Often I hear the question as a pastor of a small mission Community why do we bother? Why don’t we all go to a bigger parish (as if larger parishes do not have their own stress factors), etc? We know living the life of Christ, both personally and in what it means to be Church (as Christ Himself and the Apostles understand it) is quite a challenge then and now. Generally religion today is often a matter of convenience, “our (my) own needs/comfort,” rather than spirituality that elicits sacrifices for Christ (as with the martyrs and even many Christians today in other parts of the world are going through). Christianity and Church as a “mode of existence/being,” affecting every level of life, is not popular. When its a little challenging, or upsetting, people leave (without evening feeling the responsibility to tell anyone). So why bother…?
Orthodoxy is the fullest expression of the Apostolic Faith, yet we have our own challenges. Culture and customs can be as absolute as dogma. The systemic make up of the parish often tries to just keep “most people content” and not push for much change; some councils may have people who know very little (nor who are committed to) the Orthodox Faith (like business people in HMOs knowing little about health care). Priests in some of these environments attempting to institute some positive changes are (especially in larger parishes) stretched to the limit (some marriages have suffered and even destroyed). Emotional and verbal abuse, on many levels, are not that rare and even enabled by the silence of others (regardless of what modern psychology and, most importantly Christ Himself says words injure people and result in judgment – e.g. Matthew 5: 22 – 24; 12: 34, 35). So do why bother…?
Competition and fear between clergy and parishes can exist, often played out as an “every man for himself” scenario. Smaller parishes that can greatly struggle can sometimes feel ignored (neglected?) by larger “sister” Communities who rarely visit or encourage some of their own members to help let alone, (even jointly) attend. “Institutional” attitudes can develop concerned more with finances than whether systemic relationships reflect Christ so that “keeping a parishioner,” in whatever way possible. More concern seems to be with what others think (more than Christ) rather than what is the spiritually and psychologically healthiest thing to do. So do why bother…?
Progress exists in “letting” others of ethnic backgrounds (and even races) attend Services and become “involved,” but actual integration into the life of the Community is still a challenge where relational connections are based on based on socio-economic status and/or ethnic/family ties. “Integration” is to be based on Christ as a Parish intentionally partnered with and integrated (and therefore integrating others) directly into His Kingdom as a reality “on earth as in heaven.” But too often anyone is primarily a “member in good standing” based on being current in their financial commitments or ethnic/family connection. So why do we bother…?
So why do we bother…?
Because Christ is risen! That’s the Reality! Pascha, the death and resurrection of Christ shows God bothered. Death on the Cross, a very bleak prospect, is not the way the disciples thought the Kingdom would be instituted. The Reality of His resurrection and ascension laces and informs all the realities of our own lives. Church can be partnering with God as the direct organic body of the risen Christ “on earth as in heaven,” an environment of healing, of Resurrection, where no one would be “lost in the crowd” of the world. And for those of us who seem to be able to “go elsewhere,” we are here for those who “would not be fully accepted, integrated into the life of the Community. That is why we bother…
When challenges arise, we do what is necessary for the Father who purchased us with the blood of His Son, to keep being a family. We pray corporately and personally, fast, study Scripture, share from our resources, continuing our ministries to the imprisoned and disenfranchised as well as those who aren’t, preparing for ours and others encounter of God rescuing humanity through Jesus’ Cross and Resurrection. We will begin monthly Gyro Fests in May and continue every 2nd Saturday of the following months even looking into developing a business as a regular source of income. The weekend of May 21 and 22 will be dates when will see our seminar on “The African Roots of Ancient Christianity” in Bethlehem-Easton and the Reading areas respectively. This will be a great opportunity to interact with the larger world and share the gifts of our Faith. This and more is in the offing. A challenging time, but a time of faith, “the essence of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11: 1).We are also grateful for the love and support tangibly expressed by you, our friends.
So, why do we bother?
“And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome brought spices that they might go and anoint Him. And very early on the first day of the week they went to the tomb when the sun had just risen (Mark 16: 1, 2). That’s why we bother.