Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | February 7, 2011

Because Their Cause is Just (rev. 2)

I’ve found that the more I hang around the Orthodox Blogosphere, the more I appreciate those with insatiable appetites for posting. Not sure how they manage this… what with day jobs and all that. But I am delighted with the news stream. And it always strikes me as amusing why I should be fascinated with the news stream in a church that adheres to an absence of change, but I am.

“Tonight’s story focuses on a crash at the intersection of Faith and Vine between a Secular Semi and a Fiat of Faith. Details at 11:00…”

Guess this makes me the worst sort of news junkie: Hoping nothing will happen, eager to read about nothing when it does, celebrating the non-event, but then getting bored and waiting for more… which of course is actually less.

Reading Byzantine Tex’s follow-up to another of my favorite blogs (Second Terrace) I decided to keep the old submarine profile lower and miss the wandering Dreadnoughts aiming their batteries in my direction. So here’ s my bit posted amongst the camouflage of my back bywater blog.

Byz’s sense that our evangelism is too often too much about blogs, podcasts, and books speaks to my weaknesses.


Fr. Jonathon suggests we need to address the issue in the context of a vision for our seminaries and develops a fine approach to it.

Got it: General idea seems to be to teach those who’ll prepare the saints how in turn to teach more saints. How? Ah… here it gets a bit tricky. Here it’s about chucking the short-term and going deep. I think the fact is that we have had an answer traditionally – and its monasticism. It may be a hard sell to a sex soaked secular era, but the fourth century option still  seems edgey. May be that’s a long-term pitch, and in the meantime we need to come up with a parallel option that if it were good enough, might just prove more than the “spacer” it seems. Me thinks a parallel option might  be something like lay orders and lay societies. Maybe they’re here, maybe I missed something, but I don’t really see them much in Orthodoxy. Do we need them? Hmmmm. Good question. Dunno. Is our life and witness strong enough without them? According to who?

Somewhere, the smart people know whether whether we need them. Me, I think they could be helpful if they developed somewhat along the lines of Fr. Meletios Webber’s notes on Alcoholics Anonymous where everyone had a “buddy” who was further along and helped guide the recovery from addiction to sin. Yes, I know this is what our spiritual fathers do, but leaving things the way they are isn’t really going to build up the Body if you know what I mean: There’s a form of anti-clericalism that leaves everything to the clergy – because they’re getting paid. I understand this. But I think it is a very narrow way to evangelize. Saying all we need is a good five thousand more monks isn’t much better either. Sure we could use them. But this still sells so many of us married people  short.

Maybe my parish is just too small? Yeah, it’s a possibility. Maybe I’m too cantankerous for anyone to take it on – like they otherwise typically would? Yeah, it’s a probability. There’s a no shortage of reasons. I’m just not used to assuming I’m the only guy… but really… stranger things have happened.

So FWIW, if formation is really a lifetime process of which our spiritual fathers are a part, but only a part… then why not build up the Body to do its part? Spritual fathers can’t run around every time we need to be challenged, cajoled, cheered, and whatever else it is we need to pick ourselves up and to get going again. Sometimes their hands are full. And if everyone needs a good 14 years to settle in, well… it’s gonna be a long hard slog, and every clergyman’s going to wonder how much better life looks like from the other side of the window. I’m not sure many of us could put up with a bunch of folks all growing on separate 14-year planting cycles, and then coming up (or out?) still kind of half-baked –  looking sort of like locusts. But I’d not be too surprised if that’s how we look in a spiritual eyeball…. which is to say a long way from the beauty of a butterfly.

We know any and every Body works better when all the limbs and core are pulling their own weight, right? So then what are we really doing to assure we’re not just a bunch of limp appendages ? Oh… I know we’re not THAT bad. We do a decent job in fact… for a narrow slice of America. But catching the folks who find us… is that really evangelism or does it just look like it by accident? These folks are predisposed to hearing from us… even if at first they don’t sound like it. But if real evangelism is something we’re going to get into, we’re going to run into a whole mess of folks for whom we’re the last people they want to hear from.

Clearly, as background by now you’re aware I’m a very unfinished piece of business. I claim to like being taught, but let’s face it… there are times when I don’t. Can’t imagine I’m alone there either. And I let myself off light. Probably not right. But what other accountability is there? So it strikes me that if Orthodoxy is going to catch fire somewhere, my guess is an active lay life is going to have something to do with it. Nah.. this ain’t a pitch for the social gospel, but it’s not a heave-ho to it either. And it’s not a pitch for a sort of busy-ness we can get elsewhere either. But then again, I wouldn’t drop all that either. Fact is, I’m not sure what it is other than an idea that the more we know each other, the more we become the sort of parish families that could offer the sort of example of a functional family few in America claim to know anymore… the more we might be moving in the right direction.

I have no pretense that this is a new idea. Surely it’s not. The notion is simply that there’s a lot gained by lifting  some things off the shoulders of our clergy and placing them squarely on ours. Very hard to do, much less tell what makes somethings work in one place and not in another in my view. Sometimes both places may be working but revolve around entirely different dynamics. All I’m suggesting is that a start on this may lie in a pro-active approach within the laity. Surely in some part this could be “think tanked” in our seminaries, but more realistically, it’s going to have come from the ground level up rather than the other way round. And then somehow it has to fight the tendency to codify these things into some sort of holy order and get hidden in a cloister where it’d never see the light of day again. Point is to make something of a manner similar to Benedictine Oblate life (just an example) for folks in the world that everyday moms and dads… can and would do… and as a common part of parish life.

And maybe I’m just insane, but instead of the usual approach to development, what if it were redirected towards  parish life by re-orienting the laity and THEN have the seminaries learn from a working laboratory so they could assist when and as necessary.

Just a thought.

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