Ask Stavroula: Response to Readers’ Reaction to Last Week’s Column

My dear readers,

I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the love you show in my Dear Stavroula column. Through this column I try very responsibly and lovingly to help people who have a problem or are in a difficult situation to think more carefully or differently about their concerns so that they can find the solution that suits them. I am very glad that you are reading it more and more and sending me your questions. Your trust is highly respected and you can rest assured that I fully respect your anonymity.

Last week’s theme, Why Should My Children Go to Church was one of the topics you read and discussed a lot through social media. Many of you sent me messages that Maria’s story is not true, because you have been in America for years and never heard of such a thing, and I should have investigated it. Others again sent me messages asking me to name the parish so that those in charge could intervene. Finally, some others have asked me to reveal Mary’s personal information. This is of course impossible for two reasons: first, I do not have it. Our system of communication is such that it does not allow me to know your details. But even if I knew them, there is no chance I would ever reveal them. It would be unethical.

Often we shape our attitude towards things depending on the experiences each of us has had. Most of us, fortunately, have never had an experience like Mary’s, but that does not mean that Maria is lying or sharing her story with us in order to harm the Church or Orthodoxy. Maria happened to have a complaint, a question that tormented her and she wanted to express it. We will not judge her or blame her for this. We will help her, as much as we can, to soften the bitterness within her, to overcome it.

Nor, of course, will we seek to find out the parish where it happened. After all, the point in this case, if I may express my opinion, is not the fact that we pay membership in our parishes. The Church in America has no other resources, nor is it funded by the government. We need to contribute, to continue to exist, to continue to support Greek education in this multicultural country. And those of us who are members of our parish are there because we want to be there.

The crux of Maria’s story is the act of publically posting the names of those who owed their membership and their being targeted. But this is an isolated incident, which happened years ago, as shown by Maria’s message, and I want to believe it was a wrong practice that no longer exists. The behavior of some people in the parish that Maria went to was also unacceptable. But I’ll mention it once again, where there are people involved, mistakes will be made.

For me, the most important thing in this story was to understand that each one of us has a relationship with God or with the Church that is a very deep and important one and it is not worth it to allow it to be disturbed by human intervention. I focused on this in my response because I thought it might help Maria find the answer to her question.

As for all the rest, let us each have an opinion that satisfies or serves us.

1 Comment

  1. If all of what Maria says is true then it all falls on the shoulders of the priest. The name posting is absurd. As for a layperson stopping some one from receiving Holy Communion, are you kidding? That’s disgraceful and not allowed. Only the priest is allowed that discretion. Unfortunately, this idea of “membership” dues is not Orthodox. Some one cannot be denied a Mystery of the Church, baptism, marriage, etc., or a funeral, because they are not “members”. Membership in the Orthodox Church is defined by participation in the Mysteries, not by dues that allow one to receive the Mysteries. And any priest who denies some one participation in the Mysteries because they didn’t pay dues needs to be spoken to by his bishop, unless the bishop agrees with the priest. How far have we come? Lord have mercy!

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