Thursday, May 28. 2009
Your comments on one or both of the reflections are welcome.
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Please keep my thoughts anonymous, Mark -
" Regarding Orthodox who are not "missionaries", it's even worse than in Real life than described here. I know someone begging to be accepted into Orthodoxy and the bishop personally preventing this person from baptism/chrismation for eight long years, with no canonical reason to do so. Thankfully, he perservered as a catechumen and was finally baptized. The bishop evidently had no compunction about "keeping bread from the children". During that time, our family also investigated Orthodoxy - and as catechumens we heard everything taught, from Bultmann's Protestant "bible as myth" to the Gnostic toll-houses. Thankfully, we were also reading our Orthodox Fathers, St. Symeon the New Theologian, etc. While some inquirers were closed out, others were simply repelled by non-Orthodox, even pagan, teachings being taught as "Orthodox". One Sunday, in a nearby parish, I was shocked to see that the priest gave pulpit to the city fire chief to talk about fire safety. To bring the dead church to Life, it will take a personal commitment from each of us in our own parish: begin parish biblical studies with commentaries from St. John Chrysostomos, etc.; have a parish library with solid Orthodox writers; begin periodic talks on Orthodoxy at a nearby bookstore - in our case, Barnes and Nobles - so non-Orthodox can feel comfortable. None of this is possible without an experience of the Fire of the Holy Spirit which the Lord "casts upon the earth"! If we ask the Him fervently, He shall send the Promised Holy Spirit - and then, His love can blaze out from us to our poor world!
#1 Anonymust on 2009-05-28 08:14
Amidst the ups and downs, ins and outs of our various jurisdictions, Mr. Fragola's reflection presents a welcome and much needed challenge to all Orthodox Christians: lay, ordained, and even monastics. I have often heard Orthodox Christians lament our general lack of evangelism (though there are notable exceptions). Few seem to move beyond criticism to constructive advice, however. On the other hand, I have more than once heard people say quite explicitly that it is up to God to "bring them to us" if he wants them, and then we just need to educate them and admit them to the Church.
But Mr. Fragola is clearly not content with mere hand- wringing or hanging "welcome" signs next to the doors of our temples. His suggestions are not only practical and easy to implement (no doubt some have done or are doing some of these things in various places); they also include the crucial aspects of personal contact, hands-on involvement, and fellowship in community. They do not merely advertise or pass along information (as useful as these things can be) but they manifest some of the differences that faith in the Lord Jesus is supposed to make in one's life as one dies to self and lives for God and neighbor.
These methods of personal and communal evangelism seem quite on target as methods of scattering seeds, then allowing God to bring them to germination and growth, according to the condition of the soil onto which they fall.
Thank you for this refreshing presentation on a subject that is becoming more and more crucial, I believe, in the life of the Orthodox Church in North America as so many toxic ideologies (both religious and secular) are competing for the souls of our fellow citizens.
Monastery of Christ the Savior, Hamilton, Ontario
#2 Monk Michael on 2009-05-28 10:37
Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, Mr. Michalopulos! Chronia polla!
#3 Anna Riazance on 2009-05-28 13:29
I enjoyed Al Fragola's commentary with his nod to Fr. Herbel. It was very refreshing and more of the stuff we need to hear more often.
#4 Patty Schellbach on 2009-05-28 17:18
Re: "Will we be counted among the sheep or the goats?"
Actually, the Orthodox way of asking the question is:
""Will*I* be counted among the sheep or the goats?"
#5 Anonymous on 2009-05-28 17:59
Dear Fr., Mr., Ms., Miss or Mrs. Anonymous
Actually, since "we", both as individuals and as a Church, have failed to reach out to our fellow man, and "we", both as individuals and as a Church have adopted an inward and isolated approach to our Christian expression, the first person plural is used with proper intent. Since "we" are "The Body of Christ", we do have collective responsibilities, and in the main, "we", including myself, have failed. Failure by inaction or silence is still failure.
#5.1 Al Fragola on 2009-05-29 12:00
Well, I'll add my two cents again, but I'll be brief.
Orthodox evangelism really ought to be a part of the strategic plan of the OCA if you ask me and Orthodox parishes can support missions. A change to the way assessments are paid would as well.
Is there an Orthodox church on Whidbey? I didn't know there was... I have relatives there. I always thought we were slim out in the northwest.
As to the Fr. Oliver and George M. business, I have sort of fatigued on the issue. I'd have to say both of them ought to be limited to a paragraph go forward. Coming from me, the pathetically long winded commenter, that says a lot. The future is more important than the past, too. While the past can set the basis for the future, the future really means more.
#6 Daniel E. Fall on 2009-05-28 20:47
Glory to Jesus Christ!
You will be glad to know that I made it clear to Mr. Michalopulos elsewhere that I have given him the last word and that he is to take neither capitulation nor offense from the fact that I will not respond further in these exchanges. At this point, I think the general parameters are outlined and the discerning reader can see how the arguments are formulated. My future work involves more significant ("real") publishing and interested parties will simply have to wait for that (and no, it will not all be on this subject--hasn't yet and the immediately forthcoming material is not). What will remain constant, however, is my dedication to getting into the sources and what the source material actually demonstrates.
I would challenge your ending remarks, though. You claim history is the basis for the future and that the future is more important. We may disagree as to the extent to which history is the basis for the future. Our understanding of history shapes our vision for the future and therefore an accurate understanding of it is vital to determining where we go from here. Furthermore, our history is the life of the Church and guides us. As Orthodox, we, more than anyone, should be aware of the cloud of witnesses that surrounds us and propels us.
I am not going to say much, if anything, more on the blog concerning what I've posted. I didn't expect open letters and that dynamic, so I think enough has been said from me until such a time as I publish further historical theology. I decided to engage you this much because you have always shown me kindness and respect and I know your love for the Orthodox Church. The others blogging on this topic need not worry about me engaging them too!
Several years ago, and for a little over two years, there was a Chaplaincy on the north end of Whidbey Island. A priest from Seattle would spend one weekend per month teaching and conducting services, and as a result, several inquirers were brought into the Church and lead to area parishes. Sadly, due to a variety of reasons, the chaplaincy was discontinued. While it was functioning, all the Island papers carried our schedule of services.
Orthodox parishes are not so very "Sparse" in the Pacific NW. Only 50 miles from Whidbey Island, there is a vibrant and growing AOA parish.
Lastly, I no longer live on Whidbey, and I assume Mark used a bio from the AOA web site that showed us as living there when an article I wrote for the AOA was published. I would humbly suggest reading this article from that web site, as it goes hand and hand with my Reflection.
(Editor's note: Mr.Fragola is correct. )
#6.2 Al Fragola on 2009-05-29 09:46
While I very much side with Mr. Michalopulos
rather than Fr. Oliver in the present discussion,
both of them assume a version of Orthodox
history which omits the world south of the
Why do accounts of Orthodox history
in North America never mention Mexico?
It certainly is not because the Mexican
experience is uninteresting or irrelevant.
The Mexican Church, in its uncanonical
youth, was (effectively) a state church
unconnected to any foreign empire. Is
that not interesting?
The Mexican Church, in its uncanonical
youth, was Western Rite. Is that not
The Mexican Church, in its uncanonical
youth, was as indigenous as the Alaskan.
A few years ago, the OCA gained a number
of new parishes in the state of Veracruz.
Press releases at the time mentioned "Aztec"
(perhaps they meant "Nahuatl-speaking")
communities which had preserved some
version of (uncanonical, Mexican-Revolutionary)
Orthodoxy in isolation since the 1920s.
Is that not interesting?
I do not want to create the impression
that I regard the early Mexican Church as
somehow perfect (it was a creature of what became
the PRI, as the Living Church was of the Bolsheviks),
nor that I am unaware of its even more
depressing subsequent travails. Nonetheless,
any discussion of New World Orthodox history
in terms of ethnic immigrant groups (plus Russian
control of Alaska) is incomplete: there was also
the war of Plutarco Calles against the Vatican;
and the fake church he set up; and the people who
took it seriously and found Christ in their
midst. Is there not something to be learned from
Norman Hugh Redington
St. Pachomius Library
This is fascinating history, is there somewhere I can get more info on this subject?
Moses the Tlingit
#7.1 Moses on 2009-05-29 20:55
It is scary times we see. So Many Churches around our Citys are Picking up what we dont.
They have Open Doors.
People Greeting @ the Front doors of thier Churches.
1st thing They say Welcome.! Glad 2 C U..This Fine Morning.!
2nd They talk of Gods Love 4 U.!
3rd They Say We can Help You.! With Gods Love all things can be done.!
What I have seen in the last 30 years. We dont reach out.!
Our Churches are Now Loosing People.
A father told me it must Be easier to be saved In thier churches.!
So I have been Visiting them. Just 2 See what they are about.
Gods Love. Straight talk about Bible Verses. Or Peoples Interpitation of what they think it Means to them.
Some Ministers Seek People from Our Churches, and ask Is this working out for you?
The sad Part is People are say N ; No it isnt?
That is a open Door..
A simple Greeting
We can Help You!
We are now seeing People Only around Easter, Christmas.
I ask People how are you? How You been?
and they say. what Im getting to.
We Now Attend Other churches.
It is good to Be here On a Big Hollidays!
Other then that They are Very happy with what they are doing. Attending Other Places Of Worship.
Some Of them I have Grown up with for over 30yrs.
We dont have any out reach for Anyone.!
See so Many families with No Cash Income, no Hope.
Go To Other Places To worship and Recieve Help From Food banks out reach Programs.
It is easier. For them. we have lost touch with our selves with the People around us to see what we are doing.
How Many Of us Know Our Neibohors?
How many of us Do something for The Less Fortunate?
Give a Doller or 2 some one ON the side of the Road.?
And asking Our selves, Could That have Been Our Gaurdian Angel sitting there testing us?
WE are Going through a Test! We are Not scoring High on it.
I am A Poor Sinner. I have seen Life at its worst. Lost as a Prodical. I am asking For You who read this Prey For me!
A unworthy Person.
Is this Road we Walk Down the Right way? How can we Help Others?
How do we Keep Our Friends And Family From going to other churches?
The Salvation The Lord has for us is Only Good for A few Good souls who attend Church every sunday.
Do You ask the Person In the Corner of Your Church, Hello How are You this Fine Morning?
Or on Any given day we attend a Service?
Did we Do something To help Someone In our Church any Kind of Help?
I see things are changing.....
We are Loosing More then we can Ever get back.
the sheep are Seeking the Lord, now in other Places!
I Live In Alaska. I have seen Mass People leave.!
It is sad. I pray everyday. Please Help My Old Friends!
they are Not here anymore. Just On Special Ocasions.
Please Excuse My bad Spelling also.
We are In wierd times now.
How Can I help anyone?
Please Pray For the Lost Ones!
We can Make Just One persons day, How can our church save the Lost sheep?
#8 Dasher on 2009-05-29 04:02
RE: parishes on Whidbey Island -- there aren't. There are a few that aren't far away in terms of mileage, but which would all require a ferry ride.
I frankly am finding Mr. Michalopulos to be quite tiresome and self-serving, here and elsewhere -- "Have a problem with what I wrote? It must be because you're not used to dealing with people who communicate clearly." Please. Mr. Michalopulos' response does not make a single reference to primary sources and continues to not really engage Fr. Oliver's argument on its own grounds; that is the real problem here. Mr. Michalopulos' response seems to boil down to Fr. Oliver's reading of history not fitting neatly into the narrative that we would be better off thinking of as true. In other words, an academic historian is being criticized by an ideologue for not sticking to the party line.
That said, we have a lot of work to do with respect to mission, and it ain't just ethnic parishes, folks, no matter how much we converts like to pat ourselves on the back. So-called "convert parishes" can become their own inwardly-focused "ethnic conclave", particularly when it's a tight-knit group of families who form the kernel of said parish. I've seen examples of these kinds of communities deliberately set up shop out in the middle of nowhere in hard-to-find places and do obviously dumb things like be well outside bus lines in a college town -- hardly a great way to engage and minister to the people around them.
We need to be outwardly focused. We need to minister and witness to our communities -- and that is not necessarily the same thing as keeping our congregations comfy and unchallenged in their fragility and insecurity. We need to evangelize. More importantly, we need to not shoot other people down when they try to do exactly those things. We need to not say, "Well, being a mission to such-and-such just isn't who we are." If that's really the case, we're not a church, we're a social club.
That goes for all of us. If we aren't being bold in our faith, we're part of the problem.
#9 Anonymous and Frustrated on 2009-05-29 08:32
I don't know if you have seen the new effort the Church is putting out with FOCUS North America but you should see that there is an organized effort to do just what you are talking about helping the poor and needy.
It is hard to get past the judgmental tone in this article. Yes, there are many good ideas mentioned, ways of helping others, but this finger-pointing approach helps no one. The article would have been much more effective if the author would have, in his list, asked, "Do I do this? Do I do that?"
#11 Mka. Thea Swanson on 2009-05-30 15:25
Might I suggest you read the article again? Since I was addressing evangelizing, I did indeed pose the questions you suggest, but from the standpoint of parishes. As I said in the opening paragraph, "As a community, we have collectively ignored the “Great Commission”, and failed to bear full witness to the Gospel of Christ to the world around us."
If we are The Body of Christ, then we are more than a collection of individuals who are on the rolls of a given parish and engage in worship in the Orthodox way. Yes, there are some individuals and some parishes that reach out and touch those around them, but this is not presently the norm, has not been the norm, and there is no escaping that. While the Sermon of the Last Judgment is prescribed to be read to all your parish at the Liturgy, does your parish, as a Christian community, live the clear commandments of these words of Christ? Are the members of your community led towards true sacrificial love of neighbor?
I would suggest that we have failed in evangelizing the continent in a major part because we are too focused on the "I" and "Me" and not ministering to those in need around us. We express "love of God" and forget "love thy neighbor as thyself". Living out only one half of Christ's two greatest commandments is not something to brag about.
We describe our parishes in a manner similar to:
Above all, we are a Eucharistic community worshiping the Holy Trinity in spirit and truth as we seek to know God, to be conformed to Christ's example of true humanity, and to be transformed to become partakers of the Divine Nature. Come and worship with us and with the Saints of all ages!
Does that quote look familiar? It should. Where is the mention of the commandments of the Sermon of the Last Judgment? Where is the mention of ministering to the least amongst us? Where is mention of the "Second Greatest Commandment" - love of neighbor?
My comments were not judgmental, but descriptive.
#12 Al Fragola on 2009-06-01 00:13
I read a lot of these kind of prescriptions full of hand wringing and scattershot finger-pointing and "the sky-is-falling" during the bad time that I spent as an evangelical Protestant.
So much of what "WE" need to do...
Classic case of "diffusion of responsibility" where one can feel less responsible and hide their lack of effort in the group.
"It's not MY problem, it's OUR problem."
#12.1 Anonymous on 2009-06-02 15:35
Or, perhaps more charitably, it's an attempt to not blame any particular individual -- i.e., "It's not YOUR problem, it's OUR problem."
#12.1.1 Anonymous and Frustrated on 2009-06-03 13:33
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