Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Path Before Us Darkens

I'm sure many have written about the fires that have engulfed Greece and have caused the deaths of at least 64 human beings. I am not going to write a long speach about why I think this happened or why it is such a catastrophe for Greece. I would just like to say that both my grandfathers are from the village of Matesi near Andritsaina. This was the village featured on TV where the flames have encircled the village and have jumped the river Alphaio into Arcadia.

My great grandfather was the priest of Matesi and his father-in-law before him. Their family tomb is buried in front of the church and the house has stood for 4 generations. Although I have no family living in the village at this moment, the whole male history of my family is located in those homes, in that land. If they burn, I feel that I will lose a part of myself and a part of my forefathers as well. Perhaps some may not consider this a big deal. However, I am a firm believer that one cannot know where they are going if they do not know where they come from. In that, I fear that when all this is over, the path before me may be a bit more difficult to find than I anticipated.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Authentic Ministry

I just returned from a week-long Orthodox summer camp that I help run for our Metropolis. As always, I was impressed and truly moved by the amount of character and sincerity displayed by the children, and counsellors, who attended. Indeed, every year I am reminded just what a precious resource our youth truly are.

These children, who deal with prejudices, peer pressures, and mass media brain washing, still make the conscious choice to come to camp and experience the communion which they only find in the secluded woods of northern Ontario. Truly, Camp is the most important youth ministry we have today; a truth that too few parents and elders in our communities realize or support. Furthermore, beyond being just important, it is authentic.

Authenticity usually describes something that is "genuine or known to be true" (Webster's Dictionary). In this sense, Camp fulfills both such adjectives, as it consists of genuine people, volunteering their time, money and talents to teach our future generations. It is known to be true because the fruits of the last 10 years of Camp Metamorphosis can been seen in the character and virtue exhibited by those youth who have passed through the program.

I point this out because, if we think about it, few Church programs today can really boast to be practicing "Authentic Ministry." This is why we usually never ask the questions; 1. Is what we are doing genuine and true to the Word of God? 2. Are our volunteers genuine in their motives for helping, or are they simply there to gossip, socialize, or to satisfy their ego in some way? 3. Are the fruits of our labours known to be true? 4. Is there a positive effect on those involved? 5. Is there consistent success in quality, regardless of the numbers? It is these questions, and subsequent answers, that should be compared to the truth contained in the Scriptures.

At Camp this year campers tackled such practical issues as outsourcing pregnancy, homosexuality and same sex marriage, rising atheism, and the pursuit of happiness for the average citizen. These are issues that were not only discussed with senior campers, but with junior youth as young as 12 years old. Camp does not look to "sugar coat" the issues confronting our children today. It seeks to teach them how to think critically about everyday issues they face, and will face in their lives. Furthermore, it provides them with a solid understanding of Orthodox Spirituality to be the guiding star in such future deliberations.

It is camp's unique ability to not only educate, but also engage our youth, in an environment free from mass media influence and of non-orthodox peer pressure, that makes it invaluable in the battle against nominal Christianity in North America. It is also its ability to truly teach the truth, without any parish "Politics" or "Obstacles" that makes camp a truly "Authentic Ministry." The rest of the Church should heed this warning; learn from such an approach, instead of treating camp as simply another past-time for our children, pushed into the "back burner" of parish life because we are too busy re-building the stairs of the church, or the banquet hall, or the iconography, or any other such thing that will have no use to us in 20 years when our church buildings are empty due to lack of Authentic Ministry.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Simple Thinking

I am currently reading a book called "The Road Less Travelled By, and Beyond" by M. Scott Peck, M.D. It is very good. In the current chapter I am reading, Dr. Peck is speaking about the epidemic of simplistic thinking. He claims, and I agree with him, that most people deliberately shy away from doing any real thinking in their lives. They prefer to live with simple, straight forward beliefs, even if those beliefs are based on lies.

We see this rampant in racist as well as religious fundamentalist groups of today. People en mass choose to believe simple lies because they are easier to live with than a complicated truth. This stems from mental as well as spiritual laziness. It is the sin of indifference that we are speaking about here. The belief that the world can be black and white because that is the most convenient answer for me.

The problem with this way of thinking, or lack of, is that it allows large groups of people to be easily manipulated by media, government, and charismatic individuals. This is why fashion and fashion icons have such a hold on our population. People are content in simply aping whatever they see on TV as opposed to actually exploring who they are and what they like. It is harder to be original than to be conformist; harder to lead than to follow; harder to do the right thing than the wrong.

Dr. Peck is telling us that we need to begin to think critically again. We need to wake ourselves out of the sleep of mental and spiritual laziness and observe the world for ourselves, instead of allowing others to do it for us. Only in this way can we ever hope to reach our full potential as human beings. One statement in this chapter that really struck me is, "Our laziness, our natural idolatry of ease and comfort, makes us co-conspirators with the mass media." This sums up our complacency in the events around us that we complain about everyday but never do anything about. We complain about government but we forget that the government is run by people. We complain about the Church but are not willing to change ourselves so that we may change others. We want others to change first so that we can follow, or worse yet, hide in the shadow of their accomplishments and ride the coat tails of those who are braver than we.

I think that we need to take our lives by the reigns and begin bettering ourselves. We must read more, converse more, question more, and love more. Only in this way will we ever escape Plato's cave, in which we willfully remain chained, veiwing life only as shadows on a wall cast by those who would like nothing more than to manipulate us.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

8 Months in the Deaconate

Well, it's been 8 months since my ordination to the Holy Deaconate and what an 8 months it has been! I have not had anytime to get back on to this blog since I have been adjusting to working full time and being a deacon.

I am currently posted at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Scarborough, Ontario. It has been a blessing having been able to spend my first months at the church in which I grew up. I have learned much from my parish priest and from the parishioners who attend on a regular basis. I know realize the daunting task that we face in ministry today and wish I could find a community willing to take on a deacon full time, because the reality is that we desperately need it! One priest in a parish of 300 families cannot do the job. There are only SO many hours in the day and a deacon in every major church would be a great improvement. However, until that day comes, we will have to do our best with the resources we have.

The Metropolitan has recently announced that I will be moved to a new church. Although I do not know which yet, I pray it is a full time position so that I can fully contribute to the life of the church that which I have been prohibited in doing to this point because of my part-time status. I look to the future months with enthusiasm and hope that wherever I am placed, I will be able to help to the best of my ability. That is all I can pray for and that God will give me strength to do His will.

That's it for now. Hopefully I will be back very soon. Till then, take care and God Bless!