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While reports, presentations and discussions dominated much of the agenda during the 19th All-American Council [AAC] July 23-27, 2018, liturgical worship was the “heart and soul” of all that transpired throughout the week. As His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, emphasized in the Preface of Of What Life Do We Speak? Four Pillars for the Fulfillment of the Apostolic Work of the Church, “Christ is the King of Glory Who is enthroned upon the altar, which also represents His tomb. It is around this tomb and this altar that we gather to worship and glorify Him.”

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The ballroom at the Saint Louis Union Station Hotel was transformed into a beautifully appointed chapel in which the AAC’s liturgical services, as well as plenary sessions, were conducted. The common venue served as a reminder that decisions made in plenary sessions are rooted in the Church’s worship—especially the Eucharistic Liturgy—while all that is experienced in worship provides the context for that which was discussed and decided in plenary session “business.” This balance expresses the very meaning of the Gospel, revealed to all who would receive it “for the life of the world” and for its salvation.

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On Saturday evening, July 22, the members of the Holy Synod of Bishops, together with attendees at the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America’s 92nd annual National Convention and early arrivals for the All-American Council, gathered in the chapel for the celebration of Great Vespers. The following morning, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon and the hierarchs concelebrated the Divine Liturgy. Many clergy and faithful from area parishes joined AAC and Convention participants in ensuring that both events were anchored fully in the Church’s Eucharistic Liturgy.

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Divine Liturgies also were celebrated on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, while Metropolitan Tikhon, the members of the Holy Synod and the guest hierarchs concelebrated the Divine Liturgy on Thursday morning. Participants in the AAC Youth Program were among those in attendance, and their singing was an inspiration to everyone present. Each day of the AAC closed with the celebration of Vespers, while Vigil was celebrated on the eve of Thursday morning’s Hierarchical Liturgy.

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In addition to the customary Services of Prayer that opened and closed the Council, Akathistos Hymns were celebrated throughout the week before the Sitka Icon of the Mother of God, the reproduction of the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God enshrined in Chicago’s Holy Trinity Cathedral, and the Wonderworking Icon of Saint Anne, which was brought to the AAC from Saint Tikhon’s Monastery

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AAC attendees were especially blessed by the presence of the relics of Saint Herman of Alaska and other North American saints that were available for veneration throughout the week—a living witness to the Church’s historical legacy that transcends time and space and a constant reminder that Christ indeed is forever in our midst.

All collections from the services were donated to FOCUS North America in St. Louis to assist their programs for the homeless.