March madness in Lent! Oh, wait…

lenten brackets

I made this March Madness bracket for Lent last year and… wow I wish we had basketball, in-person church, in-person Greek Independence Day celebrations etc., to make these jokes actually work. Sigh…

Families add sound track to webcast liturgy

1280px-Lenovo_ThinkPad_E520 (2)The Orthodox Church of All Saints of Southern North Dakota featured its usual level of noise at Divine Liturgy this week even without parishioners in the church. Father Athanasios Nikoladis didn’t know how to make a webcast, so instead he used a web-meeting app but could not figure out how to mute the other participants.

As Father Athanasios, one reader and one choir member conducted the liturgy at church, the laptop lit up with parents providing an assortment of answers about our world punctuated by commands, including,

“Fish don’t snore. Pay attention to the liturgy.”

“I don’t know if the Holy Spirit is a girl or a boy, it doesn’t say what kind of dove it is in the Bible. Be quiet.”

“My head is not a drum. Stop.”

From there, the parishioners were silent for about ten minutes until Andrea Olson was heard saying to her 15-year-old daughter: “Get dressed, will you? It’s still church!”

Mandy Olson replied in a low moan, “Even when I’m wearing clothes, Joshua never notices me, so what’s the point?”

A minute later, Mandy Olson’s phone made four text notification chimes, followed by Mandy saying “Ew.”

Andrea was then heard saying, “Mandy, we don’t use our phones during church, what wait did they say?”

Joshua and three other boys had texted Mandy. Josh’s text said, “We sure would notice if you weren’t wearing clothes,” and Silouan’s was “please send pictures 😊” and the other two texts were similar.

Andrea then took her own phone and texted the mothers of Joshua, Silouan and the other two boys about this. Sixty seconds later, text notification chimes filled up the webcast followed by four mothers saying, almost in unison, “You said WHAT?” another mother adding, “No phone privileges for a week!”

For services next week, Father Athanasios intends to either get a tech-savvy parishioner to show him how to run a real webcast app or have people park their cars in the lot and not get out, with a set of loudspeakers turned up to maximum on the front step of the church.

Orthodox guy thinks Lenten prayer of St. Ephraim is too literal for 2020

DSC05021_resizedPeter Markov, a parishioner at the Orthodox Church of All Saints of Southern North Dakota, is having a hard time with this year’s Lent, especially the prayer of St. Ephraim, as he finds it entirely too literal for our country’s predicament with COVID-19.

“Take from me the spirit of sloth?” he asked. “Sloth is what the government is telling us to do, stay home and stay inside.” Some friends had advised Markov to leave his house and go for a walk without getting too close to other people, but he just couldn’t deal with the cascade of changes. “First they close the schools, then the restaurants, and now the libraries. Next thing, I bet they’ll turn off the corona of the sun, and I sure don’t want to be outside when that happens.”

Markov similarly couldn’t handle the “despair” part of the prayer. “How can I not despair? I despair every time I see an e-mail from the church.” A few weeks ago, the church advised parishioners not to kiss during the kiss of peace, just bow. Then they canceled coffee hour. Then they closed church.

“The fifth Sunday of Lent is coming up soon and I’m sure what’s next is that the bishop is going to send a letter telling us to practice St.-Mary-of-Egypt-in-the-desert-style social distancing. How can I not despair? That St. Ephraim needs to loosen up,” Markov said.

Another member of the parish, veteran homeschooler Tiffany Page, said she was having a very difficult time with the “not to judge my brothers and sisters” part of the prayer as she watched friends tear their hair out over having to homeschool their kids while the schools were quarantined. “Usually I’m the weird one,” Page said, “but when my friend posted on social media that her new homeschool fired a teacher for drinking on the job, I couldn’t stop laughing.”

A third member of the parish, church extrovert Evie Barr, when contacted by phone by the Daily Podvig, similarly said St. Ephraim’s prayer was just too hard. “Idle talk? Idle talk? I’m stuck at home without any talk here, I’d give an arm and a leg for some idle talk right now and by the way what have you been watching on Netflix, because I really like…”

The interview with Barr continued for two hours without The Daily Podvig reporter getting a word in edgewise.