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Behind the Scenes Look at HTM’s Publications

Those of us engaged in Orthodox Christian mission work are aware of the difficulties of obtaining quality liturgical materials in English; differing translation styles, cost-prohibitive volumes, dealing with out-of-print texts, and waiting for as-of-yet untranslated texts to appear can be frustrating. Nevertheless, fifty years ago, such materials were even rarer, and the Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Brookline, Massachusetts has been a pioneer in making these texts more readily accessible.

Recently, the monastery has released a website to give a “behind the scenes” look at their publications and to detail upcoming projects. So far, I’m impressed, and encourage you all to check it out.

http://www.htmp.org/

Pikeville and Fremont, NC

Ten days ago, I went to Pikeville, North Carolina in order to bless the home of some parishioners. Pikeville is above Goldsboro, and many residents are affiliated with the nearby military base. Pikeville has around 700 people, and is thus quite small.

While en route, my GPS brought me through the nearby little town of Fremont, with approximately 1400 residents. I enjoyed seeing the older homes, and the slow pace of life. It looks like a fantastic place to be a kid, although perhaps teenagers complain about the smallness of it and lack of shopping establishments!

As always when I am on these travels, I wondered how we can bring Orthodoxy to these small towns. Obviously, parishioners living there would provide a good first step, but oftentimes our parishioners have migrated from elsewhere, and might not themselves be integrated well into the local community. Reaching native North Carolinians in small towns might thus be more difficult, and perhaps it would take a conversion from a tight-knit family to get the ball rolling.

I can’t stop dreaming of one day seeing Orthodox parishes and missions dotting the landscape of Eastern North Carolina. Please join me in prayer for this intention!

A Nice Column of Churches!

I am always looking at statistics and maps as I plan out and pray about our mission strategy. Rocky Mount, Wilson, and Goldsboro, North Carolina are about the same distance apart, and we’ve recently had some interest from Mt. Olive, so I thought to add that to the map as well. The four towns form almost a straight line down the Western border of Eastern North Carolina. Let’s pray that by 2020 there will be Orthodox Churches in each place!

Serving Proactively

My godson recently posted this reflection on his blog: Seeking for More.  He notes for instance that:

[R]outines and the sticking to the status quo can also have drawbacks.  In our life as Christians, we might be able to do more.  Maybe we could be doing more to help the poor and the sick, or it could be as simple as maybe needing to be there more for a friend or family member who is need of advice or in need of our love and support…[P]arishes always need help from their parishoners to help keep things running, whether it be helping by sitting on the parish council, cooking food for Trapeza, or cleaning.  We should always be looking for more, each according to their abilities.  How many of us are eager to look for more when it comes to increasing our financial status, or look for more in regards to advancing in our careers?  We should be even more eager to pursue more in regards to our spiritual lives and in regards to our life in the Church.

Orthodox Christian spiritual writings caution us against pride and presumption, and we should not ever try to do spiritual things for our own glory, or without prayer and first consulting our priest/spiritual father.  However, we must not go to the other extreme and become inert, never acting to progress, never feeling empowered to step up, or worse, never noticing the things around us that need to be done because of too much of an inward focus.

Let’s be clear: the floors at Church need swept, the chanter needs someone else to step up and help him, the priest needs more altar servers, and the person in charge of coordinating a charitable event needs someone to relieve him or her when they become overburdened.

You’re reading this because you are the person God is calling to help. Whatever you are thinking right now that you could be doing to help at your Church is probably what you should go and volunteer to do next Sunday!

Oops, Wrong Number!

Today I was doing some chores around the house when the phone rang. It was my Google Voice account alerting me that someone was trying to reach me. For those who don’t know what Google Voice is, it allows you to have one number which can ring to all your phones, has voicemail, and call screening. I don’t actually use it that much yet, though, so when I didn’t recognize the number or the name that was on the call screening, I hung up and let it go to voicemail.

The caller left a voicemail, and asked if I was the person who worked on her company’s phones, and to please call her back. I could have ignored the call, but on the one hand, I didn’t want her to wonder why whomever she was trying to contact wasn’t returning her call, and on the other hand, I wanted to find out why my number was being handed out by a third party.

I called her back, explained  that my number was a Google Voice number which perhaps used to belong to the person she was trying to reach, and that I was an Orthodox Christian priest, not a phone technician.  At that point, she mentioned that she might call me back asking for prayers some time, and I referred her to our website and told her about our Orthodox mission work in both Raleigh and Greenville. After mutual pleasantries, the phone call ended.

I’ve come to learn that we can never know why things happen or what might result from the actions we take, and to not take any interaction for granted. I plan to send the lady a follow-up letter and invite her to services.  Something may happen, or nothing may come of it, but either way, I had a chance to pray for the woman and tell her about the Orthodox Church.  For this, I am thankful.  There are many stories of people coming to faith from the most unlikely ways.

Mission Is for All Christians

Today, I saw an interesting Tweet (Twitter message) shared by a friend:

The great commission wasn’t given to a missions organization, it was given to the Church.

This is a great quote, and one which I wanted to share with my readers, most of whom are Orthodox Christians. Our context may be different than the Protestant world in which this quote was uttered, but it nevertheless provides a platform to discuss a critical topic.

Mission organizations in modern times and in the Protestant context are generally para-Church organizations that seek to coordinate the efforts of training and supporting foreign missionaries. From what I can tell, these are usually distinct from Church planting or evangelistic organizations, which seek to reach the lost in one’s own nation.

This type of organization is mostly indigenous to Protestantism, while Orthodox missions are generally under the guidance of the hierarchy of the Church. Commissions were made at various times to various peoples, but there was not, until recently, any effort to create a permanent missions department or structure.

In the last century, however, the New Calendar Greek Church created the “Orthodox Christian Mission Center” to support foreign missions in various parts of the world, such as its sister Church in Albania, which was emerging from communism, and local missions departments have been created in various jurisdictions to facilitate the establishment of new Orthodox parishes domestically. In one sense, greater organization and cohesion is a benefit to missions, but there is a potential drawback, which the above quote illustrates.

In the Protestant world, missionaries have mostly “gone professional.” A person or family feels a call to serve, researches a way to accomplish his goal, and selects the missions organization that is the best fit for them. They are trained, serve abroad, and occasionally return for support trips. Some do this as their career, while others serve a pre-set term and then return to their country of origin to assume a “regular” life. Church planting is likewise professionalized in many cases.

This is not always the case; there are certainly some bi-vocational ministers and Church planters out there, along with missionaries who are working secular jobs in their host countries. I do not want to give the impression that I think it is a problem to have a professional, trained, full-time missions team or evangelism team, per se. However, there are some potential pitfalls as this model of mission has become dominate.

One problem is that these mission organizations often act more like businesses than as a faithful group of believers united and acting together locally, knowing each other intimately, as a family. Another problem is that they make it easy for others to see missions and evangelization as someone else’s job. Because a Church member cooks for Church functions, or cleans the Church, or serves as the secretary, perhaps he or she feels that this is his or her role, while it is someone else’s role to share the Gospel and invite new people to the parish, or go abroad to serve. Sometimes, it is assumed that it is the pastor’s primary job to bring in new members, and Church boards will often have serious “sit downs” with pastors who are not getting the numbers up in a way that hits growth targets.

In an Orthodox Christian context, it is the priest who is often assumed to be in charge of bringing new people in. Of course, it is also the priest’s job to teach, to minister to the sick, to serve the liturgies, conduct correspondence, and represent the parish at important ecclesiastical and civic functions. Laypeople often imagine their only role is to support the Church financially and do things around the Church that need to be done such as cleaning, cooking, and managing the finances.

In reality, the priest’s primary responsibility is to equip the people, to teach them and guide them, so that they grow in Christ and go out and live as Christians, sharing the Gospel in both word and deed. Yes, a priest has a natural advantage in inviting others to Church since he is often recognized in public due to his specific priestly garb, but people expect a priest to invite them to Church. People don’t always expect their family members, friends, or neighbors to invite them, and often they will come, if just asked.

People also tend to expect that a priest will explain the Christian faith in some official manner, and it is almost as if they can tune it out because they already know what he is going to say. For instance, if a layperson begins discussing the latest spiritual fad to appear on talk shows, and a priest criticizes it, even constructively, some people assume he’s biased or it’s his job to say things like that. When a concerned and educated lay member of the Church engages someone with such ideas, though, often one’s guard is let down, and hearts can be changed.

Instead of acting as if it were someone else—be it a department, an organization, or a clergyman—who is responsible for doing the work of sharing our holy faith, let us grow in Christ ourselves, becoming spiritually mature. St. Peter instructs us thusly: “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).

We may not be the most articulate, knowledgeable, or experienced at this, and in fact we might find the prospect frightening at first. However, if we are open to Christ’s will, are enthusiastic, and we develop a genuine love for those around us and concern for their salvation, we will be given many opportunities to minister to and witness to them, in ways that we will be able to do so successfully. If we all share in the work, we will find many more people added to the rational flock of the Great Shepherd, and will have multipled the talent that was given to us (c.f. Matthew 25:14-30).

Let’s get started today!

Driving on U.S. Route 264

U.S. Route 264As regular readers of the blog know, I travel from Raleigh to Greenville, North Carolina three times a month in order to serve Nativity of the Holy Theotokos Orthodox Church. The majority of my time is spent on U.S. Route 264, which begins in Raleigh and continues all the way across Eastern North Carolina.  Almost the entirety of the route is rural, with alternating forests and farms.

Sometimes I travel alone, or my traveling companion(s) rest during the hour-and-a-half trek between the two locations.  During these quiet times, I think about the small communities that I pass: Middlesex, Bailey, Sims, Wilson, Saratoga, and Farmville, among others.  I also see the many unincorporated areas, dotted with farms, living the way that the majority of our ancestors did for the past several thousand years.  A few times, I’ve stopped for gas or taken a back road on purpose to further explore the region.

I know that there are people in these places who would become Orthodox Christians if they knew of our Church.  I know also that God is preparing some people even now to find us and join in our work to help evangelize Eastern Carolina.  I wonder who will contact me, and when.

Makeshift cross memorials dot the highway, memorials for people who have died over the years while driving.  Seeing them causes me to recall how short this life is, and how we must make each moment count.  Knowing that there are millions of people who have never heard of the Church here can drive one crazy; how could one person reach even a small fraction of this number?  Yet God does not call us to save the World—Jesus Christ is in charge of that—but only calls us to serve Him in the places we are called to do so.  If we follow the Lord with all our heart, then as St. Seraphim of Sarov remarked, “thousands around us will be saved.”

Still, practically speaking, this requires prioritization.  I’ve only been a priest for three years, and from time to time I realize that I could have done something better, or a different way.  I must continue to humble myself before God and entreat Him to reveal His plan to me, instead of forging my own.  I must also constantly seek out those to train, apprentices in this work, so that I will not be the single point of failure.  How many Churches have been based off of the charismatic personality of the minister (I am not claiming such for myself, by the way), but crumble upon his death?  The recent debacle surrounding the Crystal Cathedral, founded by Pastor Robert Schuller, is illustrative (his children could not manage to even maintain, let alone expand, the empire that their father created).

Driving along U.S. 264 reminds me of the grave responsibility facing us Orthodox Christians living and serving in Eastern Carolina, but it also fills me with hope and inspiration.

Orthodox Church, Goldsboro, NC

Chances are, you’re finding this page because you searched for Orthodox Churches in or near Goldsboro, North Carolina.  I’ve created this blog post with you in mind!

Goldsboro, NC

Goldsboro, NC

The closest Orthodox Church to Goldsboro, NC is currently the Nativity of the Holy Theotokos Orthodox Church in Greenville, NC, which is about 50 miles from the center of Goldsboro, according to Google Maps.  That’s roughly an hour drive, which in terms of Orthodox parishes in the South, is not too bad.  However, those who have difficulty traveling, or those who are just looking into Orthodox Christianity, might be put off by the necessity of driving an hour each way just to attend services. The many courageous military families in the area might find it especially difficult to travel an hour each way each week for worship and fellowship.

We also notice with some frequency that people perform internet searches for Orthodox Churches in Goldsboro.  The interest seems to be there, yet who will step up to lay the foundation for a parish in Goldsboro?

Perhaps you!

Yes, take a step back and consider that perhaps you’ve found this blog post because the Lord wishes for you to be the person to help establish the first Orthodox Christian parish in Goldsboro, NC!  Whether you are a life-long Orthodox, a recent convert, or someone just looking into Orthodoxy, contact Fr. Anastasios Hudson at gocraleigh@gmail.com today to talk about how you might be a trailblazer in the work of bringing Orthodoxy to Wayne County.  What better way to love your neighbors than to help bring the Church of Christ to them!

We are praying for Orthodoxy to take root in Goldsboro, and we need your help to do it.  We look forward to hearing from you and working with you to accomplish this goal!

Do I Have to Be Greek to Attend a Greek Orthodox Church?

Bi-Vocational Priest Article Republished

Back in February, I wrote an article for the website of our Greenville, NC Orthodox Church about how I balance my calling to serve as an Orthodox priest in North Carolina with my secular job in computer networking.  Readers of the blog and my other websites will recall that as a missions priest, I do not currently take a salary, and so I must work in order to support my family.

Recently, two different sites have picked up my article and republished it.  It’s exciting for others to become aware of our work, and I pray that the article will help encourage others to follow God’s call to serve as Orthodox priests, especially in a missions context.

The original article on HolyTheotokosGreenville.org
The article
on Pravmir.com
The article
on GoodGuysWearBlack.org