Chanting, the ancient melodies and hymns in glory and honor of the Holy Apostle Thaddeus whose memory the church commemorated on Saturday, 3 September, resonated through the crisp morning air. It came from the makeshift chapel under the tent at the St. Sava campgrounds and the morning Matins that prayerfully marked the start of the second day of this year’s Diocesan Days celebration. While the clergy filed in one by one, they received a blessing from their bishop and spiritual father, His Grace Maxim. During the course of the Matins service the clergy vested and gathered once more around their bishop for the start of the Holy Hierarchical Divine Liturgy. “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand,” His Grace stood before the altar and announced to the gathered faithful. “Whenever we celebrate one of the Apostles, as we do today, we remember that they went out to preach the gospel and they preached exactly this dimension of our salvation, that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, it is here with us in our Eucharistic gathering and celebration.”
Friday, September 2, 2016 - Nestled in the rolling hills of Amador County is the beautiful and historic St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church in the small, quiet town of Jackson, California. It was the site of this year’s Diocesan Days celebration of the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Western America, which takes place each year on Labor Day weekend.
Clergy and faithful of the Eastern American Diocese were already beginning to think about doing something to honor their Bishop Mitrophan on his 25th Anniversary as bishop of the Diocese. But a special urgency was added when word was received in late May that their long-time archpastor had been elected as Bishop of Canada, and would soon be leaving them.
Spruce Island, known as the “New Valaam”, is where St. Herman lived from 1808-1818 in a life of prayer and strict asceticism. Although the original house he lived in no longer remains, a new house and church were built on the site of his repose. A miraculous, healing freshwater spring flows nearby. The island is also home to the monks of the St. Michael Skete, under the jurisdiction of His Grace, Bishop Maxim. Three monks are currently living in the monastery, celebrating the daily cycle of services and farming and fishing for sustinence. The monks boast an impressive vegetable garden and preserve whatever fish they catch for the cold winter months. The monastery does not have running water or refrigeration. Heating is obtained by burning the wood they must chop themselves and store in a small shed for the winter. It should be noted that the hard physical work is amplified by the very steep island terrain which is wet and rocky in the warm season, and covered by thick snow and slippery ice in the cold season.
On 28 August 2016, according to news agencies, the Albanians, mostly residents of Musutiste, blocked the road that leads to a ruined church of the Mother of God Hodigetria, on which foundations the displaced Serbs wanted to attend the Liturgy on the occasion of the feast day of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos that morning.
Protesters carried Albanian flags and shouted slogans “UÇK, UÇK” (KLA). The Albanians from Musutiste through social networks previous days had called upon their compatriots from Suva Reka and nearby villages to prevent the arrival of the Serbs to Musutiste. About 150 displaced Serbs, among whom there were also children, were in three buses and waited for safe conditions to continue their trip to Musutiste.