By Nick Stamatakis

We all need a vacation – especially when we work hard… And we all look forward to some time off when we are feeling that we have reached our limits… A vacation is an almost “sacred time” (pun intended) in our life…  I enjoyed a few days off recently and I felt really rejuvenated (even though I had to turn off my phone completely for extended periods of time….) But do we take out a loan to go on vacation?  Do we mortgage our house to go on vacation?  No, we do not.

This is exactly what seems to have happened this year in the biennial National Clergy Retreat which took place these days (Oct 12-15) in Naples Florida in the luxurious Naples Grand Beach Resort (HERE IS THE LINK). The whole thing shows a very long distance between the “mission” stated and how this mission is practiced.

First of all, the priests (and the Archbishop with his assistants) should have thought twice about this year’s retreat: 1) We are coming out of the pandemic and it is very doubtful that the clergy is “over-worked” as the churches were empty and the services almost canceled for much of the time. 2) We just published a few days ago a statistical study showing that between 2010-20 GOA had a 20% decline in membership – and that was pre-pandemic! Now the decline could be almost double! 3) The PPP loans are finished and GOA is feeling a financial pinch at all levels because of the empty pews. I could go on, but just these three factors should have given a pause to the clergy and the leadership… Shouldn’t they have a sense of what image they present to the faithful?  Don’t they care not to look insensitive, when they were supposed to empathize with their flock?

Then as you will see below they (the leadership) added insult to injury by stating on their website: Who is responsible for covering the cost of the retreat?  Answer: Your Parish… Below you can see the full explanation, ie. that it is part of their “compensation plan”… blah..blah…blah…  Yes, my dear friends, this is your “compensation plan” but you do not work for American Express.  You work for a Church that lost PRE-PANDEMIC 20% of its membership and by now this can be up to 40% or more. Take a look around you at the empty churches… The Churches are your “home” and your “business”… Especially in your case, the whole Church is underwater financially  – not to mention the federal investigation!… Is this what you would do if you run a business and the business was not doing that well? You would take a vacation? And you would charge the credit card – meaning in our case that if a parish does not have enough money, you would expect the parish to find a way (i.e take out a loan) to pay among other things your vacation?

Did you consult with your parishes? What did they tell you? Did they tell you they had enough money? If so, you did the right thing.  But if they told you that there is no extra money why did you insist to have the vacation? Especially because the Uniform Parish Regulations contradict your “compensation plan” and the “Archdiocesan rules” and they provide only one paid trip: to the biennial Clergy-Laity Congress… (see below)…

Let me give you an extreme example to make the case clear.  The Saint Demetrios of Astoria sent to the biennial retreat in Naples Florida, three out of the four priests serving the Community.  The presiding priest Fr. Nektarios Papazafiropoulos, created a huge fight within the parish council – and he even involved the Archdiocese – when he was told there was not enough money for the trip.  He was furious as if the struggling community owed him the extra compensation… As if he was the great priest that has so much charisma that the Church is full every Sunday of people hanging from his lips…

None of this is true – quite the opposite.  He has no charisma, he is anti-social and the Church is empty every Sunday.  In addition, he simply does not make the extra effort… I will stop here – I truly would not want to create more problems than the Astoria Parish already has…

The mission of the retreat is – among other things to support “our priests through spiritual growth, educational development and personal wellness”.   At the minimum the Astoria community, which operates the ONLY Greek-American High-School in the country, expects the three priests to finally decide and teach “religion” for a couple of hours a week… Would they “learn” such a thing in their retreat? We will find out soon… So far I have verified talking to many parents that NONE of them is teaching religion at the high school next door or at any other school…

I do not think that such “sensitivity” is something that can be taught at any retreat…

October 14, 2021, n.stamatakis@aol.com   www.helleniscope.com

========================================

This is an excerpt of the retreat brochure (HERE IS THE LINK).

Who is responsible for covering the cost of the retreat?

Your parish. As cited in the Archdiocesan Presbyters Council Guidelines, “The National Clergy Retreat (NCR) of the Archdiocese of America will be organized by the Archdiocesan Presbyters Council and held biennially on the off year of the Clergy Laity Congress. All expenses for clergy participants are to be covered by their individual Parish, as per the Regulations of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and the remunerative standards for clergy established by the Clergy Compensation Plan that is issued annually.” Exceptions to this directive must be approved by the local Metropolitan.

Further, the Archdiocese Uniform Parish Regulations (Article 17 (Clergy), Section 8), state: “The Archdiocesan Council and the Archdiocesan Benefits Committee will establish remunerative standards for the Clergy. These standards, for the following year, shall be sent to each Parish annually, by September 30,” and in the Clergy Compensation Guidelines referred to therein, it is noted: “The Parish must provide…Expenses for attending District/Metropolis Clergy-Laity Assemblies and Retreats, the Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress, Clergy Continuing Education Programs, and the Archdiocese Presbyters Council Retreat.”

 

=============================================

THIS IS PAGE 38 OF THE UNIFORM PARISH REGULATIONS – DETAILING THE PRIESTS’ REMUNERATIONS – FOR THE FULL DOCUMENT LINK HERE

Section 8: The Archdiocesan Council and the Archdiocesan Benefits Committee will
establish remunerative standards for the Clergy. These standards, for the following year,
shall be sent to each Parish annually, by September 30.
A. After the review and approval of the respective Hierarch, each Parish shall be
obliged:
1. To assume the moving and travel expenses when a Priest is assigned to a
Parish.
2. To compensate the Priest appropriately according to the established
remunerative standards for the Clergy as found in the Clergy Compensation
Plan.
3. To provide a housing allowance or a parish house including the payment of
all utilities for such parish house. This designation is to be in the form of a
Parish Council resolution and should be designated in advance of payment.
4. To provide the family Orthodox Health Plan Coverage (or single coverage as
applicable).
5. To pay the full cost of existing Social Security (FICA/SECA) coverage at the
full self-employment rate.
6. To either purchase or lease an automobile for use by the Priest and cover all
related expenses.
7. To defray all expenses incurred in attending Clergy-Laity Congresses or
Local Assemblies.
8. To provide for an annual vacation period of fifteen (15) calendar days, plus an
additional week for each five (5) years of ordained service (up to a maximum
of five (5) weeks), regardless of the amount of time served in his current
Parish. Prior to absenting himself from his Parish, a Priest shall obtain written
permission from the respective Hierarch.
9. To provide for a paid sabbatical of three (3) months after six (6) years of
continuous service in the same Parish

20 COMMENTS

  1. Your statement: “We are coming out of the pandemic and it is very doubtful that the clergy is ‘over-worked’ as the churches were empty and the services almost canceled for much of the time” is not true for many clergy who worked very hard during the pandemic, particularly during the period when the churches were closed, finding creative ways to do ministry. In my particular parish, the priest did house blessings outdoors, visited parishioners in their yards, offered different learning/fellowship opportunities on Zoom on a regular basis, worked with the church school leadership to continue the program virtually, conducted Sunday coffee hour on Zoom after returning home from liturgy, oversaw with his wife weekly meal deliveries to the elderly and others in the parish (supporting a few of the businesses owned by parishioners by doing so), spent hours daily calling parishioners and checking in on them, provided daily spiritual nourishment via email to the entire parish, ministered as best as he was able to those who were grieving the loss of loved ones, put himself at risk on several occasions by visiting those who were ill, offered very well prepared sermons for all live-streamed liturgies, continued to offer through live streaming all feast day liturgies and special services, fervently prayed for the flock entrusted to him, etc. Our parish had its best year of outright stewardship in 2020, and though we were not physically present with one another for some months due to the restrictions, underlying strengths of the parish emerged in numerous and unimaginable ways, much due to the leadership and incredible hard work of our parish priest. I am so grateful that our parish has the resources for our priest to attend the national retreat, and I hope he experiences renewal in the company of his fellow priests, returning to us strengthened in faith and refreshed in spirit and body! God bless our clergy who work hard to serve and care for us.

    • I can assure you such was not the case in a majority of parishes. Mediocre leadership at best in most. One priest fled to his beach house for the duration. There was not exceptional leadership from either the priests or the bishops. And giving was emotional at first and has now tapered off with the reality of Biden economics and wokeism settling into our daily lives.

  2. PPKK- God Bless your parish priest! This is exactly what all parish priests should have been doing and should continue to do be there for their community in good times and bad. Unfortunately, some parishes didn’t have your same experience.

    Nick- you nailed it again! A religious faith school with no religion being taught what a disaster. How is the proistameno Fr Nektario ok with that? How is he ok with spending community funds for clergy conferences when he has spiritually neglected the community and the students who attend Saint Demetrios. Families pay stewardship fees and school tuition which should include religious instruction. He needs to get off his high horse and stop behaving as if he is entitled. No one owes him anything. A few years ago a $25 million dollar endowment from the SNF Foundation was rejected by the parish because they said at the time they would have to omit religion from the curriculum but it seems like they did it anyway so they should have taken the deal! Hopefully the archdiocese and AB will take notice of this sinking community before it’s too late.

    • Exactly right… I spent two full years of writing and many parish members fought so that the school remain in the hands of the community and be able to teach Orthodoxy to the next generations of Greek Americans – instead of going to a “mafia-like” group of individuals organized around ALMA realty and including the disgraced TNH publisher Diamataris… We were able to save the school but Fr.Nektarios does not want to teach religion… Why? Ask him…

      • Fr Nektario doesn’t want to teach religion because it would actually make him work! School has been primary source of income and has been funding the churches. If not for school churches would have closed. Even so he has no appreciation for this and still behaves like an entitled Lord. Community owes him nothing. He should have had the decency to resign on his own and step down as proistameno. So many funds taken away from the school went MIA into a black hole an abyss governed by ignorance..

    • George, that was not the reason why the grant was rejected. That is what they want you to believe. The real reason they rejected the grant was because the parish priest Fr. Nekatarios, was not able to control the money. They would not be able to transfer funds from the school account to the church accounts to pay for such trips. In no way way shape or form did the Niarchos Foundation request that religion or the Greek language be removed. I served on the parish council and have read the bylaws. They created this mythical story to cover up the real reasons they rejected the grant. They later had conversations of possibly contacting the foundation and rescinding their refusal. Unfortunately that boat has sailed. Very tragic!!!

      • Hello JT- so are you saying the the parish council at that time lied to the community about the reasons the SNF endowment was rejected? Were all the PC members aware of this? The lie that was told to the community? Do you have a copy of the proposed bylaws submitted by the SNF attorneys during the negotiations? If so can you please share and post on Helleniscope so we can finally hold individuals accountable for the injustice done to our community and the students of St Demetrios? Please I encourage you to share whatever you have or know.. we need to hold individuals accountable enough is enough!!

  3. The GOA is joke: a den of inequity defined by clergy financial abuse. This ignites anger,
    division and dysfunction amongst its flock. The sheep have scattered. The sheep have lost respect for the GOA because of the never ending shenanigans of the hierarchy.

    The church members of the GOA cult are waking up day by day. We are realizing that the GOA ship is broken, adrift, abd sinking fast.

    We prefer to sit out parish life because of a heedless hierarchy addicted to trappings and power. How many laypeople find that their gifts and talents go unused, that their leaders are not interested in what they have to say or to offer, that although they are believers, they just do not need the grief of parish life? And if, besides, no one seems to miss them?

    I was chrismated in 2014 and fell deeply in love with Greek Orthodox Christian teachings. I confessed my many sins over and over. I attended every Orthros and liturgy. I paid my stewardship faithfully and rolled my sleeves up to clean the church, and prepare endless trays of food for festivals. I became the priest’s Secretary full time for one year. I voluntarily offered my time and took no pay. I was 63 years old at the time. I studied religious texts diligently and with great reverence. I was returning to Christ.

    I learned that the church had quite a few million dollars in its coffer. I learned that it seemed necessary to build a new church. I learned that the clergy/hierarchy was always begging for more money. I learned that the priest wife and adult children were rock stars decked out in new clothes most of the time. I learned that the priest’s wife and children never bothered going to Orthros and consistently showed up late for liturgy. I learned that the priest’s wife was a whiz in investments and the priest bragged about her expertise.I learned about the prestigious Parish Council. They were “lower end@ hierarchs! Lol!

    Regarding the Naples Retreat for the clergy: I left my life in Naples in 2006 because I had a huge awakening of how demented life was there. I know now that God was my saving Grace. It’s been a long, lonely painful journey to wake up from this dead deceitful world. But the good news is the eternal life in Christ to come. I saw both sides of the GOA. I bore witness to their deceit, and the dangerous powers their clergy wield over sinners trying to come to Christ.

    I feel much better nowadays. I am not engaged with any GOA dysfunctional church. I thank the author of this blog for bringing forth truth and light about the fallen decrepit GOA. These church leaders are not about Christ! They are beasts in cassocks.

  4. Why can’t they limit payment for such a lux retreat to one priest (per parish)
    –let #’s 2/3 mind the “store!”
    Yes– agreed– very deserving for some—one size not fitting all!
    Seems a bit too enabling—- too “progressive” —- in today’s world– optics count– like uncle joe walking away from everything– like not enough real leadership— who is exactly running what?

  5. Nick, you cite excerpts from the “Archdiocese Uniform Parish Regulations”. That’s hilarious!
    Isn’t that from the defunct Charter? The one this Archbishop unilaterally (thus, illegally) revoked?!
    (And btw, as far as I know, has yet to replace as he promised.)

    Like from the old spaghetti westerns, they “don’t need no stinkin’ rules”, but in a pinch, they shamelessly hide behind rules that they themselves have trashed! Oh the humanity! Rather, oh the hilarity! That’s Laurel & Hardy grade ‘axia’ right there!

    My parish can do what it wants, I only control my actions. If they pass an extra tray to cover this, I intend to contribute a sticker of a smiley face. 8-O

  6. Αίσχος …..!!να μην βρεθούν κληρικοί να αντιδράσουν εναντίον της χλιδάτης εκδρομής , κατά την
    οποίαν κατασπαταλούνται χρήματα των πιστών που με τον ιδρώτα και το αίμα τους προσπαθούν
    να συντηρήσουν τις κοινότητες σε καιρούς δύσκολους και απρόβλεπτους.
    Δυστυχώς όλα τα γραμμένα από τους Αγίους Πατέρες της Εκκλησίας μας επαληθεύονται .
    Ο Άγιος Κοσμάς ο Αιτωλός είχε πεί: “Οι κληρικοί θα γίνουν οι χειρότεροι και ασεβέστεροι των όλων…
    στα έσχατα χρόνια”.
    Ο Άγιος Ιππόλυτος : “ οι ποιμένες ως λύκοι γενννήσονται. Οι Ιερείς το ψεύδος ασπάσονται. Οι μοναχοί
    τα του κόσμου ποθήσουσιν…..γράφει για την εποχή του Αντιχρίστου,”την οποίαν δυστυχώς ζούμε σήμερα.
    Ο Άγιος Νείλος ο Αγιορείτης και Μυροβλύτης προφήτευσε:
    “ όταν πλησιάσει ο καιρός της ελεύσεως του Αντιχρίστου θα σκοτισθή η διάνοια των ανθρώπων από τα πάθη της σαρκός και θα πληθυνθεί σφόδρα , η ασέβεια και η ανομία…..Οι Ποιμένες των Χριστιανών,
    ΑΡΧΙΕΡΕΙΣ και Ιερείς θα είναι άνδρες ΚΕΝΟΔΟΞΟΙ , μη γνωρίζοντες παντελώς την δεξιά οδόν από την
    αριστεράν……Άι Εκκλησίαι δε του Θεού θα στερηθούν εύλαβών και ευσεβών Ποιμένων και αλλοίμονον
    τότε εις τους εν τω κόσμω ευρισκομένους Χριστιανούς , οι οποίοι θα στερηθούν τελείως την πίστιν , διότι
    δεν θα βλέπουν από κανέναν φως επιγνώσεως.
    Ο δε Αββάς Παμβώ είχε πει:
    “ Κατά τους έσχατους καιρούς, οι Επίσκοποι θα δείχνουν δουλικότητα προς τους ισχυρούς(π.χ Άρχοντες),
    θα βγάζουν τις αποφάσεις ανάλογα με τα δώρα που θα παίρνουν και δεν θα υπερασπίζονται τους
    φτωχούς όταν θα κρίνονται. Θα θλίβουν τις χήρες και θα ταλαιπωρούν τα ορφανά .”
    Προτιμούν να τα ξοδεύουν σε χλιδάτες retreat …..παρά να τρέξουν να ψάξουν και να βρουν χήρες, ορφανά, φτωχούς και ανήμπορους και να τους δώσουν βοήθεια, χαρά και ευλογία και να γίνουν οι ίδιοι
    οι ευλογημένοι του Πατρός και Θεού ημών.
    Πόσο χαρακτηριστική η ονομασία που δίνει ο Άγιος Νείλος στους Αρχιερείς, τους ονομάζει ΚΕΝΟΔΟΞΟΥΣ…., πόσο δίκιο είχε , κατά την γνώμη μου και η κενοδοξία έχει την κλίμακά της από 0-10.
    Ο σημερινός που Ποιμένει την Εκκλησία της Αμερικής έχει ξεπεράσει τα όρια της κλίμακας, από την
    πρώτη στιγμή που τον αντίκρυσα τον χαρακτήρισα εντελώς κενό και κάθε μέρα που περνάει δυστυχώς
    επιβεβαιώνομαι.
    Είναι ολοφάνερο πως ζούμε τους έσχατους χρόνους , συμβαίνει αυτό που αναφέρει ο Άγιος Ιωάννης
    ο Θεολόγος στην αποκάλυψη: “ θα έλθει μια εποχή που για να βρείς σωστό. κληρικό θα πρέπει να ψάχνεις μακρές αποστάσεις.
    Σε όλη την διαδρομή μου στη γη , γνώρισα δύο μόνο Ιεράρχες που που ήταν ξεχωριστοί και τίμησαν
    το σχήμα τους και το ράσο. Τον Αρχιεπίσκκοπο Αθηνών Μακαριστόν Χριστόδουλον που προσπάθησε
    να γίνει και πάσης Ελλάδος και τον έφαγαν. Στην ιστορία του Ελληνικού Έθνους και της Ορθόδοξης
    Εκκλησίας ο Χριστόδουλος θα μείνει ένας από τους μεγαλύτερους Εθνάρχες. Ο άλλος ήταν ο Μητροπολίτης Σιατίστης και Σισανίου Αντώνιος, μία Αγία Μορφή , ταπεινός, πραγματικός υπηρέτης του
    Χριστού και του ανθρώπου. Ζούσε εντελώς μόνος του σαν φτωχός , δεν είχε αυτοκίνητο, ούτε
    υπηρέτρια , τα έκανε όλα μόνος του και το μεγαλύτερο μέρος του μισθού του το διέθετε στους έχοντας
    ανάγκη.Είχα την ευλογία να τον γνωρίσω και να φιλήσω το ροζιασμένο του χέρι.
    Ευτυχώς που και στις δύσκολες μέρες , τους έσχατους των καιρών που ζούμε , υπάρχουν οι εξαιρέσεις,
    μπορεί να σπανίζουν αλλά υπάρχουν και ίσως από αυτούς τους λίγους να πιαστούμε και να σωθούμε.
    Την προπερασμένη Κυριακή Εκκλησιάστηκα στην κοινότητά μου τον Άγιο Νικόλαο Φλάσινγκ. Ήμουν τυχερός γιατί ήταν η πρώτη φορά που άκουσα ελεύθερη και αληθινή αναφορά όσον αφορά το εμβόλιο
    για τον κορονοιό . Ο ιερατικός προϊστάμενος Πατέρας Παύλος στην ομιλία του , αναφέρθηκε στην
    ευαγγελική περικοπή της ημέρας που αναφερόταν στην αγάπη και εσφυρηλάτισε , το είδος της σημερινής αγάπης η οποία δεν είναι ειλικρινής, δεν είναι αληθινή , είναι αγάπη συμφερόντων , δεν
    προσφέρεται σήμερα η αγάπη ( και δεν μιλάμε για τις εξαιρέσεις αν υπάρχουν) με την καρδιά αλλά με
    το μυαλό που οδηγεί την σκέψη μας στο συμφέρον , ενώ η καρδιά είναι οδηγός συναισθήματος και η
    αγάπη είναι αυθόρμητο αληθινό συναίσθημα . Ο Χριστός μας παρέχει την ελευθερία επιλογής μας, δεν
    μας υποχρεώνει σε τίποτα. Με την διδασκαλία του μας εξηγεί το καλό και το κακό αλλά δεν μας
    υποχρεώνει ποιό να ακολουθήσουμε αλλά μας δίδει το δικαίωμα της επιλογής. Με τον ίδιο τρόπο αναφέρθηκε στο εμβόλιο λέγοντας πως εγώ σαν λειτουργός του Χριστού που θέλει τον άνθρωπο ελεύθερον χωρίς παρωπίδες , δεν μπορώ να σας πω να το βάλλετε η να μην το βάλλετε , η επιλογή
    είναι δική σας. Ειλικρινά ενθουσιάστηκα διότι η τοποθέτησή του ήταν απόλυτα σωστή. Πιστεύω
    πως θα υπάρχουν και άλλοι αλλά εγώ έγραψα αυτό που άκουσα αυτό που είδα.
    Στα πηγαδάκια στο προαύλιο του ναού , ακούστηκαν πολλά και ευμενή σχόλια για τον Πατέρα Παύλο.
    Ο Πατέρας μου που έζησε την ρουφνιά των συναδέλφων του στο πετσί του πολύ συχνά έλεγε: “ Αν θα
    καταστραφεί ο κόσμος θα καταστραφεί από το ράσο ( black robe) .

  7. Absolute Truth!
    Fr Nektarios of St Demetrios church in Astoria has NO charisma — it’s understatement, the few times I’ve met him & asked if him a question, was like pulling teeth.
    Thats how boring, lifeless & difficult it was to talk to him.

    Unbelievable bunch of Lemons

  8. I find it a little bit tiring and annoying to complain about everything. If you cry “wolf” all the time then your criticism will be ignored when it’s most needed. It cost only 450$ per person for a weekend retreat in Florida which is held biannually? That’s quite modestly priced and it’s not extravagant at all. Our Clergy needs to come in contact with one another that helps them, helps the Church. I do agree with the criticisms about lacking Education both religious but also in Greek language. You CAN NEITHER BE A CHRISTIAN NOR A GREEK by translation. The Greek language and the vernacular of BOTH the Old and the New Testament along with a rich and beautiful tradition which is in the Greek language that spans two millennia! Is our gem and treasure yet starting with the Priests they show no respect for it whatsoever exhibiting a laziness and unwarranted neglect. So yes, when we are lacking the fundamentals of ministry and we have priests that can’t even read in the Greek language and chant in the Byzantine music tradition such retreats lose their perspective and meaning..

    • Well, it would be pointless for us to respond to someone who cannot read a brochure that says that $450 per person was only the registration fee (!!!) but let me try. If lack of knowledge of the Greek language among the priests is your problem then the solution is not a 4-day vacation in a luxury resort! Especially if you want to also teach Byzantine music! If the case was so “noble” why the event was not announced in the media? They run announcements when the Archbishop coughs and they “forgot” to announce a gathering of hundreds of priests? As for the continuous criticisms – they are always based on the ridiculous decisions of Elpidoktonos. Just in the last month, we had the faithless decision to ban religious exemption letters, the disgusting visit to the Turkish House opening in NYC, and the luxury retreat… And recently he added the absolutely reprehensible, anti—Christian and possibly illegal action against the treasurer of the Astoria parish. In ONE MONTH Elpidoktonos makes 4 big mistakes and your problem is our criticism? P-lease…

  9. According to “swampers” -elpi is on their side— I’ll say it again -and again- the majority of church goers don’t go in for woke, tranny, alphabet soupers, blm, crc, (or is it crt?), banning parents from making their childrens’ education a “decent” one—- as for the greek language? Why is it #1 on foni’s list— ? When a house is burning down–you take the children out first to save them–not your favorite plate…. No longer should we be the “silent majority”—- they can win appointments/elections but they can’t win our hearts and minds….not with the games they are playing…. solution? change the players…..

  10. My children attend St Demetrios and I can tell you the Greek instruction is not strong and the religious instruction hasn’t happened in years. The combination of these two things mean the education offered is fruitless.
    What I would like to know is since the schools are under the Archdiocese and fall under their Greek educational direction why don’t they send out surveys to the families who have kids in all the Greek American day schools? This way they could get feed back and ratings regarding the teachers and the level of satisfaction from the parents of the students. Are we not customers? Do they not want to know if we are content or not? There is a big disconnect between the arch and our schools. No one comes to conduct any reviews or any oversight. The AB only comes when there is an event or holiday maybe 3-4 times during the school year but aside from that big disconnect.

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