Saturday, July 20, 2019

How do I find an Orthodox church to go to?

I have, almost since the day this blog started, received a steady stream of emails asking if I know of any "good" Orthodox parishes near where the emailers live. If I do happen to know any of the clergy nearby, I will point them there, but as often as not I direct them to some online resources for finding Orthodox parishes near their homes or wherever they are traveling to.

You don't need high-tech solutions to go to church, but it helps.
This is not the first time I have touched on this topic. One of the most popular posts from the blog has been "Priests don't answer emails," which catalogues my complaints about the prima facie simplicity of just getting in touch with a parish to get basic questions about things like address or service times answered. I find myself joining those emailers and will have to travel in August to drop a child off for her first day at college. One would think that getting in contact with the local parish would be a simple thing this far into the 21st century. It is not. I have called the parish, sent emails, sent messages on Twitter, and tried the Facebook page. Zero response. If it is hard for an Orthodox priest to reach a parish, how hard is it for the inquirer or layperson who is traveling or has just moved into town?

The easy answer is (and I can already see the blog comments): "That parish obviously doesn't want new people. Move on and find somewhere else that will actually answer you." Normally I would agree with you, but I have actually been to this parish and know it to be quite welcoming... once you actually walk in the door. Conversely, it was just a year ago that I was going to Vancouver and emailed every parish within 20 miles of where I would be staying. Of the dozen contacted, only one responded so I went there. The service was entirely in Ukrainian (save the homily in which the Ukrainian version had nothing to do with the English version which followed it - it was one of Fr. Hopko's sermons if memory serves) and I left with the clear understanding that I was the only person in attendance who was not entirely at home in that foreign tongue. So answering emails is not a definitive indicator of being welcoming or approachable, though it is a metric you ignore at your own peril.

This, then, is what I tell people to do when they ask about finding a parish.

1. Get the address of where you are staying/living. Go to the Assembly of Bishops website.

2. Navigate to the "Parishes" section from under the "DIRECTORIES" pull-down menu.

3. Put in the address or zip code you want to look through. Specify how many miles you are willing to drive. I usually add a few miles to be charitable.

4. Now use "Show more info" to see website information and the like as you find parishes you are interested in. Let me give you a word of warning and say that the episcopal assembly website might reference a bad URL or give no website information at all. The data is only as good as they were given from chanceries around the country. It is well worth your time to Google the parish to confirm there is no website if it is missing from this directory. You can also look at the jurisdictional websites which do list parish information for churches that lack their own Internet presence. Also, there are more than a few closed parishes still listed so double check before you head out the door.

5. Phone calls can work. Everyone has questions before they go to a church for the first time. Things like "summer hours," language(s) in use, church school, etc. are all important. Generally, larger Greek and Antiochian parishes actually answer the phone because they have secretaries. Slavic churches either check the church voicemail occasionally or the number listed is a cell phone. I'd say about 75% of the time I've called an Orthodox parish with a question, I've gotten no one on the line. Of the times I have left a message I've heard back 50% of the time. In March I got a call back from a message I left TWO YEARS EARLIER on a parish answering machine.

6. Emails are like messages in bottles. Once the tide takes them, there is no way to know who or when they will be read. Don't send sensitive questions to the parish email address assuming it is going to the priest. It is just as likely to be the parish treasurer or the webmaster. Also, I find it helpful to pull all the email addresses from the website and email en masse. This shotgun approach works often. The only drawback is that sometimes people assume that because you carbon copied someone else, they will respond and so no one gets back to you at all.

7. Twitter/Instagram/Facebook. You can try messaging people this way, too. I've recently found this method to have the highest response likelihood. Maybe it's the novelty of it all, but a message to the parish's Facebook page can get an answer in minutes when an email might take days.

8. Snail mail will work if you can wait a week. Most parishes pick up the mail on Saturday or Sunday and it gets read and responded to days later. While this is sure to be the slowest initial part of a conversation, it has the highest likelihood of an eventual response.

9. Calling the chancery / sticking post-it notes on the door / putting your hands against the glass to look in: I have seen all these methods employed. You may well get a response, but you will also always be remembered as the person who did it.

The Lord knows if I will ever hear back from my currently targeted parish, but I hope the above methodologies work for you in your search.

Atlas Obscura: Reopening Turkey's Controversial Monastery

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Heed the call to be a missionary!

These are our missionaries serving in Guatemala. You could join them and offer your talents where they're needed, all around the world!
(OCMC) - Could you see yourself spending a gap year of service in the mission field? What about just a few months?

Until now, at OCMC, we didn’t have an easy way to facilitate that; people would usually either spend 10 days in the mission field with a team, or dedicate 2+ years in long-term missionary service. We’re excited to be rolling out some more options, however, that will give more people the opportunity to serve in whatever capacity suits them the best.

Mission Team Member. Teams travel for two to three week periods, on set dates. Mission Team members empower communities by working, witnessing, worshipping, and making disciples. Team members work together in a manner befitting Orthodox Christians, rendering service to help the Church with ongoing projects. Teams have contributed construction, youth ministry, teaching and evangelism, medical, and other outreach programs.

Mission Volunteer. Volunteers serve in the mission field for varying lengths of time from one month up to one year, assisting with projects and performing tasks that complement the ministries of Orthodox hierarchs and communities around the world. This assignment is designed to fill one’s gap year or for individuals of any age desiring to serve the Church abroad longer than a Team assignment.

Missionary Intern. An Intern is much like a Mission Volunteer, except that an Intern serves for at least five months to a year with the intention of continuing in full-time Missionary service. A three-day orientation is required at the Mission Center. Once in the field, the Intern will participate in cross-cultural ministry and a supervised missiological reading program to advance their training for future service.

Missionary Associate. After completion of an internship program, a Missionary Intern returns home to complete their training at the Mission Center and then continues with support-raising. When this is completed, they are ready to return to the field as an Associate, with skills and experiences to continue their mission service for up to three years.

Missionary. An OCMC Missionary is devoted to living with and serving those who need Christ in another culture. A vocational Missionary works in places where the Church is new or developing; with or through an existing parish; helping form new communities; engaging in evangelism and training leaders; and developing programs, outreach, or charitable works representing the care and love of God to those in need. OCMC long-term Missionaries can make a lasting impact far beyond their years of service.

If you can see yourself serving for any amount of time – whether a few weeks or a few years – reach out for more information and get the application process started! You can start by filling out the inquiry form here.

Moscow is not the third Rome

Moscow, July 15 (Interfax) - Head of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate Metropolitan Hilarion believes that old concept “Moscow is the third Rome” is outdated and cannot be referred to present-day Moscow.

“I don’t think that today we can use concepts that were formulated many centuries ago, they reflected a certain historical reality, but can hardly be applied to current reality,” Metropolitan Hilarion said on air Church and the World program on Rossiya-24 TV.

He explained that absolute majority of Russians today are not enchurched people and the Church is facing “a great missionary task” - to enchurch people who consider themselves Orthodox Christians, but in fact, are far from being such.

“I think that it is much more important task than any talks about the “third Rome” and the role of Moscow as the the center of Christianity,” Metropolitan Hilarion said.

However, according to him, everyone who comes to Moscow and in Russia notes that Russia is a country with very deep Christian roots.

“And for us Christianity is not a phenomenon of the past, it is a phenomenon of the present and the basis for the future,” the hierarch said, “if we enter the Cathedral of Christ the Savior or any other Orthodox church on a great feast, we’ll see how many people come to the service! Anyway, it is not a reason for triumphalism and creating geopolitical theories which can collapse like a house of cards when the wind blows on a certain way.”

Concept “Moscow is the third Rome” appeared after the fall of Constantinople in period when the Moscow principality was raising, it laid a foundation for Messianic ideas about Russia’s role and meaning in that time. The most authoritative and popular was the version that the concept of the third Rome was clearly worded in 1523-1524 by elder Philotheus from Pskov Eleazar Monastery in a formula: “Two Romes fell, a third stands, and there will not be a fourth one.”

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Archbishop Elpidophoros visits the White House

His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America Meets President Donald J. Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Tuesday, July 16, 2019. Also present at the meeting were Vice President Mike Pence; Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar; and Vicar General of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America Fr. Alex Karloutsos.

EP speaks to "offensive statements" made about OCU tomos

(EP) - After journalists’ questions about offensive statements against the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which were allegedly made recently by a member of the autonomous presence of the Patriarchate of Moscow in Ukraine, the Director of the Press and Communication Office of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Nikos Papachristou, said:

Allegations or information from anyone claiming that the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in order to grant the Tomos of Autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, allegedly sought and received, or requested, any form of compensation, financial or other, whether from political or ecclesiastical persons, is absolutely false, unsubstantiated and slanderous. At the same time, such allegations are also highly offensive to the Mother Church of Constantinople, from which nine other local Churches, including Moscow, received their Autocephaly, through analogous and similar processes.

It is characteristic that the Ecumenical Patriarch, in a recent speech referring to the granting of Autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, pointed out that “the proper ecclesiological response given by the Ecumenical Patriarchate was and is always based on the eternal tradition of the Church, inspired by the Gospel, with respect to the sacred canons and free from any political and diplomatic pressure. Indeed, this must be made clear in the light of the accusations and misinformation circulating on the Internet, the well known fake news, which is used against the canonical rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.”

It should also be recalled that on January 6, 2019, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew handed the Tomos of Autocephaly to the Primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, His Beatitude Epiphanios, Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine, which was formed by the Unification Synod of December 15, 2018. From that day on, the new Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine is completely self-sufficient and has the absolute freedom to manage its internal affairs through the judgment and decisions of its Holy Synod. Her relationship with the First-throned Church of Constantinople is a relationship of a Mother to her Daughter, a strong spiritual bond that has been preserved for centuries, from the time of St. Vladimir’s baptism to this day. A relationship that endures no matter how many people, obviously for their own purposes, have tried and continue trying to disrupt it, for the Mother Church of Constantinople always cares, with a sacrificial spirit and self-denial, for all her spiritual children.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Notes from UGCC visit with Pope of Rome

Given that the unions (Brest, Uzhorod) that created the Unia were political actions and not religious ones and that the current belief is that Greek Catholics are not a "third way" but are understood to be "Orthodox in communion with Rome" by many of the faithful, I wonder why they need to continue to separate themselves from Orthodoxy at all. If you were to make a list of all the things the UGCC, Melkites, et al. share with the Orthodox and what they share with Rome, the list would be far longer on the Orthodox side.

Even as they declare themselves a bridge between East and West, the Eastern side considers Greek Catholicism to be the opposite - a conditio cum qua non - an impediment to further work on unity. The OCU is not subject to Moscow, which was a major historical obstacle. And today, if the OCU is only acknowledged by some in world Orthodoxy, the UGCC is accepted by none of it. But is a volatile OCU preferable to the seemingly benevolent hand of Rome?

I'm happy to hear from Eastern Catholics of all stripes on the matter.

(RISU) - The Pope's visit to Ukraine, the granting of the Patriarchate to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the beatification of Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky became closer to realization after a recent meeting with the Pope. This belief was expressed by the Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, His Beatitude Sviatoslav in an interview with the Italian media outlet ACI Stampa. The text of the interview was distributed by the Information Department of the UGCC.

"These two days (5-6 July. – ed.) were not intended to present ready-made decisions, considered and taken in advance in some Dicastery. These were days of study, analysis, thinking about further steps. We expect that in the near future there will be the fruits of these reflections, concrete decisions, the creation of certain structures and mechanisms that can help our Church to prosper in Ukraine and in the world," the head of the UGCC said.

"We have publicly invited the Pope to come to Ukraine," said the Primate. We repeated our invitation in an informal atmosphere when we met with the Holy Father during dinner at the house of St. Martha. The Pope told me, "I will think about it."

"We said to the Pope, "Today we are meeting with You and You are listening to us." And many of those who want to hear you and see you cannot be present here now. We are waiting for You in Ukraine so that You can touch the wounds of the war and help stop their bleeding." With such initiatives as "Pope for Ukraine", His Holiness Father Francis wanted to ease our suffering. However, we have the impression that we are working only to rectify the consequences of the war. And it is necessary to affect its causes. Therefore, when the Pope comes to Ukraine, it will be work to end the war," the Head of the Church added.

According to him, the issue of the Patriarchy of the UGCC was also considered during the meeting when they discussed the ecumenical dimension of the life of our Church.

"Patriarchate is a way of existence, not a reward. This is the development of mechanisms for the prosperity of our Church, as it increases our efficiency and pastoral work. Our Church, its development and flourishing is not a threat to our Orthodox brothers. We are not against anybody, but for their sake. This mental revolution is not yet complete. But we need new structures. According to the statistics of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, every year a million of Ukrainians leave Ukraine, and we must provide pastoral support to these migrants," said His Beatitude Sviatoslav. This bit needs some context. The Ukrainian Greek Catholics consider their primate to be a patriarch. The Vatican considers him to be a "Major-Archbishop," which is a made up term put into place so as not to name a patriarch in opposition to the Orthodox primate for the same territory, but to acknowledge that he is something more than just an archbishop.

All this, in his opinion, testifies to the need for the establishment of a patriarchate: although the roots of the Church are in Ukraine, but the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is a global Church which goes beyond the borders of the geographical territory.

According to His Beatitude Sviatoslav, the righteous Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky was also touched upon during the meeting. "Metropolitan Sheptytsky was the first to understand the global dimension of our Church. At the time when he headed the UGCC, it had only three dioceses in Western Ukraine which at that time was under the rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Today, we have 34 dioceses around the world, and this is also thanks to Metropolitan Sheptytsky who was the first to make pastoral visits to his faithful in all corners of the globe. And he did everything necessary for them to have priests and bishops. He was the first to note the pastoral needs of creating structures for migrants. We live by the fruits of what Metropolitan Sheptytsky started," said the Head of the UGCC.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Have a Little Faith with Zach Anner

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

California tries to crack the seal on confessions

(GetReligion) - In this politically polarized world, there are issues that can drive a large wedge between people — including several that, one way or another, are tied to religion.

Immigration and abortion are two of the biggest in the Donald Trump era, issues that dominated the Supreme Court’s recently-completed term and the Democratic presidential primaries that are just underway. Then again, immigration and abortion are the issues that dominate news on the web and cable TV.

Religious freedom, an old-school liberal issue now largely taken up by conservatives, is often lost in mainstream news coverage. Lost in this coverage is an issue of such importance to Roman Catholics, that it may very well be the biggest fallout to come from years of clerical sex abuse when it comes to how it affects the law.

The California State Senate, controlled by Democrats, recently passed a bill (the first of its kind in the United States) that would compel a priest — violating centuries of Catholic law and tradition — to disclose to civil authorities any information learned in the confessional if it involves the sexual abuse of a minor committed by another priest or lay worker. The bill was supposed to head to the State Assembly later this summer, where Democrats hold a majority...
Complete article here.

On the fraught exarchate in Europe

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Archbishop Ioann of Chariopoulis (Jeanne Rennetau), exarch of European Russians, has convened an assembly of the archdiocese's clergy for 7 September, in order to definitively resolve the fate of this particular Orthodox community. The exarchate was formed among the emigrants who fled from Russia after the 1917 revolution, creating their own European ecclesiastical structure, based in Paris, under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Due to the dramatic split between Moscow and Constantinople, following the establishment of the autocephalous Church of Ukraine, Patriarch Bartholomew (Archontonis) dissolved the exarchate last December, forcing the Russians to sell their churches to the Greeks. On February 23 of this year, the assembly of Russian priests in Paris voted 93% for the preservation of the archdiocese, effectively refusing the decree of dissolution issued by Constantinople. Some parishes in Italy and France have decided independently to join the Russian Church abroad (Zarubezhnaja) and the Moscow Patriarchate, the others are still considering their options.

Archbishop Ioann wants an autonomous solution, a kind of "autocephaly" of European Russians, which would hardly be recognized by other Orthodox. His intention is based on the particular "democratic" nature of this Church, daughter of the 1917 Moscow Council, in which a very liberal reform of the dioceses and parishes was discussed, then not applied because of the revolution.

At the same time, the lack of support from Constantinople has created practical and administrative problems that are difficult to solve, starting with the management of the cathedral and the exarchate buildings of Rue Darue in Paris. The Moscow Patriarchate, in turn, presses on the Russian European clergy for a return to the Russian "Mother Church", promising to take on the debts and needs of the communities scattered in over ten countries of Western Europe.

Immediately after the dissolution of the Exarchate by Constantinople, Moscow set up its own Exarchate in Paris for Western Europe, entrusted last December to Metropolitan Ioann (Roscin), a man very close to Patriarch Kirill (Gundjaev).

Last month Kirill himself replaced Ioann, who had shown himself too accommodating, with Metropolitan Antonij (Sevrjuk), who occupied the Vienna office, to whom the same Ioann was sent.

Antonij, appointed bishop of the Russians in Italy in Rome in 2015 at the age of 29, was the secretary of the patriarch, and applies his directives with a much more resolute form, almost threatening the European Russians with punitive measures, if they do not accept reunification with Moscow.

This is why Ioann of Chariopoulis decided, after weeks of internal controversy in the exarchate, to make one last attempt to submit the possible autonomy of his Church to the democratic vote , to save, as he writes, "an exclusive right in our canonical world, involving everyone in participation and lived communion".

If the vote does not achieve the outcome he hoped for, the Patriarchate of Moscow will finally be able to reunite all the parts of its Church, which had been dispersed a century ago in Europe and in other parts of the world.

Montenegro church situation not improving

(Interfax) - The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church expresses profound concern over the worsening situation with the dioceses of the Serbian Patriarchate in the territory of Montenegro where during several years the unity of Orthodoxy has been suffering from the schismatic actions of the so called Montenegrin Orthodox Church.

An alarming trend of increasing the authorities’ pressure on the canonical clerics and laypersons has emerged in Montenegro. The Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church held on May 9-18, 2019, stated: “there are attempts to violently take away our holy sites in favour of the canonically and realistically non-existent ‘Montenegrin Orthodox Church’ and threats to destroy” certain places of prayerful veneration. President of Montenegro Milo Ðukanović at the party meeting in Nikšic on June 8, 2019, voiced an intention to “restore the Montenegrin Autocephalous Church.”

The draft law on freedom of religion or beliefs and legal status of religious communities published by the government of Montenegro in May 2019 gives rise to anxiety. The draft contains several discriminatory measures, for instance, requisition to the title of the state of a part of the Serbian Patriarchate’s property, including church buildings and monasteries. The Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church characterized this draft law as “anti-European and anti-civilized,” aimed at the discrimination against the Serbian Patriarchate’s dioceses in the territory of Montenegro and “direct interference into internal Church affairs.”

Serious remarks on certain provisions of the draft law were made by the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission).

We take the recent initiatives of the Montenegrin authorities with concern and call upon them to stop discrimination and frustration of the unity of the Serbian Orthodox Church. We raise our voice in her defense while seeing the centuries-old historical foundation, on which the Montenegrin Orthodox culture and statehood have been built, in the spiritual tradition tracing its origin to St. Sava.

The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church expresses brotherly support to the bishops, clerics and all faithful of the Serbian Patriarchate in Montenegro who, fulfilling the precepts of the great saints having shone forth in this land: Sts. Sava of Serbia, Basil of Ostrog, Peter of Cetinje and hieromartyr Joanicus of Montenegro and the Coast, remain faithful to the truth of Holy Orthodoxy despite the hardships of oppression.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Monday, July 8, 2019

In the US, we would call this a suicide note

Moscow, July 8 (Interfax) - Women's mental capabilities are, as a rule, lower than men's, but they are more selfless than men, Archpriest Dimitry Smirnov, the head of the patriarch's commission on family issues and protection of mothers and children, said.

"Women aren't as smart. Of course, there are women like Marie Curie, but they are still rare," the priest said on Radonezh radio.

At the same time, women are more patient and have more love, he said. "The care women give to children cannot be compared to what a man can do. Everything a woman does is a heroic deed [...] it's exactly what the Lord expects from every person; in the first place, naturally, from men, but they evade it," Father Dimitry said.

To illustrate his words, he mentioned a situation from his parish life. "A woman comes to church, she brings her husband along, and he's just standing there like the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, blinking, and can't say anything. She explains everything more or less reasonably, but he can't say a word," the priest said.

Romanian-Romani Liturgy celebrated in Cluj

(Basilica) - Marking this year’s International Romani Day, His Eminence Metropolitan Andrei of Cluj presided over a Romanian-Romani bilingual Divine Liturgy at an Orthodox parish led by a Roma priest in Turda.

The Orthodox Archdiocese of Cluj includes two missionary parishes dedicated to Roma people, one in Pata Rât and the other in Turda.

The 27-year old priest Marin Trandafir Roz who belongs to the Roma community is the first Roma priest to be ordained in the Cluj County.

It is interesting to note that Metropolitan Andrei Andreicut previously served as a parish priest at the Nativity of St john the Baptist parish in Turda-Fabrici for several years (1978-1985), thus showing a high appreciation for the Roma priest by his appointment to this parochial community.

The Orthodox Archdiocese of Vad, Feleac and Cluj constantly helps the Romani communities in Pata Rât, Turda, Cluj and Bistrița-Năsăud, having a number of 50 social projects and programs dedicated to Roma people.

The bilingual Divine Liturgy took place on April 6, two days before the International Romani Day.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Pope of Rome calls UGCC hierarchs to Rome

(RISU) - The Pope has invited the Metropolitans of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the Permanent Synod to a meeting that will take place in Rome on July 5 and 6, 2019. His Beatitude Sviatoslav shares his expectations of the upcoming meeting.

According to the Head of the UGCC, since the Ukrainian Orthodox Church launched new processes, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was subject to a very powerful attack on the part of Russia. They alleged that the UGCC acted deliberately to separate Orthodox Ukraine from the Russian Orthodox Church and, consequently, to bring it to the union.

"I asked the Holy Father for his support. Therefore, Pope Francis will convene a meeting in order to demonstrate on the part of the Vatican that there is no condemnation of the UGCC, no one crosses out neither our existence nor our future. Why? For such a meeting has three objectives: support, consolidation and development,” says His Beatitude Sviatoslav.

He notes that now it is perhaps hard to find in Ukraine a community to explain to the Orthodox the meaning of the service of the Pope, as our Church does. "I have written a separate epistle "Our St Sofia” to explain who we are as Greek Catholics, what our identity in the context of the unifying movements in Orthodoxy is. We have also translated the message into English,” says the Head of the UGCC.

The spiritual leader of the Greek Catholics is confident that meeting with the Holy Father is a unique chance for the development of his Church, and is also a good news for Ukraine. “We have always been paying attention that they often talk about us, but in our absence. I hope this meeting will put an end to this. Why? We are called specifically to speak on our behalf - to speak in modern new realities (in particular, social, political and economic), in order to work out a strategy with us, that is, certain steps and the vision of the Apostolic Capital towards Ukraine,” says the head of the UGCC. “It seems to me that the Holy Father and his collaborators become more aware every time that the key to understanding the state of affairs in Ukraine, that is, the social and church processes, is the UGCC.”

His Beatitude Sviatoslav thinks it is too early to talk about what the next steps may be. “However, we hope that this highest level of attention to our Church, which is now manifested, will have its good consequences,” the Head of the UGCC stresses.