Monday, October 18, 2010

Working through all the baggage

For reasons of anonymity, I'll simply refer to our current parish as "church" and try not to give too many hints without sounding like I'm not trying to give too many hints.  Our church is somewhat controversial in the Orthodox world.  Some people might call is "pretty liberal," though in Orthodoxy I'm not sure what that means.  I know it means that the fact that occasionally a young girl takes the censer to the priest through one of the deacon's doors while he serves at the altar gives people the heebie jeebies.  I'm also pretty taken aback, but it happens so rarely and she does nothing else (except hold a candle next to the lectern while the priest reads the Gospel), that I'm not sure you can even call her an alter server.  She's just there.  That's neither here nor there.

When people hear about where we go, their eye brows raise and their tone of voice goes up and they say things like, "What's it like up there?" or "Oh?  What do you think about that?" or (my favorite) "Oh, I know about them."  What they know or don't know about our parish is moot.  I don't really care what people's opinions are. So long as the men and women in my community continue to hold fast to the Creed and remain in obedience to +Met. JONAH, I'm going to stand pretty much in the middle.

I met a woman this weekend who lives in Boston and goes to an Antiochian church in Cambridge.  I responded with, "Oh, we have friends who go to the Bulgarian church in Allston!"  Her response was, "Oh...hahah...the fake Bulgarian church."  I'm slightly taken aback and jokingly talk about how there really is only one Bulgarian and mostly converts.  All she can do is discredit, mock, and joke about their "beginnings" being "suspect" and how they are a "very specific expression of Orthodoxy."  When I still continued to be on the defense for HROC, she just stopped talking to me.  My response: what the heck?!  If you're at a place people consider to be "controversial" with Orthodoxy, why do you go around throwing stones at other places that are also, apparently, considered "controversial"?

I guess the thing I'm dealing with is that the Orthodox church is still full of sinners, and that I'm just as bad as the rest of them.  I guess you leave denominationalism into jurisdictionalism and everyone's opinions bumping into all the others.  So I'm sifting through the baggage, and trying to keep my eyes on my own plate.  I'm frustrated by the judgemental attitude, but that's been there since the beginning of the Church.  Even Paul had to deal with it, and he was an apostle.  I'm just trying to be a sheep.  God forgive me, I need a softened heart.


  1. The female candle holder thing is pretty common and you'll see it in Slavic and Greek churches in the US. As for a girl in the altar for any reason... no real reason for that at all.

  2. The problem with Orthodoxy and converts is that by nature it will attract people who are on the "judgmental side" of things, otherwise they wouldn't care about where they were or where they are going. "Orthodoxy" becomes "Ortho-everything" and, of course, what is "right-something" is subject to change with every wind of blogs, websites, spiritual fathers and podcasts. Yes, there are suspect groups, people and practices that are all over the map within the Church and no shortage of people who are willing to point them out to you. My standard response to that kind of stuff anymore is, "Hm. That's interesting..." and change the subject or find another conversation. If you can learn to not be concerned about anyone else's plate, jurisdiction, spiritual direction, pedigree, practices or apparent piety or lack of it, you'll get a lot further along than most.

  3. s-p, I've [Peter] started taking that tack since starting down this Orthodoxy path. The more I read and the more I pray and the more God reveals to me what a sinning slime ball I am, the less likely I am to have anything much to say in response to things. "Hm. That's interesting.." is about as far as I'd be willing to go.