Prudence True

The Art of Wisdom

through Ancient Words

A Path to Your Heart:



The Small church Model


11 July 2011

Dear Souls -

         For the past century in this country the Orthodox Church has applied the Large church model, which has worked well. Some would argue Orthodox Christians in America hid inside ethnic enclosures for the past century, but as struggling immigrants in a Protestant land they built many large Orthodox churches, which to this day have Divine Liturgy every Sunday. Most of these Orthodox immigrants arrived at Ellis Island with only a spare set of clothes and a few coins (and they often figured on the spot how to translate their Arabic or Greek name to English). They learned English, found jobs, had families, bought houses, and built large Orthodox churches in the center of metropolitan areas. Publishing ads in the newspaper inviting others outside the community to their new Orthodox church was not an immediate priority.

          Today the Orthodox Church requires a different model for establishing new churches. Most Orthodox Christians are not arriving via Ellis Island, but find their way to the Church through other circuitous journeys of faith (they even have a website which collects journey to Orthodoxy stories). Finding an Orthodox church in this country should not be more difficult than finding a Starbucks. Yes, you nod your head as you read, but in your heart you believe this is a lofty vision.

           I don't.

          We must break our existing mold for establishing Orthodox churches. And I suggest we use the model provided by Saint Paul (some would insert proper Scripture here). Establishing an Orthodox church is not a herculean endeavor limited to a few . . . and it should not require a war with all existing Orthodox churches within a 100 mile radius. The small church model allows for multiple Orthodox churches located throughout communities all working together.

         Collaborating. Sharing resources. Sister parishes.

          Love your neighbor.

          In this spirit, and with a nod of respect to my grandparents arrival at Ellis Island from the Holy Land a century ago, our Orthodox mission church is a reality. Our team is unusual: I'll describe the characters  this way:

          Fr. For the Church

          A Jew

          A Palestinian

          A Texan


          Our group will grow, but right now we're a bare bones team. We have the blessing and support of the bishop (who I've never met), and we met with the head of Missions for the jurisdiction (who I liked much more than I expected, and I look forward to his wisdom guiding us throughout this process). We have the support of another wise spiritual guide we love and respect, and we also have (though I wish we didn't) the disdain of some who don't understand this small church model at all.

          With these characters, much hard work, and your prayers (please) . . . we're building a small Orthodox church.

           Because this complicated journey leads not just to church, but to the heart. 






 Swirling Church


12 July 2011

Dear Souls -

          It's simple for me. I do not have much tolerance for what I call "swirling church." Swirling church has little to do with anything other than the institution of church, which I avoid if possible. So, you see the inner struggle I have. Avoid religion, but attend church. When I sink into the hole of swirling church I lose sight of the reality of God. Because it's obvious to me where the truth rests.


         My true prayer belongs here. . . .




"What is Swirling Church?"


14 July 2011

Dear Souls -

         Last evening my telephone rang, and I answered. The voice at the other end said, "I have no idea what you mean by "swirling church". 

         Oh dear. I wish I didn't either.  For some, "swirling church" is the best part of church. Listening to this may help explain: Why Do We Go to Church?


         I don't have seven reasons for going to church. I have one.

         Giving Thanks to God.

          The purpose of church is acknowledging God, but sometimes the swirling spiral of church goes on and on and on  . . . and we forget the real reason why we go to church.

               Giving Thanks to God.




Missing the Point


20 July 2011

Dear Souls -

         Some things about having my own website, I like. The other day, as I was busy with chores, I found entertainment courtesy of me, right here: Fr. Pavlos Talk at St. Vladimir's Seminary

         This talk includes bountiful wisdom, and among the many nuggets one lingers in my mind. At one point, Fr. Pavlos mentions that many visitors to St. Catherine's Monastery ask if they may take Communion, even though they did not fast. And he wonders why they worry over this and yet do not worry over their judgment of others. Fasting, he says, should be our last concern.

          For me this resonates. How simple it is for us ordinary souls to take the last concern and launch it into first place. A priority inversion, is a diversion, and leads us wandering off course.  Yet we're so sure of our proper course. Perhaps, we're even proud of our accomplishment. While we fast we may become angry hostile wolves, thinking nasty thoughts about the incompetence surrounding us. At the same time, with our head held high, we consider our honorable sacrifice (skipping breakfast before Divine Liturgy). Are we wandering lost in the forest? 

          I've mentioned before my memories of a hungry Sunday morning childhood. My main focus during Divine Liturgy was wondering when I could sit down and how long until I could have a meal. At times I considered the icons surrounding me, peering into their somber eyes. But for the most part, this activity was only slightly more interesting than the Sunday attire of the elderly women. A hungry child has a hard time finding God, a hungry grown up has a hard time being nice.

         This is not an attempt to counter century old teachings of an ancient church. And these are only the simple reflections of a struggling soul. But, keeping our eyes focused on the Light requires more than an empty stomach.




A Living Tree


21 July 2011

Dear Souls -

          Please let me provide a disclaimer. I'm not an avid journal writer, although I have kept travel journals on a couple of long trips (buried in my closet somewhere is a journal of my trip, over two decades ago, on the Trans-Siberian Railway and through China). A rambling record of my rambling thoughts has no value . . . of this I'm certain. But, if a glimpse into an ordinary Orthodox soul has value for someone in some random way, then so be it.

          This morning (early) I was pondering a thought. Thoughts vary in size and shape. And the most complicated part of a thought is conveying it with specific terms. Thoughts are similar to scents: I love the scent of fresh lettuce, but I cannot put exact words to the scent of fresh local Hawaiian lettuce. You must experience the scent yourself (and lettuce from your chain grocery store does not carry the same scent). Images are also difficult to describe with exact terms. Look above at my photograph of Fr. Junipero Serra's quarters at the Carmel Mission. The photograph conveys more than I could with words . . . the light is ? the austere conditions are? the simplicity is ? the message in this photograph says ? to your heart. Honestly, I was searching my files for the perfect photo I have of a chef and found that this photograph said much more than I intended. Words have limitations, and our thoughts are lively, colorful, and full of flavor. We cannot give our thoughts a precise image or scent.

         Oh, dear. This is a long rambly journey I'm taking you on this morning, but trust me I know where I'm headed. If we think of ourselves as a tree (in my mind I have just the right image of a tree I know well), then our thoughts are the branches with lots of leaves fluttering in the wind. All the leaves are connected to the tree by its branches, and the trunk of the tree is the foundation for the branches.

But a tiny bird fluttering by in the sky can land on a specific branch of a tree and cause only a slight disturbance to the leaves. The tree may notice this little bird, if it's not preoccupied with all the fluttering leaves. And if the tree is tangled up in it's own leaves, then it will miss this little bird visiting there on a branch for a brief moment.

         The other day I told someone I knew something because I had a bug in my ear, but I should have said I knew because I had a bird on my branch. The bird stopped for a brief moment on a tiny branch way up high, and I noticed it amidst all the fluttering leaves. Just good luck....




An Enduring Community 

25 July 2011

Dear Souls -

         Yesterday I came across an old issue of AGAIN magazine: the magazine was an outreach (evangelizing) tool for the Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church is often criticized for a lack of evangelizing, and is said to be the best kept secret by 200 million sneaky Orthodox Christians. If 200 million people can keep any kind of secret, then it only with the direct help of God. And now as those with an evangelizing Christian background convert to this well kept secret Orthodoxy, there is movement towards evangelizing the Orthodox faith.

          Before you start hurtling Scripture toward me with high speed stinging force, please understand I'm not opposed to sharing the Orthodox faith (this is the internet, and this is me at the keyboard), but American Orthodoxy should not develop an Evangelical Christian tone. The sharing of Orthodoxy must be done within the context of the Orthodox Faith.

           "Come and See" is the logo for Orthodox evangelizing. When someone comes to see the Orthodox church it is not just the icons, incense, and choir which stand out in their mind. It is the presence of God they must notice there in the church. They must feel the prayer of the people standing (or sitting) in the church. And once they experience God there in church, then they must develop enduring relationships within the community of the church. These components must align into Come, See, and Experience the Orthodox Church. Come, See, and Experience is a basis for establishing enduring relationships within the church community.

           As we build a vision for our new mission church, I've pondered the idea of church. A tangible difference exists between a church built on a foundation of enduring personal relationships, and a church built on the idea of recruiting new members. My vision does not include establishing a blossoming community of several hundred. It's a model of expansion with small Orthodox churches within individual communities: a counter movement to the stadium rock and roll church with a big screen and cup holders.

          A small church based on enduring relationships within an Orthodox community is an old country model without the old country.


         Come, See, and Experience a small Orthodox church.    




A Secret? 

28 July 2011

Dear Souls -

          There is nothing secret about church.

          A church is there for everyone, and if you want to attend you do.   

          The reverse is also true.

           200 million Orthodox Christians worldwide have not kept a secret . . .




   Essence of Faith 

29 July 2011

Dear Souls -

          Fragments from several conversations I've had with wise Orthodox souls have lingered in my mind until they now surface here. If you asked me, I would tell you these conversations are not linked at all, but in my mind they simmered until congealing into thoughts on the essence of faith.

          Now if only I can convey this clearly for you . . .

           If you are reading here, then I suspect you are not familiar with the culture of Orthodoxy in which I was raised. For those raised in the Church keep an inner faith which does not lend itself to internet Orthodoxy. I'm an anomaly in cyber-Orthodoxland, and I continue my writing here only by reminding myself over and over that it's my website and I can write whatever I want! (Of course my palace guards are well fed, loaded with heavy weaponry, and vigilant.) But if you look for Prudence True links on Orthodox blogrolls, you will find it's not a frequent neighbor of the name Frederica Matthews-Green.

          The essence of my faith is not seen or heard . . . it's experienced. This essence of faith is the inspiration for worship, not the expression of worship. When faith is packaged neatly in a pretty box and lavished with a bow, it's more familiar for Western culture. The American landscape is dominated by packaged faith, but this is not the culture of Orthodoxy. There exists a cultural mismatch between American Christianity and the Orthodox faith. Merging these two requires effort: it is a battle with Pride.

           The ethos of Orthodoxy is the waging of war with Pride, and wearing your faith on your lapel resembles Pride. If you are big and loud about Orthodoxy, then beware Pride may be nipping at your heels. And blabbering about your faith on the internet means Pride is not only nipping at your heels, it is gnashing at your heart; and I don't want wolves nipping at my heels or gnashing at my heart. My overworked palace guards raise a high alert when the wolf of Pride scales my fortress walls. Fear and experience with these ferocious wolves is embedded in the culture of Orthodoxy. And I don't believe this same fear is part of the experience of those traveling to the Orthodox faith from the distant land of Protestant America. I don't know this for sure, but I suspect this from my observations. 

         Within Orthodoxy you may ponder the essence of faith. And it may appear as Christians not doing anything with their faith. But the essence of faith is uncomplicated and requires no fancy packaging:

        Love God.

        Love your neighbor.