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Letter to Editor

On the Church Today and “Weird” Christians

Dear Editor:

Your editorial, of May 16-22, 2020, quotes largely from the writing of Tara Isabella Burton making a case for “a return to old-school forms of worship.” In a lengthy article on the subject, Christianity Gets Weird, New York Times, May 8, 2020 she explains “Nearly every major branch of American Christianity is in demographic decline.” So just where are we today, with the Greek Orthodox Church in the USA, and what, if any, cure is required? Correction requires leadership of extraordinary vision and ability to analyze and follow through. We once had such a leader. I am 92 years old and clearly remember Archbishop Iakovos, who on March 15, 1965, as leader of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America, joined Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Civil Rights March in Selma, Alabama, putting our Church on the right side of history. He successfully overcame the vicious complaints of the many who believed the Archbishop should limit his attention only to Greeks. They were wrong and almost destroyed the respect the Archbishop gained for us. Also, there is no doubt in my mind that 55 years ago we were much closer to Autocephaly than we are today, again because of the visionary Archbishop Iakovos. The current condition of the Coronavirus Pandemic has put most of the USA under great stress and has unfortunately and tragically led many to choose between loss of life and a loss of money. What does our Church say? Obviously, the answer of the church must be in a language you understand.  If you do not understand the language you have not heard an answer. We need talented clergy that today can appropriately use both Greek and English. In due course a vaccine will conquer coronavirus.  Where will our Church be then? Burton uses terms like “Weird Christians,” albeit partly in jest. I am not comfortable with the term but will play along. What is badly needed are clergy that have the ability to communicate with everyone in the congregation. This includes the bilateral use of both Greek and English during both the liturgy and the sermon. No-one should be left out, or feel ignored. An extremely difficult task, but I have seen it done repeatedly by Father Eugene Pappas of the Three Hierarchs Church in Brooklyn, NY. Of course, at any time there may be present a few who enjoy internet liturgies, or the pageantry of the liturgy, or just the sound of the hymns, the smell of Incense, the beauty and comfort of the surroundings, but they may not care about the underlying significance of any of it. It would take a genuine genius to bring them around. The old cliché is “you can bring a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.”

Sincerely,

William (Vasilios) Vafakos

Brooklyn, NY

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To the Editor: It has come to my attention through friends who work in the New York City public schools that this year, due to the fact that Orthodox Easter is May 5, and Roman Catholic Easter is on March 31, New York City public school students and staff will not have off on Orthodox Good Friday as they have had in the past when the holidays were a week apart, for example, or when Orthodox Easter happened to coincide with the school system’s spring break.

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