4000 Holes In Blackburn, Lancashire

This was today: Woke up, did the run-around with the girls, including dropping Vaia off at preschool at the Cathedral, then rolled to Boston for liturgy for the feast day of the Metropolis followed by a clergy meeting (where I was, as a last-minute replacement, one of the featured speakers) and a luncheon (which I skipped).  In the meantime Fr. Dean celebrated a funeral at the Cathedral and then rolled to Boston for hospital visits.  I had a 40-day blessing for Jill and young Andrew (on his name day) and then went to Holy Trinity to give a reflection at the annual hospice memorial program.  Fr. Dean did a self-examination thing with the GOYAns  and then went to an event at the Coral.  I returned to the Cathedral and “supervised” the GOYAns making an additional batch of lollipops and candy to sell this weekend.  I then went to the event at the Coral.  Now I am home and am pretty much toast.  I will, as promised, write in some detail about my presentation on “The Absent Parishioner” on Wednesday.

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November 30th, 2010 by Fr. Greg

The Absent Parishioner

Tomorrow is the feast of St. Andrew, the patron saint of our Metropolis (and of course the Ecumenical Patriarchate) and we are having our monthly clergy gathering after liturgy at the Metropolis.  These monthly gatherings usually have, in addition to routine meeting stuff, a continuing education aspect, often with a guest speaker or some kind of workshop.  Tomorrow three priests will speak on the subject of the absent parishioner.  One of the three will be me, as I discovered today – I was asked to fill in for someone who had to cancel.  So I will be doing a brief presentation on “searching out the absent parishioner”.  I spent time during tonight’s general assembly planning what I was going to say.  A priest once told us “always be prepared to speak in any situation” and so by habit when I know I am going to an event, I always spend a minute or two coming up with an outline of what I might say, and in this case it paid off – I didn’t have to spend too much time planning since I already had an idea of what I would say on the topic.  I will post more tomorrow on how things went, what we talked about, my remarks, etc.

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November 29th, 2010 by Fr. Greg

Sports, Sunday Mornings, Compromise And Competition

The natural point most people focus on from today’s Gospel reading (Luke 18:18-27) is the famous line involving a rich man, the kingdom of God, and a camel through the eye of a needle.  But I have always been fascinated by the story of the young man who, after his conversation with Jesus, walks away.  Jesus doesn’t chase him saying “please come back” or making some sort of compromise.  He sets the table, lets him know what is up, and leaves him to his own free will.  Jesus will, no doubt, always be there for the rich young man, but that is up to him.  This reminds me of the ongoing controversy, or at least dissatisfaction, in some circles with Sunday morning sports.

This is a topic on which I respectfully disagree with my friend and brother-in-Christ Fr. Luke.  Fr. Luke gathered other clergy from his city in Webster and wrote to the newspapers and local leagues and coaches about the importance of Sunday morning.  And the leagues responded by not scheduling games Sunday morning.  On the surface, this is a good thing, and I think it is great that Fr. Luke and the other pastors took the initiative on this.  On the other hand, though, I think it is also a compromise that we do not need to make.  By asking the leagues to change, aren’t we basically admitting we have an inferior offering compared to their superior one?  If people are choosing to send their kids to sports on Sunday mornings, then they are making that choice.  I feel we need to emphasize the importance and quality of what we have to offer rather than give up, say that it is inevitable that people would choose sports over church, and duly ask the leagues to benevolently change the times.

We don’t own Sunday mornings.  Things are different these days – businesses are open, church does not seem to be as much of a priority for many, and sports are played.  So there is much competition.  But we have the best thing there could possibly be to offer: The divine liturgy, hopefully well-done and with challenging and inspiring sermons, good fellowship, and a great experience of beauty, spirituality and friendship.  I think we need to push this rather than give in to the inevitability of sports winning out.

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November 28th, 2010 by Fr. Greg

Language Time

It has been a while since we had a language adventure here on the blog.  I recently started doing research on the ancient Greek terms for the color green and relating them to other Near Eastern languages.  That project will make an appearance at some point, but for now I thought I would post some stuff from the Kurdish dictionary which I bought this summer, and which has turned out to be a fascinating reference work due to the language’s Indo-European heritage mixed with the influence of various strains of Islam.  The first definition given is for the English (from Latin) A.D. (year of our lord) which is translated as milAdi, from the Arabic root wld relating to birth.  The last definition given is for Zoroastrianism, so there we have the Persian influence and the common Indo-Iranian connection.  The second part of the book is a Kurdish to English dictionary.  Opening it up at random I came upon page 254 where the word ordu is defined.  It means army in Kurdish and is the root of both the language name Urdu (aka Hindustani) and the English word Horde, as in the Golden Horde.  Urdu was a great administrative language during the British Raj, and has elements of Hindi, Arabic, Turkish, English and Persian.  If you are a language geek like I am, well, it does not get any cooler than this.  More tomorrow…

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November 27th, 2010 by Fr. Greg

Malt, Mayhem, And Missions

My friend Paul came to visit this morning and we spent a fun hour and a half or so at the Higgins Armory Museum.  If you have not been to the Armory put it high on your Worcester bucket list because the place is awesome.  We toured the exhibits of very scary weapons – maces, morning stars, broad swords, throwing swords, etc. – from all over the world and checked out the armor.   We also got to see a demonstration where a museum guy (with help from his “squire”) put on a full suit of armor.  One of the questions he was asked was how heavy was the suit.  It was around 60 lbs or so – I forget – but he pointed out that this is lighter than the gear worn by a modern infantryman.  The real problem with plate armor was that you would get hot and sweat in it when exerting yourself and then when things calmed down there was a good chance you could get hypothermia within the hour.  No thanks!

The museum hosts many cool events – one that I recall seeing advertised was called Malt & Mayhem – it was a whiskey tasting with weapon demonstrations for entertainment.  We decided the museum, which is available to rent for private events, would be a cool place to have a bachelor party (it would be hard to top my own very enjoyable party, though – paintball followed by a barbecue with my friends).  We also got to talking about mission parishes.  We have a gigantic Cathedral with 1500 or so families, many of whom live in the immediate area as well as a good number who live in outlying areas.  Paul asked if the Cathedral might ever spawn a mission parish or several.  It is an interesting question, and there are a lot of things in play when discussing this.  Our church is one big family, and people love coming together to the mothership for worship and activities.  I think that if we were to have mission parishes in a place like Spencer or Hopkinton, to name a few places where we have concentrations of parishioners it could become a divisive thing; it is nice that we all worship together on Sundays, and people look forward to coming to Worcester to see their friends on Sunday.  We would also need clergy with lay professions to take on these missions (as well as to help us get a bit closer to the protestant ideal of 1 pastor to 100 families – you do the math 🙂 ).

That being said – we do have several very small churches in outlying areas that do not have full-time clergy and could be said to be on the decline.  These churches could easily become mission parishes, with our Cathedral as the mother parish,  with missionary clergy (rather than the hard-working and long-suffering retired priests who attend to them on Sundays) firing up the community, evangelizing and getting things going.  Fr. Dean and I generally end up taking care of many of the day-in, day-out pastoral needs of these communities – funerals, house blessings, and so forth – so in that sense there is already some missionary activity taking place, but there is the potential for much more.  These were some of the thoughts Paul and I exchanged as we toured the museum.  We both remarked on the intricacy of the design of the armor as well as the effort involved in getting dressed in it.  Imagine that kind of creativity, hard work and time dedication put towards spreading the gospel!

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November 26th, 2010 by Fr. Greg

Cosmas And Damian…And Panteleimon?

I celebrated a funeral the other day in Clinton and before the service I noticed the rather unusual (to me) icon below.  I have only been in that church about a million times so I can’t believe I never saw it before.  It is a depiction of the Anargyroi (“without silver”, for they accepted no pay), or the Unmercenaries.  This is the name of our sister church in Marlboro, as a matter of fact.  But this icon, done in the western or neo-Byzantine style typical of many of our New England churches, adds a third Unmercenary, St. Panteleimon.  Note the spoons and boxes that they are holding – these are instruments of healing.  Some icons of the Unmercenaries  will show them holding a urine flask; back in the day doctors would analyze urine to try to figure out what was wrong with someone.  Next time you are at St. Nicholas in Clinton – and a nice trifecta there is to check out the Museum of Russian Icons, St. Nicholas, and the Old Timer restaurant (and a cool superfecta would be to add in the beautiful stained glass at St. Johns there as well)  – check out the icon – it is leaning against the wall at the front left of the church.

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November 25th, 2010 by Fr. Greg

Not To Be The Thanksgiving Grinch…

…but you may want to read this article before eating turkey tomorrow on Thanksgiving (unless the bird comes from a local organic farm).  It is pretty horrifying stuff.  After reading various books and watching several documentaries I have become a convert to the food movement (or at least I am trying to keep up) so this was not a surprise to me, and in fact the factory farming descriptions apply in one form or another to pretty much any meat or dairy end product that is out there unless it comes from a farm that raises animals humanely (grass-fed, truly free-range, etc.).

There are several theological angles here.  We are stewards of the earth and should treat animals humanely.  We also have a responsibility to eat healthful and healthy foods; if we are ingesting the body and blood of Christ then everything else we put into our bodies better be as pure and natural (all-natural is another label term to be careful with – it doesn’t necessarily mean what we think it does) as possible.

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November 24th, 2010 by Fr. Greg