Log in

No account? Create an account
spiritual renegades of the St. Herman Brotherhood — LiveJournal [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
spiritual renegades of the St. Herman Brotherhood

[ website | Perfection in Pain ]
[ userinfo | livejournal userinfo ]
[ archive | journal archive ]

Barack Obama's Prayer at the Western Wall [Nov. 16th, 2008|01:01 pm]
spiritual renegades of the St. Herman Brotherhood

Barack Obama was in Jerusalem this summer and following Jewish tradition he donned a yarmulke and went to the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site, where he prayed. He did what countless people have done across the years when he placed a prayer he had written on a piece of paper into a crevice of the Wall.

The prayer was not intended for public consumption and it was inappropriately removed from the Wall by someone who took it to the press which meant it was released for the entire world to read.

Obama did not pray to be the next president of the United States. Instead he prayed this simple prayer which I think speaks volumes regarding the kind of man he is:

“Lord, Protect my family and me. Forgive me my sins and help me guard against pride and despair. Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will.”
link3 comments|post comment

power gambit 2008 [Nov. 4th, 2008|05:01 pm]
spiritual renegades of the St. Herman Brotherhood
[Current Location |Moscow]
[mood |curiouscurious]
[music |wind]

Hey folks, it’s Christmas Eve for the candidates. Any voters in the Orphanage?

It has been said that how one votes reflects ones values on an even deeper level than where one goes to Church. For me, Orthodoxy was a great relief in the political area, a place where I had once invested all the strength of my personal values and allegiances. Since I become Orthodox, however, I have not voted in any elections or for any ballot measures. I don’t feel guilty about it. Its not that I don’t have an opinion, I just feel that so disgusted with the process (or façade thereof) and the choice of candidates that the prospect of the choice between the lesser of two evils seems an unattainable luxury. 

Others disagree. Many of my friends have found their sense of civic responsibility strengthened by Orthodoxy.  It may be problematic from the Christian point of view to wholeheartedly support any candidate, but there is certainly no conflict between being a Christian and participatory democracy. I always like it when my co-religionists choose different parties or candidates and squabble about what or who’s best.

Anybody care to disclose who they voted for or why? How does this relate (or not) to your spiritual values?

link3 comments|post comment

I am your child... [Oct. 22nd, 2008|08:54 pm]
spiritual renegades of the St. Herman Brotherhood
Dear sthermansorphans, all members:

I am one of your spiritual children, although we have never met.  I stumbled across your page and after reading through it, I feel both in pain (for your suffering), and overjoyed, to find you.

I am one of the converts who came to the Church in or about 2000 through one of the former CSB parishes that was later received into the Serbian church.  Although I came after all the fall out, and after all the mess, I inherited the legacy that was the "Mess That Was Left Behind". 

I won't bore you with the details of how I came to find the church, but I was convinced, blah, blah, blah and I came eventually to the door of the Forerunner Bookstore in Reno, Nevada.  That bookstore was/is operated by Nina A., whom many of you may know through Fr. Herman and the Platina brotherhood.   She was his god-daughter and was a former paraplegic.  (If you know her, and you care, she is doing very well: walking, having a grand time OUT of her wheelchair.)   Nina eventually became my god-mother, and I don't fear exposure because she has something like 80 god children or so.  I love Nina and I am still very close to her.  In any case, when I was finally baptized, after four years, I came into the Church under a former HOOM member, now a priest in the Serb church, Fr. J. Barfield.  

Needless to say, my journey and my life in the Church has been anything BUT easy.  I have had to deal with all of what you describe here, and then some.  Fr. J and his wife, "Popadija" are both two of the most difficult guru-oriented people I have ever met.  Both of them are so focused on being "right" that it leaves little room for anything else in their hearts.  Even the monks of Platina (the current brotherhood) are not "holy" enough for them.  It boggles the mind. 

The parish I was in, was split in 2002 due to jurisdictional politics and a few left to join an OCA parish, also headed up by a CSB priest (Fr. Hilarion Frakes) , and which later erupted in more broken hearts than I have ever seen in one place.  He is no longer a priest, and the spiritual orphans of THAT parish came back, "humbled" and with necks and heads cowed (yes, cowed) to the original parish.  What a MESS!!! And all because of the agenda of the CSB.  Hearts broken, lives destroyed, faith obliterated.  

When I was finally baptized, I was married at the time.  2 weeks later, my then-husband went completely nutso and damn near beat me to death.  I left him, and was told that HE was still "welcome in the Church" and I and my daughter had to "bear our cross" and put up with his presence.   My daughter was terrified that he even existed, much less having to stand next to him in Sunday DL.   I left and I found an Anglican priest for comfort, spiritual guidance and spiritual "food".  Since then, my road in Orthodoxy has been up and down, right and left, and without much in the way of compassion or even an a kind word from many people in that parish.  Some of them even made fun of us (in public) for our inability to "bear our cross".   My daughter and I eventaully simply left without saying goodbye, and have since moved to California.

Since then, I 've attended an OCA parish but I find it hard to really open up.  The priest here in so. Cal seems very kind and very "straight and cool" but I am always wondering if the shoe will drop. 

During my time in the Reno Serb parish (simply another cover for the CSB since it's got one of it's own priests assigned there.) I found myself questioning my sanity, my moral compass (which frankly, was pretty good until I was baptised! LOL), and my sense of reality.

The CSB is alive and well and leopards do not change their spots.  They have simply learned to hide their agenda better.  I do not mean to sound bitter, but I have to say that although you may have moved on, and perhaps even learned to heal a bit, the fall out is still happening. I am one of those who came after you, and as such, in a way, I am your spiritual child.  And I am very grateful to ALL of you, for what you have suffered, what you have learned and what you have shared here.  It makes my own "cross" a bit easier to bear knowing that I am not alone.  

I have never really gotten the entire history of all this straight, since no one unbiased would ever really tell it.  But that doesn't even matter to me, anymore, because I can see that the CSB is still at work (esp. thru Mother Mikalia and similar people I have met) ---- not everyone who was involved in the CSB or Raphael House in SF is a nutjob but many of them ARE.  And they are harmful and inflict so much damage on many people who had nothing to do with anything that happened in their previous lives.  Whatever is going on in the hearts of such people may not be my place to judge, but I can certainly inspect their fruit and it's rotten, no doubt about it.

I am struggling very hard, to maintain my faith in Christ, much less in his Church after how my daughter and I have been treated.  But I struggle on only because I know that even if none of it is true, there is a kind of uncreated grace in innocense.  And I am really trying hard to hold on to that.

Even though I feel like a hypocrite for saying this, I do want to thank you for sharing your stories and your struggles here.  God bless you for it.  I do not feel like an outcast anymore.

Love always,
Your spiritual child
link5 comments|post comment

Naomi Wolf on the Current State of America [Oct. 6th, 2008|09:02 pm]
spiritual renegades of the St. Herman Brotherhood

This is pretty much what Fr. Herman used to say would happen in America.

link5 comments|post comment

The Shack by William P Young [Sep. 15th, 2008|07:19 pm]
spiritual renegades of the St. Herman Brotherhood


PhotobucketI spent my weekend reading The Shack, a popular best-selling Christian novel.

I didn't really want to read this book. I only read it order to form a friendship with a woman at my workplace who loaned it to me it. I've only talked to this woman a couple of times. She seems very warm and genuine, which is a striking contrast to most of the corporate drones I work with.

I saw her reading this book in the lunchroom and being a lover of books, I asked her if it was any good. She said it was sad and then she asked me if I was a Christian.

*bomb drop*

*followed by the sound of a pin drop*

I wasn't prepared for that question and I felt put on the spot. I 'm not comfortable discussing Politics and Religion at work. But because this woman is warm and I had a good feeling from her I didn't reply with my standard, "I find it best not to discuss Politics or Religion in the workplace." Instead I stammered, knowing that if I wanted to form a genuine friendship with her I would have to risk sharing a little something about myself, but how could I truthfully answer this loaded-gun of a question?

Read more...Collapse )
link2 comments|post comment

Thoughts on The Unbearable Lightness of Being [Aug. 2nd, 2008|03:49 pm]
spiritual renegades of the St. Herman Brotherhood

I just finished reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. Having read a lot of books about life under Soviet Communism from the perspective of Christians who suffered under this regime, it was interesting to read a novel set during this same time period from the perspective of intellectuals and artists who also suffered.  This is during the time when the Soviets occupied Prague in the late 1960s.

The story revolves around the relationship between an adulterous husband and his longsuffering wife. Normally I refuse to read novels in which the author seems to condone adultery (which is why I've never gotten past the first couple of pages in any Henry Miller novel) but I was able to put aside my offense and keep reading, due to this passage:

If every second of our lives recurs an infinite number of times, we are nailed to eternity as Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross. It is a terrifying prospect. In the world of eternal return the weight of unbearable responsibility lies heavy on every move we make. That is why Nietzsche called the idea of eternal return the heaviest of burdens (das schwerste Gewicht).

     If eternal return is the heaviest of burdens, then our lives can stand out against it in all their splendid lightness.

     But is heaviness truly deplorable and lightness splendid?

     The heaviest of burdens crushes us, we sink beneath it, it pins us to the ground. But in the love poetry of every age, the woman longs to be weighed down by the man's body. The heaviest of burdens is therefore simultaneously an image of life's most intense fulfillment. The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become.

     Conversely, the absolute absence of a burden causes a man to be lighter than air, to soar into the heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant.

     What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness?

     Parmenides posed this very question in the sixth century before Christ. He saw the world divided into pairs of opposites: light/darkness, fineness/coarseness, warmth/cold, being/non-being. One half of the opposition he called positive (light, fineness, warmth, being), the other negative. We might find this division into positive and negative poles childishly simple except for one difficulty: which one is positive, weight or lightness?

     Parmenides responded: lightness is positive, weight negative.

     Was he correct or not? That is the question. The only certainty is: lightness/weight opposition is the most mysterious, most ambiguous of all.

And so I kept reading in spite of the adultery that goes on because I like reading about philosophy and ideas (but really, mostly only when they are woven into a story).

Read more...Collapse )
link3 comments|post comment

Late Intro [Jul. 18th, 2008|03:48 pm]
spiritual renegades of the St. Herman Brotherhood
[Current Location |Mosocow]
[mood |optimisticoptimistic]
[music |birds outside in thunderstorm]

Hello Folks, Привет от Фомы

I have taken the time to read through the exchanges in this very amazing community and I must say I am profoundly moved. I really appreciate the 'let it all hang out' theme and I feel it is very cathartic to speak in these tones so far removed from the pious and or over-intellectual voices one gets on Orthodox forums and communities online. I know I have met many of your as monastics and or neophytes from Platina, St. Paisius and the Chico bookstore. Perhaps some of you remember me.

I was and am a St. Herman's child, but I was never a DTTW / YOTA person. I encountered the Valaam Society in the summer of 1988 in Chico and maintained loose but very friendly relations with the keepers, including Lenny (Fr. Leo), Fr. David Coleman and his wife, Platonida Barton (we were very close), Allison Engler (who was super lovely) and Mother Nectaria, who basically ran the VSA mission in Chico before Mother Sophia entered the picture and before Theophany Skete. Mother Nectaria became my Godmother and one of my best friends (we both live in Moscow now). I became Orthodox in 1991 after a year long catechumenate.

Why Orthodoxy? Unlike most people in this community, I was not raised Christian, even non-practicing Christian. My family was and is screwed up, but I have never held it against them and I have always enjoyed good relations with my family despite issues, which were plenty (alcoholism, psychiatric hospitals, runaway siblings). My spiritual orientation growing up could only be described as Buddhist. My neighbors were Nicheren Buddhists and my mother became a Nicheren Buddhist when I was 10 and to this day I believe this move saved her life. I became Orthodox through a calling that is rather involved and perhaps better saved for later. Suffice it to say that I was not part of any group and that the nature of my experience with God had devastated my social life in a way that left me both free and motivated to pursue my ideals unhindered by personal, material or financial ties.  My first experience at Platina was Pascha in 1990 and I was so blown away that nothing has come close to shocking me with revelatory joy since then, Optina Monastery, Russian Elders and living saints no exception.

Despite what I believe was a deep and formative period at Platina and St. Paisius, it would appear that I spent considerably less time in these places than many in this community, especially the moderators.

I had no plans for life after college I(I lie - I did, but they were so lame as not to count) so I stayed at the Chico bookstore for 6 months until I moved to the Pacific Northwest to work as a journeyman woodworker and the journeyman carpenter for two years, living with a small parish in Port Townsend. From there, inspired by the stories of those recently returned from the Russky Palomnik mission in Russia who I met at the St. Paisus Academy in 1993, I went to Russia for a year to work in the mission. About half of this time I spent living as a pilgrim in residence in Optina Monastery, where I had numerous encounters / talks with Elder Eli with whom I never became close but whose influence was nevertheless decisive in my future path.

Among other mind bending and life changing events, I was robbed of everything and this resulted in a forced trip to the Netherlands where I was re-acquainted with Fr. Dcn Josef Moes, a man who later became perhaps my closet Orthodox friend and co-struggler. I returned to Russia and finished my year long commitment to the mission and after a brief 4 month stay back in the States, during which time I met many of the people in this community, I relocated to Amsterdam where I and another American partner worked with Fr. Josef to set up and maintain the 'Pad Van Valaam' bookstore for 5 years.

Like many people associated with the St. Herm Brotherhood, we suffered 'persecution' pretty seriously here in the form of jurisdictional warfare, some of it involving the lowest elements of human behavior know to man. I was a 'Hermanite loyalist' and remained so even after the dirt went down in the late '90's. I have no regrets and would probably do it again. As mentioned by whosplitheatom (I think?) in a previous post, I would never have become Orthodox if I had encountered these other people 'representing the Orthodox Church'. I was privileged to have Archimandrite Adriaan Korpral (+2004) as my confessor at this time - a direct disciple of Archbishop John.  Fluke or no, Fr. Adriaan, already in his mid 80's and in poor health, protected our group and defended me personally before a horde of accusers who were horrendously offended that we had set up shop in the same town without kissing their brown rosebuttons and declared us anathema from the altar on the Sunday of Orthodoxy on at least two occasions. This test of faith was not the first or last, but it was perhaps the most productive in my experience as I had only Archbishop John to go to in prayer and he brought me out of it all. Not without scars, not without dipping my face in shit 'n' shame, but to a higher truth nevertheless. 

After the events that changed Platina, I married and moved to Russia. The Pad Van Valaam bookstore remained active for another 6 years, finally closing in 2006. I am very proud of this, as I built the place with my bare hands and paid for it by cleaning toilets. I had lots of help, of course, but day to day it was my but on the line. I didn't earn a cent, though most of Orthodox Nederland thought I was subsidized by St. Herms or something. When my position became vacant, there were no takers. A small crowed of people came to Orthodoxy though out mission, some got inspired and many more got fed. It was not DTTW, which I have always considered more ass-breaking than anything I ever did, but everybody has to use their talent.

These 8 years in Russia have been some of the best years of my life. My inner life has taken a completely new direction in marriage and family life dominates my spiritual continuum. I have three kids and we have no plans to live in the US anytime soon.

Of course, this is a Readers Digest version of things. I hope I will have a chance to get into particulars later.

Looking back I can say with some confidence that the experience of Orthodoxy via the St. Herman Brotherhood was (and remains) qualitatively much higher than anything available elsewhere. This is just my take and there is probably some self justification in this, but there it is. There is nothing like the Valaam Academy or St. Paisius Academy anywhere in Russia, much less Holland. I don't know about other places. I have taught in St. Tikhon's University here and been a part of catechism groups and there is simply no comparison. Many would disagree and I often hear criticism of the insularity and pretension and self righteousness of certain people or St. Herms as a group. My response is that I have yet to be involved with a group of people who are not messed up. Lesser hurricanes have completely destroyed other communities. Our boys got up with crap on their faces and had double helpings of humble pie and for the most part it has been good for 'em. Heaven knows how they (how we all) prayed and continue to pray for those who those who got creamed, passed though the fire and the dropped like hot dukey rocks. People whose only crime was being needy at the wrong place and at the wrong time. Nothing is accidental, but man if karma is not part of Orthodox epistemology, the final picture in the Kingdom revealed chapter is going to be really interesting.

Russia offers other growth paradigms, chiefly life as a foreigner, life in a 1000 year old Church and a traditional culture that is still coming to grips with its own apostasy, furniture issues and blind aggression towards itself. I don't know if it would be appreciated, but for what it's worth the American experience of Orthodoxy has many real advantages over  'traditional'  Orthodoxy.  The American character, rootless,  inquisitive, mobile, daring, pubescent, self conscious, explosive, generous, bumptious, shallow, boisterous and badass presents unique conditions for spiritual growth within Orthodoxy. These things are what I have always hated about Americans and (I say without a trace of irony) what I miss most about America. Oh, and Mexican food.

Unlike many in this community, I do not have serious issues with church authority, organized religion or what not.  I don't know why. Am I lucky? Maybe I didn't try hard enough? I hear the objections and rants (some very cogent people here, despite self diagnosed neuroses and freak o' nature-ness)  and I am not really drawn into them as 'positions' as much as I am by the people  who write them.  Real people, real issues and general realness. I hope my lack of existential angst and laissez-faire attitude to the ubiquity of human ugliness rampaging about within the Church do not disqualify me from participating in this community.

I also hope to learn how to cut the post down with a little switch around here somewhere so it doesn't clog up the page.

with much gratitude for the existence of your collective asses

link7 comments|post comment

Finding Something [Jul. 17th, 2008|06:48 pm]
spiritual renegades of the St. Herman Brotherhood
I was really looking for someone / something else, but I found this Live Journal thing with St. Herms people.  I never could have imagined such a thing. Me? I visited back in 2006 for a few days - the first time in over 10 years. I dream of going more often, but I don't live in the US. I am trying to be a productive Stray Sheep. I do not consider myself a STHB orphan, I just woke up one day in another country.

Imagine the prodigal son's brother (the bitter goodie two shoes) going away to prove to his father that he is A MAN and when he comes home, beaten and deformed but holding a few scales of the dragon, he discovers that the family farm has burned down and his father and brother have set up shop with the dragon, who is now a full partner. In time the bitterness passes and is replaced variously with despair, anger, irony and finally  a sense of self and purpose outside the farm thing. The brother begins to see he isn't who he thought he was after all - that he was indeed a man all along but very far from being a goodie two shoes. This was rather predictable and caused self doubt. Resolving to start over as a 'baddie three shoes' or a lame superhero who never could fly, was never impervious to bullets, fire or even nasty comments, the brother gets down to the business that was his original purpose at the farm in the first place - obtaining self knowledge. Its tough without the family, but ultimately more productive as the brother is kind of a loner.

The greatest day of his life was not the long awaited pat on the head from dad but the sideways look from the prodigal brother who said simply, "Yes, what is it? Can't you see we're busy?" He has always liked his party-hearty but repentant brother, but remains jealous in fear that dad gives him all the attention. Hence the escape thing.  He is sometimes lonely, but true to himself and God, now understanding that he never wanted to be a groupie anyway. He has found happiness and writes home every now and then. He has made peace with the dragon. He is nothing special. He just grew up to be a broken man all on his own, without the help of STHB.

He quietly hopes they will all come to visit someday.

link2 comments|post comment

Platina fire updates [Jun. 26th, 2008|08:48 pm]
spiritual renegades of the St. Herman Brotherhood

Just in case you haven't seen this yet:

link2 comments|post comment

Hi y'all [Jun. 26th, 2008|07:47 pm]
spiritual renegades of the St. Herman Brotherhood
I visited the USA back in '94 and spent 4 weeks or so visiting St herman's Monastery, St Paisius Abbey, Raphael House, St Xenia'sa skete, Theophany Skete in Chico and a few other places....spent years before this reading St herman's Press books, got caught upo in it quite a bit.......loved the spirit of it all ...............especially DTW zine.........I aint no Youth of the Apocalypse I'm old.......and my heart was seared by the pain and authenticity of the struggle of so many of the folks I met over there..........I came back home spent the next 10 years serving the church and then all burned out and tired went as we say in Oz "walkabout"............I have loved reading the thoughtful comments on this community and look forward to many more.....blessing to you all.........

link2 comments|post comment

[ viewing | 10 entries back ]
[ go | earlier/later ]