Neither Down Nor Out: The 'Secret' Glendi
In an expected outpouring of unity, support, love and shared appreciation, almost 300 parishioners of the St. Athanasius Greek Orthodox Church in Arlington celebrated a re-union Advent Glendi (Greek expression for a party) yesterday. The home cooked Greek appetizers were delicious, the music and singing were fantastic, the hall expertly decorated, the raffle prizes dazzling! But most especially, the people, the hugs, and the re-union of hearts and minds were unprecedented!
Some of us had not seen each other since the 'summer of unfortunate events' when Metropolitan Methodios ravaged the thriving community of St. Athanasius with his calculated decision to remove Fr. Nick Kastanas, the spiritual shepherd of St. Athanasius for almost 30 years, over the outcry, pleas and the opposition of the faithful. Ever since, the bustling St. Athanasius campus has fallen silent with just a tiny fraction of parishioners attending services and activities there. The key organizations of the St. Athanasius community, Parish Council, Sunday School, Greek School, Philoptohos, Choir, Altar servers etc. are just a shadow of their former selves with desperate attempts from the remaining Parish Council to present a rosy atmosphere and a prevailing 'positive spirit', as the current acting director of one of the ministries (and friend of mine) tried to convince me!
Attempts to communicate honestly and constructively with Metropolitan Methodios and beyond (Archbishop Demetrios, Patriarch Bartholomew) have fallen on deaf ears and hardened hearts. Genuine efforts to rekindle justice and reconciliation (request for General Assembly, parish council elections, required parish financial audit, and adherence to UPR's were rebuffed). Parishioners genuine expressions of frustration, disappointment (and yes sometime anger) on social media have been labelled as 'subversive', 'heretical', 'aggressive', 'untrue' 'anti-Christian' and in one laughable documented case of an anonymous letter against of one of our older parishioners, 'communists'!
Now, we could laugh at some of these statements if their effect and consequences were not so devastating not just for Fr. Nick and his family, but for each one of us, refugees from our own Church! It seems that we re-live the era of the catacomb churches!
After the reported case of the Greek tutoring program being the target of the Metropolitan Methodios-Cardinal O'Malley collusion to 'pull the rag under it' (after a local Catholic parish had agreed to rent it space for its operation), it was the turn of the CommunityInUnity Glendi. The Greek-American press had labelled the case of the Greek tutoring program as the 'Το κρυφο σχολειό' or 'secret' school, so in the next few paragraphs I will explain how the Advent Glendi ended up being the 'sold-out' κρυφό γλέντι or 'secret' glendi.
The Advent Glendi committee worked hard and diligently to secure a venue location that would be conveniently located, inexpensive, welcoming and large enough to accommodate the number of attendees we were expecting. This search lead to the parish hall of the St. Savas Orthodox Church in Cambridge that agreed to host the glendi and prepared a signed contract. However, soon after the glendi invitations went public, the Metropolis of Boston, through chancellor Barbas, decided that it was time again to flex its muscle against the event. The Serbian church despite being apologetic, told us that given the pressure and strong objections of the Greek Metropolis they would be unable to honor the contract and the glendi would need to find an alternate venue.
The search for an alternate location started in earnest and it was not easy given the short time frame we had, the increased venue demand for the upcoming holidays, price, space etc. Nonetheless, a venue for the glendi was identified and remained unknown to all but a few people until the evening before the event. The preparations for the 'secret' glendi were in full swing, hundreds of tickets sold, the event was communicate by word of mouth and targeted invitations and we still feared that somehow the Metropolis would interfere again.
Luckily, the 'stealth' approach worked! Through a spectacular outpouring of community unity, support and love for our faith, each other, and our beloved Fr. Nick the result was an unqualified success! The one thing we could perhaps do better for next time is to secure a bigger venue as the event was sold out in 2 weeks. Many people were disappointed, unable to secure a ticket for the glendi. We apologize and we ask for your understanding.
You are sure to see many of the pictures from the event on social media in the next few days, but the one thing it will be hard to communicate with these pictures is the connection that people felt to each other, as they hugged, and exchanged greetings and hopes for a just resolution of the St. Athanasius issues. Trust that the current Metropolitan cares to resolve these issues and reconcile with the Orthodox stewards community and Fr. Nick, is at an all time low.
Fortunately, as the school children of the 'secret school' (which by the way thrived under the 400 year Ottoman occupation of Greece) we have our hopes much higher than the Brookline Hill. The children looked up at the moon, as it offered light in the darkness for them to walk to small churches and monasteries to be taught the language of their ancestors. In this Advent season, we look up in joyful expectation to the light of Christ that continues to disperse the darkness of our fears, injustices, depressions, and sins. We pray for our Community, our beloved Fr. Nick and his family and, yes, we pray for the Metropolitan and those that have caused us pain and suffering as they were lead astray by the evil one.
We pray that justice, reason, compassion and reconciliation will prevail in our hearts and minds!