No issue has reached my inbox more since beginning to publish The Pappas Post than the recent firing of a popular priest at a Church in Arlington, MA. To say I’ve received dozens of emails and messages would be an understatement. It’s more like hundreds.
Fr. Nicholas Kastanas had served almost three decades at the St. Athanasius Greek Orthodox Church in suburban Boston. By all accounts that I’ve heard, he built a strong community with hundreds of active families dedicated to the parish, its ministries and community life.
Abruptly on July 27, the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston, headed by Metropolitan Methodios, sent a letter to the parish which was published on its website, effectively giving Fr. Nicholas a few days notice before what would be his final liturgy at the church he served for 28 years.
The letter mentioned vague accusations like “behavior that is contrary to Christina values”, “community turmoil” and “hurtful and destructive communications” but didn’t include specifics or a single detail or explanation.
The move caught most in the community by surprise and over a thousand people showed up for the popular priest’s last service at the church he helped build. Standing before the crowd, he even graciously thanked the Metropolitan— the man who had just abruptly fired him— for allowing him to serve the community for so many years.
Things that don’t belong in Greek Orthodox communities followed— the changing of the locks at the parish offices and confiscation of the priest’s personal items, candlelight vigils outside the parish with hundreds of people asking for answers from their bishop.
Of course, Facebook and Twitter have given the movement wind with thousands posting, commenting, tweeting and sharing stories.
It’s important to remember some facts here:
Fr. Nicholas Kastanas was never accused of doing anything wrong or defrocked by the Metropolis. He was simply fired, with no explanation except the contents of the letter sent to the parish and other than that letter, both the Metropolitan and his immediate subordinate, Fr. Ted Barbas, who serves as the Chancellor of the Metropolis, have been silent.
Not a single response to the thousands of faithful who want answers.
Was Metropolitan Methodios within his canonical right to fire his priest? Of course he was.
It’s the way things are done in the Greek Orthodox Church with Metropolitans yielding an iron fist over the affairs of their flock— after all, is it a coincidence that the word “despotic” comes from the Greek word “despotis” (bishop)?
But there are despots, and there are shepherds, who lead their flock in a loving and compassionate way (read: the Christian way) and offer them solace, comfort and understanding during times of crisis and upheaval.
Metropolitan Methodios has been silent. In fact, he hasn’t even been in Boston. He had already departed for his summer vacation in Greece when the letter hit the Arlington community like a thunderbolt on July 27, and he is still there.
Thousands of letters, emails, tweets, phone calls later and this community that has lost its spiritual father is still waiting for their shepherd— Metropolitan Methodios, to come and guide them and not leave them on the side of the mountain to fend for themselves.
I don’t know Fr. Nick and my only connection to this community is the constant bombardment of emails I receive from its parishioners. I’ve never even been to Arlington, Massachusetts.
But what I do know is that it’s America in 2017 and the way of the old Byzantine despots who demanded blind obedience and ruled with an iron fist over their flock isn’t the way to create a legacy, let alone run a community.
The faithful of the Greek Orthodox community of Arlington deserve better treatment from their hierarchs and decency and dignity from their Metropolis. A simple response to emails, a general assembly meeting, a group meeting with representatives— something. Anything.
And a priest who served and built a community for almost 30 years who wasn’t accused of any specific wrong-doing… well, he deserves some human (not to mention “Christian” decency.