EDITOR’S NOTE. We received the following letter from Anastasia Athos, Parishioner and President of St. John The Baptist, 2012-2014 with this note: “Dear Mr. Stamatakis, Thank you for your brave and in-depth reporting in regards to the church closures in the NYC area, including the very historic, St. John the Baptist church, on E. 17th St., in Manhattan. Please kindly consider publishing the following response to to the Archdiocese regarding this injustice. Thank you.
We gladly proceed to publishing this open letter to AB Elpidophoros…
OPEN LETTER TO ARCHBISHOP ELPIDOPHOROS
According to St. Paul, it is our responsibility as, “children of the light” to, “have no fellowship with unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” (Eph 5:8-11) Therefore, we are shedding the light of Christ upon Archbishop Elpidophoros, and his very misguided decision to close churches in Manhattan, Queens, and Long Island, purely to generate quick cash for the Archdiocese.
In a world that has been shaken with uncertainty due to exaggerated and highly politicized Covid reporting, and the inability to lead normal lives; the last thing we need as Christians are untruths, coverups, overt self interests, and nefarious business practices from the church leaders, we were taught to respect and trust.The strategy is shameful; and the timing is intentional. The removal of precious churches with vibrant communities, is the complete antitheses of what we need as the body of the church.
In the case of the very historic, St. John the Baptist church, on E. 17th Street in New York, there is no justification whatsoever for the closure and sale of a church that has flourished tremendously under the loving and protective arm of Archmandrite Fr. Vasilios Bassakyros. Originally, I knew Fr. Vasilios from the Cathedral on 74th street, where I was a Sunday School teacher, and like many, I followed him to St. John’s. In addition to his plethora of duties as parish priest, he assumed the additional role as chaplain in the hospitals, which was a rewarding but grueling responsibility that often took him, last minute, all over the city, which I witnessed first hand. Despite all of these diverse commitments, he has always been there for the parishioners, whenever they needed him. Fr. Vasilios has always been incredibly approachable, (not like the old school Pappas), and no matter what, he gives impassioned sermons every week, always shares his immense knowledge of the early Church Fathers and the Scriptures. Also, he recommends thoughtful reading lists to the parishioners; he deepens our spiritual understanding; he lovingly guides many converts including my godchildren; he opens our eyes and lifts up our hearts. This is why, “Fr. V,” is so beloved; and the community at St. John’s, has grown exponentially. There have been many years where he performed more Mysteria, such as baptisms, weddings, and funerals, than any other church in Manhattan, including the Cathedral.
In addition, for many years, the ladies society at St. John’s has done more than in any other church I have ever been affiliated with: they have helped terminally ill children at Ronald McDonald House, raised money for people in the community who are distressed financially, fed people both inside and outside of the Greek community, made sure the elderly returned home safely after coffee hour, beautified our church with their handmade silks and lace decorations. They even performed all the cleaning, including lavatories, since the church does not have a hired cleaning crew. They tirelessly raised money and sometimes funded, very generously, out of their own pockets! And they did it out of love for THIS community; St. John’s community. It is a family. As a byproduct, they inadvertently, and modestly, taught us how to be better Christians. This type of dedication and love is exemplary and a lesson for the Archdiocese, which is a taker; not a giver.
As we know as Orthodox Christians, the church is the metaphorical Bride of Christ.
The Archdiocese has defiled the Bride, and shows no remorse.
Will the GOA, and their accused affiliates, directly nourish and guide us on the arduous path to Theosis? Will they bake the prosphoro, beautify the churches, help people in great need within the communities like the elderly and the infirmed? Will they regularly sing a single song in perfect harmony and as a common sacrifice, to help us ascend towards the Creator, as was instructed to us by St. John Chrysostom? The so-called, “leaders,” are quite worthless in the end. You are cutting off the limbs of the body of the church, by closing and selling St. John’s, and the other precious churches in the NYC area.
We will fight for our historic church and bring this injustice to the public’s attention. We will try our best to overturn your money table at The Temple.
The Lord, in all His goodness, is still presenting a chance for the misguided Archdiocese to rectify these heartless decisions with some sense of compassion and reverence for the precious body of the church. Please kindly open your eyes to really see, and your ears to really hear and understand, before it is too late.
Parishioner and President of St. John The Baptist, 2012-2014