Word Magazine October 1963 Page 5-6
A GOOD TRUSTEE
By Father Michael J. Buben
(The following article in no way reflects the relationship between the priest and Church Board of St. George’s, Lawrence, Massachusetts, where harmony and love prevail. This article was originally published in The Orthodox Vistnik (Messenger), January, 1959 issue. It is published in The Word with certain modifications.)
A TRUSTEE by any other name (usher, curator, overseer, etc.) is still a trustee. What is a trustee? In the Orthodox meaning of the word, a trustee is a person in whom a parish places its trust to maintain its properties in excellent condition and conducive to the honor of the parish in its glorification of God. They are responsible for all financial and secular administrative affairs. There are many types of trustees. Here we wish to write only about the good trustee.
A good trustee, first of all, understands his Orthodox Faith and is ready to defend it “in season and out of season.” He continually studies Orthodox history, subscribes to Orthodox publications, and tries to keep informed about sacraments, sacramentals, rituals and all other services of the Orthodox Christian Year. He continues studying catechism, and is acquainted with the canons and by-laws of the Holy Fathers of the Church. He is ready to instruct the ignorant, to correct error and heresy, protects the truth zealously, and fulfills all the requirements of the law and his Church by living an uprighteous and sober Christian life.
A good trustee attends every meeting faithfully. When a special meeting is called, he immediately cancels all other engagements which he may have. He does not rush any meeting to an abrupt or unfruitful end, even if he has to feed his pigeons or has some other such valid excuse. The welfare of his Church is foremost and endeavor. He cheerfully and dedicatedly gives of more than a designated allotment of time when necessary. A good trustee attends the Liturgy at least once a week. He does not go out for a ‘smoke’ during any part of the service, but sets an example by praying, by helping with candles, by greeting strangers, and by partaking of Communion at least four times per year.
A good trustee is not influenced by cliques, relatives or personalities. Whenever he votes for or against a resolution he first evaluates the question: — “How much good will this bring for the glory of my parish?” At all meetings he is slow to anger and plenteous in mercy. The Priest Guide of the Syrian Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese tells us that: “A good trustee consults the wise counsel of the priest in all affairs of the parish, more especially in those involving the spending of the parish money. If a layman in his capacity as a trustee for one or two years must have a voice in the administration of the parish, how much more right should a priest have, who devotes his whole life to the active service of the Church? It is, therefore, a duty which every good trustee fulfills by respecting the opinion of the priest in all matters pertaining to the affairs of the parish.”
A good trustee votes others to take an office on the Board after serious contemplation and study of qualifications of himself or those who would be officers. He remembers the damaging harm that can arise to the parish by the election of the undedicated and unqualified to office. Once again, he is not influenced by cliques, relatives or personalities.
A good trustee sets an example of financial aid to his parish. He usually pays more than the specified amount of dues per year; and is listed with the top members on the lists of those who support the envelope system, buy candles, attend mahrajans, and support all other needs such as building funds, charity boxes, and subscriptions not only locally but on an archdiocesan level. He never tries to invent laws at any meeting (because he fears to take money out of his own pocket) which might prevent the increase of the annual income.
A good trustee will not use his position for personal gain. If he owns a business with which the church can deal during social events, mahrajans. Ahla Ou Sahla SaharaS, etc., he will give the church more than a token 10% discount. He will not try to peddle stale or damaged goods to church, nor should he wish to profit in any way. If the committee accepts a deal from someone else, because of better quality and less cost, (even when that businessman is non-Orthodox), he will not be angered nor withdraw his support of the committee’s project.
A good trustee like a ‘Lion’, will never feel above nor below but with other parishioners. He will feel equal to all and do equal work with all if not more. He will never ‘boss’ the sexton, cooks, or other workers during social affairs, but is ready to roll up his sleeves and do some work as needed. He never talks work—he does work and sets the example for others.
A good trustee never interrupts the priest during services with messages. He will write down an urgent message and give it to an altar boy who knows when to give it to the priest. A good trustee does not walk through the sanctuary every ten minutes, nor does he inspect the burning candles when certain sacred portions of liturgy are taking place. He knows when to do what. When a good trustee finds any damage to any property, he immediately brings the knowledge to the Board and Priest and urges repairs and replacements. He does not hide this type of knowledge until the annual meeting to complain about it to everyone and show the incompetence of the board.
A good trustee realizes that his parish is only an extended arm of many parishes which form a diocese or Archdiocese. He knows that without a bishop there can be no Orthodox Church. His studies have convinced him that a strong archdiocese will eventually lead to a stronger Orthodox Church in America with Orthodox Colleges, hospitals, and Seminaries. He supports the hierarchy by word and deed. As well as moral support, he sends in his annual financial support, and upholds at least one annual Pontifical Liturgy and visitation to his parish.
A good trustee knows that a Choir cannot be replaced as a ‘soul’ of spirituality for any and all services. Therefore, he sees to it that all necessary funds are spent to insure the proper maintaining of a choir. He in no way interferes with the choir director to prevent the holding of social functions by the choir. He adds ideas and incentives whereby he insures harmony and dedication among choir members if necessary.
A good trustee encourages his priest to replace worn vestments and altar articles. He knows that the altar articles (Chalice, diskos, censer, etc.) should be in the best possible condition at all times, and repaired or replaced at the discretion of the priest. He knows that beauty is required at all times in the house of God . . . He insists that enough funds are always available for books and other school material as is needed. He knows that the religious education branch of his archdiocese is continually adding new material to the school circular. He never questions the expense for this department.
If a good trustee is talented with some trade i.e. carpentry, plumbing, electricity, masonry, etc., he will fix needed repairs at cost or gratis for the Temple or rectory. If only a small cost is involved for materials, he joyously pays the bill as a contribution toward the glory of God and the Church. Never will a good trustee seek a personal profit from any deed toward the parish.
A good trustee will always strictly adhere to all canons and by-laws of his parish even if others around him may twist or turn against even minor rules. He realizes that the dignity of his parish in his community, and the general welfare of the parish can be seriously harmed, if governing regulations are not followed and discipline is lacking. He strives to solve the most serious of offenses with love, kindness and the consultation of his priest. When necessary, he will seek the final arbitration of his archbishop and abide by his (the archbishops) judgment regardless of any personal opinion. A good trustee always works to please God, not men. If he is not an officer, he works just as hard on a project, even if he does not completely agree with the policy of the officers. He will sell tickets, raffles, etc., and when asked to bring in ten ads for a program booklet he will bring in ten or more, not less.
A good trustee will attend regional and national Conventions with the realization that his presence contributes toward the moral inspiration and strength for a stronger organization. He also is concerned about aiding and subscribing to the projects and affairs of parishes other than his own. In fact, he seeks to sponsor annual affairs jointly with other parishes.
A good trustee will carry out and fulfill any job for which he volunteered or was appointed during any meeting. Here again, he does not talk work—he fulfills it.
Tell me, dear reader, does your parish abide with love, kindness, peace, harmony, and progress? Certainly it does! That’s why I’m sure you could add much more to this story of the good trustee.