Saying goodbye to a friend, and priest; but not his vision.

This past month, our dear friend Fr. Sinisa Milutinovic from St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church, was informed that he would be transferred to Saint Michael Serbian Orthodox Church, in Burnaby, BC on June 1st. (ironically on the eve of the feast of Ascension, when I met him eight years ago).  I must say that this was a bit of a shock, if only because I have truly come to love him and his family (and  by extension his parish) over the years. I don’t think it  is an exaggeration to say that Fr. Sinisa’s  pastoral vision and work, was a witness to the unity of our faith, that contrasted the inert qualities (and isolation) of being in, or serving at different Orthodox Church (and from different Orthodox jurisdictions). 

From the first time I met and served with Fr. Sinisa, I was struck by his missionary heart and vision, that saw relevance (and even the necessity) in the work of the Church in North America (regardless of what language or calendar might be used, or what bishop one might under). From taking the children of St. Sava’s to other Orthodox Churches (including St. Nicholas), to concelebrating with myself and other priests when time allowed him, to inviting other Orthodox communities to  join St. Sava’s for concerts and feasts, to being an integral part of the Heavenly King Orthodox Academy school, Fr. Sinisa always understood and worked to show that Orthodox Christianity was something greater than what happened at  580 Talbot St. 

Every time we would meet or serve together, there was always a genuine and joyful hospitality that never left anyone lacking for food, drink or laughs. Even when confronted with difficult challenges, his straightforward and honest disposition bore witness to a profound pastoral love (even if it was being ignored or ridiculed).  I  would find myself being inspired to serve with more integrity, and want to bear witness to the unity of our faith with the same kind of joy and enthusiasm he offered; if only because his work was a witness to the unchangeable love of God, who serves us eternally in His priesthood.

Fr. Sinisa’s transfer is truly a bitter pill for me to swallow, as a friend and his family are moving away (I can’t imagine what it must be like for the faithful of St. Sava’s); yet his time as the rector at St. Sava has provided a foundation on which to build upon; that this is Christ’s “Church and that the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (Mt. 16:18). I only pray that both myself and the faithful of this city can honour that witness he so lovingly offered. 

We offer thanksgiving to God for the rich and beautiful  blessings we have received from our friend; and we offer our prayers for his family (Popadija Sonia and their children, Pavel, Arseny, and Irinia) as they move to a new parish, city and province. May the Lord grant them many blessed years, health and salvation!  Слава Богу!

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