Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A reminder this Christmas

Father Nathan Monk is the pastor of St. Benedict Orthodox mission in Pensacola, Florida.  My family and I have visited one of the sister parishes in Pensacola, St. Andrew the Apostle Antiochian Orthodox Church, but have never had the honor of visiting Father Nathan's parish.  We may have to rectify that the next time we are down that way.  Father Nathan is fighting against local ordinances in Pensacola dealing with the homeless, which would, if implemented, prevent homeless people from camping in public areas and some private areas within the city limits.  He is also quite notorious for an incident where he offered to purchase a homeless man some food, and the man sent his family to eat but told Father Nathan he would have to stay behind and hold the sign because the family would be evicted if he did not get another $50 before the day was over.  Father Nathan told him to go eat while he held the sign for the man.  The treatment he described by people passing by -- yelling, cursing, throwing things -- was so deplorable that it moved him to do something about it.

I chose this video instead of the numerous others on Youtube, because Father Nathan's message to the City Council is so powerful.  In my opinion, the money quotes are:

"This council would have arrested Mary and Joseph around this time of year for being vagrants. And maybe would have called the DCF and had the Christ child taken off."


"I think it's funny that so many people worship a homeless man on Sunday, and then you want to arrest him on Monday. We actually did. We crucified him, and I would consider it the exact same thing if this council goes forward with this."

Thanks be to God for the work this man is doing.  As we feast at the Nativity this year, please be sure to remember the poor.


Unknown said...

We hear much argument about what the role of the Church is in the world. The story St. Paul tells is Galatians 2 sheds some light on the answer: First, he wanted to be sure that the Gospel he proclaimed was the same as that proclaimed by the other Apostles. Then, when they assured him that it was, (v. 10) ‘They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do.”

From 1979 to 1997 I was a member of the Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy, a congregation supported by 5 US based denominations including the ELCA. Until the collapse of the Soviet Union, services were held in the US, Canadian, and British Embassies. Afterward we rented an auditorium for Sunday services and Sunday school. For any number of reasons, the rental arrangements did not last for very long periods of time. We moved from location to location without the assurance of any kind of secure, long-term arrangement. Meanwhile, Pastor John Melin (ELCA), among other charity efforts, organized soup kitchens in the early nineties, in which up to 1,000 Russian poor, old folks were fed six days a week. Financing was provided by the parishioners, both through personal and corporate contributions.

When it became possible for us to purchase a place of worship, I mentioned this to Pastor Melin. His response was, “God forbid! A building would become a millstone around our necks. All of the people we now feed would starve, because all of our resources would go into the building.” The people are being fed to this day, and the congregation still does not own a building.

To me, Pastor Melin embodies the attitude our Lord has toward the poor.

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

David Garner said...

What a great story! I agree with your assessment of Pastor Melin. Reminds me of Saint John Chrysostom (or Saint Herman of Alaska, in this country).