Strategic Thinking

Fr. Michael, Saint Petroc Magazine, Vol. III, No. 2, July, 2000

Looking around the world, it occurs to me that in Western Rite Orthodoxy generally, we need a period of solid consolidation, while still building new parishes wherever possible. We need strength. We need to put ourselves in a position where we are visibly here to stay. We need to put ourselves into a position where we have the infrastructure to survive without assistance. We know that we cannot necessarily count on continuing goodwill - there have been sufficient examples in the past to convince us that we must have the ability to survive the attacks that come our way from all quarters. Christianity is under sustained attack and we are no exception to this.

I hope this doesn't sound like "bunker mentality" or paranoia. I do think that we have a duty to plan as best we can. "Pray and plan" is the watchword. With inspiration (the true meaning of that word - to breath into a soul - to breath life into) we can plan: "God willing, tomorrow we will do ......"

What then, does Western Rite Orthodoxy need to do?

Firstly, it needs strong, viable Parishes - and plenty of them.

Secondly it needs a strong ongoing education programme for all of its people - not just the newcomers. We need to be recognised as knowledgeable holders and guardians of the Right Belief. It must be apparent to everyone that we universally hold the fulness of Orthodoxy - not just some veneer of Orthodoxy. We are not using Orthodoxy as a place of refuge - we are Orthodox because we cannot in conscience be anything else.

Thirdly our clergy must be well educated - by which I mean well educated in Orthodoxy. They must know their Orthodox theology very, very well.

Beyond that, we need to develop monasteries.

The Church to which most of us look for our historical Orthodox heritage is our own first millenium Orthodox Church in the British Isles. That Church was, almost more than any other part of the Church, monastically based. The monasteries were its powerhouses, they were its administrative centres, they were its education centres. This is our tradition, it is the way our forefathers did their Orthodoxy.

Reinventing the wheel is never a very useful way of spending the little time that we have in which to work out our salvation. If our forefathers had a good working model, then perhaps we should pay attention to it.

Our monasteries however, must be very obviously guardians of Orthodoxy. They must be prayer centres. They must be places of contemplation of God. Thy can also be the places around which our Parishes are gathered.

As far as Saint Petroc Monastery is concerned for instance: Christ the Head of our Archbishop, our Archbishop is the Head of our Monastery, and our Monastery has gathered around it the Parishes, Priests and people. This is a traditional pattern that we have from our past and which may be suitable in some countries and for some jurisdictions.

As Western Rite Orthodox, we simply cannot afford mistakes or scandals or manifest failures. We cannot afford to be sloppy in our approach to our Orthodoxy. It behoves us therefore to look to our own methods of ensuring that we really do measure up to exceedingly high standards.