The community room at my hometown West Point Branch of the Pamunkey Regional Library is free for any person or organization to use as long as there is no charge or nothing being sold. As I am not a member of the clergy, taking up an offering is out of the question. I do have some icons and books to sell. But, listening to a lecture from my friend Fr. Paul Abernathy, I am called not to be a money collector. As a Christian, my calling is to sincerely share a little bit of myself.
Staying in front of my own icon corner or at the chanter’s stand in my own parish is comfortable enough. Yet, Jesus Christ taught that no one lights a lamp and puts it under a bushel basket. The lamp goes on the stand to provide light to everyone in the house. Yeah, perhaps with better advertising, praying the Canon & Compline at St. Demetrios could be better attended. While there, my home, and St. Nicholas are good places to offer the prayers on a regular basis; I don’t live in Williamsburg, Hampton, or VA Beach. I live in West Point. My light has to shine at home.
I figured the library would be a very good location to offer the Canon and Vespers prayers. One of my cousins thinks I work there as often as he passes my car parked either in the lot or on Main St. in front of it. People of all walks of life come in to check out books and use the computers. There is only ONE Orthodox book in our branch, “The Mountain of Silence: A Search for Orthodox Spirituality” by Kyriacos Markides (a very good read, by the way). But, other books, mostly by Frederica Matthews-Green, can be checked out through the inter-library system. Plus, anyone can look up the Brotherhood of St. Moses, Orthodoxy, or anything else that may strike their interest online.
There are some things that scare me about doing this. First, that I must be sure that I offer these prayers for the glory of God and not for the glory of John R. Gresham, Jr.. As a former Baptist pastor, I know how easy it is for someone to get too full of himself. There have been times that my head (which is big enough) had been swollen by pats on the back and praises. I guess knowing that I am not a clergyman and have the same faults and failures as anyone else ought to help keep me straight.
A second fear is that I will meet the same fate as Jesus when He spoke in His hometown. No, I probably won’t get stoned. West Point has tons of pulp wood and the last thing I want is for people to beat me up with those pine logs. Then again, Jesus said that a prophet is not respected in his own home. That might be my hedge of safety. I am not claiming to be a prophet. So, at worst, I will probably have some hard questions to answer about my faith.
Perhaps my greatest challenge is that I must walk what I talk. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I don’t get drunk (I like an occasional stout or glass of wine), smoke anything, go around fighting, cussing, or chasing women. My reputation is pretty good. But, I have the same kind of mind as any other man. And in order for me to encourage a life of prayer, I have to be the example even and especially when no one else is looking. St. Ignatius Brianchaninov, a major influence on me, recommended frequent prayer if one had not yet obtained ceaseless prayer. Keeping the Hours, if only briefly, has not been a major difficulty. But, Compline (bedtime) is a weakness that I have to struggle with.
Again, Fr. Paul’s advice from the 2014 St. Moses Conference and the FOCUS North America podcast is that I don’t offer these prayers expecting great numbers of people to be drawn to what I am doing and become catechumens. All I need to do is follow the words of the hymn that I learned as a child; “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”