A Logical Family

A Logical Family

January 7, 2018

A few years ago my husband and I were at a social gathering when someone commented to me that they thought things were getting better for gay people. I was a bit stunned by his comment, not knowing if to pity him for his ignorance or admire his “the glass is half full” optimism. I have always been a “justice delayed is justice denied” kind of guy, but I am also a realist, understanding that societal and government changes do not happen as rapidly as some of us would like. At the time he made the remark, I was still unable to marry my “partner” after more than a decade of living together.  LGBT individuals in this country could and can still be denied employment and housing based on their sexual orientation, and in other parts of the world gay people were, and are, publically debased and tortured with the sanction of state and religious authority.  And yet in spite of all of this, the white, educated, heterosexual male at the social gathering believed he was right in saying to me “things are getting better.” This man knew of no ostracization from his family for wanting to marry someone of the opposite sex and raising a family, he never lost employment for being straight, he would never know ridicule in this or any other society in the world for being a heterosexual. These are realities that almost every LGBT person and couple has experienced even in the most enlightened of societies. From micro aggressions in an accepting workplace to unfathomable persecution,[1] LGBT individuals struggle to be accepted and loved by their families, their own flesh and blood. Because of this, LGBT individuals are forced to create our own families where we will know acceptance, support, and most of all, love. These are families where we do not have to defend who we are or justify those we have chosen to spend our lives with. These are our adopted or logical families. (more…)

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You Are My Son

You are my son.

September 3, 2017

About six months ago my mother passed away. For those who have lost a parent, you know that the grieving process can take longer than expected. It certainly has taken me quite a while and I am still definitely in the process. There is a holy tradition in the Orthodox Church to commemorate the deceased during a church memorial service, three days, forty days, and one year after their death. These “milestones” are observed in order, according to Orthodox theology, to give rest to the soul of the deceased. They also serve another important purpose and that is to give much needed solace to the family and friends whose loved one has passed. (more…)

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Building A Bridge

Building A Bridge

August 20, 2017

An Orthodox Christian reviews Building a Bridge – How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity by Father James Martin SJ.

Orthodox Christians are supposed to be highly suspicious of anything written or preached by Catholic clergy, and that holds doubly true for anything writer or preached by Jesuits. Thankfully, I am not one of those Orthodox Christians otherwise I would have never read the charismatic book Building a Bridge – How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity by Father James Martin SJ. While some reviewers have criticized Father Martin for presenting a positive view of LGBT individuals, others believe that he did not go far enough in his support for full inclusion of the LGBT Catholics in the Church. Orthodox Christians who are LGBT could only dream of one of our own priests writing such a pastorally supportive and spiritually uplifting work. If Father Martin were an Orthodox priest writing in glowing support of LGBT individuals, he would be suspended and his bishop would demand that he issue an immediate retraction, recant his words and ideas, and even offer penance for his actions. If he would not comply, I have no doubt that such an Orthodox priest would be defrocked. The fact that Father James still enjoys the support of many of his brother priests, let alone his superiors, is for this Orthodox Christian, is nothing short of a minor miracle. (more…)

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What is life? What is love?

What is life? What is love?

October 23, 2016

Icon of Tenderness
Icon of Tenderness

One of the experiences that has changed my perspective on life has been my frequent visits to the nursing home where my mother has lived for the last 10 years. During these years, I have become friendly not only with the staff that cares for my mom, but have come to know many of the residents as well. I have seen and shared their better days as well as their weaker days. At this particular nursing home, there are residents who are younger with various disabilities as well as the elderly with innumerable cognitive and physical impairments. Since I see many of these residents at least once a week, I try to engage them in conversation.

One woman, who has been my mother’s roommate for a few years, is completely bedridden and has little control over many parts of her body, and yet has a brilliant mind and a well-developed sense of humor. I have enjoyed numerous lengthy conversations with her on a myriad of topics, including the two “forbidden” ones: politics and religion. Another resident wanders aimlessly through the hallways of the home, mumbling to herself and yet stops to give me a hug every time she sees me visiting with my mother. Another much younger resident is unable to move most of the muscles in her body, but revels in her ability to tell a joke and laugh out loudly. (more…)

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Conclusions Without the Facts

Conclusions Without the Facts

May 25, 2016

Years ago, afteMother of Compassionr completing my PhD in history, I was asked by the jurisdiction to which I belonged, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, to write a detailed history of the Ukrainian Church in the USA. A significant number of Ukrainians began arriving in the United States and Canada before World War I, many seeking economic advancement and stability in a new world.  Several of these were temporary immigrants, fully intending to return to Ukraine to reunite with their families.  The First World War changed that narrative for many. Small communities were created in several areas: the mining towns of Pennsylvania, the big cities of New York and Chicago that offered factory employment, as well as the rich farming lands of the Midwest. Naturally many of the first community centers that Ukrainians created in the new world were churches, where they could gather for divine services offered in a language and setting that was familiar and welcoming to them. From these significant numbers a Ukrainian Orthodox diocese was created, with several parishes.[1] This is a fascinating history that demands a thorough and scholarly study. (more…)

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The First Duty of Love is to Listen

The First Duty of Love is to Listen

April 3, 2016

In memory of Archimandrite Athanasy

Father AthanasyA very special priest died a few months ago. He was a priest who served as my spiritual father for many years. Archimandrite Athanasy, or simply Father “Ath” as many of his spiritual children called him, was a kind and gentle soul, who understood firsthand how difficult life can be, which made him a very compassionate person. Perhaps because he himself had a difficult life, full of illness and uncertainty, Father Athanasy understood the deep necessity for love, kindness, hope, joy and forgiveness in all people. He was a priest of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, and served in a few parishes in the US, Haiti as well as in the Russian convents in Jerusalem. He served in the most exalted of places, Jerusalem, and part of the forgotten world which is Haiti. (more…)

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The Broken Path – Guest Reflection

By a Handmaid of God

February 7, 2016

A20This week, I met with another local Orthodox priest.

My hope was to find a way to be a transgender family and still be Orthodox. After all, this priest has also known us for nearly 20 years, through our sister church.

Perhaps, I dreamed in the days leading up to our meeting, the parish council could meet, and they would allow us to come to church as ourselves. Perhaps, as a technicality, they would ask that my spouse limit the times she took Communion. Or perhaps, like the sick, the Eucharist would be brought to her once or twice a year at home, yet, as a family, we could still come to church regularly.

The meeting did not go as I had idealized. (more…)

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Living a Charlie Brown Christmas

Living a Charlie Brown Christmas

December 22, 2015

charlie-brown-christmas-22Christmas has always been a difficult holiday for me to celebrate. This is true for many gay and lesbian people. I grew up in a home with two different religious and ethnic traditions, including two different dates on when to celebrate Christmas. While my Ukrainian Orthodox father insisted on raising us in his faith, my English, Anglican raised mother, wanted to keep a few of her traditions alive in our home. There seemed to be a constant battle in our home over when and how to celebrate the Christmas holidays. For my father, far from his homeland of Ukraine, Christmas was to be celebrated on January 7, and came replete with age old traditions that were not always very well adopted by his American children, who were very much influenced by the madness that is found around December 25 in this country. My mother, also far from her family and homeland in England, wanted to celebrate the holiday on December 25. Going to a church where she could sing Christmas carols she grew up with, having a tree and a festive meal, were all part of the holiday celebrations. (more…)

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Living with Regret

Living with regret

October 18, 2015

In memory of my father, Vyacheslav.

A few months ago my father died. I loved my father but we had somewhat of a difficult relationship for the last ten years of his life. When I graduated from high school, over thirty years ago, I was determined to enter Seminary in order to prepare for the priesthood, he was cautious, concerned that the life of a priest was difficult. The Ukrainian phrase that he used was that being a priest “was a tough piece of bread,” but he did give me his blessing to enter Seminary. Throughout my years of study he was very proud of me, especially when I was able to return to my home parish during vacations and allowed to preach to the congregation. He used to prod the local pastor to allow me to preach. The harder conversation came months after graduating from Seminary and telling my father that I intended to ask to be ordained as a celibate priest.[1] He was very worried that I would be (more…)

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Coming Out to our Orthodox Priest – Guest Reflection

Coming out to our Orthodox Priest

September 26, 2015

By a Handmaid of God

Softly, the candles glowed in the dimly lit temple.

We found ourselves, my wife and I, alone on this Friday evening, standing in front of the altar of our church. Our priest was gathering holy water and the brush of hyssop to sprinkle us with.

Gently, I leaned over to my beloved and whispered in her ear, “Don’t lock your knees. You wouldn’t want to faint.” She smiled, with a slightly ironic twist to her full lips. “You forget,” she whispered back, “I’m former military. I know how to stand.” (more…)

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