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To Greek church leaders: Get past social media, come together

A Greek Orthodox priest treasured by his community over 27 years presented what appears to be his last sermon Sunday, July 30, before his removal. The question is why?

The action taken against the Rev. Nicholas M. Kastanas remains publicly unexplained in detail from any official source. 

One parish leader suggests that leaders say the priest's failure to control comments from his flock on social media is to blame.

In a blog entry titled "Look in the Mirror!"Ioannis Moutsatsos, director of the Sunday School who has long worked with Kastanas, takes aim at the July 27 letter from Methodius, metropolitan of Boston.

The letter to Constantine Ioakimidis, president of the St. Athanasius parish council, says that Kastanas is relieved of his duties. It cites the "state of turmoil" that led to "hurtful and destructive communications," for which the priest "bears the greatest responsibility."

The letter is not specific.

In his blog, Moutsatsos lists a series of complaints directed at the parish council and suggests that the priest did not do enough to try to control parishioners' comments. He is accused of "damaging the spiritual environment of the community" by allowing the "distribution of hurtful and destructive communications throughout the Community."

Let me address Methodius and church leaders with respect but bluntly: If this allegation is true, who has yet been able to control comments on social media?

Lord knows, moderators of public lists and Facebook sites in Arlington try hard to do that -- yet often come up short, despite their best efforts.
In this case, no moderator's ability to be even-handed is at stake -- a priest's social skills are.

By accounts from church members, Father Nick's has a long record of excellent social skills.

That his skills do not extend to social media sounds dubious. As someone who has been involved with social media for two decades, I call this "explanation" an excuse.

Father Nick is not responsible for the variety of opinions among those in his congregation. Indeed, he showed estimable restraint last Sunday during what may have been his last sermon in a call for public calm.

If he stirred up church members earlier, in a way that angered the hierarchy to the degree that leaders ousted him, a YourArlington search of available social-media sites does not reflect that. 

Where are the posts showing that the leader encouraged "revolution" -- or even some resistance to an issue -- among the faithful? I cannot find them.

But given the possible avenues for addressing grievances on the 'net, I will keep looking for a "smoking gun."

If they are out there somewhere, in any event, the First Amendment gives us the freedom to speak our minds. It's an aspect of democracy that we may trace to ancient Greece.

Meanwhile, church leaders, locally and in Boston, as well as Father Nick himself, have no answers from their viewpoint about reasons for dismissal. All have declined to comment.

What an error in judgment! Now leaders have an 800-member congregation loyal to a priest of 27 years upset, protesting and seeking his reinstatement.

What to do? As Father Nick counseled: Calm down. Let's move beyond blame and seek a solution.

Leaders should move congregants past current confusion: Explain publicly why the ouster has occurred, listen to reactions from all involved, move beyond excuses and consider bringing Father Nick back -- unless there is some reason so egregious that this solution is impossible. If the latter, then acknowledge that and inform the public in a way that is legally permissible.

Otherwise, distrust continues.

When those at St. Athanasius the Great wept openly last Sunday morning and rose to three ovations, leaders need to listen.

If they don't, a dark veil will continue to hang over Appleton Street for the priest who comes next.


July 30, 2017: At his last service, 'Father Nick' draws strong parishioners' support
July 27 Letter from Methodius, metropolitan of Boston
July 29 blog entry "Look in the Mirror!"
Globe, July 29, 2017: Petition grows opposing removal of Greek Orthodox priest from Arlington church
Globe, July 30, 2017: Arlington church protests ouster of beloved priest 

This viewpoint was published Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017.

Letters: Emailing Advocate & Star? Copy it here; i...
 

Comments

Guest - Arthur Orfanos on Friday, 04 August 2017 08:24
Modern Day Witch Hunt

Frankly, anyone suggesting that Father Nick is to blame (responsible) for anyone's outcry, upset, or comments with respect to this or any other issue is full of you know what. What an idiotic approach, to blame him--the last person that I can think of that would ask or allow anyone to incite or participate in this chaos (or whatever you want to call it.) We have our own minds, thoughts, feelings, opinions, etc., and are voicing our own outrage over this unsettling situation. It's just another way for the hierarchy (or whoever is calling the shots against him) to keep the noose around his neck and force him into a corner. Shame on them for even considering that they would place ANY blame on our beloved Father. That's all these corrupt, [Expletive omitted], can think of to use against him? It's unbelievable because there is NO REASON, just the select few that are just out to get him due to their own agenda. Just as the Turks/Muslims forced the Greek Orthodox out of Constantinople/Istanbul, [they] do to to Father Kastanas. This entire charade is DESPICABLE and should be resolved NOW. #bringbackfathernick.

Frankly, anyone suggesting that Father Nick is to blame (responsible) for [i]anyone's[/i] outcry, upset, or comments with respect to this or any other issue is full of [u]you know what[/u]. What an idiotic approach, to blame him--the last person that I can think of that would ask or allow anyone to incite or participate in this chaos (or whatever you want to call it.) We have our own minds, thoughts, feelings, opinions, etc., and are voicing our own outrage over this unsettling situation. It's just another way for the hierarchy (or whoever is calling the shots against him) to keep the noose around his neck and force him into a corner. Shame on them for even considering that they would place ANY blame on our beloved Father. That's all these corrupt, [Expletive omitted], can think of to use against him? It's unbelievable because there is NO REASON, just the select few that are just out to get him due to their own agenda. Just as the Turks/Muslims forced the Greek Orthodox out of Constantinople/Istanbul, [they] do to to Father Kastanas. This entire charade is DESPICABLE and should be resolved NOW. #bringbackfathernick.
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