Tuesday, August 30, 2011

 How to Support your Priest

You Can Better Help Your Priest and 
Bishop by Understanding this One Thing

My blog entry on Monday solicited numerous responses from priests, thanking me for my observations on the difficulties and temptations that come with priesthood. Parish priests feel pressures that are found in no other profession. The type of man that generally is drawn to the holy priesthood is one who has a heart for serving others.

Bishops and priests are often expected to do far more than is humanly possible. Bishops, as fathers to their people, are expected to be superhuman. Judged if they are not.

Over the years I've heard terrible stories of parish priests having to cancel vacations at the last minute because of sudden deaths in their parishes, requiring them to cancel airline tickets, leaving both they and their families without the much needed time away. One priest told me how his young son had been looking forward to a camping trip and cried when his dad had to tell him they couldn't go, because an important family in the parish requested that only he could do the funeral, rejecting having another priest step in.

Countless priests have to put in long hours, missing dinner with their families because of wedding rehearsals, hospital calls, counseling sessions. The average priest gets Monday off, yet is expected to forgo his only day off if someone needs to see him, or a parish council decides to have a meeting that evening. They demand their priest be available whenever they need him, regardless of the time of day, or the needs of his family.

One priest told me about having performed a baptism of a child for a family that rarely came to church, only to have them walk out immediately following the service, leaving him to mop up the spilled water, while they and their friends ran off to celebrate at a restaurant. He was given such a pitiful stipend for his services that he just dropped it in the poor box. They didn't even invite him to join them at the restaurant. He said he wouldn't have had the time to join them, but the invitation to do so would have been nice.

Most clergy receive a very small salary and are expected by their parishioners to be happy with what they have. The stipend is thus very important to the priest, yet I know of countless clergy who travel many miles from their rectory, bless the home and receive nothing for their services (the normal stipend for extra services like this is one hundred dollars).

Like all children, priest's kids need time with their father. Normal jobs allow dads to leave their job at work, giving themselves plenty of time to meet the needs of their children, but not in the case of clergy. Being on call 24/7, the families of priests often have to forgo planned meals, outings and family affairs because of the demands of their people. Most priests have such a strong desire to be in service, they simply can't say no.

The children of priests, as well as their wives, also must suffer the undo scrutiny of the parishioners, expected, as they are, to be perfect. Given all this, is it any wonder the children of priests often wouldn't think of becoming priests themselves? Please, whatever you do, don't criticize your priest in front of his family. How often I've heard priest's wives and children lament having to put up with attacks on their husbands/fathers by people who don't think he's doing enough! People airing their grievances at parish meetings, with the children and wives having to hear it all.

I share all this with my readers because most of you are unaware just how difficult a job your priest has and how much is demanded of his time. Most of you love your priests but are just unaware that he rarely gets his own needs met. I remember one priest in Detroit, would lived in substandard housing, while all his parishioners lived in nice homes. No one made any effort to make sure their priest (single in his case) was living in medium income housing, somewhere in the middle of all his people (the norm for most protestant churches).

How can a priest take care of the education of his children when his salary is at the poverty line? One horror story I remember hearing was of a priest who's parish council gave him an increase in salary that put him just over the line so he'd no longer qualify for food stamps, since this made the parish look bad. The priest and his family ended up with less, rather than more!

All of the above could be said for bishops as well. We really need to start taking care of our bishops, making sure they have adequate compensation, days off for restoration of soul and proper rest, and a whole lot less criticism from their people.

Love your priests and bishops, just as they love you. Give them support. Show them you care by sending them a little gift on their names day, or emailing them on occasion, letting them know you care about them. Tell them when you've liked their homily, invite they and their families to dinner on occasion. Let them know you care. Remember your bishop and priest with a thoughtful little gift, or a check, on Christmas and Pascha. Let them know you care about them. Make sure the parish council knows you think your priest should receive a proper salary. You'd be shocked at the average income of most protestant clergy compared to what most Orthodox priests receive.

The life of your priest can be greatly extended if you don't allow him to work himself to death. Make sure he does take at least one day off. Tell him to turn off his cell phone on those days. Call the rectory before knocking at the door. You have no idea how many priests evenings with their families are derailed with a knock at the door.

I'm sharing all of this with you because I know your priest will not. He loves you and he loves Christ whom he serves. Make him pace himself and you'll have him around to baptize your grandchildren. Don't expect him to be perfect. Most importantly, pray for your bishops and your priests. Honor and love them, and refrain from judging them.

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

Tuesday August 30, 2011 / August 17, 2011
12th Week after Pentecost. Tone two.
Afterfeast of the Dormition.
Martyr Myron of Cyzicus (250).
Venerable Pimen, archimandrite of Ugresh (1880)
New Hieromartyr Alexis priest (1918).
New Hieromartyr Demetrius priest (1937).
Venerable Alypius the Iconographer of the Kiev Caves (1114).
Martyrs Paul and his sister Juliana of Syria (273).

2 Corinthians 5:15-21


15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.
16 Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Mark 1:16-22


Four Fishermen Called as Disciples

16 And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 17 Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 They immediately left their nets and followed Him.
19 When He had gone a little farther from there, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the boat mending their nets. 20 And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went after Him.
Jesus Casts Out an Unclean Spirit
21 Then they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught. 22 And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.


  1. This message should be posted in Othodox churches throughout the U.S. We tend to forget that clergy are struggling to get through the day-to-day world like evryone else.

  2. I wish there were a way to send this post to a couple of priests I know -- they could use it. By the way, thanks for mentioning the proper amount of a stipend. I haven't been able to get a straight answer out of *anybody,* including the members of my parish, so my offering has been woefully inadequate. Now that I know better, I can make it up to my priest. (You don't have to publicize this comment if you don't want to.)

    1. Or send it to his parishioners... Sounds like we lay people need to hear this message more than our priests do.

  3. This needed to be said. It is a good reminder, and it would be wonderful if it were published as an article or bulletin insert. I'm sure every parish needs reminding from time to time.

  4. As the son and brother of Orthodox priests and the father of a seminarian, I welcomed your wise words. It is so true that many of our Orthodox faithful, many of whose parents and grandparents turned to Orthodoxy over the very issue of the married priesthood, take their pastors for granted. As my late father liked to remind his friends, when someone is dying, they never call the parish president! Thank you!

  5. My sense is that this sort of priest's stipend is not standard in all jurisdictions in the US. In the Greek and Antiochian Archdioceses I'm pretty sure any gift given at a baptism, wedding, house blessing, etc. goes to the parish since these services are "included" in the priest's salary and the parish members' regular giving. The more "a la carte", "pay for services" model seems to be primarily for those who are not regular members of the parish - or, again, in certain jurisdictions or regions of the country (e.g., ROCOR? small town Penn-Slav-ania?).

    Of course, it may also be a leftover in certain jurisdictions from various old countries and older eras where the priest would work like everyone else in the village. So, if you take him away from his land or his goats or his shoemaking business or whatever you were causing him to lose earnings. It's carried over into the new world/modern world because so many parishes do not pay their priests adequately.

    And, of course, certain ethnic groups tend to treat priests like waiters or hairdressers and tip them to remind them of their social standing, which is not the traditional status of a minister in either England or America.

    My take-away is that jurisdictions, bishops and parish councils should be very clear about what parish membership and annual 'dues' or giving entitles a parishioner to - what's 'included' and what's 'a la carte'. The priest should not be put in the position of holding out his hand or of walking away empty handed and hungry because people don't know what's expected of them.

  6. My husband is a Greek Orthodox priest and we are extremely blessed to be a part of a community where we are loved, embraced, accepted and receive a fair salary for the generous service poured forth to our church community. Our priest never accepts a stipend for sacraments because this is part of his job and all of these "tips" or donations are always put back into the church ministry fund. This is the way it should be - it is sad that priest have to depend on such things in order to support their families. I agree completely - Our priests should be honored and respected and paid fairly. I hope your readers are motivated to do tangible things to help support their priests, deacons and bishops. Why not write a note of thanks, comment on a powerful sermon, and best of all - regularly participate in the sacrament of Holy Confession - for this is where the hand of the priest is priceless.

    A praying presvytera

  7. My experience in talking with Orthodox priests across several jurisdictions is that only those in the Greek Archdiocese are typically well-compensated for their ministry. In the other jurisdictions, compensation varies widely from parish to parish with it usually falling on the low side.

    Stipends for services--with the exception of funerals--are assumed in the Antiochian Archdiocese. The Archdiocese clergy compensation guide recommends using these stipends for setting up a retirement fund. (Other than a housing allowance, there are no provisions for clergy retirement.)

  8. I came to Orthodoxy from a a background of protestantism where 6 of my 27 years of marriage were as a pastor's wife and 20 of those years were in a protestant church. I *never* experienced any of this type of thing until I stepped foot in an Orthodox church. To know that my priest was using his retirement nest egg to supplement his low income was abominable. The parish council's expectations of him were such that the priest was considered an employee/maintenance man. They *hired* him. They could *fire* him. I mean REALLY?

    That I *had* to pay dues to the church shocked me. That I *had* to pay for a panikhida for a relative was an insult. When I repose, a fee of $300 was expected to be paid by my family. ReallY??? As a dues paying member?!

    None of this changes my heart away from the One True Church. However, tithing and stewardship need to be taught to parishioners. What we have or own is only given to us by God's goodness - surely not because we deserve it! God forbid! And it is further sinful that we do not take care of those who serve God as our spiritual guides - our priests and their beloved matushkas.

    Thank you for writing this. I look forward to exploring your blog further.

    Pray for this sinner.

  9. This was a great post. Thank you! I am a PK myself and rarely do people think about all that their priests have to do. I can't tell you how many times my dad has missed an orchestra concert, or something of that nature, because he's busy at church. While he was always missed, I am glad that he's always there to help parishioners when needed. This is a good read for those who seem to think that they're entitled to having their priest drop everything in order to focus on their family's needs without acknowledging that his family (and the priest himself) has needs of their own.