Metropolitan Methodios' Welcome and Keynote Address for the 2011 Clergy Laity Conference
Clergy - Laity Conference
Saturday, October 1, 2011
Welcome & Keynote Address His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios
In a recent Archpastoral reflection, I shared a story told about a number of frogs which were placed by scientists in a tub of water whose temperature was exactly the same as the pond from which they were taken. The scientists slowly increased the temperature and were soon astonished to see that, even though the water gradually became warmer, the frogs did not react. It was only when the temperatures were increased to a boiling point that the frogs reacted. It was too late. Before they knew it, they burned to death. Had they realized the slow increase in the water temperature, they would have reacted and thus spared their lives. The frogs grew accustomed to the slow rise in temperature and adapted. The change in water temperature occurred slowly but deliberately, and because of this process, the frogs failed to pay attention.
The theme of today’s conference is, “The Ministries of the Church: Archdiocese, Metropolis and Parish.” We gather in order to discuss the ways in which we can effectively minister to the spiritual needs of the faithful entrusted to our care in the 62 Parishes throughout New England. I submit to you that the story I just read is important, because we need to constantly adapt to new realities which we face as an Archdiocese, as a Metropolis and as communities. I submit that we need to keep abreast with an ever changing reality in our communities which affects attendance in our liturgical services, participation in parish programs and even interest in Orthodoxy itself. If we do not address these issues, I’m afraid we will share the same fate of those frogs.
Our parishioners are fully integrated into the religious and societal landscape of America and as a result, they live their Orthodox Faith quite differently than did our parents and grandparents. More and more differentiate their religious and moral beliefs from the teachings of the Church. This is the result of their interactions with people of different religions, race, culture and ethnicity. People today fashion their own beliefs, integrating Orthodox and non-orthodox elements. Without realizing it, they become, “cafeteria Christians.” Just as they do not partake of every food item on a cafeteria line, but only those foods which they like, in the same way they feel they can pick and choose from what Orthodoxy has to offer. As Orthodox Christians we run the risk of falling into and being totally consumed in the cultural melting pot of America, thus losing our Greek Orthodox Christian identity.
The changes in the moral standards in our society have occurred so slowly that they have become imperceptible. Just as those poor frogs, we have become so accustomed to the slow deterioration of moral life in society, that we have adapted to the moral decay in our midst and taken it for granted. We live in a world of moral and ethical relativism, hedonism and selfishness. We live in a world in desperate need of spiritual renewal. Sunday is no longer the day that we worship Almighty God and then sit as a family at our dinner table to enjoy fellowship. Rarely do we pray or read the Bible, regrettably even those of us who serve on parish councils and other leadership roles in our parishes. Prayers are no longer offered in our Public schools. The Ten Commandments have long been removed from our civil courts. Lifestyles previously kept in the closet --- where they belong --- are now championed as reputable and worthy of emulation.
The other day while driving to a liturgical service, a fellow priest pointed to a decal placed prominently on the bumper of the car in front of us. It was the symbol of a new atheist group in America. Fr. Chris Moody, who recently returned from Afghanistan where he served as a chaplain, informed me that atheists in the Armed Forces are requesting chaplains to be appointed for the growing number of soldiers who are atheists! Unquestionably, the world around us has changed and the Church has to adapt itself to this new reality --- not by changing its Theology. Not by ignoring its long Patristic Tradition. Not by abandoning its moral and ethical principles, but by helping today’s Christians to embrace Holy Tradition because it meaningfully interprets their lives in the modern world.
The National Ministries of our Archdiocese are focused on addressing these realities and providing our parishes -- especially our priests and lay leaders --- with ministerial tools to effectively serve the needs of our people. We have invited some of the departmental heads of the various national and Metropolis ministries to share with you the tools the Church provides our parishes.
Thanks to the faithful and generous stewardship of our communities, the Archdiocese has been able to develop innovative programs to address the needs of our parishes. I am sure you will be impressed with the quality of the materials that are continually produced and distributed to our communities by mail and through the internet.
These materials --- whether produced by the Religious Education Department, the Department of Family Ministries, the Internet Ministries, in fact all the Departments of the Archdiocese --- are aimed at educating us concerning the tenets of our Faith (about Holy Tradition and the Bible, the teachings of the Fathers of our Faith) and how these teachings address the needs of the Faithful, most importantly of our children. You’re going to hear about our Philoxenia House Ministry, our summer and winter Camp programs and the meaningful experiences shared by the children at our Faith and Heritage Center.
You will receive financial reports from the Metropolis and Archdiocese, detailing how monies generously contributed to the various programs are invested.
Prayerfully, at the end of our conference and after being informed of the scope of the Archdiocese and Metropolis ministries, you will return to your communities able to answer the question often asked, “what does the Archdiocese do with the assessment contribution of our parish?”
You will be able to advise our faithful parishioners throughout New England not to permit themselves to fall victims to the negativism promulgated by certain individuals.
I end by taking the opportunity to thank you, our dedicated priests and lay leaders, for all you do in your communities.
I want you to know that I sincerely appreciate your dedication and faith commitment.
I am proud of the many accomplishments of our communities that I see firsthand as I travel throughout New England. Keep up the good work.
Enjoy today’s conference!