(This information is also found in the preamble ot the CEOC's Constitution)
The Orthodox Christian Church is one, organically united in the Holy Spirit through adherence to the Apostolic faith found in Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition. By Her nature, the Church is conciliar; the local Church has always met in council to discuss and address issues of common interest effecting the whole Body in a given region. It is in this tradition that the Council, with respect for the Holy Canons and the hierarchy of the Church, undertakes to bear witness to the organic and total unity of the Church of Christ present in Central Massachusetts, fully cognizant of the canonical and jurisdictional difficulties of the present situation in America.
Article 1 - Section 2
The purpose of the Council is to manifest the unity of the Church through worship, educational programs, philanthropic activities and institutions, and fellowship common to all the Eastern Orthodox parishes within Central Massachusetts and to provide a means by which continued communication and understanding can be encouraged, looking forward to that day when our Holy Orthodox Church will be united in administration as well as in faith here in America.
Early in the 1950's, four gentlemen members of two Orthodox Churches in Worcester through their love and dedication to the Faith recognized that although all Orthodox are on in the Faith, that the ethnic and jurisdictional divisions were contrary to the Canons and that the future of the Church in America could only be ensured by the Unity of all Orthodox Christians in America. To that end, these men of vision created the Council of Eastern Orthodox Churches of Central Massachusetts. The original Council was made up of nine parishes of the Antiochian, Greek, and Romanian jurisdictions.
On Sunday of Orthodox, 1955, the Council held its first combined Liturgy, which was called the Pan-Orthodox Multi-Lingual Liturgy, in Worcester's Memorial Auditorium. The chief celebrants were Metropolitan Antony Bashir and Metropolitan Samuel David, both of the Antiochian jurisdiction. Each subsequent year, the chief celebrant was to be the Hierarch of another jurisdiction on a rotation basis. The choirs that chanted were from the choirs of each church along with the choir of Holy Cross Seminary in Brookline. The Liturgy was sung in English, Greek, Arabic, Romanian, and Russian after which a fellowship luncheon was held in the Auditorium's lower level.
The Council held regular monthly meetings, each a month in a different Church of the Council. The Sunday of Orthodoxy Liturgies were also held annually. This activity continued for 12 years. Unfortunately, the Council fell into a period of inactivity after the demise of the original presidents. This period of void lasted 12 years.
In 1979, the Council was revived by the efforts of two members from the Antiochian and Greek communities. This revival was accepted with much enthusiasm by the Faithful as evidenced by the standing room only attendance of representatives of then member churches of the inactive Council at the first organizational meeting held at St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church. The newly established Council adopted the original constitution. The first order of business was to reinstate the Sunday of Orthodoxy Liturgies to be held annually.
In 1981, the then lay president of the Council recognized that there were other Orthodox churches in the area which heretofore had not been allowed to commune with their brethren due to reasons unacceptable to the president. As a condition of accepting another (3rd) term, he required support of the Council is his efforts to unify the churches of OCA with the council. After communication with the respective Hierarchs and a face to face meeting with the Bishop of Boston, consent was given and the OCA churches became part of the Council, increasing its numbers from 9 to 12.
Early in 1983, the Council decided that the Orthodox community should have a common burial ground. Delegates negotiated with the City of Worcester and were allowed to purchase the rights of burial in a particular section of Hope Cemetery and named it the Orthodox Section. A granite altar table was designed and erected on the property where every Memorial Day the Council's member churches hold a combined memorial service with the clergy and parishioners from member churches assembled. The Orthodox Section has a total of 1,874 graves.
The next project was the establishment of the Orthodox Food Pantry which distributes food to the homeless and poor people of Worcester every Saturday morning. The food pantry is staffed by teen members of each of the Worcester churches on a monthly rotation schedule.
Subsequently, the Council sponsored a Sunday morning radio program "The Orthodox Perspective" which continues currently.
In 1985, more than 50 Orthodox bishops, theologians, and scholars from all over the world who were assembled at Holy Cross seminary in Brookline, MA had heard about this group of churches of different jurisdictions who were worshiping and working together as one. This aroused their curiosity and they expressed the desire to come to Worcester to witness this. And so they did. Three buses with state police escort came down the Massachusetts Turnpike to Worcester. Here they toured the four Worcester churches ending at St. George Orthodox Cathedral for a reception and dinner. The group had been called together by His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch for the International Inter-Orthodox Symposium at the request of the World Council of Churches to discuss "Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry." This occasion in Worcester was the only public appearance made by this auspicious assembly.
In 1995, the Council embarked on its most ambitious program. It was decided that there was a need for a place where our parishioners in need of care could go and enjoy homelike surroundings and compassionate care. Thus the design and construction of Holy Trinity Nursing and Rehabilitation Center became a reality and is currently considered one of the premier facilities in the area based on reports by the Department of Health and Human Services of Massachusetts. Holy Trinity has 104 beds. Every Wednesday AM, Divine Liturgy is celebrated in the chapel by clergy of member churches.
2005 was the fiftieth anniversary of the Council. To honor this milestone, the Council invited the Hierarchs of all nine canonical archdioceses, the Bishops of SCOBA, to concelebrate Liturgy on the Sunday of Orthodoxy. Six of the nine presided led by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios. A gala banquet followed the Divine Liturgy. This was another first for the Orthodox Church in America.
The Council of Eastern Orthodox Churches of Central Massachusetts has enjoyed more than fifty years of fellowship and spiritual gathering. The Council is proud to be the first and possibly still the only Orthodox organization of its kind in the Americas and the world, and it prays that the Almighty God continues to bestow His blessings upon us.