Gift and Grace:
The Spiritual Legacy of Orthodox Christians in America
Stories can help us understand the formation of individuals, communities, and our Faith. They can teach, change, and perhaps even save us. They can bring into focus and clarify the key moments of our lives. Getting older, I find myself more interested in knowing about the paths of those who have come before me. My friend Father John Jillions and I returned home late one night considering the life of a priest whose funeral we had just attended and how little we had known about him prior to that service. We committed ourselves to visiting and learning more about the older priests around us. Sometimes we had just our memories or a pad of paper that documented our conversations, but on other occasions we brought a tape recorder or even a video camera. Thanks to a class on "Inter-generational Storytelling" offered by WHYY (my local public broadcasting station in Philadelphia) I was stimulated to think about this project in a new and more organized way. With encouragement from Bishop Michael and diocesan funding, I went to the WHYY studios with Father Serge and Faith Kuharsky to begin what I hoped would be a prototype of this effort to document the lives of our senior clergy and their wives.
I hope as well this may encourage similar oral history projects within our parishes. We know our seniors represent a unique and irreplaceable treasury of knowledge and experience, and of witness a kind of "martyria" of love and dedication to God, pastoral work, and love. Let's all commit to this effort of documenting and learning from the lives of those who have served our Church with such energy, clergy and lay people, married and those who are single. During our current times of suspicion and cynicism it's important to be reminded of those stories around us that have led "to a further, more complete, more total service of Christ and his Church." The stories are out there!
~ Father John Shimchick