The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA is an Ecumenical Patriarchate-affiliated diocese governed by two diocesan bishops and composed of approximately 105 parishes and missions across its jurisdiction.
Our church boasts an illustrious past, dating back to mass immigration of Ukrainian people to America during the late 19th and early 20th century. Today, this tradition remains strong.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA was established in 1949 by Greek and Ukrainian immigrants who sought sanctuary from World War II by migrating to America. Since its formation, this organization has invested tremendous effort into ministering to Ukrainian-Americans across America.
In 1945, communist forces invaded Ukraine and forced most Orthodox to flee into Germany, Poland or Canada as refugees from Soviet control. While they did not wish to be subordinate to their Russian overlords, their religious devotion and desire to rebuild their nation made them willing to work together for mutual gain – marking an historic turning point in its history and strengthening Ukrainian Orthodox Church as a faith-based institution.
Eventually, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) emerged in Western Europe and North America, but was not recognized by Moscow Patriarchate or received canonical recognition from mainstream Orthodox churches.
Bohdan Spilka was appointed by the Moscow Patriarchate to administer some UAOC parishes and parish clergy in North America after Bohdan’s death; upon this announcement came an effort by North American-based Greek episcopacy to promote unity among various Ukrainian factions.
Though progress was made between the UAOC and Greek archdioceses, they remained far apart on many points. Furthermore, many clergy and parishes supporting Bohdan were reluctant to accept a merger between their jurisdictions as it might weaken Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Diaspora efforts to unify and gain worldwide Canonical recognition.
However, a sobor held in New York on October 13th 1950 approved union and established the Church in that form, although not including all clergy or parishes from UAOC. This marked the final major conflict for UAOC in diaspora.
After the appointment of Patriarch Mstyslav as first Patriarch of All-Ukraine in 1990, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) once more united its jurisdictions and received canonical recognition from mainstream Orthodox Church. Furthermore, on March 12, 1995 the UAOC achieved full communion with Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (EPC).
Liturgy, from its Greek root leitourgia, refers to public service or work. Christianity uses this word when referring to worship services. Every religion has their own set of liturgical rules and ways for performing certain rituals.
Though religions vary significantly, their worship services share many similarities in terms of what happens during them. This typically includes reading Bible passages aloud, preaching or homilies on them and celebrating Eucharist together with prayer and song for communion.
The Bible teaches us that God created humanity in His image and likeness so we may worship Him freely and openly. Christian belief allows this through an encounter with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
As we step into this relationship with God, we find our true calling in life and become transformed. This new creation is known as the Holy Spirit and works through Church to draw us closer to him.
One of the first things we notice when entering an Orthodox church is its liturgy. This essential aspect of Christian faith allows everyone to participate and is central to its core value of openness and inclusiveness.
Churches feature their own hierarchy, composed of a Metropolitan (Primate of the Church) and three Bishops. This hierarchy ensures that church operations run efficiently while providing oversight over clergy and congregation members.
As bishops make decisions for the church, it’s vital that they follow all applicable rules and practices to help keep people safe and healthy. Doing this ensures the congregation remains protected.
The church provides its followers with laws meant to aid them in living better lives, known as sacraments. Their existence and significance in church matters are paramount.
The word “parish” derives from the Greek word paroikia, meaning “sojourner.” Originally, parishes consisted of entire villages or towns under one bishop’s jurisdiction; when Christianity spread throughout Europe in the fourth century however, parishes took on more formalized structures independent from a city and under priestly supervision.
Parishes remain central to Christian life today. Parishes serve as communities of faith where members gather to hear and celebrate the gospel while being formed in Christ-likeness. Parishes provide places where faithful abide within a community of saints while contributing to Church life – ultimately sending out disciples out into society to renew it all.
Key to the development of the parish concept lies within its concept of Apostolic Ministry. This term refers to Jesus Christ serving His Church’s congregation through his priests through prayer, teaching and sanctifying of individuals. This special form of ordained ministry can only be found within Orthodox Christianity.
Another element of apostolic ministry is the relationship between faithful and clergy. Clergy are empowered by bishops to serve parishioners through prayer, teaching, sanctification and service in parishes across their dioceses. Additionally, clergy should assist communities in fulfilling their ministries such as resource distribution or helping with building projects or social gatherings.
Many ministries in a parish are coordinated through a council of clergy. Clergy and laity work collaboratively to foster a shared life in their parishes where members from both groups are able to share experiences with one another.
Sharing life is integral to maintaining the continuity and sacramental life of any church, enabling its laity to develop relationships with both clergy and fellow laity that foster Christian growth and enable growth of their Christian faith.
In many instances, this can be a difficult endeavor for laity to accomplish successfully. They must learn to take responsibility for their spiritual development while working hard at making their parish feel like home for everyone involved.
The church promotes outreach activities throughout its parish family, community and world. Furthermore, charitable assistance is offered to those in need such as elderly, sick and lonely persons as well as shut-ins, unwed mothers struggling families the addicted and teenagers with special needs.
UOC Outreach Activities encompass various ministries. These include Greeting Ministry to welcome visitors and answer their queries; Convert Instructions that help people take their first steps toward Orthodoxy; Inquirer Discussions which offer a chance for those with questions about faith to meet with clergy after Liturgy on Sunday afternoon; as well as various forms of outreach activities.
My research has taught me many valuable lessons, one being how the schism between Ukraine’s two largest Orthodox churches – UOC and OCU – has not had a profound effect on global Orthodoxy. Thanks to their leaders’ emphasis on interfaith cooperation, Moscow was not able to exploit this division for political gain.
President Poroshenko and other political figures in Ukraine have made concerted efforts to increase support for canonically legitimate national Orthodox church, joined by numerous state, civil, and religious actors – from state agencies and legislators, such as Rada to state churches – which has participated actively in an ecumenical process to redefine church boundaries and seek canonical unification of Ukrainian Orthodoxy Churches.
President and other government officials have made clear that their support of the national Orthodox church goes beyond politics; rather, it demonstrates a genuine concern for spiritual wellbeing of Ukrainian people and this consideration must be factored in when working to help it endure in its present circumstances.
Despite political and legal obstacles that have emerged, the Church has managed to develop many programs, projects and efforts which have helped both Ukrainians and others around the globe. These have been made possible thanks to parishioners generously contributing their time and expertise towards supporting its charitable outreach activities.