JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America travelled yesterday, June 28, to Jacksonville, Fla. where the Clergy-Laity Assembly of the Holy Metropolis of Atlanta is taking place June 25-29. The theme of the Assembly is “Go into all the world and proclaim the Good News to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15).
Upon his arrival, the Archbishop was first welcomed at the airport by Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta and the lay leadership of the Metropolis. Clergy, the Presvyteres, the members of Philoptochos, the Archons, the faithful participating in the conference and the children of the Jacksonville community gathered at the Hyatt Riverfront Hotel, and offered a warm and enthusiastic welcome to Archbishop Elpidophoros as he entered. Archbishop Elpidophoros received a second enthusiastic welcome a little later, when he was officially announced and entered the Grand Banquet with a standing ovation, cheers and applause.
In his address to the participants he expressed his joy for their “dedication to ministry,” evident in the work the delegates of the Clergy Laity Assembly do and their “commitment to mutuality, to compassion, to family, to all the practices that engender spiritual health from the cradle to the grave.”
His Eminence further admonished the faithful participants of the Assembly to share the gifts they have received from God: “Whatever goodness of God that has manifested in our lives, whatever grace, whatever, as the Apostle Paul says: ‘is true, honorable, righteous, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, or worthy of praise’ (cf. Philippians 4:8) – these are the very gifts that we can only keep, as we give them freely away. Because they are the product of grace, the free gift of God to each and every one of us.” (Read full text)
Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta in welcoming Archbishop Elpidophoros said “It was the will of God to have you elected as our Archbishop here in America,” and at a later point stated: “As the Metropolitan of this Metropolis I pledge my commitment to continue to serve you and the Archdiocese in order to enhance our service to God and the people entrusted to our care.”
At the beginning of the evening, an inspirational greeting was offered by Shannon Miller, a seven-time Olympic Medalist. Greetings were also delivered by U.S. Congressman John Rutherford who exalted the high ideals that the Greek American community holds dear.
Remarks of His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros at the Grand Banquet of Atlanta Metropolis Clergy Laity Assembly June 28, 2019 Hyatt Riverfront Hotel, Jacksonville, Florida Your Eminence, beloved brother, Metropolitan Alexios, Honorable Congressman John Rutherford, Your Grace, Bishop Dimitrios of Xanthos, Your Grace, Bishop Sebastian of Zela, Brother Clergy, Presvyteres, Parish Council and Philoptochos Members, Beloved Sisters and Brothers, my Co-Workers in Christ, I am truly delighted to be with all of you, less than a week after my enthronement as Archbishop of America. I was especially honored that His Eminence Alexios was the one who came to Constantinople to accompany me to America. Your Eminence, your brotherly love and dedication to the Mother Church is manifest in all that you do, and I look forward to working with you on the Holy Eparchial Synod to strengthen and advance our Holy Orthodox Christian Faith throughout our great Nation. I also want to mention another friend, a son of Jacksonville, Archon Nicholas Furris, who is known to you all. He is the one who was with me from the moment I stepped off the plane, and he designed and supervised the live video broadcast of my Enthronement. Thank you, beloved Archon. Today, as I behold your enthusiasm, your excitement for the future of the Church, your dedication to ministry, I feel overcome with joy. The spirit of the Saint Photios National Shrine, whose 251st anniversary of Greek Landing Day is being observed even now, is very much alive in this room. Believe me, I have seen your program for this Clergy-Laity Assembly, and what I see is a commitment to mutuality, to compassion, to family, to all the practices that engender spiritual health from the cradle to the grave. I commend you for this comprehensive nature of your service to Christ and to one another, for indeed they are one and the same. For if we have done it unto the least of His brethren, we have done it unto Him (cf. Matthew 25:40). And is not this truly encapsulated in your theme for this Clergy-Laity Assembly? “Go into all the world and proclaim the Good News to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15) Whatever goodness of God that has manifested in our lives, whatever grace, whatever, as the Apostle Paul says: ‘is true, honorable, righteous, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, or worthy of praise’ (cf. Philippians 4:8) – these are the very gifts that we can only keep, as we give them freely away. Because they are the product of grace, the free gift of God to each and every one of us. Our faith in Jesus Christ is not only for Sunday morning when we confess the Creed with our brothers and sisters. Our faith in Jesus Christ is lived every moment of our lives – even when we sleep! In every interaction, we have the opportunity to respond in grace, to “proclaim the Good News to the whole creation” as the Evangelist Mark records the words of our Lord. Or as the late Metropolitan Anthony Bloom once said: “We should try to live in such a way that if the Gospels were lost, they could be re-written by looking at us.” My beloved co-workers in Christ, we have so much to offer each other and indeed, the whole of creation. It is a choice whether we make this offering, just as it is a choice for us each time we enter the Sanctuary and offer the gifts of bread and wine in order to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord. I look at all of you and I am hopeful for our future as Church, as an Archdiocese, and as this Holy Metropolis of Atlanta. May God always keep you in His grace, and may you always be alive to His call, and serve one another and our world with the Good News of His never-ending love, mercy, and forgiveness. May God bless you all and all your labors. Amen.