Pastoral Letter October 7, 2018

“But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’ they were indignant. ‘Do you hear what these children are saying?’ they asked him. ‘Yes,’ replied Jesus, ‘have you never read,
‘’From the lips of children and infants you, LORD, have called forth your praise’?” – Matthew 21:15-16

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Just this past evening, we had a living room full of GOYANs over to the house for our first monthly meeting of the school year. Every month, we gather in someone’s home for a Bible Study, fellowship, fun games and wonderful discussions. We also get together once a month for outside activities, such as outreach projects, spiritually educational opportunities, or, just to have fun together in Christ’s presence.

I look forward to, and cherish this time of year: when the ministries of the church resume and there is life in our classrooms, hallways and homes. Everything we do, say, act, pray, sing, laugh about and cry about, flows from the altar. We are a Eucharistic gathering of people, and as the chalice of our Lord’s precious and life-giving sacrifice is poured out for our blessed consumption, so also is every activity that takes place within the context of our St. Anna calendar of events.

Primarily for me, within our selection of programming, is our youth ministry. I love having the children gathered in Sunday School, worshiping in the church, engaging with one another and making their relationship with Christ, a priority in their young lives.

The above-referenced verses from St. Matthew underscore the deeply grounded faith of innocent children and warn against the possible perils of longevity. Not longevity in righteousness, but the danger of being given more than enough time to grow cynical, cool down, become hardened and lose precious faith.

Seeing the GOYANs, fill our chairs and couches with their bodies, and listening to them fill the air with their comments, questions and laughter, was a powerful witness and an incredible blessing.

When young people are around, they remind you that their pure love for Christ must be protected, inspired and stoked.

They surprise you with wisdom beyond their years, impress you with the recall of sacred knowledge and enlighten you with their creativity.

They call you back to worship as they worship, feel as they feel, receive as they receive and find joy where they find joy.

They inspire because, though their lives may not be burdened with the responsibilities of adulthood, their days are no less chaotic, their stresses are no less significant, and their challenges are no less daunting.

Their social lives may be in upheaval, their confidence may be in the cellar (I wanted to write “in the toilet,” but that would be crude) and their self-worth may be in doubt. But they push back against emotional tsunamis as best they can and carry on with their day.

Remember, puppy love is still love…to a puppy. Being young and a teenager is not easy.

To be sure, I pray that our young people continue to grow in Christ, in their Orthodox Christian identity and in their calling to serve humanity with dignity, sacrifice and love.

If you want to be hopeful, spend time with our young people. They offer great hope for the future of our church, community, nation and world.

If you want to be humbled, spend time with our young people. They remind you that the responsibility of teaching and raising them cannot be accomplished outside of being an actual example to them. “Do as I say, not as I do” does not cut it. Not even close.

If you want to be energized, spend time with our young people. Their zest for life, their unrealized potential and their anticipated trajectory feeds the soul and energizes the spirit.

If you want to be happy, spend time with our young people. Laugh with them, let them laugh at you, and marvel at their satirical skills. Kids are sharp.

So, with all that said, I prayerfully ask that you allow me the selfish opportunity, together with our youth advisors and volunteers, to have even more kids at these events. Please inspire your children to make Church,

Sunday School, GOYA and JOY priorities in their lives.

As ministers to your children, we compete with their schoolwork, sports, arts, work schedules, civic activities, family obligations and well-earned leisure time. That is a lot to fight against, as we are working to introduce Christ into their lives, foster that relationship and give it a chance to sustain.

That’s quite a list of competing interests. So please…please, Moms and Dads, don’t make us compete against you, too!

Please take the time from your busy and exhausting days to get your kids to as many youth activities in the church as possible. Please take the time to arrange rides, prepare your schedules and make the spiritual well-being of your family, a high priority.

Tonight was fun. We enjoyed a roomful. Should have had a houseful. God willing, next time!

I’ve added to this message a couple fliers about some upcoming Youth events: our Pumpkin Nights gathering at the end of the month (just for fun) and our GOYA Fall Retreat to be held in November (for fun and spiritual growth).

Speaking of the Fall Retreat, you should all know that the children, themselves requested another opportunity, beyond the annual Lenten Retreat, to get away, gather together and grow in Christ. That tells me that our children are wanting for Christ’s presence in their lives, and desire to go at it, surrounded by their friends. So because of their initiative, we added this new, annual event to our calendar of youth activities. God bless them!

Thank you for the opportunity to serve the spiritual needs of our kids, and for the blessing to be a part of their lives. When the chief priests and the teachers of the law heard the children singing praises to Jesus, they grew sour and acted out in indignation. Let’s follow the lead that our children provide. And let us remain young in heart and youthful in our approach to Christ.

Who is teaching who?

With Much Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony

And Don’t forget, Tables Extraordinaire is this Saturday Evening. Please support our Women’s Ministry Team as they support our Building Fund!

And as a reminder, Orthodox Married Life (OML), our ministry to Married/Engaged Couples begins Friday, October 12th at 7:00 pm.