We Orthodox are not Always Perfect, but Stay the Course!
Orthodoxy is not always easy, and there are many parishes that seem to make living our Orthodox faith far more difficult than needs to be. The lack of joy in some quarters is not about Orthodoxy, but about the fallen people who make up the Church. This is to be expected, of course, since the Church is a hospital for the soul, and therefore home to a lot of sick people. The good news is, we are all in the right place for the needed healing to take place, and wholeness and lasting joy will come to everyone who stays the course.
Don’t ever let a mean spirited parishioner, nor a harsh speaking priest, drive you from the Church. This is your home as well, and, just as in a dysfunctional household, a lot of growth can take place, even when the parish is not ideal. Pray for your priest, and for the people who have made you feel uncomfortable. Pray to Saint John the Wonderworker of San Francisco, who was such a loving father and pastor, for help. Although a good confessor and great preacher would be preferable to the priest who never has the time for you, the Church is still the place for you. He may deliver lousy homilies, and may seem harsh as a confession, and devoid of people skills, the reality is the Church is still the place for you.
There is an old saying in Orthodox: “The people get the bishop they deserve”. Instead of walking away from Orthodoxy, look around for a parish that might be a better fit for you and your family. If language is a problem for your children, find a parish that uses English. If your parish priest serves like a sorcerer, with all the correct and lengthy formulas, but is devoid of the love of Christ, pray for him. Yet if you and your children would benefit, by all means look into the possibility that another parish might be a better fit, and a place where you can all grow in the faith. Better to leave a dysfunctional parish, than to leave Orthodoxy.
If you have no other options, and your parish is the only Orthodox church in the region, make the best of it. Remember, most parishes were closed down completely during Soviet times. The priests and bishops sent off to their deaths, yet the Church lived on with the faithful making do under the harshest of times.
Ultimately, your life in the Church is all about Christ, and Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He will not betray you, for He is the source of all joy and goodness. It is Christ Who is the Great Physician, the Giver of Life, and the Healer of Souls. The Church belongs to Him, and in spite of the fact we priests sometimes fail to be the Light of Christ to our people, does in no way negate the fact that the Church is still the Fountain of Life, and the place wherein we can receive healing of all that ails us.
Love in Christ,