Our Dearest Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Bless! The Lord!
The leaves have begun to turn to their bright colors, and the temperatures have begun to drop at night, and Fall is upon us here in Southwestern Wisconsin. The end of the growing season is joined with the beginning of the Church year each September, for new growth can only happen with the clearing away of what has finished yielding its fruit in due season. Just as the liturgical day begins at sunset, so the new year begins with the ebbing of last year’s life leading to Winter and then Spring, when life will reappear anew.
Changes in the seasons help us realize that life is changing, and this is more noticeable when we can see more visible differences around us. We can use this change to begin to wrap up this last year’s efforts outwardly and inwardly, and renew our commitment to bring forth the new growth that after a winter’s hibernation can spring forth at Pascha, the time of true rebirth. It takes sound preparation to bring forth this new life in abundance.
Here at the Skete, Mission, and Convent we have been Fall cleaning up which covers all of our outdoor grounds, our storage sheds, our walkways and lean-to’s, our final roof repairs, our indoor sorting and cleaning, and then rechecking our door and window sealing for the coming cold weather ahead. It is wonderful to have things increasingly so clean and in order, as outward order can beget inward order. As the days change to become shorter, the evenings, nights and mornings become longer, with more time for prayer and interior reflection. It is a good time to stand back and think about what has happened and what will happen soon.
In taking stock we are also looking at our planning for the coming year in projects, spiritual endeavors, and financial budgeting. There are still a few projects that will have to happen before the snows fly. The last roof repairs have to be made on the back part of the office which needs a coat of roof sealant. We were able to finish the replacement of the front part of that roof just about two weeks ago. There are a few spots to recoat on a few of the buildings where some small leaks have appeared after their entire roofs were recoated, in all eleven roofs this year. The Convent roof needs to have its shingles removed and replaced as the shingles are already over 25 years old.
The wood boiler for the Common Monastic Building needs its wood cut, as also the wood for each monastic cell. Earlier this year we were given the generous donation of a gas powered wood splitter, which will make that part of the preparations for laying up this year’s wood much easier. A dear neighbor and friend has recently offered us many trees on her land if we will just come and cut them down. Our work force is very limited here, so we are hoping that we can find an able-bodied work crew to volunteer some time and muscle to help us cut, move, split, and store our winter’s supply of wood for this year.
Skete Fall 2010
From the outward activities there are always underneath, spiritual activities that nourish us in every season. There are many Fall feasts and celebrations each year, including the Church New Year, the Birth of the Theotokos, the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the Holy Protection of the Virgin Mary, and the commemorations of many saints including St. Sergius of Radonezh, St. John the Theologian, the Apostle Thomas, St. James the son of Aphaeus, the 14 Holy Elders of Optina, St. Martin of Tours, and the Apostle Luke. As we move through the liturgical seasons, they enrich our heart and understanding as we are touched by the feasts of each season, and the Holy People who can move our spirits Godwards.
This is our fourth email and direct mail sent to you this year of a newsletter and donation appeal. Our last appeal was helpful, but overall our donations this year are still down 39% from last year (which was tight), and September is now 25% below last year. With the current recession, only 5% of the people that we mailed our last donor appeal responded with a donation. Over 7% responded from our Lenten appeal. We hope that more will answer this time with whatever they can reasonably afford. The widow’s mite was the most praised gift in history.
Looking at our needs for this Fall, there are two particular things that are of most concern. The first is our need for newer vehicles than our old ones, which have been well used for many years, and our second is just for daily sustenance and care. First things first: our older 1996 Dodge Grand Caravan (the longer van body) is now 15 years old and has 229,000 miles on it and is just worn out with rusting doors and back hatch. It has seen its active service and needs to be retired soon. Our second van is a 1998 Dodge Grand Caravan (which was a gift seven years ago) is now 13 years old and has 173,000 miles on it, and although relatively younger, it has a major and expensive structural support problem that requires it be retired quickly. The particular configuration of long body vans works best for our needs here at the Skete.
If you or anyone that you know has a van that they are thinking of trading in while purchasing something newer, and it is in decent running shape and not older than about a 2002, and would consider donating to a worthy cause, we would be most pleased to accept such a generous gift. As I mentioned above, our last van was such a gift and we have always prayed for the kind hearted family that gave us this most welcome gift. We also have a twenty year old 1991 Ford F250 full length 4 x 4 truck that is rusting through in many places that needs to be replaced. We might be able to get through the winter on that if nothing else on it breaks down. A replacement needs to be hefty enough to pull a trailer with equipment on it, and take firewood.
If you don’t have such a vehicle or know a neighbor who might have one (that was the case with the family who gave us the last van), then please consider a monetary donation to us for some way to travel safely this winter. It would be a great blessing to us. Thank you.
The second concern for daily sustenance and care has been a challenge this year, and so far we have been able to just get by. Everyone is stretched in these economic times, but we can always give a little to those in greater need. For this we need your financial help and also your prayerful help. What is best for us is if many people give something regularly, even if it is small. For those who can, more is greatly appreciated, and one time gifts can often get us into the next season.
Prayer, of course, is the greatest gift, and, according to St. Paul, should precede every act in every place. This is something each one of us can do with some attention and awareness of the needs of those around us. When we pray, we draw near to Christ, Who is full of mercy and strength. As we draw near Him, the fullness of His mercy overflows us, and we become more merciful ourselves, for like a mighty underground river this mercy enlivens and sustains the whole world even in difficult times. Let us pray for one another that we are all strengthened to the seeking of good things, the patience to do them, and the wisdom to give the glory to God, Who is Goodness Itself.
May the blessings of God come to you in this Fall season, with the energy and strength to get what is needful done. May you and your loved one, neighbors and friends, go inward too, for the Blessed Kingdom of God is within and always present if we can turn to Christ humbly with love to show us the door. May all of the Feasts and Saints of this season bless us all, so that we enter into the Heavenly mind of Christ, Who in a sense left Heaven to come and be with us on earth.
God bless you and keep you in His Holy Name,
Your Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The monastics of St. Isaac of Syria Skete
and the Convent of St. Silouan,
and the community at St. Nicholas Church