In responding to the question of why he takes part in the work of the fund, Board President Selawry, without knowing it, repeated what the first board of directors said 60 years ago: “The other board members and I work without compensation for the Fund because of the great privilege we have received of being members of the Church. And we would like to do everything we can to support Her.” Mark sees the following challenges for the Fund: “I believe the future of the ROCOR and the FFA are very closely aligned. I think the majority of our efforts is to get people to support the Russian Church Abroad. We [the ROCOR] as any institution have our strengthens and our weakness. Organization is not one of our strengths, but where there is a strength is in the faith. We have a unique edge because we walk the talk. We don’t have huge land holdings and endowments and all the temptations when it comes to the corruption of power and money that other organizations may face. So, the weakness that we have is a very lack of those things that could be a source of temptations in terms of wealth. But I don’t think we have enough of it. I don’t think we have enough support to be as effective in growing the Church, especially outside of Russia. You know it is a tough life when you have to have a full-time job in addition to serving a parish. That is an institutional weakness. And one that we’re not going to solve overnight. But if we as Fund for Assistance could be more in a position to do more of what it does I think we as a church will more effective as well. I wish we [had] enough funds to have every priest full time, especially in parishes that cannot support him, and [he would] not have [to work] two, three jobs just [...] to make ends meet.”
It remains to be said that now, as over the course of its entire history, the Fund is working in harmony with the ROCOR leadership. This is demonstrated by the fact that a representative of the Fund delivers reports at ROCOR Bishops' Councils.
In my hands is a 509-page textbook on “The Social Ministry of the Russian Orthodox Church”, which was published in Moscow in 2019 by the Saint Cyril and Methodius Institute for Post-graduate Studies. Among other topics, it deals with such issues as: social work with the elderly, disabled, homeless, and addicts…
Our Russian Orthodox Church Abroad is respected for its liturgical piety and for the self-sacrificing service of its episcopate and clergy, who often live in more austere material circumstances than their brethren in their ancestral land. However, apart from celebration of the daily cycle of services and musical and youth conferences, very little is happening in the Church Abroad. One gets the impression that the concept that all of Christian life should be a liturgy (to take one of the meaning of this word, “ministry”) is very little present among us in “the first world.”
In the Gospel, the Lord clearly explains that by feeding the hungry, and caring for the needy and prisoners, His followers care for Him Himself (Mt. 25:31-46). We are all called to this mission; however, it is the sacrificial work of the Fund for Assistance to the ROCOR that carries it out on behalf of many of us. In this regard, the members of the Board have continued in the best traditions of Russian nobility. “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required” (Lk. 12:48).
“The pauper lives off the rich man, and the rich man is saved by the prayers of the pauper” – so the outstanding historian Vasily Osipovich Klyuchevsky (†1911) described the ideals of Muscovy. Just as the parishes in West Berlin, Tunisia, and Santiago survived in the 1960s thanks to aid from their brothers and sisters from Western countries, so even now the torch of supporting missions in third-world countries is borne by parishioners from the largest dioceses of the ROCOR: those in America.
60 years marks the onset of old age, but the Fund is not growing old. This is the difference between organizations and individuals. The work of the Fund shows itself to be an excellent example of conciliar work, demonstrating that there is no need to fear collaboration, since the clerics and laypeople within the body of the Church make up one people of God, a “royal priesthood” (I Peter 2:9-10). The names of ruling bishops are commemorated at services, and this underscores the hierarchical ecclesiology of the Orthodox Church, in that a priest is considered to be the “hands” of his bishop. However, it is often the case that our pastors end up stuck within a “congregational” model of existence: one-on-one with the conditions of the aid offered to them by ROCOR parishes. In this situation, the Fund tries to provide necessary support on behalf of the Church to Her ministers.
“Thy care for thy flock in its sojourn” – we hear in the Troparion to Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco. Over the sixty years of its existence, the Fund for Assistance has tried to do all within its power to follow him in his care for the Orthodox children of the Russian Church who are scattered across the whole Earth: from Shanghai to London and San Francisco to Paris. We wish the members of the Board of the Fund for Assistance to go from “strength to strength” and that their example might inspire all of us who are children of the Russian Church Abroad to take part in the “liturgy after the Liturgy”.
This translation has been made by Walker Thompson through a grant from the American Russian Aid Association, Otrada, Inc.