On Monday, September 14, 2020, Archpriest Alexander Rentel, Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America, and Mr. Andrew Smith, Treasurer, hosted a meeting with the Diocesan Chancellors and Treasurers. Although this meeting was intended to take place in-person, due to the current health public crisis, the meeting was held via video conference.
After the opening prayer, Fr. Alexander thanked everyone in attendance and offered some initial remarks. Since the meeting was held on the day of the feast of the Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross, Fr. Alexander took the opportunity to emphasize the centrality of the Cross in our life and ministry. In a particularly difficult time such as the one in which we currently live, it is ever more evident that it is only Jesus Christ who can save us, and He is the only One to Whom we can turn.
Fr. Alexander also noted the tragic situation faced in California, Oregon, and Washington as a result of wildfires, and encouraged prayers and support for those affected.
The first part of the meeting was primarily informational with Fr. Alexander updating those in attendance on various topics. He noted that the work of the Central Administration continued throughout the pandemic. Most meetings have been held via conference call with some staff members working remotely. The current pandemic has forced the cancellation and rescheduling of most anniversary events initially scheduled for this year.
Fr. Alexander reported on recent staffing changes at the Chancery. He first noted the departure of Archdeacon Joseph Matusiak after many years of dedicated service, and the appointment of Deacon John Thetford as the Personal Secretary of the Metropolitan. The position of Media Manager has now become vacant and should be filled in the near future. The Chancery also hired a new Executive Assistant, Priest Alessandro Margheritino. Fr. Alexander finally noted the work of Archpriest Thomas Soroka who joined the Chancery team in March as Project Manager for the Departments of the OCA.
The meeting turned to the 20th All-American Council scheduled for July 2021, and the possibility of rescheduling it to a future time. Various options are currently being taken into consideration, and the Metropolitan Council will discuss this further at the upcoming meeting later this week. In consultation with the Council Manager, Dn Peter Ilchuk, Fr. Alexander stressed the complexity of the situation in which many moving parts play a critical role.
The Chancellor later offered an update on the status of the relocation of the Chancery and sale of the Syosset property, and made reference to the reflection by His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon and the press release published earlier that day. A number of comments and questions sparked some discussion on the nature of this decision and the various practical implications that the relocation will entail. Fr. Alexander stressed that the decision has not been taken lightly by the Metropolitan Council and the Synod of Bishops.
Archpriest Alexander concluded his presentation highlighting the various upcoming meetings which include the Metropolitan Council, the Standing Synod, the Holy Synod, the Board of Theological Education, and the Sexual Misconduct Policy Advisory Committee.
In the second part of the meeting, Mr. Andrew Smith offered some initial remarks and thanked the Accounting Manager, Susan Wisnewski, whose work greatly facilitated the audit process. He reviewed the financial report for the first half of 2020 that shows a modest increase in unrestricted funds.
At the beginning of the pandemic, and with the blessing of His Beatitude, Mr. Smith called a meeting of the Finance Committee of the Metropolitan Council to proactively discuss and respond to the financial impact of the public health crisis. He further indicated that the Chancery applied for and received the Paycheck Protection Plan.
After addressing questions and comments, Mr. Smith asked the Treasurers to give an update on the financial state of their respective Dioceses. Dioceses have reported lower expenses in connection to reduced traveling and events, but have also experienced a reduction in income. Treasurers and Chancellors also reported on the use of the Paycheck Protection Plan in their respective Dioceses.
Almost all the Diocesan Chancellors and Treasurers were in attendance. Also in attendance were Fr. Alessandro Margheritino, Executive Assistant and Susan Wisnewski, Accounting Manager.