Blessing a Business with Aplomb

house-blessingIn the past, we’ve talked here about “street evangelism” and the “ecumenism of the trenches.” This video, courtesy of Byzantine, Texas, shows us just such an example.

In it, we see Fr Hans Jacobse of St Peter’s Antiochian Orthodox Church (Bonita Springs, Florida), blessing a restaurant and all of its patrons at the behest of its owner. I’ve heard through the grapevine that this is becoming more and more frequent throughout the US; that priests of whatever jurisdiction are going unafraid and unashamed into the public square doing what Orthodox do best.

I pray this type of bold witness catches on. As my father used to say “tha dhoumai ti psaria pyasamai!” (We’ll see what kind of fish we’ve caught!”

Source: Byzantine, TX


  1. Charles Hadley says

    Nothing new about this. Orthodox priests have done this forever!

  2. Philippa says

    How very exciting! And not one frowns face in the bunch! AWESOME!

  3. Patrick Henry Reardon says

    George says, “I pray this type of bold witness catches on.”

    Oh, I don’t know about bold. When I go to bless Alps Restaurant here in Chicago, they always serve me a free and fine breakfast.

    This is normally done in Theophany season, along with the homes of the parishioners.

  4. Lola J. Lee Beno says

    I love this! This is what should be done – just get out there, bring the Church into the public instead of hiding like what those who want separation of religion from the public space. While that stone cross may be removed from the front of the city hall, the sign of the Cross is made everywhere with enthusiasm like in this video. And people see what the Cross really means.

  5. Gail Sheppard says

    A blessing is a blessing, which is always a blessing.

    • Ryan Hunter says

      Amen Galina! Love from New York — I never told you, but the videos you sent me on Byzantine chant were immensely healing for my soul. They have helped me find great peace — and continue on as a cantor!

      Love in Christ,
      -Ryan Hunter

  6. Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

    The key words are, “AT THE BEHEST OF THE OWNER.” Get it?

    Tragically, it wan’t until I reached my seventies that I realized that so many people in our Church were obsessed with IMPROVING THE CHURCH AND THEIR NEIGHBOR! Go ye out into all the world AND IMPROVE IT!

  7. Jim of Olym says

    A number of years ago our priest, Fr. John Pierce blessed a pool hall and restaurant in the tiny town of Wilkeson, WA, where our first church was established in 1902. and as I recall, the to be Metr. Jonah, then a deacon, was there.
    No video but I have a photo of the rather damp pool table!
    Rdr. James Morgan
    Holy Resurrection Church, Tacoma WA

    PS They later went out of business but it was not OUR fault!

  8. I agree. I don’t think it’s as bold as George likes to think. Not that we shouldn’t do it. But doing that makes no discernable impact on society at large. A Paschal procession was done for a few years on a local college campus. We put out all the punches, icons, candles, incense, banners, ending with having the paschal hours done outdoors Most people ignored us, or looked at us with either a puzzled or bemused expression on their faces.

    It did not result in any one coming up to us asking questions or expressing any interests in Orthodoxy.

    • Not long ago a few of us went to breakfast with Metropolitan Jonah at a regular all day breakfast place and as I asked for a blessing before leaving all these people surrounded us, asked for his blessing and were bowing and kissing his hand-it was kind of surprising and beautiful. Some were Catholic many not from America, but I felt like we were suddenly at Church. . . . a glimpse of what America could be like. …

      • colette:

        Not long ago a few of us went to breakfast with Metropolitan Jonah at a regular all day breakfast place and as I asked for a blessing before leaving all these people surrounded us, asked for his blessing and were bowing and kissing his hand…

        How fitting that the +Jonah cult of personality has found its way to the INTERNATIONAL HOUSE OF PANCAKES.

      • Ryan Hunter says

        That is beautiful, Colette! I remember a similar experience when Vladyka Jonah and I were at a diner along with several other students. We had just celebrated the Sunday Divine Liturgy in an (oddly) west-facing Lutheran chapel at the Mar-Lu Ridge camp in Maryland. Khourida Frederica Mathewes-Green had spoken on Saturday at the OCF winter retreat along with Vladyka Jonah and your husband, Dr Kalvesmaki. Vladyka was in his worldly clerical garb (no panagia, but he had his black cassock on) and several elderly people came up and asked for his blessing. The proprietors were Greek Orthodox, they had an icon I believe of St Constantine, and they also asked for his blessing. It was a lovely experience to behold, so organic, with such warmth and ease.

        I’ll be visiting Washington DC August 8/9 with my girlfriend, who has just become an Orthodox catechumen! Glory to God! Hope to see you if you’ll be in DC — we’ll be staying at my godmother’s. You know who I mean — I don’t want to give names in case certain unfortunate people are reading this 🙂

        Love in Christ,

        • Ryan, you said the perfect word-“organic”. Something I’ve always liked about Orthodoxy and simply expressed in Vladyka.

          I look forward to seeing you soon-and meeting your girlfriend . . .


    • Fr. Hans Jacobse says


      Since I’m the priest in the video let me add something. First off I was surprised to see this video make the rounds. A parishioner posted it on our parish Facebook page and it took off from there. No problem at all with this of course.

      The point of the restaurant blessing in the video however, was not evangelism. We bless all sorts of things (which often proves efficacious, BTW). The blessing no doubt made some people more aware of Orthodoxy which is a good thing but it does not rise to evangelism.

      Evangelism happens primarily one on one. Orthodoxy evangelize differently than Evangelicals who boast great conversion numbers but little staying power. “A mile wide but an inch deep” is how one Evangelical leader described it to me on a television show I shared with him several years back. More on this some other time.

      I’m not sure a procession among people who don’t understand what it represents constitutes evangelism although most believers were probably favorably disposed towards it. Evangelism means sharing the Gospel, and the Gospel is shared by speaking (“preached” means spoken) and requires some discernment especially one on one.

      There is no doubt the Orthodox need to learn how to evangelize, although I think the most effective evangelism *always* seeks to ground people more in Christ and not to make them Orthodox necessarily. Orthodoxy is tough for people to comprehend at first, especially those steeped 1) in the dominant culture and/or 2) Protestant iconoclasm. Direct evangelism can work if a person knows how to communicate the Gospel well but not all priests and laity do.

      Second, most often those who become Orthodox are those who have hit the boundaries of their own communions (abandonment of morality by the Episcopalians, no sacramental awareness or intellectual depth within Evangelicalism are two examples). Our numbers show that overall we are dropping the ball however, although some sterling exceptions exist parish by parish. Maybe they can teach others.

      I have to agree with Fr. Patrick Reardon in that the blessing was not “bold” in any meaningful way. I bless restaurants a lot — at least six or seven every year all in the same way (when all the customers are there). Most people want the individualized blessings and I am glad to give them. It reminds me that the thirst for God is closer to the surface than the naysayers and cultural elites would have us believe. Those blessings lead to other events as well — talking and praying with employees who have problems and so forth.

      • Ryan Hunter says

        Well said, Fr Hans!

        “Most people want the individualized blessings and I am glad to give them. It reminds me that the thirst for God is closer to the surface than the naysayers and cultural elites would have us believe. Those blessings lead to other events as well — talking and praying with employees who have problems and so forth.”

        Greetings and love from New York — it was a joy to meet you and talk with you at the IRD Diane Knippers memorial dinner and presentation in September 2013 in DC.

        -Ryan Hunter

  9. M. Stankovich says


    You seem to miss the point that “returns on investment” are not necessarily obvious, nor revealed to you: “You are our letter written in our hearts, known and read of all men: For as much as you are manifestly declared to be the letter of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.” (2 Cor. 3:2-3) That it is not “discernible” to you says nothing regarding its impact upon society as a whole. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matt. 18:20)

  10. Thank God for publishing this. While it will touch the hearts of some, it is making a public example of our faith. It is primarily prayer, an act of glorifying God.

  11. Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

    I’m glad someone noticed that some Orthodox Priests are doing what they ALL used to do all the time!
    My favorite was when Russian Priests in old SW Russia would, for the correct fee, don full Eucharistic vestments and roll across newly ploughed acreage to insure a good harvest. The “Trebnikk,” or Book of Needs, contains the various formulas for blessing various items and events. I’m glad George revealed that a Priest blessed something. Maybe the OCA will republish a Trebnik and call it “The Book of Holy OUTREACH and Evangelism!”
    But what do I know. Perhaps the blessing of a restaurant is a novelty in the Diocese of the South?

    • Vladyka, BACK IN THE DAY, did ALL priests have hangers-on who filmed/photographed their blessings, and then published the recordings? Did ALL priests invent their own “think tanks” and publish their ACKNOWLEDGED EXPERT opinions on this, that, and the other thing???

  12. The procession wasn’t done with the sole purpose of evangelism. It was a part of a greater pascha celebration taking place on the campus put together by the Orthodox students attending that school.

    I understand what you are saying Fr. My response was directed at George’s statement that this restaurant blessing was this great witness to the world of Orthodoxy. My point was that a blessing, or a procession being done in public isn’t this great shining witness of Orthodoxy to the rest of the world. No one knows of us, even after all those evangelicals came into the Church in the 90’s. After almost 20 years of being Orthodox, I still have to tell people I’m not Greek, Catholic or Jewish.

    Interesting I got 4 “dislikes” to my original comment. I’m sorry if the students at the university we had the procession and pascha celebration didn’t get it. I think you may need to direct your “dislike” to them rather than to my comment.

    We tried very hard to evangelize at this school, primarily by focusing on building relationships. But, one of the biggest obstacle we have is that our society thinks it knows what Christianity is all about, and therefore, does not take the time to find out that Orthodoxy is not Christianity as they think it is. So they lump us together with the Catholics and Protestants, never bothering to learn what makes Orthodoxy distinctive from Western Christendom.
    And they also didn’t care. When some students raised objections to Christianity from a Western approach, we tried to tell them that that is not what we believe, and this is what we believe instead. They didn’t want to hear it.

    • Fr. Hans Jacobse says


      I understand what you are saying but I take a different approach — which gets me into trouble, BTW. I don’t preach Orthodoxy, I preach Christ. When I encounter people (and I encounter a lot of people), my focus is to ground them deeper in Christ, which also means to ground them deeper in truth because Christ is the Truth.

      This does not happen unless they are willing of course and I never “force the decision” so to speak. Sometimes I plant, sometimes I water, sometimes I bring the person to Christ. Our Lord is very patient with us, so we have to be patient with others.

      I’ll explain how it works. A while back I was working at Starbucks (writing on my laptop) early in the morning. I looked up, saw a man about 35 years old walk past with a very worried look on his face.

      I asked him “What happened?” Call that discernment if you want. I knew I had to talk to the man so I broke the ice.

      He replied, “I came down here [Florida] with seven other guys for construction work and we brought our families. I just found out the contractor closed the shop and took all the money. I have no money and don’t know what to do.”

      “Do you believe in God?” I asked.

      “Yes,” he responded.

      “Then we need to pray,” I said.

      We walked to the back of the store (I was sitting outside) and I told him the prayer would be a little different than what he was used to (I begin all extemporaneous prayer with the Trisagion Prayers) but don’t worry God will hear it. He started talking and by his language I could tell he was Evangelical. No worries. God hears anyone who calls out to Him in faith.

      After I was done praying I could see the relief on his face. I knew the prayer would get answered and told him so. He gave me a big bear hug and left.

      Forty-five minutes later I look up and see him again.

      “You’re still here,” he said.

      “Yes, what happened?”

      “After I left I went to another place and a man came up to me who said he felt ‘a tug on his heart.'” Evangelical language again but no worries.

      “He was a contractor and hired me on the spot and then gave me forty dollars to take my wife out to dinner.”

      I told him again that I knew the prayer would be answered but I was stunned it was answered so quickly.

      No words about Orthodoxy here. It wasn’t necessary. What was *done* was Orthodox properly understood.

      Approach evangelism this way and things like this happen a lot.

      Now — and this is where I get into trouble — people chastise me for not mentioning Orthodoxy. The man knew I was a priest. He knows next to nothing about Orthodoxy but he knows his prayer was answered. So here is how I look at it: God wills if our paths should cross again. I have running conversations with a lot of people sometimes over years. We run into each other every six months or so. Finding Christ takes time.

      Having said that, my parishes always grow. I let people know we are here, I am faithful to the rubrics and theology and all the necessary things required of a priest, but I don’t preach Orthodoxy as such. They grow because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as it is understood within our Orthodox faith.

      • Fr. Peter Dubinin says

        Really folks we have never met; well said Father.

      • ReaderEmanuel says

        Excellent, Fr. Hans! And the next time you talk to or see Fr. John Peck and Matushka Debbie, tell them I said hello. They will know who I am. Fr. John is one of the finest priests I have ever known personally. He used to serve a parish across town from the one I went to. It’s obvious that you and he are cut from the same cloth, no pun intended. May God bless you and you ministry and priesthood!

      • ReaderEmanuel says

        I remember a story my (former) priest once told, which I think was true, that a bad auto accident had occurred just outside an Orthodox parish in a large city. Someone came running into the church, looking for the priest, and asked him to please come outside and help, pray, give a blessing, something. The first words out of the priest’s mouth were, “Are they Orthodox?”

        Obviously, the priest was not.

        • Perhaps you are right in this specific instance to declare the priest to be outside of the Orthodox Church (I don’t know the details or context of the story, and probably neither did your former priest). But as a Reader, you of all people should know that there are certain things that an Orthodox priest can do for an Orthodox Christian in extremis that he can’t for a non-Orthodox Christian.

          If the person was an Orthodox Christian, the priest could administer up to 3 Holy Mysteries (Confession, Unction, and Communion) that he couldn’t give to a non-Orthodox Christian, and he would need to know what liturgical items to grab to take with him.

          “Is he Orthodox?” is actually a very practical and question that a sensible priest would ask when asked to run out into the street to “do something” for someone who may very well be dying. I find it dismaying that people assume the worst of our clergy when repeating these kinds of smug and trite stories. It is bad enough when laity pick apart the words and actions of their clergy without giving them any benefit of the doubt. But again, an ordained reader should know better (and you should hope that others will likewise cut you a little slack when judging how well you carry out your duties.)

          • ReaderEmanuel says

            Don’t you think we should help first and ask questions later????? Do you remember the parable of the Good Samaritan? WHO CARES if the person who needed help was Orthodox or not? Jews and Samaritans had absolutely nothing to do with one another, yet in the parable, the good Samaritan helped somebody in need without looking at their race or creed.

            • Some priests might do one thing, some might do another. I was simply pointing out an eminently reasonable and loving cause for a priest who is standing in church to ask that question. Your story assumes the worst of him. I have many times heard priests excoriated for a given word or action, merely because the person doing the excoriating didn’t understand the responsibilities of the priesthood.

              I am merely suggesting a way to assume the best of that priest. Nothing in your story indicates that he wasn’t ready to rush out there. Being responsible for administering the Mysteries is a grave responsibility. Cut the guy some slack, unless you know for a fact that he would refuse to pray for a dying non-Orthodox. If it is just a parable, change it next time you tell it to make clear he didn’t intend to go out to the street unless someone in the accident was Orthodox.

              But there, you have the problem of fairly representing the Church. I can’t think of a single priest I have known who would refuse to pray for anyone in need that he encountered. That is part of the reason your story didn’t ring true to me.

  13. Interesting enough, one of the only groups on campus that actually took the time to listen to us was the LGBQT group.

  14. Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

    What’s the difference between the traditional Protestant’s “testifyin’ ” and spiritual bragging and self promotion?

  15. That’s a great story Father! That’s exactly how we should be, present in the moment, always having an awareness of those around us and responding to them with love. I totally get what you are saying. We should absolutely do that!

    We should be preaching Christ, not Orthodoxy as if Orthodoxy stands apart from Christ on its own. Not even Orthodoxy shoved through a sieve of politically conservative moralism.

    I think if we can get back to doing that, we will see the Church multiple exponentially across this country!

  16. Sean Richardson says

    A number of years ago I was invited to go with the local Antiochian priest to the restaurant of a parishoner, so the restaurant could be blessed. When I arrived I was surprised and happy to see that about half of the parish was there, all ordering food and enjoying the spirit of community – perhaps a hundred people. As I learned later, this out-of-the-way restaurant had been struggling even though it had excellent food, at a reasonable price. What the priest, Fr. John, Had done was to couple both a spiritual blessing with a little grass roots community support and bonding. It was fantastic and I appreciated this spiritual and practical approach.

  17. Someone disliked my comment from July 30th?!

  18. I guess my comment about shoving Orthodoxy through a sieve of conservative moralism must have ticked someone off.

    Well, it’s true, Christ preached the Kingdom of God, not the GOP.