Today I received a call early in the morning, telling me that a young man had died in Kiamba, and the funeral was scheduled for today.
The parish of St Joseph the Betrothed has been in catechism for a long time, and God willing they will all be received by baptism in the next few weeks. Today they realized one of the effects of becoing Orthodox: they could no longer call their former pastor to “do” a Protestant funeral as they always had. In the Orthodox tradition, the memorial service is served by a priest.
So I loaded the car and headed south; in a few hours I had met my guide, brother Romanos, in General Santos City, and we headed round the coast to Kiamba. By 2:30 in the afternoon we arrived, and I served the funeral for young Serjie (Sergei), a fourteen-year-old boy who had suffered from epilepsy and immune disorders.
With the blessing of Metropolitan Hilarion, I served the abbreviated memorial appointed for non-Orthodox Christians, and then at the grave I sang the Trisagion service for all the departed in Christ. To longtime Orthodox Christians this would have seem quite brief, but I was told it was still more beautiful and meaningful than any funeral services these folks had ever seen before.
This is one of the difficulties of the situation where thousands of people have enthusiastically embraced Orthodoxy, hundreds have already been baptized, and so many more are waiting to be received into the Church. I am thankful for Fr Kirill Chkarboul, Fr Stanislav Rasputin, Fr George Maximov, and other clergy who sacrificially travel here to teach and serve the Liturgy in the Philippines. But to date I am the only Russian Orthodox priest resident in the whole of Mindanao.
Occasionally I am asked what we need most. We can certainly use Christian books, clergy vestments, altar items, and so on. But most of all, please pray that God would send us clergy: priests and deacons able to invest time in the Church here, and readers and cantors who can teach our people the services. In time I trust God will raise up clergy from among the Filipino faithful – we await word from Moscow about possible seminary scholarships and ordinations. May it come to pass, and quickly!