Wednesday, June 27, 2007


I have five (5) godsons. The other day one of my godsons called to tell me that another acquaintance of mine had become a catechuemen and this person was saying how much I had influenced their decision to explore Orthodoxy.

My godson then started naming off all the people he knew of whom I had influenced to look at the Orthodox Church.

As I listened to this precious man speak, my heart began to break. "What have I done? I thought to myself. Here I am with the chrism barely dry on my forehead and I am influencing others. What a fool! What an arrogant, prideful, fool! What do I know about Orthodoxy? Have I actually lived this faith? No, but I sure as hell can "talk" about it! O Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

I was actually surprised by the depth of emotion I felt.

A few years ago I would have been so "proud" that I had been able to "touch" so many lives the "the true faith." I would have mentally "kept score" of the number of people I had been able to "bring to Orthodoxy." Now, I listen to my precious godson speak and all I can do is weep. I weep with the full knowledge that I am, indeed, responsible for these precious souls I have influenced. Before, in my former life as a pastor, I would have gladly went out to "win souls" and thought nothing of leaving these "new converts" to their own devices. "God bless you! Be warmed and filled. Hope you find a good church."

But now, the act of spiritual parenting holds a more weighty import. Now I see that I simply cannot "pretend" I am not responsible for how my life affects others. I am responsible, and I will be held responsible. Lord, have mercy!

By God's grace, perhaps some of these dear souls will become Orthodox, but I have no illusions that I ever will be. I started too late in life and I have still too much baggage from my past that still needs either to be discarded or unpacked. The Church, in Her mercy, claims me as one of Her own, but it isn't so. I am simply too prideful to ever be an actual Christian.

Now, before you get carried away with either a "Oh poor soul" or "Man, what horrible false humility" let me say that this insight into my own sadness about how many lives I've influenced isn't despondency, but another invitation by the Holy Spirit to avoid the false path of "accomplishment" and the constant, healthy call to an honest assessment of my own poverty, WITHOUT shame.

Because, gentle reader, God has no desire to "shame" us, but He does desire our growing honesty of our own poverty and an equally growing awareness of His matchless mercy.

That awareness will not come if we allow the delusions of "accomplishment" or "despondency" to lie to us about ourselves. It is only when we can learn to weep for our own sins and allow others sins to go unnoticed by us that we can begin to enter into that healthy self awareness that invites the transfiguring power of the Holy Spirit to make us new.

If I have influenced others, what of it. Truth be told, I have influenced far more people against the faith than for it by my less-than-Christlike actions. No wonder we pray in the Divine Liturgy "for those who love us and for those who hate us." No wonder our Lord taught us to love our enemies for, many times, our enemies have a much more honest view of who we really are than those who love us.

So, precious reader, if you are foolish enough to allow one such as I to influence you, then please let my life serve as the bad example it so often is and avoid the arrogant fate of a fool.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Well, gentle reader, the time for departure for the Powell Family is approaching.

The reason for this post is at the urging of a dear friend. His insistence has overcome my reluctance.

Our parish, St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Ft. Lauderdale, will be holding an appreciation dinner for us this coming Sunday and they are establishing a fund (The Chuck and Connie Moving Fund) to help us with moving a living expenses for our first year of seminary.

As we approach this event in our lives, I am constantly being confronted with my own lack of faith and the temptation to abandon my peace for the anxiousness of the unknown. So far, I'd have to give myself a C-!

But this challenge is just what the Lord ordered for our lives at this point to force to the surface the tendency to lack faith when the path ahead seems dark. To be sure, all of this may be revealed at another time as complete folly. It may also become another invitation to leave behind the comfortable and press into God's peace in spite of circumstances.

Regardless of how it turns out, it will be another opportunity to allow the grace of God to overcome the fallenness of our lives and to fill up even what looks like death with His resurrected life.

This is the Power of Christ to grant true victory to His children in spite of any and all circumstances. But it is a vision we have to embrace. That way our circumstances are always viewed from the perspective of eternity and not from the terror of the temporary. It is a choice we are offered at every juncture in our lives. It is a Bethesda moment when the Lord turns to us and asks the question He constantly asks of us "Do you wish to be healed?"

So, no matter what we are facing, a move to seminary (how can we afford this? will we have jobs there? what will the married students housing look like?) a choice for a spouse, a (seemingly) incurable sickness, trouble with family, or any number of problems both great and small, we are offered a remedy to our worry and an antidote to our anxiousness. It will require our death to the fear of death, and it will call us to unconditional trust in the God Who loves us more than we, ourselves, know how to love.

It is within this choice, moment by moment, that allow us the freedom of spiritual maturity and ultimately theosis.

Pray for me, the fool.

P.S. Our current plans are to stay here in Ft. Lauderdale through July and use the month of July to prepare for the move (packing, yard sale, plans, utilities, etc.) and then head to Boston in August. We will stop for visits in St. Augustine, Atlanta, Greenville, Cincinnati, and then to our new home at Holy Cross in Brookline, MA. Hope to see some of you along the way.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Dear and precious readers,

I have just learned of the falling asleep of a very important person in the story of my own journey to Orthodoxy - Father Laurence Mancuso, the founder of New Skete Monastery.

I could write literally pages of stories about Abba Laurence and how he affected my life, but I won't waste your time.

I will only say that a rag-tag group of refugees from Evangelicalism washed up on his doorstep at New Skete Monastery in Cambridge, NY and he, along with the monks and nuns and companions there, received us, washed our wounds, loved us, corrected us, instructed us, and gave us a safe place to decompress from one world to the new world of Orthodoxy.

His gruff exterior notwithstanding, this convert to Orthodoxy from Roman Catholicism, along with his entire monastery, entered Orthodoxy and began to enliven the Church with their passion for worship, prayer, and service. He was a crusty old Italian man who opened his arms and heart to me and offered me fatherly wisdom and respect and counsel.

I will tell one story.

Having not been exposed to much liturgical worship in my past, I was visiting New Skete Monastery for the first time with my mentor and spiritual father, Father Joseph. We spent hours talking and I would ask questions and argue and wrestle with the responses of Abba Laurence and finally we had to go to sleep for worship the next morning. As I stood in the church building there on the grounds of the monastery and heard the liturgy chanted by the monks and nuns and faithful I was uncharacteristically speechless at the end.

I sat down in one of the few chairs in the back of the church building and was silent. Fr. Joseph sat down on one side of me and Abba Laurence sat down on the other side. We sat there in silence for what had to be at least 10 minutes or more. Later they both confessed to me that they thought the experience had been too much for me and were concerned that I was ready to abandon the journey.

Finally after the 10 minutes I turned to Fr. Joseph and asked him "What have you done to me?" As a look of sadness and fear came across his face I followed up with "Now I have no choice, I must have this beauty. My life as I have known it is over." I then turned to Abba Laurence and said "You have ruined me. I cannot go back to my old Christian experience of worship ever again. What am I going to do now?"

Tears welled up in the old Abba's eyes and he fell on my neck and asked my forgiveness.

There was nothing to forgive. My heart and soul had never been more alive.

I owe an eternal debt to Abba Laurence and the faithful of New Skete Monastery.

May your memory be eternal, Abba. Pray for your son who is left behind to continue the fight.

God grant rest to the soul of Your departed servant, Laurence!

I love you, Abba.

Barnabas, the debtor and fool

Thursday, June 07, 2007


In just a few weeks my little family will be packing up and heading to Boston for seminary. I wanted to get down some random thoughts of late that might help you all know how to pray for me at this chaotic time.

First, my contemplation about the Church has morphed into a contemplation about Personhood. After reading several posts on Fr. Stephen's blog and some other discussions among some conservative philosophers and Roman Catholic thinkers, as well as some Reformed and Lutheran thinkers, I am more clearly aware of the sometimes vast divide philosophically that separates the East and the West.

The West has argued for many years now over the notion of predestination and freedom. Having to define their theology in light of the Pelagian heresy, the West has struggled with the whole notion of freedom and grace.

The East, on the other hand, has never had to define their theology in light of the errors of Pelagius and simply looks at the West and their arguments about grace and predestination with slack-jawed disbelief. Do some Christians really believe in double-predestination? Do some Christians really believe that grace is a created thing? Amazing!

Fr. Stephen recently quoted Fr. Dimitri Staniloae saying "To the extent that man does not use his freedom, he is not himself. In order to emerge from that indeterminate state, he must utilize his freedom in order to know and be known as himself.” This insightful and basic statement of Orthodox anthropology is telling in many ways.

First Orthodoxy believes man's freedom is still available to him even in a lost state. This freedom rests in his unchangeable reality of being created in God's image to be in His likeness. Man is a slave, but by his own hand. C.S. Lewis said "hell is locked from the inside."

Second, Man is enslaved by his ignorance of himself. Mankind living in the delusion of sin and rebellion perpetuates this slavery in all aspects of creation because of ignorance of God and himself. This slavery is eternal without the enlightening mercy of the Gospel to reveal mankind to himself.

Finally, Man's freedom must be achieved by a "symphonia" between himself and God through the Person of Jesus Christ and the present work of the Holy Spirit.

Thus the primary task of the Church is to both reflect the Face of Jesus (The One NEW Man) and to declare the Person of Christ to lost humanity so that man might recover his forgotten image and his own eternal value.

OK, now I am not a theologian and I certainly am no philosopher. I have no illusions that my three points above hold any weight at all. I am simply getting these thoughts down to look them over and contemplate them further. They are probably wrong on several key points and weak on many others, but it seems to me that this Orthodox anthropology and view of humanity squares better with the revelation of the Incarnation and the scriptures and the teachings of the Fathers than any notion I've read so far. I may be wrong (it wouldn't be the first time) but there it is.

This Orthodox anthropology has HUGE implications for our view of the Church, salvation, the Divine Mysteries, and every aspect of our ministry here on earth. Big stuff, indeed.

So, that's what's running through my ind of late as I look to dismantling my home here in South Florida and move my precious wife and daughter to Boston for seminary. Now, between my work at OCN, my dear family, and the deadline of our move to Boston, I confess, I may not be getting to this blog as often as I want, but you can rest assured that there is more coming.

I look forward to your thoughts.