Running the Great Race

Running the Great Race


Much has been said in the media of the iconic personality that was Eppie Johnson.  In my remarks at his funeral I referenced a letter he wrote to Metropolitan Gerasimos asking him to bless the 40th running of “Eppie’s Great Race.”  One thing I did not mention was the appellation to his signature identifying him as an Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the title of “Laosynaktis.”  It is in retrospect that I appreciate the significance of this title, which literally means “one who gathers the people.”  Everything Eppie did he did in a big way, but any success, be it a restaurant chain or an internationally acclaimed triathlon, depended on people coming together.  His immediate and extended family, the entire community, will miss his larger than life presence, but we need to appreciate the fact that his loss is all the more acute, ironically, because of the abundance he fostered in his various endeavors.

So what are we doing to foster abundance at Annunciation, promised us by our Lord Himself:  “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10.10).  We can start by adopting an “abundance mentality.” We can start by expecting God to work wonders, despite our often unknowing attempts to thwart the work of the Holy Spirit.  We are on the threshold of launching a very ambitious building project, a project in the planning stages for over twenty years.  By God’s grace, we will break ground in the spring of 2014.  However, no amount of hype and sophisticated marketing will move this project forward unless we believe it is ordained by God, unless we come together as God’s people, trusting first in Him and encouraging one another in pursuit of this lofty goal.  Am I asking to reach beyond ourselves?  Of course, this is what committed Christians do!  So is there a formula for realizing such abundance?  Yes, it’s called the “all by itself” growth principle and we’ve experienced it already by implementing “ONCD” (Orthodox Natural Church Development).  The premise of this principle is that only God can grow the Church, only the Holy Spirit can release the abundance already stored in your and my spiritual storehouses.  So what are we waiting for?  We aren’t.  As a result of ONCD, we have a powerful tool to continue to foster an abundance mentality and church growth.  And please don’t think of church growth in terms of numbers (quantitative).  Our impressive “numbers” at Easter are hardly an indicator of good church health.  Rather, let’s remember to focus on the following “quality characteristics” as they affect church health:

Need-oriented Evangelism
Empowering Leadership
Gift-based Ministries
Loving Relationships
Effective Structures
Fervent Spirituality
Holistic Fellowship Groups
Inspiring Worship

Notice the italicized adjectives are key here.  Every church has leaders, but do they empower others?  Every church worships, but is it inspiring?  Every church has relationships, but are they loving?
I believe with all my heart we are at the threshold of exciting times here in Sacramento.  I also believe the only factor that will hold us back is to ignore the Scriptural mandate, indeed the promise from our Lord that He intends to bless us with the abundant life.  Eppie Johnson knew this and lived it in his own inimitable way.  The only question is, are you?

With love in Christ,

Speaker: Fr. James Retelas

Father James Retelas was born in Oakland, California, the oldest child of George and Koula Retelas.  He graduated from UC Berkeley in 1975 with a B.S. in Soils and Plant Nutrition and was hired by the US Forest Service as a Soil Scientist.  In 1979, he married the former Barbara Korziuk with whom he has three children, Nicholas, Presbytera Angela Sotiras and Christopher. In 1983 he resigned his position with the Forest Service and moved to Boston to pursue a Master of Divinity from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. Upon graduation he was assigned as the Assistant Priest to the Cathedral of the Annunciation in San Francisco, where he served from 1987 to 1991.  He subsequently served the parishes of Resurrection, Castro Valley, California from 1991 to 1994 Holy Trinity in Portland, Oregon from 1994 until 2005.  He currently serves as the Pastor of Annunciation Greek Orthodox since 2005, succeeding Father Demetrius Dogias of blessed memory. Father James and Presbytera Barbara have three grandchildren.