Reflections On The Scandal
Proto-Deacon Anthony Kruge,
Three Saints Church, Ansonia, CT
Over the course of time the Orthodox Christians for Accountability Web Site has become my primary source for trying to understand, to make sense of the issues that have lead all of us where we are today. Often, I considered and naturally prayed on whether or not I had any reason to submit a reflection or to share my comments. As often as those thoughts and prayers of “speaking out” developed within me, nothing materialized as I continually came to find myself believing it is always better to make a meaningful and constructive contribution to a process rather than just making an arbitrary statement or attempt to put a different spin on what has been said previously.
Today, however, I find myself at a point where I am overwhelmed with the need to contribute, as my home parish has found itself as the latest ‘headline’ due to an action, or better stated a re-action to a decision unanimously made by it’s membership this past Sunday.
Know as you read this that I do not profess to be a theologian although through the Grace of God I serve as a Proto-Deacon. Know as you read this that the perspective I share with you is not drawn from the ‘legal’, the ‘immoral’, the ‘corporate’ or the ‘act now at all costs’ mentality although if I choose to, I’m sure I could. My perspective is instead based on a curiosity as to whether or not ANY of us, clergy and laity alike, see that which is right in front of us.
Sunday, January 27, I was blessed to preach at my church, Three Saints in Ansonia, Connecticut. Understand that I only use the word ‘my’ in reference to Three Saints simply because of ‘my’ life’s history and the volume of personal history this particular parish represents within me as it pertains to the universal Living Body of Jesus Christ, HIS holy church. Please do not confuse the use of the word ‘my’ with any sense that I see my self anything more than a simple, broken, mortal and often fallen person.
Three Saints church is no different than so many of our ‘inner city’ OCA parishes that came in to being in the twentieth century. Built on the “blood, sweat and tears” of it’s faithful, but now somehow in this ‘new world’ the parish finds itself in a state of decline and deterioration. Bygone are the days at Three Saints where the Choir overflowed with every range of voice, separate Slavonic and English Liturgies were served on Sunday and the Church School roster listed more than 200 names. Today we find ourselves changing our time worn ‘By-Laws’ so that we can lower the number of members necessary just to call a meeting to do the business of the church.
As I prepared during the week leading up to Sunday, the combination of observing all too frequently the direction ‘my’ church is going coupled with the annual parish meeting scheduled to begin after Divine Liturgy brought me to violate something that I have always held as important with regard to preaching. Although there is no hard and fast rule anywhere that I am aware of, I made it a personal rule that whenever I would be called to give ‘The Word’ I would consciously try to keep to an absolute minimum the interjection of ‘my-self’ in to the sermon. Try as I may however, this would be the sole time I violated this self imposed mandate. Under the guise of ‘someone I know pretty well’, I spoke about how ‘this man’ was recently reflecting on his life in the church. Elaborating on the wellness felt as a child just being in the building, the sadness of as a 15 year old saying good-bye to his Dad for the last time at the funeral held in the church, praising God for delivering the wonderful woman who joined him in that Holy place and the inexpressible joy of the baptisms of his two beautiful children, ‘this man’ now finds himself in a different church. For the sake of brevity and not to recant the entire sermon, ‘this man’ now finds a church in dire need. Yet as the sermon continued and concluded I tried to leave in the hearts and souls of those present, that there indeed exists “Hope and Optimism.”
The meeting that followed Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning was productive albeit a ‘marathon’ only because so much important business needed attention. As you know by now that which brought Three Saints to the aforementioned ‘headlines’, was the unanimous decision to escrow our OCA assessment. This was a decision, an action based on who we are as a community. For we are an aging community, many are on fixed incomes, all have a hope for the future, and the majority have indeed lost confidence in the process, as we have prayed for a swift and just resolution that just hasn’t come. Naturally, our financial action caused a sharp re-action. To that re-action, let me say that I’ve read a lot of the clamoring back and forth since Sunday and would like to simply offer a few thoughts: thoughts for other parishes looking at what we’ve decided to do as they try to determine what to do and thoughts for our church leadership on how to best address this terrible state of distress and painfully slow progress.
Regardless of your position in the church, regardless of whether or not you agree or disagree with the procedures and policies that our national church is deploying to bring this horrific time to an end at all costs I encourage everyone to take one giant step back and to PRAY.
PRAY for those who were involved at whatever level and that the Holy Spirit will guide them and they will truly seek forgiveness and repent.
PRAY for those who have the arduous task of valiantly trying to repair what has been damaged. PRAY for those who built the churches like Three Saints and others across every one of our dioceses’ with actions like my Mom used to tell me about where they went door to door every week collecting to support building funds.
PRAY for the child who believed that they were doing the right thing when they gave a humble contribution to a charity fund compromised by sin.
PRAY for our missions, laden with hope that where we find ourselves today as the ‘True Apostolic Faith’ will not temper their enthusiasm to continue to seek the truth.
And most of all PRAY for one and other that no matter what our perception of this situation that we will NEVER allow ourselves as the Living Body of Jesus Christ to be divided beyond reconciliation.
Proto-Deacon Anthony Kruge,
Three Saints Church, Ansonia, CT