Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Spiritually Vulnerable: Exposing Religious Abuse (excerpt)

Many years ago I was quoted in an article that can be found on the internet. I cannot reproduce the entire article here. So here is the relevant excerpt: 

"The Rev. Fr. John-Brian Paprock, an Orthodox Christian priest, certified pastoral counselor and director of Inroads Ministries (an organization dedicated to spiritual recovery and renewal), has noticed the same thing Stephen has. “I started Inroads because I was encountering so many people who were suffering from religious trauma,” he says. “And almost all the cases were familial in some way.

“Maybe the father beat the kids because ‘God told him to do it’ and forced their hands together to make them pray, or maybe a religious trauma has resulted in a dysfunction that has gone down the family generations like a curse,” says Paprock. “Perhaps, due to family dysfunction, a young adult entering college is unable to discern a healthy religious group from an unhealthy one. In counseling survivors, I often have to deal with family of origin issues.”

The entire article can be found at the link below:

Friday, January 16, 2015

Reflections on 15 Years of Mission Ministry

When I became a teenager, I had served around the altar of Holy Orthodoxy for years as an altar boy, though without consistency. Like many Orthodox children, my parents, although deeply spiritual and devout in their own way, rarely took us to the Divine Liturgy. There were, as there often are, other issues that were obstacles to attendance. Not the least of these excuses was the lack of English in the services. We were fortunate to find services with English and kind clergy that were willing to push me around the altar in on-the-job training to serve.  About forty years ago, a barely-teenager boy, I was asked if I could read the Epistle during the Liturgy. I agreed and was given the Episcopal blessing (and tonsure) to be a reader in the Holy Orthodox Church. I read in English. 

Thirty years ago, I was ordained to Holy Orders (the diaconate) when I was a young man in my 20s. I volunteered to serve an English speaking mission. A few years later, I was ordained to the priesthood and continued serving Holy Church and the mission for Americans.  I have been blessed with bishops and elders who have given me kind and compassionate attention and required a deeper spirituality. Perhaps they knew, even before I did, how much wounded-ness from childhood I carried. Maybe, they were completely in compliance with the love of God. They taught me and encouraged me even in dark and difficult times. I continued to volunteer for small mission parish work through the years.  (continued below photo collages)

Over past years, I have been blessed with the incidental (and, occasionally ,official) company of Bishops and future Bishops (and a couple of future patriarchs!). I have been honored by their company and blessings. Most of these photos have been taken in the last fifteen years, since I have been part of the Syriac (Malankara) Orthodox Church.

Over the years, I have enjoyed the fellowship, love and friendship of fellow clergy: Malayalee, Coptic, Armenian, Greek, Ukrainian, American, and others. I have been honored to be pictured with some of them here in these photos. 

Here are some photographs of me from my ordination to public talks at the state capitol, from scouting to fatherhood, from contemplative devotion to fun-filled travels. In all, I have been honored by those that took these photos of moments of my life in ministry spanning over 25 years of priesthood - 15 of those years in continual mission service.

There are stories to tell of those that joined the mission through sacramental truths of Holy Orthodoxy and of those that died in the hope that Holy Orthodoxy is a sure bridge to the eternal kingdom. We have prayed for so many that have begun their journey in the Church and those that have joined the heavenly abodes. I have been an honored witness of infants who became students who have become adults. I have bid bon voyage to those that have visited this country for a while and then have returned to their homeland after blessing our little mission with their love and wisdom. And the Lord continues His blessings even through difficulties and tragedies. There are joys of church festivals and struggles with fasts. Over the years over 500 meals and fellowship with some of the most special unique and loving people I have ever encountered.

Humbled and honored by such an anniversary that I gratefully share with you, dear reader, I decided to share pictures rather than just sentiment.  And even as I contemplate the past and the moments frozen in these photographs, I still reach back to defining words that I wrote after a period of inactivity after my son was born - a return to active ministry. I have put a link to those words below.

I humbly request your prayers for me, an unworthy and undeserving servant. May the Lord give me strength and courage, peace and love enough for the next decades of ministry.

Return To Active Ministry
A sermon delivered on the evening of August 5th, 1999  by Reverend Father John-Brian Paprock