Archive for January, 2008

Jesus wept (Roe v. Wade)

. . .We ignore our poor and elderly, the dispossessed, the mentally ill, the stranger in our midst. We are too busy pursuing our own 15 minutes of fame! We have no time to spare to help others, to visit the sick, to comfort the despairing, to guide the lost, to resettle the dispossessed, to show hospitality to the stranger. Abraham entertained angels but we do not even know who our neighbors are! We do not even see the homeless. The pains and trials of those “not of our class” or “not of our race” are “not our problem”! . . . .Life itself is progressively cheapened. People who cannot defend themselves -the unborn, the severely disabled- are treated as things to be managed (or disposed of) by others. In our greed for personal wealth and power, we trash the environment, God’s glorious creation and the web of life that He designed to sustain us all, as if it were merely our property over which we have a right to do as we please. . . .

An excerpt “God Must Be Weeping,” by Very Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes. For the entire spiritual writing, click on this website:

I try to keep this weblog on a positive note, but as we all should well know, “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” The 100,000 or so who march in the frigid air and the grim, grey streets of Washington D.C. on the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme 1973 “Roe versus Wade” decision to legalize abortion with virtually no limits got unborn child's footprecious little media coverage for their efforts to express resistance to this travesty.

While we are to mourn our sins, surely this involves not only our personal sins, but also our corporate ones- those of our society, our nation.

Here is a podcast by Frederica Matthewes-Green on the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade exploring the Orthodox Christian perspective of this continuing injustice:

And here is a reprint of a previous post, Down Syndrome and Abortion:

Prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome has been shown to lead to abortion in 84 to 91% of cases in recent U.S. studies. An estimated 70% of U.S. women choose to have prenatal screening tests.

Health care providers tend to assume that if a woman consents to prenatal screening, she is open to the option of abortion. And so it is often encouraged that she choose to avoid this “burden.”

But a Harvard study of those who chose to continue their pregnancy (mostly on the basis of conscience and religion, but also on the basis of information about Down syndrome from printed materials or from a parent of a child with Down syndrome) indicated that “most of these mothers felt that their doctors did not explain DS adequately or in a balanced fashion.”

These mothers “suggested that doctors and genetic counselors should convey consistent, accurate, and sensitive messages about life with a child with DS, and that doctors, nurses, and hospitals should provide contacts with local DS support organizations.”

But the trouble is, the March of Dimes, the National Down Syndrome Society, and the National Down Syndrome Congress all take a neutral stance on abortion. This neutral stance, in effect, implies that the abortion of unborn children diagnosed with Down syndrome is in the best interests of society, that it is justifiable.

Would it not be better if these organizations stand in defense of the inherent value to society of persons with Down syndrome?

(from “Down Syndrome And Abortion,” by Susan W. Enouen, P.E. in Life Issues Connector, January 2007) To access their website and this article:

As St. Paul writes, “On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable.” (1 Corinthians 12:21) This verse is often quoted on this site, for it is a truth that must be upheld, in the Church, and by extension, in all of our life.

accessibility in Christ

Why we should identify with people in wheelchairs and their need for access- our own need for The ultimate Ramp: (“a fourfold bridge”) from St. Ephrem the Syrian’s Hymns of the Epiphany No. 10: 

. . . 9.  His Birth flowed on and was joined to His Baptism;-and His Baptism again flowed on even to His Death; the bridge-His Death led and reached to His Resurrection, -a fourfold bridge unto His Kingdom; and lo! His sheep pass over in His footsteps.

10.  And like as, save by the door of birth,-none can enter into creation;-so, save by the door of resurrection,-none can enter into the Kingdom,-and whoso has cut off his bridge, has brought to nought his hope.

11.  He put on His armour and conquered and was crowned; -He left His armour on earth and ascended,-that if any man desires the crown, -he may resort to the armour and win by it -the crown of victory which he yearns after. . .

In our human weakness- in terms of our “disability in Divine matters,” we need not only ramps, but His “armour” as well. And so ramps, body braces, wheelchairs, and the like are, as it were, types of God’s provision through our Lord Jesus Christ for our entire human race.

So much for our stubborn self-sufficiency!

Icon:  Hymn:

an Archbishop’s directive

 from The Orthodox Christian News Service,  (Published by December 4, 2004- More than two months after its revolutionary decision to conduct Bible readings in Modern Greek, the Church of Greece is now planning to start services in sign language, Archbishop Christodoulos announced.

The head of the highly conservative Greek Orthodox Church told a Archbishop Christodoulosdelegation of disabled people’s unions that a series of seminars on learning sign language was launched last year, and will be continued this year to enable clergymen to conduct services for deaf congregations.

The archbishop also said all parishes have been instructed to improve church accessibility for the disabled. “Wherever this is not yet the case, it is due to technical difficulties that we are trying to overcome as fast as possible,” he said.

In September, Athens churches started services in Modern Greek, for people unfamiliar with the original Ancient Greek texts. One also offers English services.

Note- Archbishop Christodoulos fell asleep in the Lord five days after this post, on January 28, 2008. May his memory be eternal!

Church accessibility

A letter I wrote to the parish priest of our goddaughters after a short conversation on the subject during coffee hour after Divine Liturgy at their Church recently (and some subsequent research on the Internet):

Dear Fr. A.:

When my wife Margaret and I visited a while back you and I had talked about just how one might proceed to make a Church building accessible. I spent a few hours
looking at this matter this last week and came up witha few websites and some thoughts, which may not be complete.

Of course, the Parish as a whole must be convinced that the expense of making a Church accessible is the will of God and thus worth it. And then there must be
those who get behind it and see to it that a Church Accessibility Fund not only gets established, but also gets continual attention. And there will have to be
some people gifted in practical realms which will make wise decisions as to who will get the work done- financing, architects, contractors, etc.

And of course the Parish Council will have to decide just how thorough accessibility will be as to ramps, lifts, and elevators, bathroom remodeling, etc.

Here are some websites of Orthodox Christian Parishes that are at some stage of the process of wrestling with Church accessibility (that I found):
5. (see 1992)

Here are some Philadelphia architects with some familiarity with Church accessibility issues:

Here is an Architectural firm with some thoughts on accessibility:

Here are some articles and checklists concerning Church accessibility from non-Orthodox Christian sources, which could be helpful:

Of course a contractor would have his preferences, but here are some commercial ramp, lift, and elevator providers anyway (I’m sorry, but I have no idea which
are better and which are worse): (source of picture)

I hope you find something here helpful. God’s Peace, Bill (Ephrem) Gall

the Church and landmines

Here’s a story of a double amputee named Armin Kohli, from Switzerland, who rode his bicycle 4800 kilometers (3000 miles) to raise awareness concerning the danger of landmines.He cycled through 14 countries for 48 days, finishing at the banks of the Dead Sea in mid-November. (from Al Jazeera- English, written by Iman Azzi)

The website: Landmine Marathon 

An excerpt of the article concerning the victims of landmines:

“According to the latest landmine monitor report from the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), released last week, nearly 30 per cent of the 5,751 victims of landmines in 2006 were children. Three-quarters of all victims were civilians.”

 landmine victimsKohli is quoted as saying,

“Being disabled does not mean [landmine victims] cannot a have a normal life, they just need to receive proper assistance. Governments must reach out to the victims and support them.”

Or shall we rather say that, in the Kingdom of God (“For to us a child is born, and to us a child is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder . . . Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end, …” Isaiah 8:6-7) such needs will be recognized, as the people of God in Orthodox parishes througout the world encounter people who suffer in these ways,  and attend to their spiritual needs, both of body and of soul.

I may not always be able to count on my earthly government, but I will always look to the Church to act according to her mandate and very being, which is both Divine and human.  

Here’s a website that is informative on these matters; the data is from the Orthodox country of Serbia as well as Montenegro from 2004, but more up-to-date data from around the world can also be accessed. Website: At the bottom of the page is a section entitled “Disability Policy and Practice:”

Eastern Orthodox Foundation

In 2006 I visited the Eastern Orthodox Foundation in the hills of western Pennsylvania with my “koum” (Serbian for Godfather) Bill Yovanovich and toured the facilities, briefly meeting the people, and enjoyed an interview with Fr. George Hnatko. The Foundation struggled to meet state requirements for personal care facilities, which have become nearly impossibly stringent for smaller facilities, according to Bill Yovanovich, formerly a person of authority with the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, and who has been involved in the Personal Care Resource Center & Grassroots Coalition. There was a good and peaceful feel to this mission, testifying to the Holy Spirit’s Presence there. God will provide- through all of us! Here was their missions statement from their website:

The Eastern Orthodox Foundation, (EOF), is a private, charitable non-profit organization. It’s purpose is to follow the teachings of our Lord when He said, “For I was an hungered, and ye give me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave’ me drink; I was a stranger, and ye ‘took me in; naked and ye clothed me; I was sick and ye visited me; I was in prison and ye came unto me.” Verily I say unto you, in as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”  Matthew 25:35 – 39, 40  We do this by the following means:     

A. To engage in charitable work for providing aid to the sick and aged, the disabled and handicapped;

B. To improve the condition in life of all persons who are disadvantaged, irrespective of race, color, creed or national origin;

C. The corporation shall not participate in political campaigns nor attempt to influence legislation by propaganda or otherwise. Upon dissolution of the corporation, all assets then possessed by it shall be distributed to charitable, educational, religious and health agencies.

To accomplish these goals EOF offers a variety of services. Although we call our selves a transitional living center, the majority of our people come to us from off the streets and are in need of food, shelter and clothing and other services, designed to help them secure a more permanent living arrangement.


Sadly, the Eastern Orthodox Foundation found it could not afford to meet Pennsylvania’s cumbersome regulations and the transitional living center had to close their doors. The Foundation also had an Assisted Living Center for Senior Citizens on the same campus, named Cherryhill Manor,  and may still be running. For Info: Eastern Orthodox Foundation: Cherryhill Manor?

Indiana Gazette: Eastern Orthodox Foundation to close shelter doors


2 Monasteries in Cleveland, Ohio

In Cleveland, Ohio there are two monasteries of note, in terms of their service to persons with disability, the poor, and the homeless. Not that this is their focus; surely prayer is primary, as at all Orthodox Monasteries, and their service to the community is to all in need; they do not target persons with disability specifically, but rather, manifest a consecrated love for all. From one of their websites:

With the support of the Pan-Orthodox community (all jurisdictions) our Ministry Outreach Programs serve the less fortunate. Help is given with food, shelter referrals, and job referrals. Other vital necessities offered are baby supplies, clothes, furniture, and donated cars. We try to assist everyone who calls for help, including pregnant girls and women, shut-ins, and those in prison, hospitals, and nursing homes. . . . . We serve women, children, men, the elderly, and the handicapped. In addition to helping the needy of our community, we offer care to refugee families, and children undergoing medical treatment with their families who come to Cleveland from around the world. Monastic hospitality is extended to our visitors and guests. Orthodox Services are held in the St. Mary of Egypt Chapel and we welcome your prayer requests. Any woman who would like to learn more about missionary work in America, or the Orthodox monastic life, please call or write to Mother Theonymphie.

We are very thankful to God for all His blessings, seen and unseen and for the gifts of time, material, and financial donations* from the Friends of St. Mary of Egypt through the years. We warmly invite you to join us in the work that Jesus Christ has commanded us to do. Together, with love in Christ, let us continue to give from the blessings that we have received. Your love, prayers, and support make possible the ministry and Orthodox Christian witness of St. Mary of Egypt. If you wish to receive our Newsletter, please contact us.

Please keep us in your prayers
Thank You & God Bless

Mother Theonymphie  of Blessed Memory, (†2013)

Not that other American Orthodox monasteries don’t practice it as opportunities present themselves; its just that this one apparently actively seeks out such opportunities. To access their website:

the Monastery

Also, the website of St. Herman’s House of Hospitality (for men), also in Cleveland.

(picture from


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