It was sudden, even to the parish council. And nobody has yet been found to take his place.
We hope we do not go the way of Richard and Tracy‘s church, which shuttered some time ago because of the lack of a priest. (Note: Richard and Tracy do NOT come to mine, and I have no idea where they go, if anywhere.)
I hear and read the comments from various people, and know it’s not just me jumping to the worst possible conclusion, but that many of us worry. Over the years, people have also grumbled about lack of support from the archdiocese.
You can’t blame our priest: The guy’s in his 80s, and lives in the next county. He also had two near-misses with deer when driving the long way to our church, two and four months ago. I’m sure that had something to do with it. And he says he’s traveled 500,000 miles over the past 23 years, dealing with our church, the church in the next county, scattered parishioners, and various small Orthodox communities around the state. You can’t expect to work your priest to death.
We could, and hopefully will, still get a new priest. But this concern has me seriously thinking about what to do if we don’t.
The nearest Orthodox church is our sister parish in the next county. It’s right across the street from an old and dear college friend, so we could visit. But my husband goes to a Lutheran church, my son is going into confirmation with that church, and there is just no way I could get there more than once a month, unless I bum a ride with somebody.
I thought about going back to Protestantism, into a liberal church which, these days, would probably suit me quite well. Even the PCUSA allows gay preachers now. In a liberal church, there would be no talk of submissive wives, head scarves, or arguments over whether women should read the Epistle in church. Hell would diminish into nothing. Gay would be Okay.
But a great deal of thought reminded me of how much trouble I’ve gone to, to become Orthodox. The many books, the study, the changing of my thinking from Protestant to Orthodox–even kissing icons. Even praying to saints and Mary. As a Protestant, I thought that was idolatry.
I’ve even been studying Greek so I can start understanding my fellow parishioners! I can now pick up words here and there.
As I revise my website, I see Orthodoxy all through the theological sections and the reviews of Left Behind.
It’s gotten into my blood.
Five years ago, after breaking off relations with Richard and Tracy, I was so distraught–so constantly driven to tears–because my very religion reminded me of my former BFF, Richard. His friendship had been so dear to me that I could no longer even go on Orthodox forums. You see, his influence led me to become Orthodox, as I describe here. And I had deeply philia-loved him.
I struggled just to remain Orthodox. I could barely hold back the tears during Divine Liturgy each Sunday. Every aspect of Orthodoxy, was about Richard. And when I saw him at church once in a blue moon, I trembled, and feared just looking at him would send me into a sobbing fit.
Then when he and his wife refused to repent of abusing me, and proved to be so callous as to threaten to come every week, because they knew it upset me, church became a battleground.
So you see, I have gone through a LOT to be and remain Orthodox, more than the typical convert, probably.
It would be SO easy, if no priest is found, to just give up on Orthodoxy. Maybe become Methodist or UCC or return to the Presbyterian church just down the road. I even thought about doing so, back when I feared just going to church because Richard might be there.
But I can’t.
Fortunately, God and time seem to have done a blessed miracle: I also just realized that Richard is no longer Orthodoxy to me. Going to church no longer makes me think of him.
I don’t go on Orthodox forums, but that’s because Net ‘doxy is full of constant rehashing of the same old threads, legalism, and political conservatism that I just don’t see in my local church. It has nothing to do with being reminded of Richard anymore.
I have a good friend at my church now, someone other than Richard, who understands what it’s like to be a convert. (Most of the people there are born into the faith.) I realized he is a close friend now, that I care about him and he seems to care about me as well. (Don’t worry, there’s nothing improper: I’m much older than he is and don’t need to invite Graduate jokes. Richard, who reads my blog, will understand what I mean.)
I have friends. My faith is deeply ingrained in me. I feel at peace. I am no longer fighting the darkness.
Now, hopefully this will not be disrupted by the lack of a priest….Our church was in this predicament 23 years ago, too, and then somebody stepped up.