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The Nativity of the Holy Virgin Church in Menlo Park had a VIP visitor on Sunday, August 26th! Igumen Arseny (Sokolov), the representative of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus’ to the Patriarch of Antioch and All the East traveled all the way from the Moscow Representation church in Damascus, where he is rector, to visit friends who happen to be parishioners of Menlo Park.

Priest Andrew Smith received a surprise call from Bishop Daniel on Saturday morning (Archbishop Benjamin was still in Poland at the time), informing him of the planned visit. To make matters even more interesting, Igumen Arseny and Vladyka Daniel were already acquaintances from their participation in the World Summit in Defence of Persecuted Christians in Washington DC, 2017 (https://oca.org/news/headline-news/metropolitan-tikhon-addresses-world-summit-in-defense-of-persecuted-christi). Owing to Vladyka DANIEL’s roots and Igumen Arseny’s 13 years of living and serving in Lisbon, they converse in Portuguese!

Igumen Arseny concelebrated with Fr Andrew at the Divine Liturgy and, at Fr Andrew’s request, addressed the faithful at the dismissal. Fr Arseny gave a simple but direct message, inspired from his brief experience in America while visiting his friends. He noted that he had often heard people living in California complaining of how hard it is to make ends meet in this expensive place, of how busy things are. However, he reminded us of how beautiful our Bay Area is, how much abundance of riches there is, and how fortunate we are to have our own church building and a permanently assigned priest, how we are free to worship God in peace. Then he briefly recounted how truly difficult it is in the Middle East right now, but that, through the grace of God, there is still some semblance of joy when the services are celebrated.

Inspired by Fr Arseny’s words, the parishioners took up a spontaneous collection to support the churches in the Middle East -- $670 was raised – Glory to God!

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