It’s been over a month since our 25th anniversary banquet. I have been trying to write a post about that and have made several attempts. I get to the fifth line and get stuck. It was a great evening. Rev. Bec Cranford-Smith did a great job delivering the keynote message. I know I forgot several things, which is probably a good thing, since I droned on long enough. We forgot to put out the leftover boxes for people to take extras home with them. There were plenty! I was disappointed by those who could not make it, but that did not detract at all from the joy of the company of those who did. For me personally, it was great to finally meet, in person, Bec Cranford- Smith. We had different stories of how we found each other on the web. It was obviously meant to be. We have been encouragement to each other in ministry. We have more than a name in common. We share the same zeal to serve the poor and disenfranchised; to go outside the camp to meet Jesus.
The last post on this blog was a nearly impossible quiz taken from the last 25 years of The King’s Jubilee. Some of the questions are light-hearted; others, not so much. I was the only one there who knew the answers to all of them. That fact is unsettling to me. Through the years, I have been on a quest, looking for the Church that Jesus established, that had authority and understood accountability. Through the years, churches kept ordaining me. I never asked for it. Let’s be real. The Episcopalian bishop ordained me to the priesthood at my infant baptism! I was ordained in absentia by proxy in a Pentecostal Holiness church I had never attended! So as I was making this journey, volunteers, friends and supporters would fall away and new ones would take their places in each different denomination. To further hinder things on the friendship and support side, I have spent most of my time and energy with inmates, ex-offenders, poor, and homeless people. So many times when I see a familiar face, I’m not sure if I met them in one of the many churches I have been to, or in one of the many prisons I have served in. If I’m looking puzzled at you, please help me out. I’ve had six or more strokes, so there are gaps in the memory. So, back on track. It is unsettling to me, because so many Christians are willing to drop you like a dead fish, if you are no longer in their denomination or parish or jurisdiction. It doesn’t matter that I have kept doing the same thing in the same way for over 25 years. It doesn’t seem to matter that we could do so much more for the poor and homeless if we had more people involved and supporting. What matters is, I left their church. They will sooner do nothing or give to secular agencies or people they don’t know at all. They will sooner give to agencies that spend a lot of money on literature and marketing and administration and overhead, because it looks like something substantial. Jesus didn’t look like anything substantial. He had “nowhere to lay his head.”
I thought I had found the church founded by Jesus Christ in the Orthodox Church. It was great under the former metropolitan and the former priest in our parish. It seemed like there was accountability and obedience and give and take in the assemblies. Then Fr. Noah came and the first thing he said to me is to put me down, even before he knew me. He felt it was his duty to humiliate parishioners. But Paul told Timothy to build up not to tear down. Then came the intentional, hurtful lies, where he lied about what Fr. Boniface supposedly said something hurtful about me to him. Fr. Boniface is my best friend in the world and he would never do that. I knew that, so this was very hurtful, in that I knew that this was cold and calculating from Fr. Noah. Then came the irrational outbursts in church over stupid little stuff. I went to the bishop. Fr. Boniface was supposed to oversee a reconciliation. It amounted to I was the one who had to suck it up. Meanwhile Fr. Noah continued to lie, continued to torment, never confessed or admitted that lying was even wrong. He said, “I can’t believe you would be upset over such a little lie.” I replied, “What upset me was just that, that you went to so much trouble to go out of your way to lie about such a little thing!” In Myron’s funeral message, he boasted that he lied to Myron to get him to the hospital when he was having a stroke. Now, instead of one of all the experiences that he could have shared that would have highlighted Myron’s good works, he chose to share this in front of our grandchildren! They came away confused. The priest just said it is OK to lie. We are Orthodox! We do not have a Jesuit ethic! If you are a true pastor, you have enough spiritual authority with your people you have no need to lie!
So Bethann wrote to Fr. Noah & Bishop Thomas. No response, except Fr. Noah quit speaking to or meeting eyes with Bethann. I emailed and called Bishop Thomas. He did not call or email back. Instead I received a call from an archdeacon and we played phone tag for a week. Then he stopped calling back. The only thing he has said to me is, “This is not a good time to talk. Can you call me back tomorrow?” I let it sit for weeks, then I called him back again, since he never called me back. This is how the bishop handles us! I get ahold of him. He thinks he talked to me already. Nope. He asked me what was it about, so I told him. He said he would have to check his notes when he got home, but he thought he had talked with me. I said the only thing he had said was, “This isn’t a good time. Can you call back tomorrow?” He never called back. I called Bishop Thomas and told him how his archdeacon apparently cared about as much about me and him as he cared about me. He said he wasn’t his archdeacon. I asked him one simple question: “Did you tell Fr. Noah he was not to speak to me?”
Bishop Thomas was speaking while I was asking the question, then hung up on me. This is what passes for oversight and pastoral care in the Orthodox Church.
Once again, I and my family are expendable. We don’t deserve respect or answers or to be treated civilly. We get abused and thrown under the bus. But I am not supposed to publish this. I am supposed to sit quietly by. Even though I have been told by a couple of archpriests to speak up and expose the bullies. Everything about the anti-bully and anti-sociopath movement says to speak up and expose them. Prophet Nathan said publicly to King David, “Thou art the man!” When I came to Orthodoxy, I felt confident that I was not joining an independent Baptist church with a egomaniac, tin horn dictator for a pastor who is accountable to no one. Effectively, that is what I have found. Like anywhere in America these days, you get what you pay for in US Dollars.
What a sham! What a shame!
We were the largest family at St. Philip’s, involved in everything, at every service. Happy to be there! Arrived early, left late, because we wanted to be there. Then Fr. Put-Down came with his legalism and guilt trips and his lies and his duties and burdens and demands for honor and his manipulation. No grace. Not an inkling of understanding of the Gospel of Grace. Always speaking, never listening. Fits of rage. None of us is happy to be there any more. I can’t be near Noah without risking another stroke, literally.
We love the people. The people are gifted, kind and generous. This is what I said in the last post where I wrote about this, as well. They are being mislead.
People will give me grief about this posting. Again, I will ask you: have I stopped serving the homeless? Have I lessened the quality of the food we give away? Ask the men and women we serve! Our food is nutritionally superior to anything else they are served during the week. I wish that were not the case. Ask Brownie about how we stood by him and his friends when they were on the street, when they were in prison, when they moved off the street, when they suffered loss. We serve for you in Jesus’ Name. That is, if you support us.
If you don’t want us to continue. If you want me to shrink away and die, because of some lying priest and cowardly bishop, well so be it! I have Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from this mistreatment from clergy here and prior. I have kidney disease and damaged spine (with continual pain) from complications from an infection picked up from the street. This, with the stress of the attacks from Noah and Mayor Nutter (with no moral support from the church) set off complex migraines, which caused several strokes, which have left me with photophobia, occasional word salad, and a continual risk of more strokes and further damage. This all caused my business to fail. So we have no regular income. Of what we do get, almost all goes to the homeless. I’m still waiting for my hearing for SSDI. Bethann graduated top of her class from business school for medical administration and is looking for work.
Sorry this isn’t your sunshiny, hopeful, give $10 a month and you can save the world kind of post. I had to get this out of me before I could go on. People are hurting. Racism is real. There are many people who have no bootstraps by which to pull themselves up. Genocide in Gaza is real. It is brutal. It is paid for by US tax dollars. My eyes cry involuntarily 24/7. My therapist and I have talked about this. I told her I would like it to stop. We talked on a few occasions about this. She finally said to me that my crying was not irrational like most of her clients. I cry for the homeless, for genocide in Gaza, for the millions killed by US corporations polluting overseas, for the black men who police kill every 28 hours in this country, for the homeless, for the LGBT youth whose parents evict them, for the addicts who can’t get treatment, for the children forced into sex-slavery or soldiery, for the poor soldiers on all sides who are fighting for the interests of rich men, for battered women, for veterans’ wives and families trying to cope, for the lost boys of the Sudan, for Myanmar, for Iraq & Syria. Oh, to live in a world without news!
I care. I cry. I guess my tears are my unworthy form of intercession. I am not giving up! Our house is three months behind on mortgage again. I had to find a credit card we had paid off to pay to get the phones and internet back on yesterday. This Thursday will be the first time in 16 years that we will not give away dollar coins in honor of St. Nicholas on the first week of December, but we will be there with a hearty meal, God willing, to serve between 150 to 200 people, with panache!
If you want to be part of this, use the donate button or mail a check or give a call or email and see how you can get involved. If you don’t, I will move on and find a new set of friends.