Are You Happy With Your Church?

Orthodox golden domes

I read somewhere, from a recent convert to Orthodoxy, how she is still being asked by her non-Orthodox friends whether she i “happy with her church”. Though it’s a common thing nowadays to shop around with churches it has never been a common thing to be happy with one’s church.

Even before the Church was established, in the Old Testament, we read about how Moses led the chosen people of God out of slavery and as they were traveling they were “murmuring” and complaining. Exodus 17:3 “And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?” For that matter, even Moses was known to complain (Exodus 5:22-23). Later, in the Acts of the Apostles, meaning the very beginning of the Christian Church after the Holy Spirit had descended on the Apostles, there was also complaining (Acts 6:1).

In other words, it’s always been there and always will be. As one saying goes, there is no such thing as  a perfect church for as soon as you join it, it’s no longer perfect. Yet, the gospels give us a response to this. Namely, we read over and over how the sick has come to Jesus begging Him for healing. Afterwards He would often say, “your faith has made you well.” With this our Lord reveals not only the power of our faith in God but also shows us that faith produces hope. Once we have faith in God we can never despair, never be downcast or pessimistic and, subsequently, never have anything to complain about. Faith in God and hopelessness don’t go together. One of the reasons the holy Fathers of the Church wrote about depression and despondency coming from the devil was to show how these things attack our very faith in God.

Although we believe that our Orthodox Church is perfect we, at the same time, confess that the members of the church (both clergy and laity) are not. For solutions to all church related problems we can only ask for God’s blessings and His miraculous healing.Though, as soon as things are remedied we can be certain that our Lord’s words “your faith has made you well” would apply to us as well. We can pray as long as we wish but the only way anything changes, both in the community and in our personal lives, is if we do something about it. After all, when the Lord says “let your light shine before men that they might see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven,” (Matt. 5:16), He is saying that the glory and miracle working power of God can only be spread and made manifest through us: our faith, our love, our forgiveness, our “light” shining before men.

Being unhappy with our church can be a reflection of just how happy we are with ourselves. Ironically enough, all of us, regardless of what situation we might find ourselves in, can always and always find a reason to be happy: the doors of the church are always open to us, always inviting, always finding a place for us.

May we always find true happiness in the church and in the words of St. Paul “do all things without complaining and disputing” (Phil. 2:14).

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2 thoughts on “Are You Happy With Your Church?

  1. Yes we are happy with our religion but no we are not happy with our church because all too often the failings of men can be seen too vividly in the professionals charged with the dispensation of the word of God. The priesthood has on far too many occasions been blighted with greed driven priests who forget that they are paid by the congregation and not the Church. It is the congregations who provide all the need of the church and pay the salary of the priest but the priests seem to forget that no one owes them a living. They like the congregation have to earn what they are paid.

    Sadly, far too often the greed driven professionals in the Church demand and abuse the parishioners to grab ever more from the faithful and it all results in unhappiness the loss of trust and the loss of respect for the Church, for no well meaning Church would allow such dishonest priests to administer religion to the faithful.

    It is the greed driven professionals within the Church who cause most of the damage seen in parishes and instead of promoting religious ethos encouraging more people into the congregation and thus earn more money from their effort, the greed driven demand high payments for as little religious work as possible. There are cases where the priest conducts the service, collects all the money received, has lunch the parishioners and is not seen again until the next service. And there are cases where abusive priests will not conduct a funeral without being paid what must seem like exorbitant sums of money to the retired and the poor.

    A well organised administrative structure run by a democratically elected Parish Council goes a long way to installing trust, confidence and answerability in the Parish. Much needs to be done in the Serbian Orthodox Church before it can be said to be a “Perfect Church”.

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