Historic Meeting in Jackson at St. Sava Mission

jackson retreat 2017On Saturday, March 11, 2017, a historic meeting took place at the St. Sava Mission. Bishop Maxim of the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Western America, together with a member of his Episcopal Council and local clergy, met with Stan Grgich, current President of St. Sava Mission Foundation and members of the Foundation’s Board of Directors.  His Grace scheduled this meeting specifically to provide the entire Foundation Board the opportunity to discuss issues important to them and for His Grace to learn more about the goals and objectives of the St. Sava Mission Foundation.

The group of ten met for nearly two hours in a thoughtful and cordial atmosphere. After a round of self-introductions, SSMF board members, a discussion took place. Bishop Maxim recently explored the Mission Foundation’s website to learn more about the organization. He noted, in particular, that the first purpose of the organization is “To preserve and promote the educational, charitable, cultural institutions of the people of Serbian heritage in the Western USA.” Furthermore, the first goal and objective listed on the site is to “provide facilities for a summer camp for children and youth."His Grace agreed with and stressed the importance of the Foundation Board members focusing on these goals and objectives and for cooperation with the Western American Diocese to preserve and enhance the St. Sava Mission buildings, grounds, facilities and equipment. He was elated to learn that a group of Foundation members had raised the funds needed to build a gate at the property entrance and intersection of Camp Road and Mission Boulevard. Fabrication of the gate had already begun and is expected to be installed prior to this year’s camp season.

Mrs. Tina Milinovich and Mr. Beau Gillman discussed with His Grace the importance of the week of summer camp that begins immediately after their annual 4th of July celebration in Jackson to the Foundation. They noted that many of the SSMF members expressed a desire to return to the practice of the first thirty years of camping in Jackson, when camp would begin in conjunction with the 4th of July. Their constituents especially missed the convenience of being able to come as a family to the celebration on the 4th and then leave their children for a week or two of summer camp.

His Grace, in turn, asked specific questions regarding the programs and content of the “Culture Camp” week. The Culture Camp administrators discussed that this year they were introducing into their program: (i) Church etiquette, (ii) lessons on Slava celebrations, and (iii) basic Serbian customs surrounding weddings, baptisms, etc. Their goal is to help bring people back to Orthodoxy.  His Grace learned that last year there were two vespers services offered during this week, and that two matins services were to be added this year. His Grace also asked that Serbian Orthodox Christian values be woven into each Serbian culture learning activity. Our Bishop reflected that not having a specific class in religion could be offset by explaining our Orthodox faith in the context of Serbian culture, as was planned for the Culture Camp week.

The SSMF representatives also update His Grace on the status of their membership and 70 members, and that of those members attending, most have previously never attended any other camp. The SSMF also has families attending the camp that are not Orthodox and/or are families that have drifted away from the original Serbian Orthodox community in Jackson, CA. However, they have seen families coming back to both the camp and St. Sava Jackson parish, providing an opportunity for all to re-engage them. Finally, Fr. Steve reported that twenty of the children attending Culture Camp last year also participated in the Diocesan Church Camp.

Our Bishop also directed Luka Erceg, member of the Diocesan Administrative Board, to prepare such legal documentation as necessary to ensure that the Diocesan interests in the St. Sava Mission Property could not be sold. This measure was specifically provided to the SSMF members so they would be assured that the Diocese neither desires nor intends to sell the property and looks towards a long-term relationship.

All those present pledged to work in cooperation to improve the facility further. His Grace thanked everyone for taking the time to come to Jackson to meet with him and for the expression of new-found mutual understanding.