Tag Archives: Churchliness

The Churched, The unChurched, Consumerism and Holy Communion

The Church has always been composed of the Churched and the unChurched, those who fear nothing and those who are fair-weather Christians only. However, these two groups, the former always being smaller than the latter, are not two separate groups, with no passages from one to the other. We are saved together. For all those who are Churched were once unChurched, as there is no such thing as ‘a cradle Orthodox’, though some persist in saying such falsity. And all who are unChurched may one day become Churched. Thus, I can say as a parish priest that most of my Churched parishioners were relatively recently unChurched and have been Churched only over the last twelve years.

This is why we reject any form of censorious and condemning phariseeism on the part of the Churched, a kind of Protestant ‘I have already been saved and you have not’ attitude. Similarly, we also reject both the excesses of over the top ‘neophytism’ and lax, anything-goes liberalism on the part of the unChurched. The Churched and the unChurched together combination is spiritually beneficial. On the one hand, the unChurched help prevent temptations of phariseeism and ‘ghettoism’ among the Churched. On the other hand, the Churched protect the unChurched from the twofold temptations of ‘convertitis’, zeal not according to knowledge, or a falling back into the worldly baggage with which the unChurched first came.

Much has been written for the unChurched, especially by authors of the Russian Diaspora. Surrounded by Non-Orthodox and Orthodox who knew very little, as intellectuals, philosophers and artists, they wrote for the educated in order to explain themselves. Such, for example, were the interesting books by Metr Antony (Bloom), Metr Kallistos (Ware), Fr Alexander Schmemann, Fr John Meyendorff and Fr Sophrony Sakharov, among many others. They were good at doing this because most of them came themselves from unChurched, though highly intellectual, rationalistic and wealthy, even aristocratic, backgrounds, with hardly any real experience of the inner Church.

Thus Metr Antony had been an atheist, Metr Kallistos an Anglican, Fr Sophrony had lapsed as a young man into Hinduism with its ashrams and mantras, and, by their bourgeois pianos, Fr Alexander and Fr John had little concept of ascetic and monastic life. Such writers give a very introduction to the Church for the University-educated. Once the contents of their books have been understood, however, we can move on from the ‘starters’ which they provide to the main course, the serious food, the food for the soul, not for the brain, the food of the saints and  the martyrs.

Today the secular baggage which the unChurched of all nationalities (we live in a globalised world) bring often contains a magical attitude towards the Church, that of consumerism. For them what the Church provides can be selected, just as people selects products from supermarket shelves. Of course, this is wrong: the Church comes as a whole package; you cannot choose one thing against another. When we go into the forest, we do not look just at one tree in isolation, we look at the whole forest. This consumerist attitude also implies a magical attitude towards holy communion. Holy communion is not a panacea, which automatically cleanses. It is effective only if we prepare for it, confess for it, dress properly and modestly in church, and live in the Church, live in Christ. The Church is a whole, it is Life, not a hobby or an ‘add-on’, it is everything.