When Disobedience is a Sacred Duty

These are grievous times indeed.  On so many different levels. 

We are seeing this on YouTube now when videos that Do Not Fit the Coronavirus NarrativeTM are taken down with aplomb.  Worse, we even see it in the religious sphere, when dissident voices such as Fr Josiah Trenham’s are silenced.  

It is in this spirit that I direct your attention to the latest video of Fr Josiah, as he moves us one step closer to more fully understanding our present circumstances within the context of the Church.

 I urge you to take the time to watch it and if possible, save it so that when it too, is taken down, it can be put back up.




  1. Ronda Wintheiser says


    Such a balance between steel and humility.

    I have always loved the Hebrew midwives. There is a time to lie. 🙂

    George and Gail, I am not sure I know how to save a video like this. Can you explain?

  2. Michigan Orthodox says

    Thanks for this, George.

    If our bishops are the ones keeping churches closed, like mine still is, disobedience becomes harder.

    I know the laity are not bound to obey a bad order from a bishop, but we can’t do the liturgy. I doubt any priest will speak as harshly to his own bishop as many are speaking about their governors. Every message I’ve read is very much, “obey, someday we’ll open.”

    Maybe if someone in the parish has a pole barn or pavilion, invite everyone over for Typika?

    • Ronda Wintheiser says

      Michigan Orthodox (poor thing…   🙂  )
      Our priest declined to do the livestream thing and instead sends us a worship packet with the accoutrements necessary for a typica at home with family and an icon corner.
      I realize this won’t help *you* any, except that you could probably cobble together something like that yourself, for your home, or your back yard?

    • George Michalopulos says

      MI, for months now, right at the start of these initiatives, something has prodded me to mention the term “house-church”.   There is nothing wrong with typika services.   While I realize that there is no Eucharist possible under such an ecclesial regime, it doesn’t mean that they are devoid of grace.  

      Now, to the extent that your particular parish priest is doing liturgies under this present regime, by all means go and receive the Sacrament.  The problem is not your priest or his services but the fact that what has once happened, can now happen again in the future.  What then?

      • Michigan Orthodox says

        My parish is still without public liturgies, but your point is well taken.
        In a rather secularist turn, the notion of “safety” has become the standard for whether we can go to church. If COVID comes back in the winter, or if we get a particularly bad flu season, or if we suffer “foreign invasion or civil war,” or if we have a bad streak of car crashes, will we shut down again?
        The real safety is to be in Christ. The safest are those who have departed to him.

        The Lord will take us when he so chooses, whether we’re out living our lives or hiding in our root cellars. Our task is to be ready for that day, not to avoid it at all costs. (That’s actually one of the biggest draws I think Orthodoxy has: it completely denies the death-fearing nature of our culture.)

        One of the ways we prepare for our inevitable death and meeting of Christ is by going to church. We pray for “a Christian ending to our lives,” but how many have died apart from the Mysteries? May God have extra grace and mercy on them.
        From a certain point of view, our bishops are making us less safe, not more.

        • Gail Sheppard says

          RE: “From a certain point of view, our bishops are making us less safe, not more.”

          I would argue they are ignoring the “point of view” God placed within their providence. I do not need them to weigh in on my physical well-being. I have a lot more experience and education than they do about healthcare. I suspect their real concern is legal, however, it’s stupid. No one can prove anyone in a parish gave someone else a virus during a pandemic! UNLESS you have have a seating chart indicating a coronavirus victim was placed next to a coronavirus carrier by Church staff. – They should stay as far away from all of this stuff as possible.

    • Prospective Nomad says

      I haven’t posted here in years, but the Antiochian “rollback” this weekend is leading me to break my silence.  The lockouts are depriving the faithful of at least two essential things: the Holy Mysteries and each other’s fellowship.  We can’t do anything about the former.  As Michigan Orthodox rightly points out, now that the weather has improved and civil restrictions on gatherings have been relaxed, we can start meeting, away from church property, for Typika.  Michigan Orthodox’s suggestion of a pavilion or a pole barn may be limited, however.  Many parishes won’t have any members who own such a facility, and a gathering at such a location may run afoul of civil limits on crowd size, which in Michigan remains at ten.
      Next Sunday will be the 25th anniversary of my saintly grandmother’s repose.  It will go uncommemorated in church.  Unless there’s a thunderstorm, I intend to spend next Sunday morning in prayer at the cemetery.  This intention spawned an idea: What if we adopted the mantle of the catacomb church and began meeting for Typika at departed parishioners’ graves?  The plot owner would have to be present, of course.  Being outdoors, such an arrangement would reduce, if not eliminate, the risk of transmitting the virus.  If the number of people desiring to attend exceeded the civil limit, the group could simply disperse among as many different parishioners’ graves as required.  I am curious as to whether the forum believes that such a movement would be workable.

      • Antiochene Son says

        I absolutely love this idea. The symbolism of the tombs and the early church is very apt. More productive than taking my tithe away. I’m going to talk to some people from my parish about this. 

        • Johannes Ypsilantis says

          If the clergy can carry us through ordinary times, we can help carry them through dark times. I think this is a super idea.

        • George Michalopulos says

          Totally workable.  One thing we shouldn’t do is go Sergianist. It worked in Russia but just barely. We in America don’t have the comfort of a millennium of grace-filled saints to pull us through.

  3. We need a Bishop to come forth in the United States who will live and teach the faith of our holy fathers. Hundreds of priests and thousands of laity would follow him. The remainder could stay where they are in their quasi-uniate oppression.

  4. RIP (reluctant internet poster) says

    What of his got taken down? I see that Father Non-Essential is still there. Did he have something else “controversial” that was deleted?

    Anyway, I like Fr Josiah. Even when I disagree with him (which hasn’t been often), I still appreciate his clarity of both thought and communication. We can never have enough of that, particularly from people with whom we disagree.

    I particularly liked how he highlighted what’s going on in our state with the virus. Forget the national level, even on the state level a one size fits all approach to this doesn’t make sense, as what’s going on in places like rural Modoc County is worlds apart from what’s going on in, say, LA County. And this is true of so much more than just pandemic management.

    My questions on his thoughts here connect with my questions for Fr Alexander in the previous post. In the end, I don’t think we’re just talking about politics, but the larger and more general question of the civic duties of an Orthodox American.

    I was with him up to the point where he started poking at Newsome. I also live in CA, so I’m quite familiar with his entire career. It seems to me that this highlights a problem in defining civil disobedience as Americans generally, since Newsome did what he did regarding same sex marriage as mayor of SF precisely with the self-understanding that what he was doing was legitimate civil disobedience. However, Fr Josiah defines what he did as “lawlessness.” (Fr Josiah applies the same term to the governor’s actions on immigration) The problem being that we seem, particularly these days, to define both solely on whether we agree or disagree with the issue being discussed. A variant on the “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” problem.

    Which wouldn’t be a problem if we were an Orthodox country (or, at least, the answer to the question would be simpler). But we were founded as pluralistic from the beginning, so I think it’s something that has to be wrestled with. Unfortunately, I don’t see much wrestling; it’s mostly I’m a freedom fighter and you’re a terrorist. Which, also unfortunately, seems to dominate our civic discourse these days.

    So if I’m going to defend my own First Amendment rights, on what basis do I say that my Episcopalian neighbor, for example, who believes that same sex marriage is just fine, doesn’t get to exercise theirs? Which isn’t at all a rhetorical question. We have tended in this country to deny rights to religious minorities we disagree with until they demand them (immigrant Catholics, Mormons, and so on).

    That said, I think he’s right when he says those in authority (18:50) should be given much grace in such a time as this. But is assuming actions as tyrannical and worthy of civil disobedience doing that? Fr Josiah then presents how Newsome could have approached the matter better. Agreed! But because Newsome didn’t do that, does that mean we should assume nefarious motives on his part? Does that allow me to ascribe an “authoritarian mentality” to Newsome? Which is to say, is a thoughtless act necessarily one to which I am able to ascribe intent? Does an “immature” act, as he describes Newsome’s order, require civil disobedience as the first response? Now those actually are rhetorical questions, because I believe showing grace demands and fulfilling the spirit of what he begins with about humble submission to civil authorities demands much more than that. I don’t pretend to know what all that entails, but I would think that it would, at the least, begin with diplomacy rather that reaching directly for the nuclear codes.

    Last thought: its not at all clear, from a legal perspective, whether closing churches during the pandemic violates the First Amendment. Fr Josiah just throws that out as a given. And, in general, while we tend to assume our enumerated Constitutional rights are unfettered, they are not. And, as far as I’ve been able to discover, no one objected to the church closures of the 1918 pandemic on First Amendment grounds. But people have this time, so we’re about to find out.

    Apologies for the long post. If anyone managed to read this far, thank you for taking the time.

  5. Matthew Panchisin says

    I recently read the appeal by the Orthodox Bishops in America and have come to the conclusion that we really shouldn’t be surprised by what we are seeing these days. All these bishops actually line up under Chairman, Archbishop Elpidophoros the author of the “first without equals” ecclesiastical heresy that caused a schism. Archbishop Elpidophoros and Bartholomew “the so-called spiritual leader of all Orthodox Christians”consider all other bishops to be their subordinates. They have politicized the Church so the changes that they are introducing to appease secular authorities is simply a continuation of disturbing behavior.

    Orthodox Christian Bishops Request ‘Equitable Treatment’ in Reopening of States
    The Members of the Executive Committee who convened are Chairman, Archbishop Elpidophoros, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; Metropolitan Joseph, Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America; Archbishop Michael, Orthodox Church in America, Metropolitan Gregory, American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the USA, Bishop Irinej, Serbian Orthodox Church in North, Central and South America; Metropolitan Nicolae, Romanian Orthodox Metropolia of the Americas; Metropolitan Joseph, Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Diocese of the USA, Canada, and Australia; Bishop Saba, Georgian Apostolic Church in North America; Metropolitan Tikhon, Orthodox Church in America

    • Ha! Sounds like an attorney wrote it

    • Michigan Orthodox says

      The successors of the Apostles, reduced to begging for scraps. Sad.
      Where are the real men in our episcopacy?

      • Wonderful video, thank you for posting!  Tech-ignorant questions please,  help needed:
        If I download this onto my computer from youtube as youtube video and then it is banned, will I

         Be able to play it again on my computer
        Share it with others by email using that link So that they can play it?

        I am buying time to figure out the privacy standards/trustworthiness of an alternate site since I have some special computer safety issues to honor…
        Thanks much, Nicole

        • It becomes a file. You can play it on your computer and share the file with people either by e-mailing the file to them, or by sharing it via a cloud, like Google Drive.

    • Keep praying ROCOR will be different. 

  6. Rhipsime says

    Our priest announced today that next week the church will be open. He didn’t mention any restrictions, but we’ll see if the Parish Council puts up a fight.   I had brought up the idea of starting typica services at the house, but considering that my husband was still going to all the services in the function of reader/cantor, it would have been hard. Not that hard things aren’t worth doing, but with the crew (& one being a newborn) it didn’t seem like something *we* should be spearheading.

  7. Re: the Services “at home”.  ROCOR’s  Father John Whiteford has done yeoman’s service providing the Readers’ Services at home with Typika for the individual liturgies so that one may participate in traditional fashion “at home” on his blogspot https://fatherjohn.blogspot.com/2020/04/.  His posts with the proper readings sustained me through Holy Lent, Pascha and now through Ascension.  I pray he will continue for us traditionalists when we may be homebound…

    Rhonda, your priest sounds so well-meaning and loving to make up these packets!  An OCA priest in the  Woodlands Father Benedict Crawford at St. Cyril of Jerusalem Mission sends out uplifting emails which I treasure also, see his beautiful mission’s website page at https://www.stcyril.us/.    All my local priests are equally well-intentioned and sacrificially Christ-like in their love ~ They are so appreciated and wonderful ascetical and caring role models for me at this critical time. Glory to God.

  8. George, can some tech savvy person tell us how we preserve these films for the future?  Reading Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn recently see what a project it was to preserve his work and smuggle all out of Russia, a crucial record of its history!  Revisionist history in total play now in our country as it was in 20th century Russia.  Hoping there is an open-source platform available to us which will not be censored?  We now have OPEN-SOURCE  OS, encrypted mail, encrypted calls, encrypted video call available and open-source patient & physician controlled health records are in the works — how about a youtubish platform?  Thanks for anything you know or learn.   

    • Michigan Orthodox says

      There are a number of websites that you can use to download Youtube videos, just Google “download Youtube video”. In most cases you just paste the video address and it downloads.
      Bitchute is probably the most up and coming free speech video platform.

  9. Alitheia 1875 says

    While not agreeing or disagreeing with any particular part, or the whole of Fr. Josiah’s talk, which presents us with much food for thought, allow me to make just a very few comments in the hope of expanding the conversation. Again, these comments are made not to create controversy but solely to hopefully expand the conversation, coming as they do from some one who has been involved in counseling from both psychological and pastoral points of view for several decades.
    First, freedom is another word for liberty and, given that this is a part of a political statement, that the word life comes before liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the Declaration of Independence must be part of the conversation. 
    From the beginning of February to the end of May approximately 100,000 people will have  died of Covid-19, which comes to about 825 per day for the four months.
    Does any one involved in this conversation know if they personally have caused some one to be infected with the virus? Have they thought how they would deal with knowing if they had spread the virus?
    Does any one involved in this conversation know of anyone who has died from the virus, whether family member, friend or co-worker?
    Last, what are the practical, emotional and spiritual effects on those who have lost a family member (in some cases more than one, to the virus)?
    These thoughts and questions, for the most part, have been missing from the conversation. I believe, as an Orthodox Christian, that they must be.

    • I have some questions for you. Why were the Churches not shut down in 2017 when approximately 80,000 people died from complications due to influenza? Why are the Churches not shut down for every flu season? Should the Churches be shut down during every flu season going forward?

      In 1966, my father died at the age of thirty due to pneumonia caused by influenza. He was a professional athlete. I asked my mother if the Churches were shut down in 1966. She said no.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Good questions all.

      May I suggest another question along these lines? Ask your questions this way: replace the word COVID-19 with “seasonal flu”. Or with HIV.

      I well remember the AIDS crisis in the 80s/90s and remember no urgency in Orthodoxy to upend our Eucharistic rubrics.

      • This is a better point than I think most readers might realize, George. I’ve been attempting to put the “communion spoon” issue into perspective when I get a chance, mentioning the fact that there are many other (some of them worse) diseases such as Hep C., mono, and herpes that are all spread through saliva. Where was the danger a year ago? 
        As a nurse, it also comes to mind that all direct patient care providers, particularly those in hospitals, have the possibility of being carriers of all kinds of horrible diseases, all the time as long as they are working. My favorite example for risk is TB, where you can potentially go for months without symptoms. So much for the danger of 2 weeks without symptoms sounding so bad. Do we make healthcare workers live in masks? Make them live in isolation? Another question…should we, based on current philosophy with regard to public health risk? I dont think people want to deal with that kind of question, though.
        Or another one… how many people have I personally gotten sick before because of my job? It may be harsh but I think many of us just do the best we can and take the consequences as part of living life. At what point did the general public forget these things?

        • George Michalopulos says

          These are excellent point, Sarah.  Have our primates bought so much into the worldly paradigm that they completely miss the forest for the trees?

          To your particular point, are those of us who are healthcare workers going to live in bubble-boy suits for the rest of our lives and only be visited at home by deacons in order to receive the Eucharist?

          If not, why not?

      • Alitheia 1875 says

        It is quite possible the total number of deaths will reach 200 to 240 thousand in the US during 2020. As for HIV/AIDS we know its situation is very different than Covid 19 and to some extent also regarding other contagious diseases.  The annual influenza death rate is certainly kept down by available vaccines. I don’t know how many influenza deaths are of those who chose not to get vaccinated. AndAgain, I was neither criticizing nor defending any point of view. But an exchange of views on important questions is necessary. And no, I do not believe any one can contract any illness or disease from the Cup and common spoon. But, speaking for myself, as a sinner I can transmit disease unknowingly and I have to consider how I would deal with transmitting any disease to someone who died because of that. And I have no problem wearing a mask in church. I would be interested in knowing who among the posters here have lost a family member to the virus. I haven’t.

        • Philippa says

          Alitheia, a fellow parishioner lost her nephew-in-law to the virus. He was a first responder. He left a wife and young teen daughter behind, both of whom were not allowed to say a last good bye at his funeral nor see him in his coffin.  It is tragic and heartbreaking. I feel very sad for the family. What is your point with your question?  Yes, anyone can transmit any contagious disease to another. I am sure I have at one point in my life and have been wholly unaware of the consequences. Our language has changed already from “I caught xyz from Janey.” to “Janey gave me xyz.” The finger pointing rhetoric has already changed. Highway signs now say “Practice social and vehicle distancing.” Huh?! Our divided & litigious society has found another hole through which to reach for the almighty dollar and point their finger at someone else for their problem.
          The percentage of global deaths when compared to the global population is very, very small. I do believe more has been made of this situation than needed to be.
          We’re told to wear cloth masks to protect others in case we sneeze/cough/are asymptomatic.  We’re also told cloth masks are not effective in preventing viruses passing through the material. So what is the point of wearing a mask? Protect others from what? Not the virus. If I sneeze or cough the germs will pass through, just as if the other person does the same, the germs will pass through.  A mask hides a face, psychologically making the wearer someone to be afraid of and stay away from. Just look at a child’s reaction to someone whose eyes are covered in dark glasses or whose hair hangs in their face. The child (at least mine was) avoids or stays away from. So, our “experts” are contradicting themselves. I’d rather they give it to me straight than handing out all the baloney they are.

  10. Jacob Lee says

    I watched his video he leaves out the elephant in the room our Bishops. They closed our Churches not the state. They are responsible. We have the first amendment which he states but no Orthodox priest or Bishop used it to sue the state. Even in Texas where early on the Governor declared churches essential the Orthodox Churches did not open. We have been betrayed by our Bishops. The unlawful closing of Churches in the country is a tragedy. The fact is our Bishops don’t know our constitution. In Syria and Turkey they can be told to shut their doors in this country they cannot.

    • Yes Jacob. But if he implicated the Bishops (including his)…there would be hell to pay for him.

    • Jacob,
      “We have been betrayed by our Bishops.”
      Such bishops will get a hard time
      when they see the laity avoiding them,
      when they visit parishes and they are alone with the local priest and the cantors.

  11. Sage-Girl says

    ????? HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY! ?????A Salute ? to all our loved ones who served in Armed Forces! May their memory be eternal. For my late husband, my dad, my uncle etc!

  12. Sage-Girl says

    forgot to mention: the Greek Church declared Elder Paisios of Mount Athos + a canonized Saint, is now the official patron saint of military regiments.  
    After all, the great charismatic St. Paisios served in Greek Army during WWll  ??  His ascension to heaven is July 12th.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Thank you Sage-Girl.  To all our veterans, we thank you for your service!

      • Sage-Girl says

        ??Thanks George + Gail, as patriots like to say, you’re great Americans  —
        ??? ??almost forgot to mention: our Orthodox Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver, born in Greece, served in U.S. Marine Corps.

  13. Local priest says

    You wrote, “we even see it in the religious sphere, when dissident voices such as Fr Josiah Trenham’s are silenced.”
    I am not aware that Fr Josiah has been “silenced.” What does this mean?

    • Gail Sheppard says

      His homilies on YouTube have been continually taken down. Some of what you see here was retrieved from our commentators who saved copies before they were removed from various places. Some of the links we provided are no longer valid, as well.

      We’re not saying the Church has silenced him. There is a greater war on all things “Church” going on these days.

  14. There are some brave Bishops in the West but we lack them in US and Canada.
    Dear Prime Minister, 
    I write to you in the wake of media reports noting that, given the success of current measures dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, restrictions on cafes, pubs and registered clubs will be eased to allow greater public access to these spaces. This easing of restrictions is to be welcomed as a step towards dealing with the difficulties people have had to face and deal with as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. We understand that they will be an important step towards improving the economic and social wellbeing of the nation. However, they will not address the deleterious effects to the religious and spiritual well-being of the millions of Australians, and in my case, the tens of thousands of Australia’s Serbian Orthodox Christians. 
    The Church till date has done its best to meet the government requirements placed on its places of worship whilst continuing to preach the Gospel of Christ and serve the Holy Eucharist, albeit in extreme circumstances; all of this in line with Romans 13, 1-8 and Acts 2:42-43, Corinthians 10:17 and Hebrews 10,25. 
    The Church and community welcome the proposed easing of restrictions mentioned above, but also in like manner expect the easing of restrictions on places of worship to follow. In short, apart from looking forward to being able to socialise and, in many cases get back to work, we also would like to stress that a return to communal worship is fundamentally important for Christians, as the Eucharistic gathering (synaxis) constitutes our Christian identity and ethos.
    In my previous letter to you, I explained the issues affecting those entrusted to my spiritual care, and I can only add that those same issues are becoming more serious and the situation more complicated. An easing of restrictions would be a welcome development. Faith communities are deserving of respite as are other sectors of society.
    In this respect I urge you to ease the restrictions on gatherings at places of worship. The current restrictions limit the number of people that can enter a church, attend a wedding or a funeral. For example, a maximum of 10 persons can participate in a religious service or wedding. I strongly recommend that the number be increased to at least the maximum numbers allowed for indoor gatherings such as restaurants, cafes, and pubs subject to the same requirement for appropriate social distancing within the 4 square metre principle.
    Apart from allowing more of the faithful to participate in religious services this would also provide consistency in application of the guidelines and would address concerns expressed in our community that the government has taken into account economic concerns without an equal consideration of the spiritual and social wellbeing of its citizens.
    The government has successfully built public trust in, and compliance with, its public health messages concerning Covid 19 and as we move to relax restrictions it will be increasingly important to retain that trust.
    Australia has done remarkably well in terms of containing the spread of Covid-19 and Australians, be they believers or non-believers, have accepted the sacrifices that had to be made. I believe that they accept that the path back to normalcy must be approached with caution and that the nation is in a position to take the first steps in that direction. In that respect, the easing of restrictions on gatherings at places of worship must be part of that process. 
    Wishing you wisdom and a continued commitment to justice and compassion.
    Yours sincerely,
    Bishop of Australia and New Zealand
    The Serbian Orthodox Church

    • Gail Sheppard says

      His Grace is an example of why we depend so heavily on our good bishops in the Serbian Church.

      Doesn’t it seem odd that people all over the world are having to beg to open their churches? Why are governments, universally, trying to keep them closed? Trump is seemingly the only exception.

      • They are following the shining example of China…

      • George Michalopulos says

        God bless the Serbs!

        In the past century, ever since the lamentable “reforms” put in place by Patriarch Meletius IV Metaxakis of sorrowful memory, it was the Serbs who kept ROCOR in communion with Orthodoxy. And it is they today who are standing up to the worldliness that has infected many of the other local Churches.

        • Sage-Girl says

          ?George Thanks for saying that – we Greek Orthodox really appreciate them & the devout Russian Orthodox too for keeping the Faith!

  15. Kostac600 says

    I don’t believe he stated this case explicitly.  According to the posited two rules for civil disobedience, it logically follows that Christians ought to always be non-combatants as killing and perhaps even harming others in combat are sinful acts and penance is mandated under confession.  

  16. God bless  Governor Ducey of Arizona for not attempting to shut down Saint Anthony Monastery, at Metropolitan Gerasimos request. One of very few Churches open to laity, most important, during Holy Week and Pascha.