New Idea for Church Discipline

Another selection from the reminiscences of Archbishop John (Shahovskoy).

My pastorship was dynamic: I loved people and was not afraid of them. Here is a small example to help understand what I mean. I remember a characteristic incident from the beginning of my pastoral path. I noticed also in White Church [Serbia] a habit familiar to me of the Russian intelligentsia and noble (at least in the past) people to be late to church. I am not talking about being a little late but arriving at the Gospel, or even the Symbol of Faith, after which starts the Eucharistic Canon-the most important part of the liturgy. The late ones in my parish were for the most part elderly former governors, vice-governors, generals, and colonels. This tardiness disturbed prayer and drew away attention from it. At the time of “holy things are for the holy” people walked around the church, placed candles, distracted the people praying, and picked out a place… I decided to make use of the forgotten experience of the early Church and stationed two young people in sticharions before the doors of the church, giving them instructions to close the doors after the Creed and not let anyone in the church.

The effect of this measure was quickly shown: beyond the doors of the church accumulated a multitude of former dignitaries having come, as usual, very late and were not allowed into the church. Of course, at first many were quite offended for this but, using this pretext, I explained from the ambon that I was not the one who offended them but they offended the Church and the ones praying there with their extreme lateness to the service; and they offended their own selves. Everything was cleared up to the benefit of all. The congregation understood and accepted my instruction.

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2 thoughts on “New Idea for Church Discipline

  1. A few years I was quite gobsmacked when someone phoned to ask the time of the service on Sunday. I said that Matins starts at 8:30, and depending on how long it takes, the Liturgy starts about 9:30-9:45.

    The caller said no, he didn’t want to know what time the service began, but what time it ended, so he could time his arrival just before the end and come in and light a candle.

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