Conferences


 

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I will be presenting at the second annual Ancient Faith Writing and Podcasting conference (as you can see in the list of attendees in the graphic above. More information as it develops, but if you’re interested in writing or podcasting about the Orthodox faith, or if you’re interested in meeting other Orthodox writers and podcasters (and bloggers), please consider registering (link above).

 

Tension and heart


LOU LOU & PEA AND THE MURAL MYSTERY
By Jill Diamond, Pictures by Lesley Vamos.
Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers

Today, Jan. 27, is Multicultural Children’s Book Day in the US, and as part of the effort to encourage diverse kids books, I’ve agreed to review a multicultural kids book. The event – reviewing the books – is an organized effort, and more information can be found here: Multicultural Children’s Book Day . There are a bunch of publishers and authors who sponsor this, and I’ve put that information down at the bottom of the review, so please do check it out. I managed to totally luck out on this, and got an absolutely delightful book by Jill Diamond with some lovely illustrations by Lesley Vamos. The best thing about Lou Lou & Pea, for me, is that it’s not pushing any kind of multicultural agenda. It’s just telling a story about two young girls one of whom happens to be Hispanic, and both of whom live in a Hispanic neighbourhood. It’s the first book in a series, and I really hope that the book does well, because these two girls are terrific characters.

Lou Lou, whose full name is Louise Bombay and Pea, (her real name is Peacock Pearl) are best friends who live in the El Corazón neighbourhood of an unnamed American city. Their normal lives – gardening and attending the local public school for Lou Lou; fashion, good manners and taking courses in art and fashion design at a private school for Pea, are disrupted during their formal Friday afternoon tea party when Pea’s mother asks the girls to deliver a quinceañera dress (15th birthday party) that belongs to Pea’s prima (cousin) to the cleaners, as it’s been stained.

On bringing the dress to Sparkle and Clean, the local drycleaner, laundry and fashion boutique, Lou Lou and Pea discover that this was no accident. The stain is a combination of grape juice and purple dye. Worse is the fact that Lou Lou’s favourite plant is killed that same weekend. Lou Lou had planned to enter Pinky, her autumn queen camellia into the local horticulture show, where she was sure the plant would win first prize. The earth around the dead bush smells of bleach – a sure killer of camellias.

As they move through their neighbourhood in the following days, the girls notice additions to the local wall murals – a white bunny with amber eyes in one, a magenta camellia flower which is a perfect match for Pinky’s in another and the ruined quinceañera dress in a third.

As the girls go on with their lives, attending school, planning a memorial for Pinky, and getting ready for Hallowe’en and the Día de los Muerotos (Day of the Dead) celebrations, the crimes and the mural additions continue: Lou Lou’s nemesis, Danielle Desserts, loses her beloved gold necklace, the Candle Lady, Elmira’s, shop is broken into and her savings for the Candle Lady’s Caribbean Cruise are stolen. As well, the sprinkler system in Sugar Skull Sarah’s studio is tampered with, destroying most of the hard work she’s done for the Day of the Dead celebrations.

The question, of course, is who is responsible for both the crimes and the additions to the murals? Suspicion centres on Jeremy, Lou Lou’s new next door neighbour, who is altogether too friendly and who seems, through circumstantial evidence, to be the culprit. Although, it might be Rosa, Lou Lou’s shy, shadowy neighbour. Or Kyle, the Science Fiction geek and hall monitor. Or could it be someone else? The story climaxes at the Día de los Muerotos parade just after Hallowe’en, when the friends not only wow the crowds with their memorial altar to the departed camellia, Pinky but finally wrap up the case.

The fact that Pea is Hispanic, and so is most of the neighbourhood is woven seamlessly into the story. Most of the shop names are clearly Hispanic, and a lot of the dialogue and terms are Spanish, but the reader isn’t left grasping for meaning. It’s either clear in context, or the translations make internal story sense, since Lou Lou is not fluent in Spanish, although she’s learning, so she either gets it wrong, and is corrected, or the speaker translates quite naturally for her. As they’re going to the Candle Shop,

“Lou Lou read aloud the shop’s paper sign that she’d seen countless times: ‘SE VENDE LUZ Y SUERTE.’
‘We certainly need light and luck today to help Magdalena,’ Pea said.”

In sum, the fact that it’s a multi-ethnic book isn’t underlined – it’s just a story in which one major character is Hispanic and the girls live in a Spanish speaking part of the city. No big deal. Neither are the girls stereotyped, as either girly-girls or modern, “strong” girls who are deep into traditionally masculine attributes and interests. Both Lou Lou and Pea are well rounded, three dimensional characters – Lou Lou loves to garden, isn’t too concerned with fashion or her appearance and tends to be casual and relaxed. She’s not as thoughtful as she might be, but she cares about her friends and is quick to adapt her behaviour to make other people feel comfortable, including being as formal as possible at the Friday teaparties and as polite as she can be when necessary. Pea is very concerned with cleanliness and appearance, other people’s comfort and she adores fashion, but she’s also analytical, observant and decisive. The girls are girls, a mix of traditionally feminine attributes and modern, more traditionally “masculine” characteristics.

Jill Diamond has created a world that I think we’d all like to live in, and the name she’s given the neighbourhood reflects the atmosphere of the book. El Corazón means “the heart” and this community has heart. Yes, there is danger; the crimes aren’t just harmless pranks. Cash is stolen, merchandise is ruined and property is destroyed, and there is tension through the book, but it’s clear that this is an anomaly in the community.

And it is a community with corazón. People know their neighbours, care about them and look after each other. It’s not overt, or particularly underlined, it’s just there. This, along with the names and personalities of the characters is a major strength of the book. The people who live in El Corazón are quirky and full of individuality and they pop out of the page without overshadowing Lou Lou or Pea. The street names (Lucky Alley) and the store and organization names (Sparkle and Clean, Cupcake Cabana, Hello Horticulture! Society) also contribute to a lovely, gentle, fantastical “ago” feeling even though there are modern touches, like cellphones and blue spiked hair. The illustrations are done in a style that reminds one of illustrations from books from the 1940s and 50s, and the entire package welcomes and enfolds a reader in that gentle and welcoming world.

Definitely a book I’d recommend for kids who like mysteries, enjoy whimsy and are between 10 and 13.

Here’s the scoop about MCBD and the sponsors:

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/17) is its fourth year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness on the ongoing need to include kid’s books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day holiday, the MCBD Team are on a mission to change all of that.

Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2017 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. Platinum Sponsors include Scholastic, Barefoot Books and Broccoli. Other Medallion Level Sponsors include heavy-hitters like Author Carole P. Roman, Audrey Press, Candlewick Press,  Fathers Incorporated, KidLitTV, Capstone Young Readers, ChildsPlayUsa, Author Gayle Swift, Wisdom Tales Press, Lee& Low Books, The Pack-n-Go Girls, Live Oak Media, Author Charlotte Riggle, Chronicle Books and Pomelo Books

 Author Sponsor include: Karen Leggett Abouraya, Veronica AppletonSusan Bernardo, Kathleen Burkinshaw, Maria DismondyD.G. DriverGeoff Griffin Savannah HendricksStephen HodgesCarmen Bernier-Grand,Vahid Imani, Gwen Jackson,  Hena, Kahn, David Kelly, Mariana LlanosNatasha Moulton-LevyTeddy O’Malley, Stacy McAnulty,  Cerece MurphyMiranda Paul, Annette Pimentel, Greg RansomSandra Richards, Elsa TakaokaGraciela Tiscareño-Sato,  Sarah Stevenson, Monica Mathis-Stowe SmartChoiceNation, Andrea Y. Wang

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also work tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

MCBD Links to remember:

MCBD site: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta

Free Kindness Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teachers-classroom-kindness-kit/

Free Diversity Book Lists and Activities for Teachers and Parents: http://bit.ly/1sZ5s8i

Be careful what you pray for.


We’re always told to be careful what we pray for, because we will get it. I’m here to tell you that is so amazingly true that it’s terrifying.

For the last little while, I’d been running across comments and sayings from the Fathers about how we need to understand how God is not this cozy little person who is our best buddy, who is cuddly and comfortable and human sized. He’s big and he’s dangerous and we should fear him as much as we love him. And I get it, in my head: the being who can create the entire universe, who is bigger than infinity, to whom a hurricane is a slight breeze – who creates the hurricanes and the earthquakes is not a God you want to mess with. As Lewis put it: he’s not a tame lion.

But I didn’t feel it in my heart. God, for me had always been the shelter from the storm, not the storm itself. He cradled me through terrible times, reminded me of His love in the bad times, and healed me in the most amazing ways during the good times. He is patient with me, always gently leading me back to the way I should be going, pointing out where I need to focus my energies and my repentance. And I know for sure I didn’t actually, in so many words, ask to be shown the God who is bigger than the universe, but I do remember wondering how I could feel that awe and that wonder.

My writing life, for the last several years, has been a mess. Nothing I’ve written for over six years has been accepted for publication, and anything new I’ve started (other than an Akathist I’ve been struggling with for five or six years) has been blocked. For nonfiction, I can’t find the sources or a coherent voice, for fiction I just can’t put the words down, for poetry, if I haven’t got someone pushing me, it doesn’t get done. I’ve lost my focus, my sense of where I’m going with my writing, what I’m supposed to be doing with it, and even what I’m supposed to be writing. And who cared about what I wrote (other than me) anyway? My words were so trite, so banal and so shallow, was there any point to keeping on? Whatever I had to say, others had said it better, deeper, funnier and far more eloquently than I had, or could.

So when I heard about an Orthodox writer’s conference, I thought – yeah, I’ll go. Maybe I can jump start something. Or at least meet all these people I’ve known on line for years and years. But that was a lie I told myself. What I was really doing was saying goodbye. I think I’d pretty much decided to quit writing even before Mel emailed me about the conference, but I wasn’t ready to admit it to myself, so I packed the Akathist on the grounds that, hey, it was a writing conference. I could write when I wasn’t networking.

I caught a red-eye from Vancouver to Chicago, at least that’s what my ticket said, but it wasn’t long after I arrived at O’Hare that I realized I wasn’t in Ohio anymore. Or Wisconson or Kansas. Somewhere along the way, I entered the Orthodox twilight zone. First thing was meeting someone at the bus station who was also attending the conference. She had the knowledge to point me in directions that would allow me to go back to a stalled book on my name saint and her brothers, and was more than willing to share. Thank you Summer!

The first words I heard on arriving at the retreat centre in Kansasville Wisconsin were words I desperately needed to hear. And they were said by someone whose writing I have admired and learned from for a number of years. Molly Maddex Sabourin looked at me, said, “Are you Bev. Cooke?” And when I nodded, she told me how much my writing had meant to her. I heard that message a number of times through the two days we were meeting.

The retreat centre is on 137 acres of farmland. It’s got a tiny forest on one side of the property. The wooded area has trails dotted with shrines to various saints. There’s a handy map so you can plan your walk. I’m a sucker for maps, so I picked one up. I took along the Akathist I was working on. It’s to the Theotokos and it follows her life, including, of course, most of the major events of Jesus’s life as well.

Like I said, I love maps. I’m good at reading them, and I’m a good navigator. Until our GPS replaced me (for which I still haven’t forgiven it), I got us wherever we were going, efficiently and mostly trouble-free. I certainly never put us into farmer’s fields, which the GPS does on a fairly regular basis, at least according to the maps in its memory.

Yet, this time, even before I entered the trails, I got lost. I could see the beginning and ends of the trail marked on the map, but could I find them in reality? Good luck! When I finally stumbled on what I thought was the trail (but wasn’t), I was even more confused. I’m still not sure how I got lost in a soybean field in full view of the main retreat lodge, but I managed it.

I finally run across the trail, and find myself at a small square building dedicated to St. Nectarios. Aha! Here I am! So the next shrine should be St. Haralumbos. I walk toward it and run straight into the Dormition of the Theotokos, which, according to the map is on the entire other side of the forest from where I think I am. Well, okay. I’ll write a kontakion here, since the Akathist is to the Theotokos and it seems fitting. Then, at every female saint I encounter I’ll write another section. Now where am I and where am I going? Oh, Saint’s Pantelemon and Parksevi are next. Except they aren’t. It’s St Nectarios again, but it isn’t a small building, it’s a covered icon, just like the other shrines I’ve seen. Which means I’m suddenly back on the side of the woods I thought I had originally been, except that I hadn’t, I’m over there. And now I’m over here, and I didn’t see the field along the path I was supposed to be walking along, so maybe I’m over there, instead? But wait. Where’s the little lake, that’s supposed to be here? and I have no idea where I really am, except I have some suspicion that it still isn’t Wisconsin.

I give up. I will wander, ending up wherever I end up. Eventually, I’ll come out. It might or might not be on the retreat property. It might or might not be in Wisconsin. And if it is, this is rural Wisconsin, not the wild interior of British Columbia. There are, as far as I know, no bears in farmland Wisconsin. What’s the worst that can happen?

God likes metaphors, I conclude as I realize that I am as lost in these woods as I am in the forest of my writing. So I hand it all over to Him: this walk in these woods, and my ramblings in the thickets of my work. I walk and write and walk some more. I visit Saint Catherine and St. Barbara. Write under the eye of both women. The words flow as they haven’t for over six years. I walk some more and scare up a doe, which is pure joy and my heart leaps with her. I visit St. George and he and I pray for my godson, and I decide it’s time to head back to the lodge, and check the map, where I notice the shrine to St. Emelia. I can’t miss her – she is the mother of my name saint and when I enter her shrine, I feel welcomed and honoured. She’s been waiting for me, and enfolds me in a spiritual embrace. I pray to her and write a bit with her.

But now I have to head back. I’m hot and tired. The sweat is rolling into my eyes and it stings and it rolls down my arms and onto my fingers and makes the pen slippery. I’m full up with this experience and want to put the Akathist away for a while and think about what has happened here.

Next along the path, I run across a shrine to Sts. Constantine and Helen. She is a woman – but he’s not. Should I write? Or not? I look at my outline. This kontakia is about the entry to Jerusalem, when Christ was greeted as a king. Do I have a choice? I write. The next shrine is the twelve apostles. The ikos is the Last Supper. I pray, I write and I’m not sure if the drops hitting the page are sweat or tears. I am being led, and if the metaphor holds, then in my writing life, I am being led as well. I need to trust.

Enough, God, I’ve had all I can take. I want to go back to reality and talk with my friends. I follow the path, check the map, turn down the arm of the trail that leads back to the lodge. Without, as far as I can see on the map, any more shrines. I don’t want any more. I’m shaking and raw and I’m perilously close to tears.

A few more steps and I see, off the path, a painting: white lamb on a set of shoulders. No. I can’t deal with you this way. I can’t take so direct an encounter. But I have no choice, do I? I handed the control over to you, so I have to stop here. The icon is the Good Shepherd.

But it’s not the Good Shepherd I meet. It’s a storm of love – a hurricane, a tsunami of love, that envelopes me and holds me fast. I sense behind this storm even more love, more powerful than what I am already experiencing. This is a love that can create universes, and I’m only sensing the very tip and tiniest portion of how big and powerful it is, and I start to cry. There’s so much love here that if I let myself cry as I need to, I will cry myself out of myself. I’ll be stripped to my essence – opened up right to the innermost core of who I am and laid bare for all the universe to see. And I can’t. It doesn’t matter that God knows this part of me already. I can’t let myself cry like that, I’m not ready to be laid that bare. I back away after a few moments and head back to the lodge and to a reality I can deal with.

But I know that even as I run from the power and the immensity of the love that is God, I’m still running to him – he’s the good shepherd and I’m his ewe and he will be waiting, back to a size that he knows I can deal with. But my view of him is forever changed – it’s tinged with awe at the majesty he allowed me to see and sense. I know that one day, I will be able to face that love, and allow him to open me to the very core of myself, and I know too that it will be in tiny steps that won’t destroy me, and I’ll revel in every step of it. And I will not, I cannot stop writing.

Happy MonDay


Mother’s day is over for another year, but I’ve been reflecting on it as I’ve read all the kudos and gratitude and, yes, grousing about it on the internet. I don’t “celebrate” it and we didn’t teach our kids to pay much attention to it either. There’s a bunch of reasons for that:

In addition to the living children I have and whom I cherish and take an enormous amount of pride and joy in, there are three: James, Tabitha and Juvenal who didn’t make it long enough to be born. I remember them every day of my life, and think about them a lot.

My mother is dead, and when she was alive, she abused both my brother and myself and left us with deep and lasting wounds. And even though, over the course of my life, I’ve realized that she did the best she could with the world’s smallest “good mother” toolkit, and deeply regretted the pain she caused us, I don’t have a really strong inclination to either mention her or celebrate her mothering of my brother and me on this day.

Yet, while I don’t think of Mother’s Day as a really great day, neither do I feel resentful that other people are celebrating their relationships with their mothers, or missing the ones who have died, or mourning the children they’ve lost. I don’t feel left out or as if I’m somehow cheated and marginalized because everybody’s going ga-ga over their mothers or remembering their lost little ones. In fact, I’m happy to see that so many people can appreciate the work that goes into being a mom, that they recognize, even if only one day of the year, that it’s hard work, and it takes dedication, commitment and a lot more energy than anybody ever expected. I empathize with the mums who’ve also lost babies and children, and understand that it’s a bittersweet day for them, too.

What bothers me about it is when those like me, who had a less than stellar mother, or who’ve lost children, or, unlike me, never had ’em in the first place, jump up and down complaining that it’s wrong and somehow wicked for everybody else to have a good time and share the good parts of having been mothered, while it leaves them feeling sad and left out in the cold. Or who insist, like Anne Lamott, that it somehow marginalizes women who’ve chosen not to have children or that it “makes all non-mothers, and the daughters of dead mothers, and the mothers of dead or severely damaged children feel the deepest kind of grief and failure” while somehow perpetuating “the dangerous idea that all parents are superior to non-parents.”

I, the child of a dead, abusive mother, I, who most of the time feels like a failure as a mother, take issue with this. Having children isn’t the highest calling, it’s doesn’t make a parent superior to a non-parent and I’m not sure how a non-sentient day can pepetrate anything. Furthermore, I can attest, personally, that there is NOTHING on the outside of my skull that can make me feel more like a failure than the thoughts already squirreling around on the inside of my skull. I suspect the same is true for most people who feel like failures. It’s the voices INSIDE our heads we have to shut up, not the ones having a good time on the outside.

That’s what bothers me most about this: the implication that because somebody somewhere is having a horrible time on a celebratory day, because of the day, we should ban the day. That because some of us don’t happen to have good associations with motherhood, nobody should celebrate it, because, goodness knows, we don’t want anybody to feel excluded or bad or anything as awful as grief. I have news for you: grief is a part of life, and while the pain and the empty space inside never completely go away, you can come to terms with it, you can deal with it and find joy and happiness in other parts of your life. Yes, certain days, certain colours, certain places, certain songs will always trigger the tears, but honestly, I’d rather have that than feel nothing at all. It’s a part of being alive and it means that inside me, that person still lives.

So, my suggestion is that if you don’t want to or you don’t enjoy celebrating Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Parent’s Day, Valentine’s Day or any other Day, go find other people who feel the same way you do, and do something with them that will let you be happy. Let those who do want to find joy in the day, do so without raining on their parade.

HAPPY MON-DAY! And to all the mothers out there: I hope you had a stellar day.

Waiting and Being


It’s Holy Week and Minou is dying. She is old, older than we had thought, and her kidneys are diseased. Other than alleviating her symptoms there is nothing we can do. There is no cure for this. So we hydrate her, feed her, pet her, cuddle her, love her, but under all the doing we’re waiting until the time is filled and she is no more.

Waiting and being.

The last time I felt this helpless was during the birth of my twin godchildren. Their mother had asked me to be at the birth, and I was glad to go. Yet I’ve never felt as useless, as helpless as I watched my friend slip into preeclampsia and hallucinate through the middle of her labour. The nurses and doctors did the things they did, and it turned out well, but all I could do was sit in a corner, frightened and angry at my inability to help, to act, to DO something to alleviate my friend’s pain. All I could do was be there. Be present, witness her suffering and wait until the babies were born.

Being and waiting.

All I can do is be there while she labours to give birth. All I can do is hold the small furry body while it dies. All I can do is ache while the hurt heals. All I can do is wait: for life, for healing, for death, for the end, for the beginning, for the other shoe to drop, for the disaster. All I can do is wait: for the wound to heal, the breach to close, the child within to grow, the seed to germinate, the season to change.

It’s Holy Week and it’s filled with doing, with action. We clean, we bake, we prepare the baskets, we attend church and try to cram in as much good Lenten behaviour as we can before it all ends and we’ve fallen flat on our faces again, but under all that busyness, all that acting and doing, we’re waiting.

Waiting and being.

We want to do, we need to act. Action is right and good and necessary. We do things, we act, we make, we unmake, we change something, anything, whatever needs changing, making or unmaking. But, as the wise man said, to everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven (Ecc. 3:3). There is a time to act and a time to simply be and let what happens happen. But simply being is anathema to us. There must be something we can do! We endure it, we barely tolerate simply waiting, simply being while things happen that we can do nothing about: while the baby is being born, while the grandfather dies, when the child’s heart is broken, while the breach between friends or spouse heals. We twitch and fuss, wanting to get in and DO something.

In these long, tiring and out of time services we wait. We stand while around us doing happens: the prayers are offered, the hymns are sung, scripture is chanted and we in our wounded, broken selves are open receptacles for God’s love and mercy. The priest works, the deacon and subdeacons work, the readers and the choir work. Our work is to be open and receptive to God and the services, to witness the doing and the acting, perhaps even to join the singing and the prayers, but primarily our work is just to be. Even in the presanctified communion we do nothing as Christ enters us and sanctifies us.

This isn’t passive. Even though we are being done to, being acted upon, it is not part of our fallen nature to just stand and be, to open ourselves to God and the saints and the angels. It requires great courage, our full attention and an amazing persistence. We are, in the services, active in being who we are: broken, weak and prodigal children of our Father.

It’s during this busy, grief filled week of waiting and being that I’m learning that it is in waiting, in simply having to BE that I can draw closer to God. Perhaps it is one of the ways to theosis – to being one with God, to, as Athanasius pointed out, become God. He is the great I AM. That’s what he told Moses to say, when He met him in the burning bush. “This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Ex. 3:14) It’s said at the end of our services, “Christ our God, the great I AM”. He is. He doesn’t act, he doesn’t change, he simply is and the universe exists. The bush burned without being consumed, but we, in our need to do and act and make burn up our leaves, our stems and roots until nothing is left but dead branches and ash.

I need to burn less and I AM more. I need in these moments to be still and know that He is God.

I am ashamed of my faith.


I spend a great deal of my time on the internet, and on Facebook. A lot of the time, what I find posted is enlightening, educational, and entertaining. Some of the time, it’s maddening, disgusting and cringe-worthy.

Until today, though, I have never been ashamed. I am now. I am ashamed of my faith, because of something my brothers and sisters in Christ are doing.

This is not only not okay, it violates everything our faith, our God and our church teaches us.

The recent decision by the United States Supreme Court on same sex marriage has heated the debate, both on and off line. There has been more than enough vitriol, hate and viciousness spewed over this topic, by all sides, to put the Enemy in a millennial long coma of joy over the way we’ve treated each other.

I reproduce the two messages that appeared on my Facebook wall this morning, right after I’d attended Liturgy for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul:

Today, [a number of] Orthodox Christians banded together to hunt out private, secret and closed groups for Orthodox Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction. Self-identified “protectors of Orthodoxy” emailed celibate LGBTQ bloggers with nasty slurs and threats.

I need to remind you that an LGBTQ and/or same-sex attracted person, married in the Church, and their children do not need to spend this night worried about their private struggles being publicized online. I need to tell you that a teenager said, “the thought of being outed to every Orthodox Christian in the world makes me want to die”. I need to tell you that two parents of LGBTQ teenagers have been PMing me frantically, fearing for their children’s safety. I have not been able to offer them any realistic comfort.

The fact is, when an online mob gets going like this: vulnerable people commit suicide, and even when they don’t, it’s an unbelievably traumatic experience. Sadly, today, Orthodox Christians on social media need to be told this and I can’t do it alone. Everyone, for the sake of the woman taken in adultery and Our Lord who forgave her, please put a stop to any online mobs seeking out LGBTQ Orthodox groups.

Thank you and please continue to pray for us!

And this:

 Subject: To the heretic homos out to destroy Christ’s church

“This is to inform you that I will be personally contacting each of your bishops to alert them of your heresy. There will be no homosexuals allowed in Christ’s Church. You are not fit to share in the chalice, nor the other mysteries save Holy Confession should you fall to your knees after excommunication. The Holy Orthodox Church has never been silent about the condemnation of heretics. The attempted takeover of Arius was not permitted, nor will your sins be. The time has come for the homosexuals to be removed from the Church. Repent and see the true light, or leave the true faith alone and become an Episcopalian. I have contacted only a few today. I will be notifying more Orthodox-in-name-only homos tomorrow and every day hereafter.”

Outing same-sex attracted, transgendered people to the heriarchs of the church or to the online community, people who are struggling to live a faithful, celibate, Orthodox life within the church in accordance with their and our beliefs is not Christian, not Orthodox and needs to stop.

Christ came for us all. Every single conceived human being is capable of salvation, regardless of who they are, what they’ve done or how they act, as long as they are repentant and beg for mercy from our Lord. That means everyone. Me, you, my worst enemy, your worst enemy, the most evil mass murderer or serial killer on the planet, aborted and miscarried babies, venerable babas, LGBTQ persons struggling in the church to be faithful, repentant servants of Christ and self-outed, secular gays and trans. No exceptions. Not even the people who are doing this – they also are capable of salvation.

Nobody, absolutely NOBODY has the right to out anyone for any reason to the the church heirarchs or the internet mob, which has ruined careers, marriages and lives. It has forced people into hiding, into moving far from their families and friends, it has forced people to live a life of isolation and terror, and it has driven people to take their own lives.

We are called, regardless of our own private opinions of people and their behaviour, to treat each other as icons of Christ, to love everyone as we love ourselves, and as we love God. Everyone. For someone who professes to believe in and follow the faith given to us as a precious gift by the God-man who died on a cross for us all, to engage in this behaviour is worse than reprehensible, worse than hypocritical. You’ve had the example before you, in the person of Jesus Christ. You step up to the chalice and you eat his Body and you drink His Blood. You say the words: “Make us worthy to partake of the heavenly and awesome Mysteries of this sacred and spiritual table.”

Yet you would drag your brothers and sisters from their homes, from the chalice, from kneeling before God in confession and contrition and stone them as the woman taken in adultery was stoned. Remember what he said: “Those without sin, let them cast the first stone.” Look to your own hearts, see to the beam in your own eye, and realize that what you are doing to our brothers and sisters you are doing to Christ, and your actions will haunt you. You will face God on the last day and he will ask you, “Why did you do this to me? When you outed her and her family, you outed me. What you do to the least of these, you do to me.” You are throwing Christ to the wolves, to the mob, and you are driving the nails into His palms and plunging the spear deep into his side. Stop. Stop it now.