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Missionary work - what do you do?

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#41 Alice


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Posted 19 August 2011 - 04:15 PM

Ophelia said something that happened at the Greek festival. I am a cradle, Greek American born and raised Orthodox. I have been in many Greek Orthodox parishes from birth. One must understand that in every parish, there are those who are there as an extension of their secular business, those who are there to experience their culture or language, those who are there because it is a nice place to go on Sundays to meet up with others of their same ethnic background, (because we Greeks have a strong and beautiful culture passed down to us through our families, and we want to share that with others who have experienced that unique upbringing), those who are there because going to Church on Sundays is a wholesome thing to do for them and their little ones, those who are there because they are truly following Christ and the difficult walk of Orthodoxy, and those who are there who are perhaps there for a little bit of each one of these reasons.

Those who are there for 'business' and 'community standing' are the most gruff, and probably the least Christianly sensitive. They love being on church boards, making decisions, and 'running the show'. We have all met them, and I am not judging them because if it were not for their generous donations, we wouldn't have all that we have in our parishes.. 'Chacun a son gout', as the French say...

Unfortunately, however, they are perhaps the ones who turn off the other ones the most. However, this is a generalization, because there are some parishes where the parish boards are comprised of truly devout men and women, because the Priest has deemed that more important than their financial status, and has encouraged such a Christian parish board.

What I am finally getting to, is that in each Greek Orthodox Church, if you search beneath the surface of the Sunday congregants, and go to the Bible Studies, the special evening services like Vespers, Salutations, Supplications, Complines, etc... (which the majority don't care about or find inconvenient) you will find yourself within a small but core group of people from different walks of life, and be assured that THEY are the *real church* within the particular Church-- they are walking the walk, and they are probably the non-judgemental, the compassionate, and the loving and understanding ones who are living their spiritual and secular lives the way a true Christian is supposed to be...They are likely to also be the ones who have probably carried or are carrying heavy crosses of their own, so they will be there to help you carry yours.

#42 Ophelia


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Posted 19 August 2011 - 04:33 PM

Alice, I was one to go to all of those services. The priest gave me the name Photini. I asked him why; he said: You are illumined. Where are these people now? I've called and e-mailed, even apologizing and telling those few I had contact with: I love you, I might die tomorrow, or you might die, let's talk, tell me what happened! NO ONE will speak to me.

I can't tell you everything, but this behavior tells me that they are hiding something.

#43 Ophelia


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Posted 19 August 2011 - 06:06 PM

Alice, I was having my lunch and thought I'd check the Today's Meditation on the Episcopal site. It really caught my attention.

This was part of it ...

"People generally are generous, but in a culture where gift-giving can get perilously close to a bribe it takes some care not to be more influenced by the larger donations than the smaller ones. The poor widow of this morning’s gospel is our guide in this. She is vulnerable with no one to support her and yet she generously gives not from her abundance but from the little she had. Her offering challenges us all—whether giving or receiving—to the same generosity."

Please understand, while in the church, I was happy. I did not see the church as doing anything wrong. Rich - poor, it wasn't on my mind. Color? It's a GR OC, it's full of Greeks! No surprise. That's why I was there. The protagonist in my trilogy is Greek. I wanted to learn those beautiful faith traditions. At one point, the priest told me that my view as an outsider was critical. That's when the idea of the newcomer packet came about. It was after I was out of the church that I began to really question and look at things differently. What am I really seeing here? Why did they want a quick Chrismation? Why didn't they want the festival visitors to attend Liturgy. Don't they want the church to grow? This is why I question Chrismation. Maybe in an Antiochian Church it is meant as one thing, but in some cradle Orthodox-filled Greek Churches it is quite another. Maybe there is a certain set of rules that are understood once you are Chrismated in this church. Maybe you no longer have a voice. Although, there is a gentleman in this church that I've been told screams at all of the priests and speaks condescendingly to parishioners. Maybe he rules.

#44 Paul Cowan

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Posted 20 August 2011 - 12:56 AM

Paul ... "Christ you ain't." I set myself up for this. Once again, deliberately. Why? I think you can figure this one out on your own.

There is a little balloon icon in the tool bar directly above the reply box when you type. You can cut and paste text into it once you click on it and it will show a quote as a quote. Just an FYI.

It took me 3 years to graduate form a 2 year school and 7 years to graduate from a 4 year school. I don't do tests well. I am not the brightest lamp in the room. Let me share a "man" rule with you...
1) Don't hint at somthing
2) Don't drop suggestions
3) Don't give obvious suggestions
4) If you want something say so
5) If you want something specific, spell it out. We're only men and can't read minds like women can.

So no, I can't figure this out on my own. Why don't you tell me?

I do want to thank and commend you for your tone on your latest 2 posts. They have been right down pleasant to read. THANK YOU. I think you will find more people will engage with you when you are "yourself".

As far as a unity of all jurisdictions, I think that goes as far as the creed and the canons of the Councils. I have read and heard about much diversity on just about everything else. So to say for unity's sake all jursidictions should claim responsibility for other jurisdictions actions, I don't see this ever happening. Just as we as laymen can coach and guide each other, our heirarchs have to police themselves as well. Yes, laymen can and do act as "watchdogs" but it is ultimately the Bishops that correct wrong teachings.

Wrong faith is much different from wrong behaviours. Our clergy are more interested in protecting Ortho Doxia than how a certain parish treats vagrants. It doesn't make for good publicity for sure, and the Dean of the area should help the ruling Bishop correct the area priests if necessary. But all this is speculation well outside my paygrade.

My priest told me not to read the philokalia past book 1. Others in my praish have read book 4. What's up with that? I assumed because he knew me better and it would "harm" me in some way. So I obeyed. You can find the same true for hesychasm from differetn fathers across the centuries. It's not that there is a split in the church, it is more that they are giving instruction to specific people at a specific time and it just looks to us outsiders as if no one can come up with a concensus on the Prayer.

Those parishes that hold too close to the chest for ethnicity sakewill wither and die. If a parish is not constantly inviting and converting newcomers, it will cease to exist. It happens. Very sad. And this is what is happening to the church in Hattiesburg. It apparently is an older congregation or they haven't learned how to invite newcomers. So instead of bulldozing a perfectly good church, why shouldn't this Orthodox parish wait them out? Who knows, they might get the keys and the church's directory both on the same day and convert all these people.


#45 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 20 August 2011 - 07:59 AM

Okay, all ... addressing just a few.

Effie, awesome, however, as much I agree and participate in the soup kitchens and the clothing drives ... I was directed to John 6:26-29 last night. I had an empty plastic baggie marking this spot. I thought, "An empty baggie? Where did this come from?" I read the verses. 27: Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has a set His seal on Him.
This brings me to the experience. Why aren't we inviting the needy into the Churches? This was my experience. Remember? It seems as if the GR OC did not want this. My thinking is this: feed them, cloth them but also help them help themselves ... by having them sit with you in worship. Share the Word. You can be as silent as you want in this but my feeling is that they need to be with you in church, or Bible Study, or some assembly of sharing, and very much need your spiritual council.

I have little doubt that most of you attend wonderful churches. You have, rich, full lives in Orthodoxy and are learning. I would be in your church in a flash. I apologize for my initial "accusation", in a way, only because I know that it is not a kind thing to charge others (and certainly goes against much of the desert teachings, except in the area of changing anger to righteous indignation - Look it up). It was deliberate because I wanted to hear how you would respond to my "accusations". If not true, my bad, but if you are all ONE in Orthodoxy, as I have been told repeatedly, Greek, Antiochian, Russian, etc, then surely you take responsibility for the behavior of ALL. If this is not true, then I have been misinformed. If true, then ... you decide. I was a quiet and gentle person in the church (was given the name Photini long before I was ready for Chrismation. I was told I was illumined). Suddenly, I was put in a position where I was treated with "harshness and demands". Remember, there are many people on the outside that have experienced religious abuse and WILL challenge you on your religion/faith. Will you be prepared to answer them in a way that will warm their hearts?

Love in Christ

Ophelia, the Church you describe is not the Church I know. I have seen the faithful object strongly to what a priest who was at odds with one of the women on the church council said during the liturgy. He refused to give her communion. Shouts of "shame, shame" echoed throughout the church.

I have seen an old man, a retired doctor, put the Metropolitan in his place when the latter used his sermon to air his personal grievances concerning the fact that the Archeological Society of Kozani (my city) would not go along with his plans to build a new luxurious mansion in place of the 500 year old one that was in use. The plans that had been approved guaranteed that the new building would remain faithful to its original design. The building had been renovated extensively throughout its lifetime of course - just making it clear that the building itself (except for it's 1 1/2 meter walls) was not 500 years old...........................

Another instance of this Metropolitan misusing his power is even more pitiful. He evicted the poor students from a building that had been donated to the Church specifically for young people from the surrounding areas who were unable to pay high rents during their lyceum and university years in this city. He has also built a luxurious "mansion" which he calls his "retreat" complete with swimming pool, etc. The little church that stood on this hill before he started his building mania, is now closed to the faithful.

Nothing and no-one is perfect. We have a duty to try to amend what is wrong. I have seen this in action.

The Church doesn't discriminate against poor people, etc. Those people I mentioned in my first post who are helped by the Church dress nicely and attend Church services every Sunday. We don't even know who receives help and who doesn't.

Ophelia, what are you hoping to find on this forum?

You write : " It was deliberate because I wanted to hear how you would respond to my "accusations". If not true, my bad, but if you are all ONE in Orthodoxy, as I have been told repeatedly, Greek, Antiochian, Russian, etc, then surely you take responsibility for the behavior of ALL. "

I think that the posters on this thread have been kind towards you and have tried to explain a few things.

How can we all be "responsible" for things that happen in other churches and in other parts of the world?

My logic is the following : What is happening around me? What can I do to make things better? We are the Church. Each individual.

I am no theologian but there is obviously something wrong with your logic. We have wise, experienced priests on this forum and they can answer you about collective responsibility and even guilt.

Ophelia, again I ask you. What are you hoping for? I can understand that you are feeling hurt because of something that happened to you in a specific Orthodox Church in the US. Are you trying to understand why it happened. Do you believe that there is no conflict, or harsh behaviour, or even rudeness in other churches?

You give the impression that you have read a great deal about specific areas of Orthodoxy, but what about love?

I'm sorry but I cannot understand your reasoning.

Your sister in Christ

#46 Ophelia


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Posted 20 August 2011 - 09:54 AM

Good morning, Paul ... regarding the quote toolbar, I'm aware of it but prefer to write out the quotes. It helps me help myself to know exactly what I've read.
As for more pleasant posting ... Do you see how I responded to Alice and Effie's initial posts? They were more "pleasant" because their posts were more "pleasant", and, more informative ... much less "reactionary". As a person involved in missionary work, you will find yourself with a mixed bag. When you reach into that bag, you don't know what you are going to pull out. Often times what you've got on your hands is a situation that is frustrating (I think frustration is a word you used). If someone comes to you full of resentment and bitterness (which truthfully, I am not, but am very concerned with how others are treated), and accusatory words, your initial dealing with this person is very critical. This is just a post, but it seems to be the way so many priests have chosen to communicate with their parishioners. Without seeing facial expressions and body language, you really don't know to the fullest extent what that person is saying, or feeling. So, your initial response will say a lot. I am not the vagrant on the street, but what if I had been on the streets? What if I had been sexually abused by a priest, which made me such a mental wreck that I ended up homeless, and I tried to enter that great House of Healing, called the Hospital, and was rejected because:

1. I did not look respectable.

2. I had little money to help in keeping the Church looking and being what it is.

3. I was suffering depression / mental illness / alcoholism ...

Sometimes, we only get one chance. We can jump all over that person and pretty much confirm what they are thinking about organized religion. And trust me, what the youth are taught in schools is that organized religion (which they often confuse with God) is destructive and hypocritical. "Look what has happened in the Name of Jesus" ... I've heard. No, look what's happened in the name of religion.

I went online looking to learn, and continue my research. I found and read your post and saw "withering people" - humans, not a religion. It is people that make up the Church, if I understand "I say to you Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." I don't see a building with 4 walls, I see people, and Christ within, and I really don't care who they are, where they are from, whether they are man or woman, black or white, rich or poor, or which religion they choose ... they are God's children. I asked you what they would be converting to. Read your reply again. If this is all I had to go on, I would look for another religion. I chose to challenge this based on fact - things I had experienced and witnessed. And I've only shared a smidgeon of what happened and what's happening in my neck of the woods. You see, Paul, my health and well-being were in danger, not to mention the the well-being of my family. When people want to protect something, they will go to great lengths to protect it. I will say no more on this.

Effie, all I can say is, read all of the posts. I did mention love. This is the point of my reasoning. If I slap your right cheek, do you turn for me to slap you on the left? Page 252 Volume One The Philokalia ... Definition on LOVE: growing affection for those who abuse us. I've spent that last 11 months praying for that Greek Cathedral and asking God when I can go back to help them help themselves. Believe me, it hasn't been easy, and I have fallen short many, many times.

I sincerely apologize where I have offended someone on this site. Truly, this is not the person that I am within. As Theophan the Recluse says : Descend with the mind to the heart. I used my head. Sometimes as artists (I'm a painter), we overstep boundaries - go into dangerous waters - to seek a deeper understanding on certain things. This isn't always right; it isn't always safe; it doesn't always make sense. I thank you all for putting up with me, sharing things, and helping me to see a little better where Orthodoxy is headed. I am going on the road for awhile. When I return, I think I may be ready to begin my icon - if it be God's Will.

PS the idea of testing you came from an Orthodox priest and his wife.

Love in Christ

#47 Archimandrite Irenei

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Posted 20 August 2011 - 07:27 PM

Dear all,

Please, let us quickly turn this thread toward the type of discussion this forum is meant to foster: discussion of Orthodox life and thought through the heritage of the patristic and monastic witnesses. This is not the place for the discussion of one's own views/thoughts/experiences in their own right: it is a place to explore the heritage of the Fathers and how it ought to shape one's Orthodox life.

INXC, Fr Irenei

#48 Paul Cowan

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Posted 20 August 2011 - 07:32 PM

Yet another layer of the onion exposed.

Deciept and accusations with half truths to illicit a reaction to be judged upon.

May God grant you your hearts desire.

Safe journey and a safe life.


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