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
Beautiful letter to the Archbishop. I pray he sees it and the churches will not be closed. Reading the letter Ms. Athos wrote brought tears to my eyes. These small parishes are the cornerstone of our faith. They truly embody what an Orthodox community is. It reminds me of my own parish growing up. God bless our small churches and everyone speaking out about these injustices.
Congratulations Mrs Anastasia, the perfect reply
to all those that have love only for money and
not for the Christ and the human…..The are wolfs
covered with lamb’s skin.
May God bless you all and give you strength to
fight to the end.
GREEK ORTHODOX LIVES MATTER
A very beautifully written open letter to the GOA Archbishop.
I have personally forwarded it to everyone on my maling list, and hope those recipients do likewise, and so on.
However in the times we live in, mere words are ineffective and easily ignored by many,
Irregardless of their thought, emotion, and structure.
As the saying goes, “Action Speaks Louder Than Words.”
The Press and Media and Internet are powerful tools in reaching a more universal, global reaction.
The more “sensational”, the better the coverage.
Eg.BLM – ongoing Black Lives Matter movement.
IF St John’s church’s priest, president, board, ministries, and parishioners marched in ” peaceful protest” from Gramercy Park all the way to the GOA Cathedral on East 74th Street, and blocked entry to the cathedral, making it unaccessable for the community of Holy Trinity to enter – that will strike a very resonant cord.
IF all the other churches slated to be closed down joined forces with St JohnThe Baptist church and included themselves in this peaceful march, imagine the population of eight or more GO communities barring entry into the GOA Cathedral, making East 74th Street totally unaccessable.
Best day and time for this peaceful protest would be on of course a Sunday, preferably on a major holiday, with perhaps the Archbishop scheduled to “perform” church service at the Cathedral.
Better yet, ALL churches of the Archdocesam District of New York, joining their sister churches slated for the “chopping block” would be a powerful expression of unity.
What can tbe Archbishop do?
Close down all the participating churches?
Excommunicate all the priests and every parishioner?
WE are the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese!
Without US there is no real viable archdiocese of worth
This historic expression of protest would be covered by the Press, Media, Internet,
that hopefully will resonate with the other Metropolises of the GOA.
If there is a blind eye and deaf ear by the
GOA, then by all means a secondary peaceful protest to be had at the failing St Nicholas “tourist shrine” at the WTC/ NYC
In Unity there is Strength.
@Anastasia Athos. Would your parish be willing to start a GoFundme page for the repairs?
@Nicolas of New York.
This is a great idea.Can you help organize this? There is some talk of it on some email threads from st johns parishioners but no one is mobilizing yet. Can you join the FB group so we chat? ( and anyone else that wants to connect)
Live call in to Archbishop Elpidophoros tonight
Drastic times call for drastic measures.
Diplomacy, detente, and dialogue are totally ineffective after a prolonged period of time, especially if one of two parties is totally, vehemently “stubborn” and unmoving.
Eg. Cyprus invasion issue.
The GOA is no different.
It is time that the Greek Orthodox Clergy and the Laity across America ( not only in the N.Y. Archdiocesan District) unify, and with one voice express their dissatisfaction with the mal- direction that the Greek Orthodox Church of America (and its various ministries) is moving towards and challenge the GOA, (the Ecememical Patriarchate if need be) to “change for the better” in each and every way.
Greek Orthodox Americans are unfortunately complacent and like a herd of sheep, will go in the direction, their sheperd dictates, albeit even following each other over a cliffside to their doom.
This “mentality” needs to change.
Each parish has its pastor for spiritual strength, an educated church president for direction, and church council for backing, as well as knowledgable and capable legal consuls for guidance to organize and mobilze action in the utmost effective manner.
All churches, with their clergy, with their established communities are more powerful than a building on East 79th Street with about three dozen people.
Puppets and puppetmeisters need to be
expelled, and the archdiocese purged from top to bottom.
Throughout time, numerous, various societies have been able to usurp its oppresors – all despots, tyrants, kings, dictators, regimes, etc.and bring forth the needed change as per the will of the people, whether American, French, Greek, etc.
The Christian Cburch also has had it’s fair share as well.
In the unified efforts of each church/parish and with understandable and expected struggle – ultimately, success will prevail, and the reward will be a positive and historic change for a truly new & improved Greek Orthodox Church of America for the 21st Century