“Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them,

and they that are great exercise authority upon them.

But it shall not be so among you:

but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;

And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:

Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto,

but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28, KJV)

The word the Athenians used for their Assembly was Ekklesia, the same word used in the New Testament for Church
(and it is the greatest philological irony in all of Western history that this word,
which connoted equal participation in all deliberation by all members,
came to designate a kind of self-perpetuating, self-protective Spartan gerousia -
which would have seemed patent nonsense to Greek-speaking Christians of New Testament times,
who believed themselves to be equal members of their Assembly.)

- Thomas Cahill, Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter


Friday, January 18, 2013

RUSES TO CONFUSE - AGAIN: Dissing the Greeks

Πλάστη μου, δέν τούς φοβάμαι τούς εχθρούς,
Φύλα με, απ᾽ τους δειλούς και τούς κουτούς,
Ρίξε μου, αν έσφαλα, φωτιά πολύ,
Σώσε με, απ᾽ τού προδότη το φιλἰ.
Άσε με νά χτυπηθώ μέ δέκα άντρες στή σειρά,
Φύλα με απ' τό ρεμάλι πού πισώπλατα βαρά.

Στίχοι, της Σώτιας Τσώτου, "Σαν Προσευχή"
Τραγούδι του Δώρου Γεωργιάδη, ο δίσκος "Αν Ήμουν Πλούσιος"


My first five years were spent in a household that largely spoke Greek. My grandparents, William and Kome Souvall were early immigrants from Greece. My father, John Billinis, was newly arrived as well and spoke little English. My mother was a second-generation Greek-American, as were her four older brothers. All spoke proficient-to-fluent Greek, and all were raised in this church community that my grandparents, along with so many other early Greek immigrants, helped originate. Their children, my uncles and aunts, their families, and my parents and our family helped that same church community to grow further and to thrive. The Greek Orthodox Church, Greek culture, the Greek language, respect, honor, self-discipline and self-sacrifice were interwoven with heaping doses of wonderful food, drink, song, dancing, holidays, shared happiness and sorrow, and above all, LOVE.

There was also a fair dose of hot-headedness, and yes, moreso, or at least more evident, among those Greek-born; but it was pretty much immediate, open, honest, and for the most part, fair. Despite the "dread" surrounding such "eruptions", it occurred to me as I grew older, that these were straightforward, could be faced honestly, and, if justified, countered.

What could not be as easily faced were the betrayals of trust, the back-stabbing, the "nice-to-your-face, nasty-behind-your-back" behaviors of others who were born here and/or influenced by the descendants of other cultures. (Mr. Bapis, for one, could undoubtedly elaborate on this type of behavior from our prelate, clergy, and appointed parish leaders.) The current environment of "political correctness", along with "pay, pray and obey" has tended to foster further this disdain for honest, if sometimes blunt, discourse.

We have witnessed utter disingenuousness, disguised as "civility", from our own hierarchs and clergy, during these past few troubled years, and further from our so-called lay "leadership" who instituted a set of Uniform Parish Regulations designed to squelch the voice and influence of the laity, particularly at the parish level. The results from this lack of balance are sadly obvious throughout this country. They didn't yell or confront too directly; they either ignored, or dissembled (a nice, politically correct word meaning evaded and/or lied), disempowering the laity, with the exception of the "golden chosen few" who were selected (based largely on their vow of silence in the face of ongoing mediocrity and mendacity, along with hefty donations and overarching ambitions to become "archons") to "carry the water" for the hierarchs and clergy, many of whom treat their flock as though they were actual sheep.

It is disheartening, perplexing, absurd and downright appalling that - and not for the first time! - our Metropolitan, the former John Chronopoulos, has so little good to say about those who share his own ethnic heritage, and who are current first-generation Greeks in the United States. This group would, by the way, include our own Archbishop Demetrios.

Such self-loathing, and the encouragement of it, when we should be proud of our heritage, even more proud to pass it on to our children and grandchildren, and when we should be viewing our immigrant co-communicants as a valuable resource, is tragic.

Our leaders' own self-loathing has, in fact, encouraged many non-Greek-born politicians recently to disparage Greece and Greeks at every opportunity in their time of great trouble and sorrow. While much of this trouble may be self-inflicted in the "old country", it is not a healthy or helpful attitude, and should be discouraged among ourselves and our politicians. We don't see any similar criticisms in similar situations being leveled at the Italians, Portuguese, Irish, or Spaniards. That our own hierarchs engage in this attitude, or condone it through their silence, is unconscionable.

The Metropolitan's comments are not fair. They reflect the insecurity of those who cannot abide a direct question with regard to their actions. If there is nothing to hide, they should not have a problem answering for their actions. 
For example, the current parish council member to whom the Metropolitan refers (and not with any real sincerity or civility on his own part, even though his words are couched in "forgiveness") is in his 80s - a member of my father's generation, in fact his koumbaro. "The man" simply asked the Proistamenos of Prophet Elias at a recent parish council meeting if, in fact, he came to this community with the express intent or instruction to divide the community. It may not be a "politically correct" question, or, according to the Metropolitan, a "civil" one. Yet, considering the circumstances of the previous years, it is a valid and a fair one. Refusing to answer, Father Michael simply walked out of the meeting.

The second such incident occurred at a more recent parish council meeting where "the man" finally lost patience and simply declared what he believes to be obvious - Father Michael has no interest whatsoever in promoting unity, and is, in fact, a divider. He walked out again.

Referring to the Metropolitan's latest correspondence, along with the message that the Prophet Elias Philoptochos received from Father Michael, indicates that he purposefully sabotaged the process. He did so by providing the Metropolitan with a highly preliminary "organization chart" that was merely a work in progress, far from being finalized or approved. Further, he told the Philoptochos group at Prophet Elias that the parish council was looking to disband them, which was, a) not true, and, b) the minutes detailing the discussion, which called for cooperation between the two Philoptochos groups, had not yet been signed or made public.

The issue of Father Kouremetis being a divisive force has, in fact, been addressed several times, including in a past general assembly, and yet by another parishioner from the "old country", as well as from those born here. Further, Father Kouremetis' divisive proclivities were again quite specifically addressed to the Metropolitan by a group of second- and third-generation Greek-Americans a little over a year ago. As such, our current Parish Council, composed of both Greek-born and American-born parishioners, from all walks of life, requested his reassignment.

At a time, since free elections in May, when we have been trying hard to unify, when we have tried to work toward healing, our Metropolitan and our Proistamenos at Prophet Elias have continued to undercut and undermine all such efforts. They have encouraged those who will not stop trying to split this community once again to establish a separate corporation for a church and its attendant assets that are owned by the entire community, and not by any one part of it.

Further, comments made by new converts at our recent general assembly indicate that they have been told to view the "cradle Orthodox" - both the Greek- and American-born - with some degree of disdain. To those non-Greeks, or Orthodox from other ethnic groups who want to join, or choose to convert to Orthodoxy through our church, we sincerely WELCOME you to YOUR church. However, please note: at both the churches in this community the words GREEK ORTHODOX Church or Cathedral are clearly and proudly stated; this is the legacy handed down from our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. It is the legacy we intend to pass on to the next generation.

- Barbara Billinis Colessides

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