Saint Tikhon (Bellavin) on Cooperation in the Church

This article is presented on the Holy Trinity Cathedral web site not only because of its historical significance but also because of its timeless message on relationships in the Church. -editor.

Salutatory Address

of His Grace Bishop Tikhon

Delivered in December 1898 in the City of San Francisco upon his accession to

the Episcopal See of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands

Upon this my present first arrival among you, beloved brethren, I am reminded of the words once spoken by the Lord through the Prophet Hosea, "And I will say to that" which was not my people, ‘Thou art my people.’ And I will love her who was not loved." (2:23) These words referred to the heathen and signified that when many in Israel, God’s chosen people, did not recognize Christ, the Lord revealed Himself to those who had not sought Him (Rom. 10:20; Is. 65:1) and summoned the heathen to His Church.

In accordance with the ineffable mercy of God those heathen who inhabited the confines of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands were called to Christ’s Church. They were catechized and illumined with the light of faith in Christ by monks from Valaam, who were the first to sow here the seeds of the Gospel’s good tidings. After them their holy labors were continued by their successors, the priests and bishops of the Aleutian Islands, notably the Archpriest John Veniaminov (the future Metropolitan Innocent of Moscow) and my predecessor, the Right Reverend Nicholas, who was a man mighty in word and deed. By the will of God I in my unworthiness have also been summoned here to apostolic service, and now I also will say to that which was not my people, "Thou art my people." And I will love her who was not loved. Up until now we were strangers and did not know one another; but from now on through the Lord Himself we will become closely united in the mutual affiliation of a bishop to his flock and of a flock to its bishop. In the writings of the holy fathers this affiliation is compared to matrimony: the bishop is like a bridegroom to the flock – his bride. And as a husband loves his wife, so that he leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to her, allying himself with her and coming to live with her, so a bishop must love his flock. And as a wife obeys her husband, so the flock must obey its bishop. Thus understanding the affiliation of a bishop to his flock and being betrothed to the Aleutian flock, I left my beloved homeland, my aged mother, my friends and acquaintances dear to my heart and set off for a distant land, to you, a people whom I had not known, so that henceforth you would become my people and my beloved. From now on I will direct my thoughts and cares to you and to your benefit. From now on I will consecrate my strengths and talents to serving you. I come to you with love, brethren. I request that you also receive me with love. My love will be expressed in care and solicitude towards you, in serving you; and your love should manifest itself in obedience to me, in trusting me and in cooperation with me.

I direct these remarks on cooperation above all to my closest coworkers – the pastors of the Aleutian Church. I have come to this country for the first time, knowing little of her. But you have been laboring here for a long time before me; many of you have been assimilated into her, and others were born in her. I trust that in my impending service you will render me great assistance through your knowledge of this country and its people, that by your experience you will become my true coworkers, men of counsel and reason.

I request cooperation and collaboration not only from the priests, but also from all my beloved flock. The holy Apostle Paul wisely compares the Church of Christ to a body in which there is not one but many members (I Cor. 12:14) each of which has not a common but a separate function (Rom. 12:4). The eye has its function, and so has the hand. Each member is indispensable and cannot do without the other. They all have care for one another, and there is no disunion in the body. (I Cor. 12:21, 25, 26) Therefore you also, my brethren, are the Body of Christ and individually members of it (I Cor. 12:27), and to each one of you has been given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift, (Eph. 4:7) and it has been given in order to perfect the saints for a work of ministry, for building up the Body of Christ. (Eph. 4:12) For this reason with true love you are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and fitted together, every joint adding its own strength for each separate part to work according to its function, builds itself up in love. (Eph. 4:15-16) Saint John Chrysostom said, "Do not over-burden the clergy. You can do much yourselves, and you know each other better than we do." Therefore, brethren, edify each other: admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient towards all men. See that no one renders evil for evil to any man, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. (Thes. 5:14-15) And may the God of all grace, who has summoned you to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, perfect you, confirm you, strengthen you and establish you. To Him be glory and majesty unto ages of ages. Amen.

Edinaya Tserkov’/One Church, Vol. 4, No. 3, March 1950.

Translated from the Russian by Robert A. Parent

First published in English in the Holy Trinity Cathedral LIFE, Vol. 6, No. 4, December 1998

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