Rocky Mountain Deanery Heads North for Meeting and to Honor Bozeman Church
It’s funny how business sometimes gets done in Orthodox churches, and the results are often unexpected. Like most deaneries, the clergy of the Rocky Mountain Deanery of the Diocese of the West like to support their sister church communities by attending one another’s Altar Feasts. Last November, these brother-priests found themselves talking business while enjoying a festive meal at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Pueblo, CO. The question at hand: where and when should they meet for their more official meeting in early 2019? “Let’s go up to Bozeman (Montana) for their St. Anthony parish feast day!”
St. Anthony the Great Church up the northern clime of Montana is a wonderful account of God blessing a small group of Orthodox Christians who persevere, often against the common wisdom of church planting experts and wisdom. Under the pastoral care of Fr. David Morrison, St. Anthony’s recently “graduated” from mission status to that of a parish. As such, this fledgling Orthodox church was transferred from the diocesan-wide Mission Deanery to the Rocky Mountain Deanery. One of the great challenges of Orthodox churches in areas like Montana is tremendous isolation. The closest Orthodox Church to Bozeman is a 2 hour drive. In fact, it has been an ordeal for the Montana clergy to participate in the Deanery’s meetings, requiring an expensive flight or arduous drive down to Colorado. The Colorado members of the Deanery decided it was time to change that pattern; it was their turn to make the effort.
So, Fr. Anthony immediately set to calling Fr. David Morrison and then, of course, Archbishop Benjamin for the blessing. Fr. Anthony reported that not only would it be possible, but that Archbishop Benjamin would be in Bozeman at the same time for St. Anthony’s patronal feast. The Deanery clergy would celebrate the patronal feast not only with the Rector and people of St. Anthony Church, but also with their diocesan bishop. Further, thanks to available diocesan funds, the Matushki elected to come as well for a time of retreat and mutual support. The pieces fell into place so beautifully: the tickets were ordered and soon enough, eight Priests, one deacon, and six Matushki of Colorado gathered with the Montana clergy and wives in Bozeman.
The Deanery meetings went well. Fr. Moses Hibbard (St. Nikolai of South Canaan Church, Billings MT), led a meeting using a 2009 Russian film, The Priest, as a foil for discussing the essence of priestly ministry and the challenges of serving Christ. A time of frank sharing was an important segment of the meetings, as clergy described not only the joys but also the heartaches of priestly ministry. In addition, the clergy reviewed liturgical matters with Archbishop Benjamin. The highpoint of the gathering was the Feast of St. Anthony the Great itself, with Archbishop Benjamin as lead celebrant, a very full Altar of clergy and servers, and full house of faithful. How glorious!
Hearts were warm even as snow fell around them. The faithful of St. Anthony’s sacrificed in hosting so many guest clergy and their wives — not to mention Archbishop Benjamin himself. A wonderful sense of brotherhood was present as the Deanery shared in the worship, life, and ministry of this otherwise isolated church community, St. Anthony the Great Church of Bozeman, Montana.
Annual Blessing of thw Waters on the Continental Divide
On Jan. 21st, 105 faithful and 7 clergy of Rocky Mountain Deanery bravely gathered together atop Monarch Pass (11,312 ft!) for the annual Blessing of the Waters. This Rocky Mountain tradition dates back to the late 1990’s under the leadership of Archpriest Joseph Hirsch of blessed memory. It was he who discerned the unique opportunity of Colorado clergy to beseech God to bless the waters that will descend both East and West across our entire continent… “sanctifying all those who will partake of them.” This year marks the 20th “pilgrimage” up the very spine of our country. The January prior to Fr. Joseph’s repose (2009), he exhorted that we of the Rocky Mountain deanery keep this tradition alive for the sake of this God-blessed country he loved so much, and in which he observed so many ungodly changes taking root.
After the Blessing, the faithful gathered in the town of Salida, CO to warm up over a hearty soup and bread fellowship meal sponsored by Holy Theophany Church in Colorado Springs.