How do we see ourselves? I would like to spend time, this week and in the coming weeks, to establish what we would like our community to become. We, many of us, have ideas about what we want the Church to be and what we want to achieve.
What of our community? Our parish? Our Church?
Starting a worshipping community has many possibilities and we must ensure that we remain focused on the Lord — distractions will take us away from the one thing needful.
In October 2016, Fr Theodore Dorrance, from Portland, Oregon in America, gave a presentation about the foundation of a new Orthodox Community. He identified five principles their community has held onto from the beginning: can we take on these for ourselves?
His presentation can be listened to or watched here. He starts by explaining the Missions and Evangelism Ministry of his Metropolis (Archdiocese) and the circumstances around the planting of the community in Portland.
Here are the principles, though I strongly recommend you listen or watch it yourself (Note, the time references are to the video).
- Eucharistically Centred. From the beginning, place the Eucharist, the sacramental life and the liturgical life at the very heart. (26’46”)
- Our Witness is the Best Evangelistic Tool. From the beginning, the number one evangelistic tool is the witness of the parishioners to others. (35’08”)
- Stewardship. From the very beginning, the parish is completely funded by stewardship — not as a “programme” but as fundamental to being Christian. (47’00”)
- Education. From the beginning, education is focused on the parents and adults rather than on children. (49’38”)
- Grow Orthodoxy. From the beginning, plan to plant another parish before the community reaches 200 families. (57’56”)
I hope, over the coming weeks, to examine each of these principles and how we can apply them to our community.
“From the beginning …”
Principles need to be established from the start. In the foundation of a community, I believe it is no use starting with vague ideas — what we do we must do intentionally. Perhaps there are some of these principles which need to be changed, adapted, removed, perhaps others need to be added: yet we must have a purpose on which we all agree.
At the top of these emails, and on our website, I have included the phrase,
preaching the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and inviting all to come to greater knowledge of the Father through Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
And I hope this resonates with you. Ours, from the beginning, is to draw as many as possible to the Lord and this starts with us: drawing ourselves to the Lord. No one can make an introduction between two persons without knowing both, we must strive to know and love God first of all and strive to know and love our neighbours. Some you may know and love already, some we must get to know and love.
We are still waiting for the committee of the Church we have approached to make their decision: we understand that they will meet to discuss our proposal tomorrow (Thursday). It is possible that, if we have a positive response, we could start holding services as soon as March though we place this in the hands of God.
We wait and we pray. We recognise that the Lord has offered us this time for our purification and we pray that our meagre offering to the Lord may be blessed and returned to us by him.
Truth in the Face of Heresy:
Spiritual Life in the Witness of St Irenaeus of Lyons
The Orthodox Fellowship of St John the Baptist organises a study weekend around this time of year each year: this year it will be held at our mother parish in Poole Friday 21st – Saturday 22nd February. This year, we will consider St Irenaeus of Lyons.
St Irenaeus lived in the second century and was the disciple of St Polycarp of Smyrna who himself was a disciple of St John the Theologian — so, St Irenaeus was the “spiritual grandson” of the beloved disciple of the Lord to whom was entrusted the care of the Theotokos after Christ’s death and resurrection.
St Irenaeus was bishop of Lyons, in southern France, and wrote an important and much-quoted work, Against Heresies, where he justifies true Christian belief against the falsehood around him. This is something we have to do as a Church — stand up for the truth — and we can learn much from the work of this beloved saint.
Coming to lead us in learning about St Irenaeus will be Bishop Irenei of London, the bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) diocese covering Britain and Ireland as well as much of Western Europe. As well as being an expert on the saint, he is engaging and popular.
I strongly recommend you come, further details, including application form, are here.
There is a cost, but please do not let that put you off: please speak to me if you would like to come and we can arrange for it to happen.
Our Facebook Page, facebook.com/orthodoxeastleigh, too, has daily additions during the week as well as on feast days. Please do like and share our page and content so we may reach a wider group of people.
Do you receive the weekly (on Fridays) text message? If not, then let me know.
The Meeting of the Lord
Sunday, 2nd February, we celebrated the Meeting of the Lord. I preached a sermon, What is a temple?, which I hope may be of benefit to you.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, one God, Amen.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, what is a temple? What do you understand by this term? What can we learn and so enter more fully into this present feast?
Modern society tries to “explain” ancient religions as “beliefs made up to explain what their science could not understand.” This is not, however, how the ancient world believed. The ancients understood that there is a spiritual world, something which is beyond matter, beyond the physical. And within this spiritual realm they encountered beings whom they worshipped. So the ancients made temples in honour of these beings, these gods. But that was not enough, to have merely a building in the god’s honour: within the temple the god had to be trapped. This was usually done by it being imprisoned in a statue but occasionally by it possessing a person, such as the Oracle at Delphi where a priestess would be possessed by the spirit of Apollo. Once trapped, the god could be manipulated into doing what the worshippers wanted by offering sacrifices to it.
Is this, dear brothers and sisters, our view of Church? Is this the place where we have housed — trapped — the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob? Is he here to do our bidding by offering our sacrifices to him? Have we transformed Christianity into a pagan religion?
It is into this world that Abraham and his descendants arose worshipping their God. This would not have caused a problem to the Canaanite peoples among whom they lived — it was common for a tribe to have its own god. Yet the children of Israel were different, they believed that their God was over and above all gods. They did not deny their existence — of El or Baal, Atum or Ra, Cronus or Zeus, Saturn or Jupiter — but held that their God had ultimate power and authority.
Read the rest here.
Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee
This coming Sunday, 9th February, is the first day of our preparation period for the Great Fast — also called Lent. It takes its name from the Gospel reading appointed for the day, the Parable of the Publican (an old word for tax-collector) and the Pharisee, just five verses from the Holy Gospel according to Luke.
The Lord said this parable, “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
— Luke 18:10–14
Before we start the period of the Great Fast the Church offers beforehand an example of how to pray. We must take the Pharisee at his word — he fasted and gave tithes, he kept the Law of Moses better than others — and yet these were not enough. Notice that in the Gospel the Lord tells us that the Pharisee “stood and prayed thus with himself,” — not with God but himself.
The Publican, on the other hand, showed humility; he did not tell God about himself but rather asked for his mercy. “Mercy,” for us Orthodox, is not limited to “let us off,” as a judge might; “mercy” is loving, kind, healing. In the Church, someone who is “merciful” would give without asking anything in return and help others — an example of this may be forgiving someone but we allow for its meaning to include much more.
Can I help you?
I am here for you, you need only ask. Is there a way I can support your life of faith? Get in touch.
Can you help the mission?
Yes, absolutely. Offer yourselves to the Lord: pray! Make available to him all your talents and ask him how he would like you to use them — listen for his reply.
I ask your prayers for me.
With love in Christ