I led a retreat with the University of Alaska at Fairbanks Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) on the topic "The Joyful Christian Witness." I emphasized the importance of confession in manifesting the Risen Christ in the midst of a community.
Later we joined the faithful and Fr. Isaac for the Vigil for the Feast of the Annunciation, which on the Old Calendar fell on the Sunday of the Cross this year.
Retreat session three was offered by Fr. Chad, who spoke about a return to the beginning and Paradise which occurs in us through Holy Baptism, and how Orthodox Christians must be engaged in mission to fulfill this renewal. After the busy day, we enjoyed fellowship with St. Herman's parishioners.
Tweet: Here in AK where they observe the old–style calendar, the Feast of the Annunciation falls on the Sunday of the Cross, making for rich feast.
Sunday, April 7
During the Divine Liturgy this morning for the Sunday of the Cross, Fr. Chad was the homilist. After the service, he participated in a question and answer session, answering a wide variety of queries concerning the spiritual life, ritual and practice, and even some interesting theological questions about animals.
Then we enjoyed a quick diversion to the area north of Fairbanks to see the sights (a moose!).
Tweet: A moose came to visit during the our excursion!
Monday, April 8
We're traveling back to the Lower 48 today, and true Alaskan–style, we're departing in a "whiteout." For those of you unfamiliar with that term it's a heavy snow and fog combination that is so thick you can't see in front of you.
Father Chad summarized the trip this way: "What touched me deeply was the generosity of the people who expressed their appreciation for the way St. Vladimir's and SVS Press have made a lasting impact on their lives as Orthodox Christians. When small communities with many legitimate needs reach deep in their pockets to express their thankfulness, it sets an example of generosity worth emulating."
Tweet: Father Chad at the Fairbanks airport. That’s snow out the window. Here’s to not having the flight cancelled!