Word Magazine March 1961 Page 6
THE POWER OF THE LAITY . . . TEST OF DEMOCRACY
By The Very Rev. Fr. Joseph G. Simko
Another word on the duties of church board members
The power of the laity is a sacramental thing —something to be cherished and nourished. The beloved community is the combined effectual working of parish priest and people — of pastor and laity — toward the goal of the fullness of Christ. The task of the Orthodox Church of Christ in this world is rightly likened to a battle — not a battle between priest and people, as some seem to think, but a battle by priest and people against the forces of the Devil.
Israel defeated the Midianites, when Moses, with two friends to hold up his arms, prayed all through the battle. Therein is power and privilege — to hold up the hands of the parish priest. The power of the priest and laity is a power that can overcome Satan just as the Israelites overcame the Midianites.
It is certainly true that our Church has given the laity an important place in the scheme of things. The laity is entrusted with the financial responsibilities of the operation of a parish. The laity is entrusted with the care of the fabric of Church properties. But I think it a fair statement, do you not also, that because laymen have the responsibility of material things placed upon them, that they have begun to neglect the spiritual mission with which they also have been entrusted? And this is a serious matter — something over which to ponder thoughtfully and prayerfully.
All of us know men who would not think of missing a parish committee meeting or an assembly for parishioners. These meetings are a field day for a few of them. They can strut their stuff there. Parish officers assume that by right of their election or appointment they have become financial wizards, architectural geniuses and, too often, liturgical and theological experts! Great responsibility has been invested in them. But these same individuals, many of them, think it is a trivial matter if they miss the Divine Liturgy on Sundays. And some of them are without a twinge of conscience for not having received the Sacrament of Penance and the Sacrament of Holy Communion for a number of years!
The fusion together in complete accord of the power of the priesthood and the power of the laity is a most absolute necessity. It means giving to the Church the best of our time and the best of our efforts in the proper fields of Christian endeavor. There are all kinds of jobs that the layman can do in the parish. However, the layman must bear this supreme admonishment in mind constantly: you can take up the offering on Sundays, you can spend long hours in debate at meetings, but unless you have learned that your full-time job is kneeling before God’s altar, then these other tasks you take on are of little significance at all.
“Men at Work at Worship,” consecrated men, consecrated to the Lord Jesus Christ in a special service of full and completed dedication. This is the only program that will save the world from the onslaught of materialism. And it is the only program that will save the Orthodox Church from falling apart.
What I would like to see is what one of my young men stated to me. He said, “Father, attention must return from the back to the front of the church — the Holy Altar.” That could happen, you know, and some day it will happen, I pray.