On Being “Non-Essential”

The very words “non-essential” contradict what we as Christians believe about human life.  All human life.  As human beings created in the image and likeness of God, everything we do is essential, otherwise we wouldn’t be called to account for our actions and words on Judgment Day.

The way we worship is likewise essential.  Orthodox Christians believe that we are never more human than when we worship, the climax of which is receiving the Eucharist.  

During the Third Reich, the retarded, the congenitally malformed and those with genetic disorders were all considered to be “useless eaters”.  What better qualifier could someone in modern-day America come up with but “non-essential”?

In the video below, Fr Josiah Trenham preaches further on this strange, new concept which is sweeping the world.  I can think of few other Orthodox priests who could tackle this problem.  Gail told me that he once told her, “God allows bad things happen so good men will stand up.”   Not surprised he’s standing up.  And I’m glad for it.

Please take the time to listen.

  Let us pray for him.  And other priests like him.


  1. Greatly Saddened says

    Thank you so much for sharing this enlightening video. And indeed, may we pray for Father Josiah Trenham and other priests like him. God bless him and Lord hear our prayer.

  2. Thank God for Fr. Josiah and other steadfast priests like him. There are many more, even if they don’t speak up on a platform the way that Fr. Josiah does, they still preach with the same steadfastness. 
    I’ll echo what I said in a previous comment, this non-essential stuff for parishes, and the new “safety” guidelines set out by the OCA Diocese sets a very, very spiritually dangerous precedent. Like I mentioned, it essentially makes us, the laity, the virus that must be distanced from. If you think this is crazy, I’ll use an example that has happened to me on multiple occasions already. While going on runs, I have had people move 10 feet off of a sidewalk, or, cover their faces when going by. This is insanity. 
    Luckily the priests that I’ve met with haven’t been that extreme. But, what is going to happen in the Fall when this media induced hysteria starts up again. Are the bishops going to push for a digital Christmas like they did Pascha? At what point do we laity day enough is enough? If we continue to let this happen then we will have cyclical periods every year where we are shut out of church. That cannot be allowed to happen. 

    • George Michalopulos says

      Petro, the liturgical division is already starting. Another Orthodox blogger (who is in the GOA) recently praised the sermons of two Cpolitan bishops. These two men are already on board with the new regime (in more ways than one). I won’t give you their names (or their fan-boy) at present, however I will say that such hierarchs are being praised for not being “medieval” in their thinking.

      It’s ironic, but I was already in the process of writing an apologia for the word “medieval”. I think many will be surprised about the positive things that came out of the Middle Ages, including the scientific method, architectural marvels and wondrous hymnography. What’s sad is the historical ignorance that abounds in the “tolerant and inclusive” community.

      • Do you mind expanding on the on that first part a little bit without sharing names? Are these bishops in the U.S., or, are they bishops of “Sees” in Turkey? 

  3. Freedom of religion is essential enough to enshrine it in the first amendment.  How churches were omitted from the list of essential services is a travesty.

  4. RIP (reluctant internet poster) says

    I liked a lot of what he had to say, but I’m still scratching my head as to why I don’t see Orthodox people talking about filing lawsuits as other churches have done and are doing.  He suggests we “stand up.”  Well, isn’t that how it’s done? 
    A judge ruled against in CA, but for in KY.  I’m guessing the CA group will appeal, if they haven’t already, and given the fact that the KY federal judge came to the opposite conclusion, this issue may very well end up with SCOTUS.
    The CA judge said it didn’t violate religious freedom because churches weren’t been treated differently than any other large gathering.  The KY judge, however, said that it doesn’t make sense that churches should be closed if Home Depot is open, when Home Depot doesn’t have First Amendment protection.  
    I think this is incredibly important, as churches were similarly closed in 1918 but, as far as I can tell, it was largely cooperated with by churches and no one went to the effort of going to federal court over it.  So the only precedent the courts have to go by are the restrictions of civil rights during war, which we know has been approved.  The question will likely be whether the same logic applies here. 
    We have ways of objecting when we feel our rights are being violated in this country and taking our complaint to court is a main one.  Why isn’t it being utilized?

    • George Michalopulos says

      As long as the First Amendment is in force (or at least not yet a dead letter), it would be great if tens of millions of Christians and other believers took this all the way to SCOTUS. Yes, it would take years but so what? At least it may scare the likes of Governors Beshears, Cuomo, Pritzker and the like.

  5. RIP (reluctant internet poster) says

    PS, a good summary is here:  https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/right-worship-church-state-clash-over-religious-services-coronavirus-era-n1201626
    I wasn’t totally up to date.  A case has, in fact, gone to appeal and the 6th Circuit sided with churches.  

  6. AXIOS to Father Josiah on Patristic Nectar and to Father Feter Heers at orthodoxethos.com and on YouTube Orthodox Ethos.

    They have both spoken at St Kosmas and in fact it is on that site where one finds a transcript of Father Seraphim Rose’s brilliant analysis of world cultures to develop our awareness as Orthodox Christians of what is and is not true per our Tradition in the Fathers in his Orthodox Survival Course lectures in the 1970’s.
    both transcript and audio with computer voice there. And Father Peter is prepping a new  Orthodox Survival Course in this mode, glory to God!  Can’t wait. Apologies if all this is a repeat!  ?☘️?

  7. I’ve always had a great deal of love and respect for Fr. Josiah. I met him during a pilgrimage at a monastery a number of years ago. He has always been a very clear and charismatic speaker. However, he neglected to talk about a very important aspect of this new era of non-essential Orthodox Christianity.  He neglected to remind everyone that our Hierarchs were complicit in the machinations of the civil authorities to lock our Churches down and shut the people out. This includes his own Hierarch. One can blame the politicians until the cows come home. But the Bishops laid down oppressive directives while the majority of Orthodox Christians were deprived of the healing and life-giving Mysteries of the Church during the Great Fast, Pascha, Bright Week and beyond! 

    • Gail Sheppard says

      The second he does that, they will slap him down.

    • Anonymous says

      He spoke about “leaders” and didn’t limit it to political leaders or secular leaders.
      It seemed clear he was carefully including our hierarchs as well.

    • Mikhail you are right.
      But similarly to what Gail said, I have a feeling that Fr.Josiah (for the time being) has chosen a softer path: He mentioned the wrong things but he didn’t say that his own Hierarch. That is the easiest part, it is self evident (if it can be proven).
      Like giving his bishop a second chance….a way out….
      Just sayin….

    • Anonymous II says

      Mikhail, and others,
      You may not have meant it, but I take offense to your suggestion Fr Josiah’s bishop, Metropolitan Joseph, works with the “machinations of the civil authorities,” insinuating perhaps he isn’t a good and prayerful shepherd. I don’t know the man personally, but I’ve met him a few times and many of his priests are righteous, tough and holy men of God. Fr Josiah and his bishop are, as we can imagine, under enormous pressure from every side. So are many bishops. What would we do in their situation, given what they knows and what we don’t? Easy to pretend we’d be wiser, braver, and rise to the occasion differently. But that’s pretending. 
      All this said, I’ll be the first to admit I’m unhappy with all the directives I’ve seen – especially the arcane directives of the OCA. Holy smokes, they’re TERRIBLE!! Honestly, what a scandal. ROCOR looks awfully good right now…or the Antiochians. 
      The OCA, as we’ve discussed, is dipping the communion spoon in wood-grade alcohol between every use. What planet are we living on? Priests standing 8 feet from the faithful during confession, NOT allowing the napkin to touch lips and instead throwing disposable napkins (from the gas station?) into the trash for burning, and marking a grid along the floors of our Temples? Sounds like someone is scared of being sued. We’re not even allowed to kiss icons or other holy objects. Yes, this has to stop. But then again, what to do?
      Write your authorities. Write the bishops in good faith. My parish is asked to wear masks and the clergy mandated to wear them OUTSIDE of the church, during other times, in order to ‘lead by good example.’ And once the faithful leave, we’re asked to write down names and be ready to hand them over to our government.
      This sounds like a slow coup, to me. Is it not?

      • Yes. We are being slowly indoctrinated into the land of socialism. 
        I have also met Metropolitan Joseph. He seemed kind and traditional. However, he followed suit. He closed his Churches and locked out the faithful (with the exception of the obligatory chosen ones). We will see if he mimics the outrageous Church-opening directives of the OCA. The Antiochians are still quiet. You are correct about many of the ROCOR parishes. They have been keeping the light from being hidden under the bushel. But Archbishop Peter of the midwest mimicked the oppressive directives of the other jurisdictions…very disappointing. Today I saw that the Greek Diocese of San Francisco is rolling out shameful directives for opening the Church. The Metropolitan is saying to not dare kiss or touch an Icon…and if someone does…wipe it down immediately! Iconoclasm! Where are the true Bishops? Where are the true Shepherds? I will not step foot inside a Church where I have to where a face mask, stand on an X in the Communion line, and talk to a priest through his face shield. This is ludicrous and surreal. The devil is having a grand ‘ol time.
        Lord have mercy!

        • From what I know (admittedly not too much), it seems like Abp. Peter is ROCOR’s ‘weak link.’ This hasn’t been the first time that he has shocked me.

          • Mikhail and Basil,
            “it seems like Abp. Peter is ROCOR’s ‘weak link.’”
            It appears to me that WE (the laity) are the “weak link”!
            At the end of the day, the power of Bishops is the laity. 

          • Abp Peter is not a “weak link.”  He is a pious man who is one of the most steadfast, non-“worldly” Orthodox bishops in America.  (Not to “prove” anything about his credentials, but if it means anything, he did grow up serving with St John Maximovitch in San Francisco.)
            As often happens, pious bishops may rely on the counsel of expert scientific or medical advisers who may say “Vladyka, I highly recommend that you [take whatever action]….”

            • Gail Sheppard says

              And, FTS, let’s not forget the “legal” advisors.

            • I’m not doubting the man’s piety, but he did order churches to close in state where no such order existed from the secular powers.
              He also concelebrated with hierarchs of the EP last year, despite the break between them and the MP, which is particularly odious considering the suffering of the canonical Church in Ukraine.

        • He was interviewed on a recent podcast: https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/features/faith_amid_plague
          I couldn’t always keep straight which voice was which person, so maybe the Bishop wasn’t the worst offender, but I found the answers given to the questions about shutting down the churches and being non-essential to be quite flimsy.

        • Antiochene Son says

          Metropolitan Joseph said in a letter to clergy that churches could open to limited capacity in states which do not have a stay home order. I don’t know how it’s going around the country but they’re not open where I live.

      • Tim R. Mortiss says

        Nobody actually “takes offense”, but many say that they do. 

        • George Michalopulos says

          Agreed, there’s a profitable grievance industrial complex in the US.

      • George Michalopulos says

        Dipping the spoon won’t solve anything.  After all, doesn’t the priest drink from the Chalice three times and then gives it to the deacon to consume his portion.  And then what happens at the end of the service when the deacon (or priest) has to consume the remainder of the Communion.

        I feel that the OCA episcopate has been overruled by lawyers.

  8. Tim R. Mortiss says

    “Non-essential” in the context of the various shutdowns was in reference to types of  businesses, not people. 
    But it makes a great metaphor, I suppose. For the metaphorically-inclined.

  9. Sage-Girl says

    Gail & George,  ?can you fix why I keep getting your threads always a day late? Thanks.

    • Gail Sheppard says

      I’m not sure I understand what you mean. Anytime you go in, you’ll see what’s approved up to that point.

      • Sage-Girl says

        Gail – what I mean is: whenever your New article appears, it’s dated the day before,
        so I don’t sew it till following day; example: this piece on “Being Non-Essential” just appeared today –
        but it’s dated from yesterday. Thanks ? 

        • Gail Sheppard says

          I’m not sure what to tell you. Articles appear when they’re approved for publication. George’s pieces normally go through editing so he may write something even days before the blog sees them. It could be the date that appears on the article is the date he started working on it, I don’t know.

          However, if you’re seeing comments on a piece he has written but you can’t see the piece, itself, let me know that because that shouldn’t be happening.

          • Sage-Girl says

            Thanks Gail – what I see is comments appearing on a New article with a date from the day before… so I assume I’m getting everything a day late. 

            • Gail Sheppard says

              That’s because (I think) the comments retain the date the were submitted. It can take a day to get through moderation.

  10. Jacob Lee says

    The problem is our Bishops have made us non-essential. We have the first amendment right to go to Church in this country. Maybe if we had more American born and educated bishops they would understand that. 

    • Sorry, but the Orthodox Church is not beholden to the US Constitution for its polity and decision making practices. What a mess that would be!

  11. Here is a beautiful request from Fr. Demetrios. Let us all try to do this!

    “And after they fell short of wine, the Mother of Jesus saith to Him,‘They have no wine.’   Jesus saith to her, ‘What is that to Me and to thee, woman?  Mine hour is not yet come.  His Mother saith to the servants, ‘Whatsoever He saith to you, do it.’” [John 2:3-5]
        This passage from the holy Gospel of St. John clearly illustrates the unique and paramount intercessory power of our Most Beloved Panaghia:  Our Holy Mother simply stated a fact; our Lord Jesus responded that the time had not yet come for Him to begin His miracles; Panaghia instructs the servants to give total obedience to the One to Whom she gave flesh; and a large quantity of water becomes the best wine.  St. John confirms that this was the first miracle performed by Jesus [John 2:11].
        As I have stated in the past, and will continue to proclaim as long as I have breath, the Logos of God, will never say no to a request from the one who gave her flesh to Him — Who cannot be contained and through Whom our vast universe was created out of nothing!  And that is why I feel compelled in my heart to cry out to the Mother of our Life, the Mother of our Church, the Mother of us all.
        God willing, on the feast of Mid-Pentecost, I plan to offer a Paraklesis (Small Supplicatory Canon) to Panaghia.  Since we have 4 time zones in both the USA and Canada, I plan to start at 5 PM EST, in order to be sure all the brother clergy in the far west time zones have completed the Holy Liturgy and had time to eat a simple meal if needed.  Brother priests please consider joining with your useless brother at that time.  Dear sheep in the Pasture of His true Church, please – together with those in your household, offer your Paraklesis as well.
         O my Most Beloved Panaghia, – with extremely few exceptions – we have no Holy Liturgies, we have no Sacraments.  Please help us!  Please open wide our churches!  Thy children need to be able to worship Thy Son in the Holy Liturgy, to receive His Life-giving Body and Blood from the holy spoon that symbolizes thee, to confess their sins and feel the epitraheilion of their priest upon their head, to worship thy Son, and honor thee, within the sacred walls of the churches.  Please hear our prayers on the Feast of Mid-Pentecost.  If it pleases thy Son and our Lord, grant that the empty churches during Holy Week and Pascha will be replaced by full churches on the Feast of Pentecost!   And as millions of Orthodox Christians kneel on that great day to receive the Grace of the All-Holy and Life-giving Spirit, may we all rise from those ineffable prayers with renewed faith in God and a heart-centered conviction to worship Him “in spirit and truth!”   For thou art blessed unto the ages of ages.  Amen.
    Your useless slave,
    unworthy priest, +Demetrios


    • Sage-Girl says

      Mikhail —
      Thanks- that’s amazing information I Never knew!
      Wow – 1968/69 during Woodstock era actually had the Hong Kong flu?? When I watch documentaries of that historical time there’s never a mention of Pandemic. Why is that ?

      • George Michalopulos says

        Because (1) it’s not convenient and (2) pandemics came and went. They were just a rare part of the fabric of life.

        • Sage-Girl says

          I think I got it …
          the days when ignorance was bliss + no smartphones to reminded us, the prince of this world was boss  …  meanwhile back to 2020 I’m hearing Archbishop Elpi is considering opening up churches by June!  May it be blessed.p.s. someone sent me YouTube video of astrologer Joni Patry; she forecasted Pandemic was coming exactly 2 months before, is now saying by September it’ll be under control + very positive things will develop out of it.  So it’s getting closer to normal folks — hang in there ?keep the faith?

          • “…by September it’ll be under control + very positive things
            will develop out of it.”
            Second Term Trump? Lucky You Ess Ay!
            In Scotland, however, things look bleak…

          • Sage-Girl, while I enjoy your enthusiasm—I’m thinking the friend that sent you the YouTube video about the astrologer—is not Orthodox? (At least I hope that they’re not Orthodox!)
            A quote from St. Gregory the Great: “Man was not made for the stars, but rather the stars for man; and if a star can be called the ruler of man, then man must be considered the slave of his own servants.”
            There is actually another great quote from St. Augustine of Hippo regarding astrology that I vaguely remember, but couldn’t locate.

            • “If it be said that certain chosen days have an influence on these things, because the constellations rule over all terrestrial bodies, animate and inanimate, according to differences in moments of time, let it be considered what innumerable multitudes of beings are born or arise, or take their origin at the very same instant of time, which come to ends so different, that they may persuade any little boy that these observations about days are ridiculous.” (City of God, v, 7)

              • Exactly, Brendan! Though, the quote that I saw attributed to St. Augustine was much shorter or truncated.

  12. Michael Moody says

    Well, the church rates less than ice cream trucks now!  How sweet https://youtu.be/Bnumys_oufU

    • A physician's thoughts says

      Thank you for linking Fr Josiah’s talk.  It was enlightening to listen to Fr Josiah, as it always is.  I have never met Fr Josiah, though I am always edified by his podcasts.
      However, I was certainly surprised to hear that he took affront that so few (or rather, no) Christian church leaders were sought for counsel during this COVID crisis by our political leaders.  This feeling strikes me as highly naïve and disingenuous on Fr Josiah’s part.  What data over the past few decades suggest that most American political leaders value the opinions of Christian pastors and bishops?
      Virtually all American political leaders view the Christian faith as nothing more than a hobby that is unfortunately practiced by some Americans.  Indeed, most who go into politics do not have strong faith themselves, as they freely admit.  Very few of them bothered to attend church or formal worship while in university or graduate school.  I think that we Christians often inaccurately believe that our leaders have the best intentions and may often, at heart, believe as we do. But they don’t. 
      For most secular leaders, Church is at best a quaint thing that some people choose to do for some odd reason.  At worst, they believe Church to be harmful because it teaches hate of self-identified gay people, it places the value of a bunch of growing cells in the uterus over the right of a “woman to choose,” it values Christ and God over secular authority, etc.  I am being facetious, but Coronavirus has revealed quite clearly that many of our secular leaders do believe that the “hobby” of Church is indeed harmful to society.  For them, it’s a no-brainer that alcohol stores are allowed to stay open, but Church, well that’s optional.
      As Fr Peter Heers posited, many secular leaders have told us since coronavirus started that worshipping God is inconsistent with loving our neighbor, and that in order to fully love our neighbor, we must refrain from worshipping God during these times.  These points are completely incompatible with the Christian faith, but our secular leaders do not and cannot see or understand that.
      It may be tough for many Orthodox Christians to grasp, but for most Americans and Westerners, God, Christ, Church, and worship of Him are indeed irrelevant.  For us, Christ is the center of our lives, and we cannot imagine life without Him.  Church is a *way of life*, not at all optional; most certainly it is essential.  I think by nature, being compassionate Christians, we assume that many, deep down, believe as we do, but it’s high time to realize that most Americans, and definitely most of our leaders, do not.  To be fully fair, possibly many of our American brethren have rejected the false, Calvinist, impersonal, distant God who enjoys watching people suffer.  Many grew up with this false, straw-man “God,” and thank the Lord that they rejected this straw man!  But instead of growing toward Christ the true God, they abandon faith altogether and ridicule those who live with and by faith.
      Just look at the recent publicized surrogate parenting of the self-identified gay celebrity and “journalist” Anderson Cooper and his (now former) boyfriend, and what it demonstrates that our secular culture values.  We — and our laws — assert that it is totally fine to — intentionally — rip this baby from its mother after birth and give it to two men who are not even together anymore.  By God’s grace, all newborns know instinctively to look for their mothers.  But this baby won’t find his, because we’ve purposefully deprived him of his mother. 
      Normally, losing a mother for a baby is a real tragedy; however, in this case, that is what this baby was “created for” (according to us, but not according to God) all along.  How barbaric are we.  This baby is a sacrifice on the altar of political correctness. May God help and protect him in spite of us!  Lord, forgive us!  And just try to discuss this on social media — you’ll be immediately stoned as a “hater of gay people.”  Joyce Carol Oates asked online the other day who the surrogate mother was, and why she is not ever named.  Ms. Oates (a feminist, who perhaps unknowingly was highlighting the absurdity of surrogacy) was immediately shamed, silenced, and shut down for Asking That Which Should Not Be Asked in modern “polite” society.
      The interests of the baby (and of the surrogate mother — whose body is “hired” and “used” to meet the self-perceived “needs” of two grown men) are completely ignored and irrelevant.  We as a society are OK with that.  Our wealthy secular elite are the new Roman Emperors on the island of Capri, using other (mostly young) people for their own entertainment and then sending them off the cliffs to their deaths when they grow bored with them.  The surrogate mother’s abuse is definite socio-economic abuse, since only lower-class women (who need money) agree to surrogate motherhood, generally.  You don’t see rich women signing up to do it.
      If this is what American society is all about, then we in no way deserve to survive as a culture.
      Again, to circle back, I love, admire, and respect Fr Josiah, but I simply don’t understand why he expected secular American leaders to ask for the Church’s input on any policies related to coronavirus.

      • He didn’t expect it. He was highlighting the regard in which the Church is held today by the leaders of secular society. Your irony detector needs new batteries, methinks.

  13. I just read that the united voices of the Bishops are saying that if the Churches ever open again…they may have to close in the future under similar circumstances. Flu season = Churches closed for the Nativity of Christ.  Get your house Churches ready everyone…when a Bishop emerges to lead the faithful… we will need places to worship.