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Annual Fort Ross Pilgrimage - 06/22/19

Diocesan clergy and faithful are invited to participate in the annual July 4th pilgrimage to, and liturgy at, historic Fort Ross in Jenner, CA. Archbishop BENJAMIN will celebrate the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, assisted by diocesan clergy, at 10:30 AM on Thursday, July 4th, 2019.

After the liturgy there will be a procession to the cemetery where a panikhida will be served for all the Orthodox Christians interred there. All pilgrims are encouraged to pack a picnic lunch to eat at the fort in fellowship with His Eminence, the clergy, and other faithful.

This pilgrimage has been a diocesan tradition since the 1920s -- come and join us!  

Tacoma Parish Burns Mortgage - 06/21/19

Holy Resurrection church, Tacoma, Washington was blessed to have His Eminence, Archbishop Benjamin visit the weekend of June 1st & 2nd. At Hierarchical Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning, His Eminence tonsured Theodore Kvamme a Reader, awarded the Jeweled Cross to Fr. Joseph Velez and the Gold Cross to Fr. James McKee. At the conclusion of Liturgy His Eminence, assisted by Fr. John Pierce, Rector, and Parish Council Senior Warden, John Hamre, burned the mortgage to the Tacoma property. At the community meal that followed Divine Liturgy, the parish honored Archbishop Benjamin on his 65th birthday.

Founded in 1896 in the town of Wilkeson in the Cascade foothills near Mount Rainier, the parish moved to the outskirts of Tacoma in 1996. The parish owns ten acres there, utilizing a "temporary" church building that can hold 160 people, a small fellowship hall and classrooms. The local county has given the parish the green light to establish a cemetery. A traditional Orthodox Temple and larger parish hall are also part of the future plans. The parish maintains its original Holy Trinity Temple in Wilkeson, which was built in 1900 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Archbishop John Shahovskoy 1902-1989 - 06/09/19

Thursday May 30, 2019 marked the 30th Anniversary of the repose of the outstanding hierarch and former archpastor of our Diocese of the West – Archbishop John Shahovskoy. Archbishop John served as the Archbishop of San Francisco for nearly three decades, from 1950-1973, and again, after being called out of retirement, from 1975-1979. A prolific writer and poet, Archbishop John also authored a well-known treatise on the priesthood – The Orthodox Pastor, which remains a guide and inspiration for seminarians and clergy to this day. Most of his publications appeared in Russian and remain untranslated into English.

Commemorating the event, a memorial Liturgy was held in Christ the Savior Church in San Francisco, a parish founded by Archbishop John as well as his former residence. Priest Philip Halliwell and Priest Timothy Winegar concelebrated. Fr. Philip shared a sermon of Archbishop John, giving all a sense of his poetic and vivid preaching style. Fr. Timothy also shared about how Archbishop John’s monastic cross, which he received on Mt. Athos and which contains a relic of the True Cross and relics of several saints, came to reside at Elevation of the Holy Cross parish in Sacramento, a parish also founded with the blessing of Archbishop John. Following Liturgy, the faithful shared a meal together in the parish hall. 

The day’s Gospel reading was fitting for this true hierarch and shepherd: Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. (Jn. 10:1-4)

May his memory be eternal!

Below is a brief life of Archbishop John that appeared in The Orthodox Church journal following his repose in 1989.

Spokane Mission Highlighted - 06/05/19

Spokane, Washington - from Staff Reports

St. Luke Orthodox Christian Church in north Spokane will celebrate its first Pascha, or Easter, service at midnight Saturday, one week after the Western Christian Easter. The church was formed in the summer 2018 and meets at Valley Prairie Hall, 8216 E. Big Meadows Road, in Chattaroy. The goal of the Church is to make Orthodox Christianity accessible to residents in north Spokane, the Rev. Timothy Wilkinson said in a news release. While the membership of the new church is small, it is diverse.

“We have people from various religious backgrounds who have become Orthodox, or are on the journey to becoming Orthodox, including Roman Catholics, Calvinists and Pentecostals,” Wilkinson said in the release. “One member was a pastor in the Assemblies of God denomination for 30 years and became interested in Orthodoxy after studying Church history and reading about early church fathers like St. Athanasius and St. Basil. Many people read their way into the Orthodox Church,” Wilkinson said.

Diocesan Clergy Retreat - 05/25/19

Sacred Heart Retreat House

Alhambra, CA

May 21-23, 2019

Clergy of the Diocese of the West gathered for three days this week at the Sacred Heart Retreat House in Alhambra (Southern California) for a mandatory retreat. The retreat speaker, Hieromonk Maximos (CONSTAS), traveled from Holy Cross Seminary in Brookline, MA and delivered four talks on Spiritual Fatherhood, focusing on the role of the spiritual father in the sacrament of confession.

Fr Maximos is a monk of Simonopetra monastery on the Holy Mountain, which until recently has had as its abbot the Elder Aimilianos (the Elder reposed in the Lord about three weeks ago after many years of poor health -- memory eternal!). The DOW clergy found his talks engaging and inspiring, especially his impromptu recounting of the elder's life during the fourth and last session.

While the retreat was spiritually fulfilling as well as a boon toward completing the annual continuing education requirement of the OCA, it was also a blessed opportunity for fellowship and council (and, to be sure, counsel) amongst the diocesan clergy. The Catholic Carmelite Sisters running the retreat center also did a wonderful job of extending hospitality toward our group. The clergy of the Diocese of the West thank His Eminence, Archbishop BENJAMIN for ordering the retreat and inviting Fr Maximos, and they look forward to the next opportunity for spiritual refreshment!

Diocesan Pilgrimage to Spruce Island and Alaska - 05/17/19

Join your fellow Orthodox believers in the 50th Anniversary celebrations of St. Herman of Alaska’s glorification and the 50th Anniversary of the OCA’s autocephaly in 2020. There will be weekly trips to Alaska over the summer of 2020 sponsored by each of the dioceses of the OCA. The Diocese of the West will sponsor their trip July 8-14, 2020. This will be a special trip for all Orthodox believers. Sign up early and reserve your space. Final cost to be determined.

Core package includes:

*          7 days/6 nights accommodation

*          Round trip air fare to Kodiak from Anchorage

*          Excursion to Spruce Island

*          Touring and sightseeing as listed in itinerary

For terms and conditions, passports, visas, baggage fees, air, additional taxes and travel insurance information visit email 713-688-6793.

Download the flyer here.

Cruise to Alaska with Archbishop Benjamin - 05/16/19

Archbishop Benjamin invites you to join him on a special cruise to Alaska. Socialize with fellow Orthodox while you sail though the USA’s last frontier. Enjoy special services as well as educa-tional talks on the church’s history in this fascinating country. Embark on a convenient roundtrip Seattle adventure, offering spectacular Hubbard Glacier vistas, whale-watching and stops in God-protected Sitka, rough-hewn Ketchikan and Alaska’s capital, Juneau. (Please note: this is different than the Pilgrimage Cruise scheduled for July 2020.)


• 7-day cruise round trip from Seattle
• Daily morning prayers
• All meals onboard
• Daily entertainment

Cabin Options
Suites from $2,199pp
Balconies from $1,809pp
Oceanview from $1,369pp
Inside from $1,369pp
all pricing based on double occupancy. single supplement 200%. triple & quad cabins available. call for pricing. taxes $240pp & gratuities not included

Download flyer here.



“By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered, when it encountered You in the lower regions. It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked. It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains.
     It took a body, and met God face-to-face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen. O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory?"
(Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom)


To the Reverend Clergy and Faithful of the Diocese of the West

Dearly beloved:

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

There is an old saying, “Be careful what you pray for — you might just get it.” The powerful words of our father among the Saints, St. John Chrysostom, read every year during the Paschal Matins, brings us to a very clear image of that saying. “Hell” is almost personified in his sermon. “It was embittered, it was abolished, it was mocked, it was slain, it was overthrown, it was fettered in chains.”

The stichera of Holy Saturday sings out again and again, “Hell cries out groaning…”  Why? Because “it took a body, and met God face to face.” The groaning is hell being destroyed from within. The demons saw the crucifixion and rejoiced, because the victory was finally theirs. But they prayed for the wrong thing — and got it. When hell swallowed the Savior, it choked. The corpse — for that is exactly what hell is —  is bloated and finally explodes. The gates are smashed, locks are annihilated, chains are broken, doors are demolished and Adam and Eve are lifted out of Sheol along with all of their descendants. They (we) are restored to Paradise.

We live in the Resurrected Christ and His Body — the Church. But we still reside in a fallen and broken creation. The Paradise that Christ came to restore for us is tasted in the Church, but its fulness is yet to be realized and only in the Kingdom of Heaven. Our world is full still of darkness and hatred (see Sri Lanka just a few days ago on Western Easter), our own society seems more and more polarized — politically, socially and morally. And yet, in the midst of this darkness, we see those who are searching for the Answer.

We have nothing to give them but the Risen Christ. But what else is needed? Redemption has been offered to all of creation, renewal is there for the taking, Light is shining for those who would see it, Life has pierced the armor of Death and destroyed it. If each and every one of us simply embrace the Risen Christ with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our soul, thereby living the resurrected life, multitudes will be saved around us.

The Risen Christ is indeed all we have to give, but when given, we know the answers to the questions: O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory?

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

Yours in the risen Christ,


Archbishop of San Francisco and the Diocese of the West


Diocesan Office Move - 04/11/19

February 26th, 2019

The Diocese of the West Administrative Assistant Office has been enjoying a new location at the DOW's Duboce property in San Francisco these past couple of months! Once His Eminence, Archbishop BENJAMIN realized his father would have to move in with him due to rent hikes in Southern California, Vladyka informed the Diocesan Council and Administrative Assistant Priest Andrew Smith that it would be necessary to find a new place for the office at 1520 Green St. With about a month to move the office with its archives and files, the DOW Council secured funds to hire Birch Circle Movers of San Anselmo, CA to simplify the process.

This still meant a few more days in the Green Street office for Fr Andrew, packing up files and empyting the loft area where archives had been stored. While the work was a bit unexpected, it did turn up various and sundry fascinating relics and souvenirs -- old event posters, portraits of previous diocesan hierarchs, a typewriter (!), and many reminders of people and places accrued over more than 50 years of administrative record-keeping (for many years kept by our Archbishop BENJAMIN, who was diocesan administrative assistant when he worked as Bishop TIKHON (Fitzgerald's) archdeacon).

The day of the move itself was smoother than expected in spite of the rain thanks to Birch Circle's professional and efficient team. St Seraphim Cathedral's intern, Deacon John Joseph Kotalik, helped Fr Andrew re-file all the DOW's documents that day after the movers finished -- thank you Dn J.J.! Fr Andrew was so pleased (and relieved) with the process that he served a Thanksgiving Moleben in the Chapel of the Synaxis of the Theotokos located on the property.

Please note: the 1520 Green St address is STILL the active mailing address for all diocesan mail and parcels -- thank you, and glory to God for all things!

Orthodox 360 Discount Offer - 04/04/19

Orthodox 360 will be conducting 360 Tours for churches in the greater San Francisco and Los Angeles areas in June and July of this year. As this is its first trip to the West Coast, the company is very interested in doing as many churches as possible, and to make that happen it is extending a 25% discount and no travel costs to the parishes and institutions of the Diocese of the West! Archbishop BENJAMIN gives his blessing for parishes to reach out to Orthodox 360 to enlist its services. A flyer for the promotion may be viewed and downloaded here.

Sunday of Orthodoxy Vespers at Holy Trinity Cathedral - 03/29/19

March 17th, 2019

Holy Trinity Cathedral, San Francisco, CA

His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon visited Holy Trinity Cathedral for Vespers on the Sunday of Orthodoxy. From the bell tower, the murmurings of spring daylight made the San Francisco sunset a warm gray. The Blagovest rumbled as the service began and the doors opened just before the hour. A triumphant sight entered the cathedral, His Beatitude with Archbishop Benjamin, Archbishop Kyrill (of ROCOR's Western American Diocese) and Bishop Daniel of Santa Rosa. The first intoning of the deacon and response of the choir set the stage for the rest of the evening. Somber and powerful, beautiful and heavenly, these are the moments that originally drew me into Orthodoxy. 

As we finished singing Vespers with our guests, some of us trickled down to the kitchen to set out food for the reception. All afternoon volunteers were pinching piroshki, chopping veggies, and setting the stage for buffet tables. After kissing the cross, we exited the large front steps to enter the small side door on Green Street. There were so many people laughing and greeting each other as our brothers and sisters from parishes in the Bay Area came to celebrate with us. As you entered the room, pockets of people hovered over almonds and hummus.

His Beatitude's Visit to Santa Rosa - 03/28/19

Sunday March 17th, 2019

St Seraphim Cathedral, Santa Rosa, CA

The parishioners of St. Seraphim Cathedral in Santa Rosa, California received an extra measure of grace on the Sunday of Orthodoxy when His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, visited and celebrated Divine Liturgy with them. They counted it a triple blessing because their Diocesan hierarch, Archbishop Benjamin of San Francisco, and Bishop Daniel of Santa Rosa, were also present at the Divine Liturgy.

His Beatitude gave the homily that morning, revealing the connections between the Gospel account of Christ penetrating the depths of Nathaniel’s heart as he saw him under the fig tree, and the restoration the veneration of the holy icons: “All this seeing and beholding is not the external capturing of phenomena, but the entering into the reality of the kingdom.” He reminded us that the holy icons are one of the gifts of the Church that “reveal the great mysteries of our Orthodox faith, and which compel us to proclaim today, ‘This is the faith of the Fathers, this is the Orthodox faith, this is the faith that has established the universe.’”

Metropolitan TIKHON's visit to San Anselmo - 03/27/19

Saturday March 16th, 2019

Walking to St Nicholas Church in San Anselmo for Sunday of Orthodoxy vigil, things were the same but different. It would be the same vigil, sung by the same choir in the same way, in the same building, in the same time of year. And yet the same choir would be singing ‘Eis Polla, Eti Despota” for our Primate, our Archbishop, and Diocesan Chancellor and Auxiliary Bishop. And yet yesterday’s drizzle and gloomy skies gave way to the first warm Spring evening of the year. And yet in the middle of this ‘same’ building would be standing not one, not two, but three hierarchs. Much the same, but much different.

Waiting for the bishops to arrive, the same parishioners had a slightly different energy – more flitting about, more excitement than usual. And yet, after the excitement of His Beatitude’s entrance with the blast of the bells, the dual deacons dishing out incense, the veneration of the venerable images, and the Metropolitan claiming his kathedra, this excitable energy distilled itself into a broader, more heightened normal.

Diocese of the West Video Now Available - 07/30/18

A video highlighting the work going on in the Diocese of the West, prepared for and debuted at the 19th All-American Council held July 23-27 in St. Louis is now available online. If you wish to view the video, click


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