Our Dearest Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Bless! The Lord!
You have been a real and present part of our community’s prayers for many years. It is a spiritual bond that is made when we pray for each other regularly and sincerely. This bond is important in our lives as we grow to live in God’s loving kindness and faith, for after loving God with all of our heart, mind and soul, the second most important commandment that He has given to us is to love our neighbor, as ourselves. You are our neighbors indeed, even if you live far away for God has brought us together to celebrate and live in His presence. As we communicate inwardly and outwardly in His Name, we strengthen and enliven that Godly presence of our Lord, until it spills out to those around us. It is the nature of the Church to overflow with love.
Monastics live a dedicated life often away from the bustle of the world, and spend hours each day in prayer and church services. This, surprisingly, brings them closer to the heart of all of the faithful, for when we draw near to God, we draw near to the inmost being of each person, whether near or far. It is the basis for the close continuous relationship borne out in history of the monks with the Faithful Laity of the Church. Even now, all of us are a part of this continuing community of faith, hope, and love.
Your help in prayer, in blessed intent, in kind thoughts, in warm communications, and in financial means has greatly affected our lives here at the Skete, Convent, and Mission. It has supported us in ways seen and unseen, but tangible even to our inner senses. Our work is prayer and providing spiritual tools to increase our faith, such as mounted icons, hand-painted icons, and devotional goods. We do this and ask God to bless those who touch these tools to deepen and enrich their spiritual lives and draw near to Christ.
Your work is also prayer and we greatly rely on your daily prayer for us. It bridges space and time, for in God all things are possible. Please keep up this prayer for us, unworthy as we truly are.
Each day and each year is a struggle to find the means to both support ourselves and still reach out to those in need around us. In itself, this struggle is good, for without a way to be consciously dependent on God we would forget to be thankful and needful of His constant help. We are asking for your help, nonetheless, in this struggle to keep our hopes high that we all as a community, both monastic, and in prayerful extension you the laity, can grow and prosper with enough means to survive and do what God has called us to do with a good heart. Make our hearts glad this year by your prayers and by your careful consideration of material kindness of general support, and in particular, of giving the means to complete many good things for our future.
Dearest to our hearts is the continuing completion of the Skete’s back valley practical home for the monks activity, the Common Monastic Building. It is such a wonderful design of energy efficiency and practical space, and will be a kitchen, dining room, library, dormitory, storage, office, greenhouse, and workspace begun many years ago. Most of the construction is done. It just needs the finishing to make it practically livable. We would like to move more of our time and activities to this intensely silent back valley of prayer. The silence is truly remarkable, and much more than the absence of sound. It is full with the silence that St. Isaac says is the language of the age to come.
St. Isaac's Common Monastic Building - 2011
For the last few years we have spent much time here at the Skete moving forward to prepare for this completion. In late 2007 from the many storms that winter, severe ice damming caused the roof to leak under the ceiling in the back part of the building. The insulation, ceiling and walls molded, further damaging all of the tools, long term food storage, and other goods stored there. The whole back area had to be vacated, torn out, treated for mold, and then rebuilt. This was done over the next year and a half. To prevent this from happening again, a cement floor was poured with imbedded heating pipes, the root cellars removed, the road behind the building re-graded, the garage door removed and replaced with insulated double doors, and many additional windows installed. It was a lot of work and expense and time spent, but by your generosity, it was all accomplished.
Last year we were able to carefully use resources and your timely help to purchase a used skid steer (like a Bobcat), with its trailer, and another used wood-fired boiler for the monks cells. Their small wood stoves now in use require much maintenance to keep the cells at an even temperature in the winter. We also were able to find inexpensive used grounds equipment to reduce the time and energy needed to improve and maintain our extensive grounds, and repair it for good use. Two large portable tool cabinets on wheels were designed and built to store all of the monastery’s tools, both hand and power, that could be salvaged from the molded and damaged area.
This year we finished sorting and putting away all of the tools, reworked the outdoor grounds so they could be more easily maintained, and built very practical wood storage units made from four wooden pallets screwed and cross-braced together. They store an even third of a full cord of firewood. In addition the entire back valley was brush-hogged, weed-whipped, cleared and trimmed, wood was chopped, split and stacked into 40 wood containers, and then set down on a new pad of breaker run and gravel. Then the road above the Common Monastic Building was widened, re-graded and re-graveled. This too was all paid by careful budgeting of resources and your kind financial support. We want to move ahead now by your further help.
St. Isaac's Back Valley - Wood stacked for winter
Just recently a good friend and patron of the Skete offered matching funds for up to $8,000 in donations sent this year to work on the inside of the Common Monastic Building. God bless his good heart! We have an opportunity then to move ahead on this work for a better monastic future and such a needed place for us. Every dollar that you would give for this work will be matched, so it will go twice as far. This offer was extended to January 16th. Please pray to see if you can help us use this wonderful opportunity.
With donations of $8,000 doubled, we could buy the materials to finish the wood trim around the windows and doors, sheet rock the back area that had been damaged and paint it, and build some storage areas in the dining room. We could also buy all of the tile, cement, and grout for the floors and walls to finish the basic kitchen, the dining room, the bathrooms, and the laundry area. We have the labor to do so without any additional cash flow this winter. It would move us visibly forward towards actually using the building soon. The winter is the best time to get this done, and it is here now. Each dollar given now would double its reach to achieve this worthy goal.
Just this week another friend enquired how much it would take to drill a well, and then install a pump, and bring water into the building. We are praying that he too will help as he can. A septic field is also needed, and there are other practical positive steps of getting the needed equipment to bring us closer to living there. We already have made a list. If you feel called to help on any other part of this, please let us know.
You can help. By your prayers you can help. By your kind words and thoughts you can help. By your material support of any amount you can help. You are a part of our extended community. Give in whatever way you can. We can also use any general fund donations to just move us forward into the next year. Please remember Mother Elizabeth and the Convent of St. Silouan also.
Thank you and God bless your generous hearts.
The brotherhood of St. Isaac of Syria Skete
and the sisterhood of St. Silouan's Convent
and the community of St. Nicholas Church