Making Room for Everyone This Christmas

December 10, 2018 Length: 1:28:47

How should our parish communities live out the fullness of our Orthodox Faith by including and making a space for those who need a space in our worship that acknowledges their worth and our need to be a spiritual home for everyone? Fr. Barnabas talks with Summer Kinard, an author, a singer, and the mother of five autistic children. Then be sure to listen for a very special announcement from Fr. Barnabas in the second half of the show.

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Rev. Fr. Barnabas Powell: And welcome to our regular Sunday evening gathering, Fr. Barnabas Powell here on this end. I’m the parish priest at Sts. Raphael, Nicholas, and Irene Greek Orthodox Church, and I confess to you, gang, I’m a little bit giddy tonight. Do you know what that means, giddy? I’m a little bit giddy, mainly because we had such a great day at the parish today. It was just such a wonderful day today. We had our Christmas pageant that our Sunday school put on, and it’s increasingly encouraging to me to see the number of young people that are at our community. Our community is growing… well, we’re full. Our church building that we have, the chapel that we have there on our 16 acres of land is jam-packed. We’re at about 110% capacity.

We’ve actually launched a capital campaign to build a church there on our 16 acres here in Cumming, Georgia, and we desperately need that building built. Your prayers about this. We’re pretty excited about this. It’s also a very scary time as well, because it’s a large amount of money that we’re going to have to raise, but that’s okay. We’re going to keep focused on the provision that God has and not our weakness, because if we focus only on our weaknesses, fear will overcome us. Please pray for us as we go through this capital campaign process.

In fact, our gala, our very first fundraising gala, is February 23, 2019, and by the way, if you want to come to that, you’re more than welcome. I would love to see you. You can go to stsrni.org, and you can find out more about that. You can actually buy your tickets online, too. This commercial announcement has been brought to you by… [Laughter]

But I’m glad that you’re here tonight. We’re going to have a great time. The chatroom is already hopping, and really great to see all the folks that are in there: Steve and John and David and Summer is in there as well. Maria from the Bahamas just chimed in. Maria, I have some dear friends there, so it’s really kind of neat to see Maria there as well.

I want to kind of make a little bit of a confession here at the first part of the program. I know that it’s usually people making confession to me, but this is good for us. I discovered something embarrassing myself several years ago, and it was actually kind of tied to my own journey to Orthodoxy. Whenever—at least my experience has been—you start this kind of spiritual work, when you start this kind of spiritual inventory of your life, and you start really asking some deep questions, it’s going to uncover stuff, and sometimes the stuff that it uncovers is kind of… well, it’s just kind of painful. It’s kind of difficult. It even is embarrassing, for heaven’s sake. And this is something I discovered about myself.

What I discovered made me ask some hard questions about my own character. You see, I found myself having to confront my discomfort about being around people who were challenged in some way, either physically or through a physical impairment or some emotional struggles. Special needs folks made me uncomfortable. Several years ago really kind of tied to my journey to Orthodoxy, I felt a deep shame about that. I knew that I had to get to the bottom: where is this coming from? Why am I feeling this way? Why am I feeling this way about being around people who have challenges? They’re in wheelchairs or they have some physical or emotional challenges. Here I am, really uncomfortable being around it.

So, through the process of going to confession and working with my spiritual father, I discovered that I was afraid. I was afraid. I was afraid about being weak myself, or unable or handicapped myself. That fear was transferring to people I saw as “unable.” This was a real turning point in my own life, because it insisted that I have some spiritual maturity in my life and deal with this discomfort as a way the Holy Spirit was attempting to get my attention about some brokenness in my own life. It was a real turning point for me and invited me to some deep repentance. What I discovered was a new and profound respect and appreciate for people created in the image of God. I found some of the most caring and Christian people I’d ever met in this so-called special needs community. You know how I feel about all these different “communities” that we create, these names that we put on things. People are people, but I needed to deal with the handicap in my own heart.

That kind of begs the question: How should our parish communities live out the fullness of our Orthodox faith, our Orthodox faith insisting that every person is created in the image of God, no matter what? and that the image of God cannot be destroyed, even in the most evil of persons, even in the most damaged persons. In fact, a lot of times people who are considered “damaged” by others are more gifted and humble in graciousness than anything you’ve ever met in your life.

So how do our parish communities make room for this with this theological truth? How do we make room for these folks to be a part of our community, making a space of welcoming for them in our own community, a home, a spiritual home, that was meant to be a spiritual home for everyone, bar no one? How do you do that? Well, I want to let you know we’ve got some help tonight.

By the way, the number to call this evening is 855-AF-RADIO; it’s 855-237-2346. As I said, the chatroom is open, and all you have to do to get into the chatroom is go to ancientfaith.com/live and you will find the link to the chatroom right there at the top of the page, and you can chat along with the dear ones that are in there in the chatroom even as we speak. And if you’re a little bashful and you want to email me a question rather than ask it on the air—I hope that you do ask it on the air, because everybody that calls in tonight is going to be put into a drawing for a $55 gift certificate from Legacy Icons at legacyicons.com. Especially this Christmas season when you’re buying gifts, that gift certificate may come in handy—nudge, nudge, wink, wink, push, push. [Laughter] I hope you get that. But if you don’t want to, you can ask me a question at ask@ancientfaith.com if you want to do that.

Tonight my special guest is going to give us some help in creating a welcoming space for special needs families. Summer Kinard is an author, an opera singer I found out—soprano, which is the high part—and the mother of five children, all of them autistic in some way or the other. She holds a Master of Divinity degree and a Master of Theology degree in early Church history from Duke University. And she is currently working on a new book entitled Of Such is the Kingdom: A Practical Theology of Disability to be published by Ancient Faith Publishing, so I’m looking forward to that. Plus she’s also got three novels, and I’m going to find out more about that, too. I want to say welcome, Summer, to Faith Encouraged Live. Thanks for doing this.

Ms. Summer Kinard: Thank you so much, Father. Thanks for having me on.

Fr. Barnabas: It is actually my pleasure. Now, first off, I’ve got to get another confession out of the way here. I’m extremely intimidated by your husband’s beard. It’s better than mine. It’s really cool. So this caused me to almost not have you on, because of my deep envy of that. It was just horrible. So I repent publicly about that. [Laughter] But seriously, you couldn’t get all this work done without some help, I am sure. I’d love for you to tell us how you came to Orthodoxy. Give us a little bit about your story.

Ms. Kinard: Thank you, Father. Yes, my husband’s beard is magnificent, and you should see it whenever he gilds icons. Part of making icons is, whenever you put on clay and you make the clay shine until you can see your face in it, and you bend over and breathe on it. When you breathe on it, then you put the gold on. Of course, he’s got this big beard, so he comes away from gilding icons with a fabulously gilded beard that all of our children really enjoy. [Laughter] Exactly.

I’m so glad that you mentioned my husband, Andrew, because we really have made this journey to Orthodoxy together from the very beginning. I am so grateful to be married to him. He’s a really virtuous and loving man, a man of faith. We were friends from, oh, I guess almost the first time we met each other in college in 1995. We began to be friends then and then we wound up being engaged two years later, and then we were married right after college.

In spring of 1996, my friend Andrew and I were both taking classes in the religion department. My class was my first Church history class, which I loved, and his class was with a Dr. Brendan Pelphrey, whom Orthodox people of course call Fr. Brendan Pelphrey.

Fr. Barnabas: Oh! Of course.

Ms. Kinard: Well, Andrew, he’s a Methodist preacher’s kid. He wasn’t a stranger to the Christian faith, but whenever he went to Fr. Brendan’s class, he really just caught fire. He read the book, The Orthodox Way, by His Eminence Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware), and I just saw this desire for God and the fullness of the Church growing in him. So he already had more background than [I did]. I don’t come from a family with a theological background. I’ll talk more about that later. But I had this desire for Church history and stories, and he was learning another part of it the whole time.

We married after college, and we went to graduate school in Durham, North Carolina. We were married in 1999, and we put up our first icons in a prayer corner in 2001. It took us a lot longer to actually get to the faith, but a couple of years later—I think 2003—I took a class on the theology of holy icons. That class solidified for me… It was a seminar with Dr. Geoffrey Wainwright; you might have read some of his books; he was a really great teacher. After I talked to him, with him doing presentations on St. John of Damascus and St. Theodore the Studite and all these, I felt like obviously we can’t stay. We need to go further toward the ancient faith. We really sort of set off as a family.

There was a church at the time, the Episcopal Church of the Holy Family; at the time the priest was a liturgical scholar, and he was very interested in the Eastern Orthodox Church and really pointed us that direction. We thought, “Oh, we don’t know anyone Orthodox. We can do this as a step toward the East.” They had one icon toward the back, and over the years we found that we started to hang out by that icon almost exclusively. We realized we were leaders in the church, but we really didn’t have any sort of simpatico for very long with the actual teachings that were different from the ancient faith. We didn’t know anyone, so we visited some churches starting in 2008 or 2009. All the priests—I think rightly so—that we met told us, “Go slowly. You’re leaders in your church. Go slowly and lead well.”

So in 2011 I had just gotten appointed to this church committee that I had been helping with for years, and suddenly I was going to be a leader in it. St. John Maximovitch, St. John of San Francisco, he came to me in a dream, and he said, “Come to the Orthodox Church, and the Holy Spirit will come upon you.” [Laughter]

Fr. Barnabas: What a great dream!

Ms. Kinard: Yes, but it was very real. I thought: I’m going to argue with this. But even though I tried to argue and say, “Well, the Holy Spirit goes where he wills,” it was very clear to me, right at that moment, I knew he was right. I knew that that was where we were going and where we wanted to live a life with more fullness with God, and that was where we were going.

In 2012, Andrew took his first icon-painting workshop with Fr. Mefodii at the Skete of St. Maximus up in Virginia. At that point we started, through the icon-writers’ network, to meet people who were Orthodox and in our area. That’s how we met the woman who became our godmother, Elina Pelikan, who is also an iconographer. She really reached out to us, and I’m so glad she did, because the next year of our lives was very hard. I lost my father and then my step-father to illnesses. Then we lost our third child to miscarriage that year; it was devastating. But my birthday was on Pascha that year, so Andrew told me—we were grief-stricken. I had written, had a novel accepted for publication the previous year, and it was going to come out that year, and I just didn’t care, to be honest. I thought before all this in 2011, 2012 when I had been writing a novel, I thought: I’m just going to write these edgy novels about these bad people who wind up finding God anyway; they’ve got messed up lives: that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to write about how God comes to these scrappy people. And you know what? I needed to be the scrappy person. [Laughter]

Fr. Barnabas: There you go. Amen.

Ms. Kinard: So here I was. Andrew told me, “Go. This is my birthday present to you. Go to the Holy Week services at the Orthodox church that’s in the area.” So he watched the children which, when I say that I don’t mean that he’s the babysitter; it’s just that with special needs kids, it’s all-hands-on-deck, so you really are doing double duty when you take over. So he watched them, took care of them, which was not easy to do, and sent me to those services.

That week, on Tuesday night, when I heard the Hymn of Kassiane, all my years of study had come together in one song about God’s mercy. Then I was just overwhelmed. Then the women of the church just reached out to me in my grief and helped me to reach to the holy Theotokos for help. We were just ready, but we didn’t have a spiritual father. Later that year, we found out we were pregnant with twins, which was great. So I was six months pregnant with twins that Christmas, and my sister came to town. She’s a Roman Catholic, and she’s got this really great no-nonsense look. She was a religious education director for many years in a Catholic church. She sort of has this ability to give that stare whenever you’re leading groups. She went into our living room—our living room was filled with holy icons with candles in front of them, and she just looked at me and she was like: “Why are you trying to be Protestant when you so clearly don’t want to be there? You want to go to the Orthodox Church.”

I whined a little bit and said, “I’m six months pregnant with twins. How can we get started at this time? But we’re miserable and we really need to.” She said, “Well, have you met with all the priests?” And we said, “Well, there’s a new priest at the Greek church.” She said, “I’ll watch the children. You go.” So we went, we walked in, and we met Fr. Stavroforos, and it was obvious immediately that he was our spiritual father. He welcomed us in, we were chrismated as a family in February 2014, and I was seven months pregnant with twins—I don’t know if you understand. I was as big as a ship; I was huge. So I always say I was waddling toward theosis.

Fr. Barnabas: That’s wonderful. That’s fantastic. Well, Summer, this whole story is amazing, and I know that there’s lost more to the story. You eventually have to write about this. You know that, don’t you? You’ve got to put this down on paper.

But what came first: your interest in theology or your practical work to make room in churches for your beautiful children? I know all five of your children are on the spectrum, if I understand correctly. Is that right?

Ms. Kinard: Yes. Now, some of them are more severe or they have stronger needs. A couple of them, the needs are in a specific area, so they could even what we call “pass.”

Fr. Barnabas: I understand.

Ms. Kinard: But they actually do have autism; they’re just better at covering it socially so not everyone realizes it unless I tell them, but it’s important to know because of those differences.

Fr. Barnabas: Of course. So the interest in theology came first, then? How do we fit… How do we practically live out this theology in our church communities? Does that make sense?

Ms. Kinard: Yes. Well, so for me, this is how the interest in theology started. I had a very early interest because of my circumstances of my birth. I was born to a teen mom who didn’t have good health care, and she wasn’t married, and because of her circumstances she was accepted by a Catholic church as a charity case, so I was born in a Catholic hospital. Thanks be to God! My mother’s family and my extended family were Catholic at the time. She came in, and she was laboring for 36 hours. Finally, my placenta was born before me, and they forced me out and found the cord wrapped around my neck three times, and I was dead. My nurse was a nun, and she baptized me, and the reason I know this is, from the day I was born I always remembered this, and every night when I was a child I had this dream: the first words I heard: “In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.” I can’t say it yet; I say it wrong, because I was a kid still and didn’t know Latin, so I probably said it wrong. But you know what I mean: “In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” That’s the first thing I heard, and I remember coming back to life.

Fr. Barnabas: Wow.

Ms. Kinard: Because of that, I remember it, and I didn’t know what it was, though. When I was a little girl, I could see my guardian angel, and I just looked at him. I called him the eyeball man: “At night the eyeball man watches over me.” [Laughter] I didn’t know what was going on, because my family didn’t have this tradition. But then my grandmother started taking me to church and Vacation Bible School, and on my other side of the family people would show me how to light a prayer candle. Every time something like that happened, it just filled me with joy and awe, and I wanted to know more. I wanted to know everything. I think it’s because of that thirst for God, because of course, he came and got me, I said. He came and got me.

Fr. Barnabas: Amen. And not only that: one of the things I’ve discovered about special needs families: the parents… This is a vocation, and it’s something that is so very, very powerful.

I want to go to a call real quick, because we’ve got Brian from Ohio waiting, and I don’t want him to wait too terribly long. Brian, welcome to Faith Encouraged Live. Thank you so much for calling in. What do you have for us tonight?

Brian: Well, thank you very much, Fr. Barnabas, and hello, Summer.

Ms. Kinard: Hi.

Brian: I just was thinking. I have a son on the spectrum, and I’ve been a Protestant for, I don’t know, 35, 40 years, and am on a journey now to Orthodoxy. But one of the things that’s always been so challenging with an intellectual disability is having a young person or even an adult sit through really an hour-long sermon, because that’s kind of the way most Evangelical churches are: very difficult to follow and stick with the 17 points or however many in the outline. But when you look at the Orthodox service, you’ve got an experience that involves all the senses: you’ve got tactile experience, you’ve got the smells, you’ve got the sights, you’ve got the sounds. I think that it’s a wonderful way that God has designed our liturgy to help people that really struggle with that focus.

Obviously we need to be focused in the liturgy, but I think you know what I’m saying, Summer. At least it’s a little easier. Maybe you can comment on that. It’s just something I’ve observed, but what are your thoughts there?

Ms. Kinard: I’m so glad you asked this, because I had told God… I was praying, and he gave me this image, and I thought: Lord, that is the weirdest thing you’ve ever said. Why do I need this? But it’s exactly… I’m going to tell you this. Okay, you read the books, and you read a regular book. That’s like in the Protestant church, maybe you have the book, but in the Orthodox church it’s a pop-up book. You have everything around you.

Fr. Barnabas: That’s great. That’s good. That’s really good.

Ms. Kinard: Yes, exactly. So you have this space; you have everything leading you. This is the thing about autism that a lot of people don’t understand. It’s a gift and not a distraction. Yes, it may be harder to process audio input, but it is much easier to think in a room. External thinking, thinking with your space. If you put the space together the right way, it is much easier to teach people with autism that way, because they’re going to pay attention to it. We can’t filter that out. The filters are so different.

The other thing is… I was going to say this later if it comes up, but I’ll say it now. A lot of people with autism have this spiritual gift of recognizing the immediacy of God’s presence. Whenever you come to an Orthodox church and you walk into that pop-up book of the faith, when you’re living the real thing and you can see everything, don’t think that just because someone may not be able to talk as much that they’re not experiencing the immediacy of God, because every single autistic person who can talk, whom I’ve talked to about it, has said, to a T, “I just don’t understand those prayers that try to say, ‘Where are you, God?’ because I know he’s right here.”

Fr. Barnabas: That’s wonderful. Brian, does that make sense? I think one of the things I like about this call, Brian, is that it gives us an opportunity to talk about the fact that, if people are gifted differently, if I can use this phrase, that’s okay in the Orthodox Church, because the Orthodox Church covers the gamut of how a human takes in stimuli and information. Does that make sense?

Brian: It does, and I agree completely, yes.

Fr. Barnabas: And because of that, that means that every person, no matter what their giftedness, and especially no matter what their challenges, every person should have a home and find a place within the Orthodox Christian community. This is something that I feel very strongly about, and the reason why I feel very strongly about it is because it’s normal Orthodoxy. This is normal. Every human being, created in the image of God, deserves to be in this space to adore and worship God. Forgive me for preaching here, but this is a big deal, gang, and it’s something that I feel very strongly about because of my own desire to overcome my discomfort that flowed from my own fear and my own brokenness and my own concern about my own ableness and to be able to deal with that honestly, it makes me happy to know that the faith is broad enough and huge enough and wide enough and big enough, no matter where your giftedness is, you’re going to find a place, a place, an on-ramp, to worshiping and adoring God through this precious Orthodox faith.

Brian, thanks so much for the phone call. I really appreciate it.

Brian: Thank you very much. I look forward to the rest of the show. Thank you.

Fr. Barnabas: And please pray for us. God bless you. Have a wonderful Christmas season. God bless you.

Summer, this kind of brings up, I guess for me, because I’m a theology guy, so Orthodox theology insists on everybody being a participant in the life of the Church. From a theological standpoint that makes perfect sense, but practically, do our parishes live this out? I mean, you had a statistic that you sent me that kind of shook me up a little bit. Was it 50% of people who have some kind of disability are never exposed to a worship service? Is that right? What’s the statistic?

Ms. Kinard: We have a number of statistics that have come out over the last five years. That is one of them, that 50%—some people, depending on the type of disability, it could be higher: 60 to 90%—of people with a disability—and I won’t just say of people [with a disability], but their families, because people are not alone…

Fr. Barnabas: That’s right. That’s exactly right. Amen.

Ms. Kinard: Their families don’t go to church for a lot of reasons. At first we had these numbers—oh, 50%. Then they went through this past year, Dr. Andrew Whitehead did a more specific look at the numbers and realized that the churches are starting to do better with accommodating physical disabilities, and this also holds true in the Orthodox Church with what I’ve heard from people, that people with wheelchairs and impairments like if you’re blind, there’s a lot more welcoming attitude and there’s more accommodations and ramps and things like that, but for people with invisible disabilities, the rate is still very low across the board, including in the Orthodox Church.

Those are really… That’s very important to notice, because those are the disabilities that, for whatever reason, seem to be increasing these days. This includes not just autism and ADHD, learning and developmental delays, but also chronic auto-immune diseases and disorders. That can also include things like Crohn’s or Celiac and types of arthritis. There are certain things… There are so many little specifics… These invisible and auto-immune disorders keep people out of church because [other] people don’t understand them, so they tend to be a little bit mean about them.

Fr. Barnabas: Exactly, and one of the things that I’ve discovered is because of that, you’ve got moms and dads and even children who may not be siblings of the special needs children—they’re not in church either. It’s really important to point out: it’s not just the special needs persons themselves, but it’s their families that are not connected to the Church, and they’re not experiencing the Divine Liturgy; they’re not participating in the eucharistic life of the Church. That’s not good, period. So we have to have a space for that.

I guess this kind of starts off our discussion. I want to get to some specifics here in just a bit, but just wanted to share with you the kinds of things we are struggling with in my own community is our chapel that we have only seats so many, and we have to take out chairs. We have a few folks in wheelchairs; we have to have those in there. But I also have a beautiful married couple in my parish, and the husband is on the spectrum, and the wife also struggles with other mental illnesses. They’ve become a real gift to me personally in working out how to apply this theology in real life. Do you find communities who do this hard work growing in their spiritual graces? This is, for me at least, these special needs families… They help me become Orthodox; they help me become Christian in a deeper way. Does that make sense?

Ms. Kinard: It does. I absolutely think yes. The short answer is yes, because the whole Church is where God, Christ is in all: all in all. But I could tell you a little more about this.

When we say that there’s nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, St. John Chrysostom goes further and says there’s nothing that prevents the grace of God from entering the soul. Every person who comes, every Orthodox Christian, has this spiritual gift. They have gifts; they have fruits. They have something to offer as well as something to receive. I already mentioned the thing about autistic people having a sense of the immediacy of God, so that’s one thing. But the other thing that I have observed over and over in people’s lives is that our main struggle is really a struggle to receive the grace and mercy of God for ourselves.

When you welcome people whose life challenges are really different from yours, you learn really quickly if you’re putting limits and tests on the love of God. If you love that little boy who can’t hold his crayon or who can’t hold his candle, you’re going to stop pretending that God is disappointed in your handwriting or thinks that he’s mocking your housekeeping. If you love the little girl who faithfully shows up but doesn’t make eye contact with anyone who’s not in an icon, then you’re going to realize that God loves you whether or not you’re charming or energetic. And if you love that person who comes for prayer but can’t speak, you’re going to start to understand the love of God even in the silence.

Fr. Barnabas: Amen. Amen. And that is so extremely important, because we have such an attitude in this “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” kind of mentality here in this modern American culture. We really do run the risk of marginalizing folks who can really help us a great deal. It’s happening all over the world, but the real challenge is that this is a gift to us, and when we can receive these precious ones as gift, that’s when the grace of God really opens up.

You’ve written a helpful blog, by the way, about this subject, especially about the Christmas holidays. This is already a stressful time. How is the added stress of making sure everyone gets to participate survivable, especially at this time of year?

Ms. Kinard: [Laughter] Right. Families with special needs kids—they’ve done measurements of stress—they have the most stress, especially invisible illnesses. With the invisible illnesses that are keeping people out of church, they also are making families the most stressed. That is something… You know, the mark of God’s presence is joy. What I’ve found is that to make things survivable, that’s one thing, but to make things where people are growing in joy and holiness, that’s not something that’s as hard as you might fear once you begin. What I think happens is that we get stuck at the beginning and we get scared, like you mentioned whenever you were afraid, I think everyone has that temptation to not begin. It helps me to say, like St. Anthony, “Today I will begin, and know that Jesus is already with us.” When it comes to Christmas, that’s what it’s all about, so we sort of have an “in.” God is with us!

The specifics of how it’s survivable, it’s going to depend on the disability, it’s going to depend on some things, but there are some ways that everybody can accommodate. The first thing to do is just to approach people with prayer. What’s the first thing you say in prayer? You say, “Thank you.” You recognize God’s there. So you could just welcome people: “Thank you. I’m glad you’re here. I’m glad that God brought you here,” whether you say it out loud or not.

Fr. Barnabas: Amen.

Ms. Kinard: Then you’re lightening other people’s loads, but you’re also letting people know: Hey, we want you here. We know God wants you here and has brought you here—because that’s where I think we don’t always recognize each other’s presence as a gift.

Fr. Barnabas: Amen. Summer, one of the things that I have really come to learn a great deal is that when I make room for others in my own life and in that space, I’ve already experienced myself the power of what a welcoming spirit can be for people who are struggling, but especially caregivers of those who have children that are special needs. The caregivers of those special needs children, they need that spiritual ministry as well as anybody else, sometimes probably even more, because they’re really—like you say, it’s all hands on deck. You’re expending that energy all the time, and you need the grace of God to come and help and stand alongside you and give you peace. That’s the purpose of the Church! So we have to make room; for our own salvation we have to make room for this.

Okay, I want to take a break, and when we get back, I want to ask you to fill us in with some more practical ways our communities can not just be welcoming, but make sure that everyone gets to participate in our life-giving worship. The number to call is 855-237-2346; that’s 855-237-2346. You’re listening to Faith Encouraged Live on ancientfaith.com.

***

Fr. Barnabas: Welcome back to Faith Encouraged Live! This is the Sunday night that we’re going to give you the big announcement that’s coming up in the second half of the show, but right now we’re talking to Summer Kinard about how we can make sure that our parishes are welcoming communities and minister to special needs families, especially at this very busy time of the year. The number to call is 855-237-2346; that’s 855-237-2346.

Summer is the mother of five autistic children. She is an author, and she holds a master’s of theology degree and a master of divinity. Tonight she’s helping us make room in our churches for everyone. Plus we’ve got that special announcement coming up just a bit later.

Before I forget, I want to make sure that I let you know that all of the folks who call in tonight are going to be available to win a drawing for a $55 gift certificate from Legacy Icons. Legacyicons.com is a sponsor of Faith Encouraged Live, and I want you to visit their website especially at this time of year. They’ve got some great deals. In fact, it’s getting really close to where you’ve got to order now to get it delivered to you by the Christmas season, so make sure you’re aware of that. And when you do order from Legacy Icons, make sure that you tell them that you heard about them on Faith Encouraged Live.

Summer, I really appreciate your doing this. How can we make this Christmas worship season in our communities more welcoming for moms and dads who have these special needs children, [and who are] maybe special needs themselves.

Ms. Kinard: So the first thing… What you keep saying about making room: it really is about space. What people often don’t understand also about invisible illnesses is that almost all of the accommodation is done in 3-D. It’s about space. You can’t just schedule or talk a little bit different usually; you have to change your space a little. I put on my blogpost about Christmas: one of the things I do [is] I go through categories, and I tell you about how you can go through and see the gift of time with the twelve days of Christmas and spread out your busyness load and spread out your expectations and all the things you have to do over those twelve days, as much as you can. Then I also talk about how you can make things predictable for people. Once again, as our caller, Brian, mentioned, one of the good things about the Orthodox Church is that we are consistent about the way the Divine Liturgy goes, so you can get into the rhythm and you can know what to expect.

But the other thing that’s really big is away spaces. If you can’t make an away space, like a bride room or even a broom closet that is cleared out; if you can’t make a space where someone can step aside, have a couple of moments to calm down, then you may have to think of other ways to accommodate, such as allowing people to wear headphones in church. One priest I know said he likes to tell people to think about the shape of the church as a cross, and having the foot of the cross—not at the back doors, but in the narthex, inside the church—as a little space set aside for people with special needs sometimes to go and calm down, like a sort of mercy spot.

Fr. Barnabas: I like that phrase. Make sure you have a mercy spot. Isn’t that great? That’s wonderful. That’s now going to be part of the new church building, I promise you, here in Cumming.

Ms. Kinard: “Mercy spot.” You should write that in. Yes, exactly. And just tell people how to direct people to those spaces. One church I was in had—and it was wonderful—set aside this beautiful calm room with a mother room with these rocking chairs and everything. There were several times for the first several months it was there that the ushers didn’t realize it was there and forgot to tell the mothers who came in with babies. So they were trying to figure out where to go and walking down the hallways. I was like: oops! Sometimes there is an unused classroom during the service, or even—not saying you should have to do this—there might be a reception area that is often used just for meeting people in the priest’s area, like in one of the offices that’s not a private area. There might be some space like that where you can let people step aside.

Because what winds up happening is people come into a… Even if you’re managing a whole lot of overwhelming sensory input, whether because you’re in pain or you have a different way of processing, and you walk into that pop-up book of the church, and there’s all these people and smells and this intensity, and you can’t filter out any of it? Sometimes you have to be like Jesus and withdraw, even if it’s only for a few minutes! I think that’s one of the biggest things you can do is… Well, first of all, as I said, pray for people, and then make some kind of space and tell people about it.

Fr. Barnabas: Amen. I love also that you specifically mention the twelve days of Christmas. Listen, take advantage of the fact that you’ve got time. This isn’t something that has to be fixed in the immediate moment, right now. You’ve got some time, and you can take your time to do this well. I love this very much. In fact, you even have several special tips for special needs families. But I want folks to go to the website so they can see the whole article. In fact, those of you who are interested, we’re going to provide something that Summer provided for us here at Faith Encouraged Ministries, and we’re going to provide this on our Facebook page at Faith Encouraged Ministries. If you go to Facebook and you go to Faith Encouraged Ministries, you’ll find this synced little graphic that Summer provided for us that we’re going to be putting up after the show, so make sure that you do that. But where do they find out more, Summer? You’ve got this wonderful resource. How do they get in touch with you?

Ms. Kinard: All those things [are] on the same site. I decided to consolidate my work. The website is summerkinard.com. That’s s-u-m-m-e-r, just like the season, summer, kinard: k-i-n-a-r-d.com. That will take you… The first thing at the top is this article we’re talking about. It’s called “Holiday Tips for Making Christmas Easier for Special Needs Families.” It has things for families and things for churches. If you’re a Sunday school teacher and anticipate guests, go ahead and check this out.

I am also probably this coming week going to record and get up on YouTube, because my family, having so many special needs, we have to be flexible—I think that it will come out this week. I have to have flex time. I’m going to be doing a YouTube video Sunday school lesson on the Nativity. That’s so helpful for people with autism or if you have a learning challenge or a sensory difference, to be able to watch something predictable. This is one of those places where it’s actually an evidence-based practice that it’s a best practice for learning to be able to watch certain types of things rather than just in person. I know we say “no screen time,” but this is a place where it’s actually the opposite.

If you go there, you’ll see that. If you go to my website, there’s a tab that says “Special Needs Resources,” and that has other printables, including—I think I mentioned food allergies. I have a free printable so you could print this out and put it at your coffee hour: a checklist of the twelve most common allergens, so people don’t have to worry about whether they can eat the food.

Fr. Barnabas: Wow, that’s fantastic. In fact, I’m at the website right now. Gang, this is just really wonderful. In fact, the allergen checklist is the first free printable that’s up there. That’s absolutely there. The website is summerkinard.com. Summerkinard.com: they can get tons and tons of stuff there.

One of the things I think is extremely important about this entire discussion is the very fact that it’s just raising awareness and attentiveness. One of the things I was talking about this morning, in this morning’s homily, is attentiveness is the key. It really is extremely important to simply be attentive. When you’re attentive, you find that you have space and you have room for all kinds of ways for the practical theology of the Church to be applied in real-life situations. That’s the reason why I was so glad to be able to have you on the program tonight, to really kind of pull back the curtain a little bit and create a way for people to think in a much broader term than maybe they’ve been used to thinking in the past. I really think this is so cool: for Sunday school programs, for Sunday morning worship—all of these things—to be able to create this space for our youth and young adult ministries, making sure that we have a space and we have a category to think about how we can minister to these people who have been gifted by God in a very special way for our Church.

I know the show’s a little bit different tonight, but I wanted you to give us some practical words to help us make space in our communities for these families so that they know that they’re welcome in our communities. Most of the time, Summer, this is what I’ve found. Moms especially—moms and dads, but moms especially—feel very self-conscious about disrupting the service, and “Oh, this is going to be really difficult on everybody else, so I’m going to stay away.” How do we overcome that natural tendency not to want to cause problems, not to want to cause a scene—we don’t want our children to be seen as disruptive or difficult—and really overcome that reluctance to connect up? What do we do?

Ms. Kinard: I will mention first of all, in case I get side-tracked, that we are giving out a “Basic Guidelines of Welcome” handout on your Facebook page and on my Facebook page, if you find either of those. The second thing is, whenever you go to church and you’re a mom with special needs kids, the number one thing that makes the biggest difference is people coming up to you and saying, “Oh, I’m so glad you’re here. Welcome.” And that seems so simple, but it is such a big deal. I can’t tell you what an amazing gift it was… We moved recently. We moved this fall to a new city, and we were worried about getting to a church, so we said, “Oh, well, we’re nervous. Everyone’s told us this cathedral is so big. Should we go?” We went, because we felt we should go there, but people kept telling us, “It’s so big. Your kids will be overwhelmed.” It’s the opposite. You know why? Because people have welcomed us. They’ve said, “We’re so glad they’re here.” If I said, “I’m sorry if they made noise,” they say, “Oh, they’re children. They’re welcome. We’re so glad you’re here!”

Fr. Barnabas: That’s wonderful.

Ms. Kinard: You know, one or two people saying that, and you’re like: “Oh, well, those people are just kind of weird and nice,” but, no, 25 people told us that! It’s very different. It’s amazing.

Fr. Barnabas: And it’s really amazing when they actually mean it. That’s really kind of cool.

Ms. Kinard: Another thing I would tell you to do if you have a website is put on your website that you welcome people with special needs. You may think: Oh, people will know that. They don’t know that, and as someone with a special needs family who moved to a city with 25 Orthodox churches—because I’m in the Houston area—25 canonical, and there’s more of the other types—I come here, and I went around and looked. Well, we’re Greek Orthodox, and the cathedral’s the obvious place, a bit of a drive, but… As we’re looking for another place closer, I can’t tell you how many churches either say on their website or the first thing they say about guests is: Here’s this article about how to behave yourself in the church, and it’s this list of rude things about not being disruptive—and I’m like: You guys don’t even want us to walk in the door, because I can’t control if my kids are going to make a weird noise. I can’t control that.

Rethink that. Look at it from a different point of view and say, “These people are being brought there from God, and wow: an icon of God, an icon of the Lord in the face of another person!” Look at it with grace and tell people that you want to see them and that you’re glad they’re there. Those are my two tips: put it on your website, maybe on your bulletin, and just be kind. That’s the first two big things.

Fr. Barnabas: Amen. And as a parish priest, I can tell you, I really get the fact that parishes want you to know: Hey, listen, this is the right time to come into the Divine Liturgy, this is the wrong time; if you come in after this… That makes perfect sense. However, what’s more important—in fact, our gospel lesson today was the perfect thing: this precious woman had been bent over for 18 years, couldn’t stand up, couldn’t be straight. She was certainly special needs, and the Lord heals her on the Sabbath, and one of the head guys, the religious guys at the synagogue do? He gets upset because the Lord heals on the Sabbath! Jesus has to correct all of this stuff. “How many of you, on the Sabbath, you untie your animal from the manger so you can take it to get water? And this daughter of Abraham, who’s been oppressed by this 18 years, she deserves to be healed.” I’m telling you this, gang, this whole idea of initial welcoming and being a welcoming community is extremely important, and I thank God for that.

Summer, give us some final thoughts before we wrap this up. Then we’re going to go to the second part of this show and talk about our big announcement coming up. But I want you to give us some final thoughts about this very important topic, and I want to tell you just how grateful I am that you were able to do this with us tonight. Thank you so much.

Ms. Kinard: Thank you so much, Father. I just want everyone to see welcoming everyone to the faith is an opportunity to raise up everyone truly as a theosis of the community. I think too often we excuse ourselves from interacting with people because we say to ourselves, “Only God can heal. I don’t need to be involved,” but then we miss our own blessings, because God—of course only God can heal. I’m one of these people who has been healed, and I can say of course it’s God who heals, but whether God decides to remove a disability or not or raise someone from the dead or not, everything that he gives us is for our salvation. It’s not just for the person who is bearing it in their body, but also for the whole body of Christ. If we love one another for the sake of the love of God, then we can practice the highest virtue of love. It’s by practicing those virtues and going to the sacrament and praying that we participate in God and have the chance to become like him.

Fr. Barnabas: Amen. Summer, thank you so much. Again, the website, gang, is summerkinard.com. I want you to go there. I want you to click on that area that says, “Special Needs Resources,” and find out more. Find out what’s going on, how your community can be a welcoming community, how to create a mercy space. Man, that’s now going to become my thing. I’m going to make sure: is there a mercy space available? We want to make sure; that’s absolutely very, very important, and I really love that a lot. Summer, again, God bless you and your family, your precious children and your wonderful husband. Have a wonderful holiday season, and make sure, please know that we’re praying for you guys and we certainly ask for your prayers as well.

Ms. Kinard: Thank you, Father.

Fr. Barnabas: God bless you.

You’re listening to Faith Encouraged Live on ancientfaith.com. The number to call is 855-237-2346. We’re going to switch gears here just a bit. Thank God Summer was with us, and now we’re going to be taking a break, and when we get back from the break—let me get my teeth in; there we go—when we get back from the break, we’re going to have a special announcement about the future of Faith Encouraged Ministries and the things that are happening there, and going to give you a chance to call in and ask questions about that. You can ask any… Well, you can ask whatever question you want to ask. You can call in and be a part of the program.

Faith Encouraged Live is the ministry of Faith Encouraged Ministries as well as our partnership with Ancient Faith Radio, and we’re looking forward to the future in 2019, which promises to be an extremely busy year as usual, but it’s going to be something that we’re going to have to make some adjustments. So the big announcement is coming up. Right now we’re going to take a break. You’re listening to Faith Encouraged Live on ancientfaith.com.

 

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Fr. Barnabas: Welcome back to Faith Encouraged Live. It is exciting to be a part of this work that we do, frankly. I guess you guys know if you’ve been connected with us at all that we’ve been teasing this big announcement for quite some time, so here we go. Oh, by the way, I’m supposed to give the phone number out. I never give it out enough, I know. I apologize; forgive me. It’s 855-237-2346; that’s 855-237-2346.

We’re going to take the rest of the show to talk about the future of Faith Encouraged Ministries and what we’re going to be doing in 2019, which is going to need some changes. Here we go. You ready? In 2014, we launched Faith Encouraged Live on Ancient Faith Radio, and our very first show was about being a welcoming parish—isn’t that interesting?—a welcoming parish to anyone. One of the things that has been amazing to me—and we did this a couple of years ago, I guess when we did the evangelism conference—where we talked about having and encouraging our Orthodox communities to be welcoming to anyone and everyone, not just the folks that have the same kind of last name that we have. So this is something that has been going on for quite some time.

We launched in 2014 with the Faith Encouraged Live show, and since then we’ve done 79 Faith Encouraged Live shows, and we’ve talked to some of the most fascinating people and covered some of the most important subjects and interesting subjects, at least for me, all surrounding my dream and vision of making sure that everyone has an opportunity to hear the wonderful treasure of our Orthodox Christian faith. By the way, this all kind of launched after we started a YouTube channel to air our Sunday morning homilies.

Most of you, if you’ve heard my story at all, then you know that my background in Christian media goes back many years, working with some of the largest Evangelical Protestant media ministries in the country, and then becoming Orthodox myself and wanting to use these gifts that I had developed in the Evangelical Protestant world here in our precious Orthodox world. We just want to assume that this gift of media is a tool that we should be using to share our precious Orthodox faith.

It’s something I strongly believe in, it’s something that’s really good—it’s not without its dangers; it’s not without its excesses; it’s not without its challenges or its temptations—all of those things are true, but, folks, don’t you know that most of the tools that are most effective also can be really badly misused? So just because something can be badly misused doesn’t mean that we don’t use it at all. That doesn’t make any sense. So we’re not trying to hide or anything. We genuinely believe that every human being who breathes air deserves the chance to hear about the treasures about our Orthodox Christian faith. So I started a YouTube channel in 2012, and we’ve posted almost 7,000 videos and have over 4,500 weekly subscribers to our YouTube channel. It’s Faith Encouraged TV, by the way. If you’ve not hooked up with that, you’re more than welcome to check that out: Faith Encouraged TV on YouTube. We launched our daily devotional ministry in January of 2015, and we’ve posted over a thousand daily devotionals, both audio and written.

In December of 2016, we published our very first book, A Faith Encouraged, and we launched our introduction to Orthodoxy video series, A Journey to Fullness, and that is 16 videos, 20 minutes each, along with a workbook, that gives people an on-ramp to the Orthodox Christian faith. It’s called A Journey to Fullness, and we now have over 200 parishes across the country—in the United States and even in other countries—that are using this A Journey to Fullness video series to introduce people to the Orthodox faith.

By the way, just as a quick rabbit trail, what we’ve found is—and this has been kind of amazing—is that many people who were taking the A Journey to Fullness video classes are lifelong Orthodox who are rediscovering the treasure of our faith. One of the things I have been extremely gratified by is the number of lifelong Orthodox who communicate with us on a regular basis and reach out to us to let us know that Faith Encouraged Ministries has been an instrumental part in having them reignite the joy of their faith, reignite the passion of their faith, to really appreciate the treasure that they’ve had their whole life. It is absolutely powerful to see all of this good work that’s being done by the grace of God. It’s wonderful!

So this past year, I traveled both nationally and internationally to share the joys of our faith with others and encourage local parishes to dare to believe that they’re in their communities—I love this part—they’re in their communities—your Orthodox church is where it is—to make sure that everyone within a 20-minute drive of that parish has a chance to embrace the Orthodox faith. That’s why you’re in the spot you’re in. I believe that with all my heart. I’ve given retreats on parish events on topics like being Orthodox on purpose and taming the passions, and my presentation in Crete this year at the second international gathering about Orthodox Christianity in media was focused on using media to share the faith.

Now, all this stuff has been going on since we launched the YouTube channel in 2012 and we started Faith Encouraged Live in 2014 and 2015 the daily devotional program that we’ve got, and then 2016 the book and the A Journey to Fullness video series, and all this plus all the traveling and all the other speaking… By the way, I also have a parish! I have a parish that’s growing, thanks be to God, and we’ve just launched our capital campaign to build our very first church building on our property that we have here in Cumming, Georgia. And add to this the fact that we not only have a growing, wonderful local parish which is interesting to me…

I’d love to tell you a little bit about the Cumming parish. The Cumming parish is now 70% convert. The reality is our bishop, our wonderful Metropolitan Alexios, came to our parish several weeks ago. He pulled me off to the side and said, “Father, I want you to know I’m so grateful to God for this community, because when I see this community, I see the future.” It was such a gratifying experience to me and the support that I have from my bishop, the support that I have from my hierarch, from Metropolitan Alexios, to do this media work, to share this media work. In fact, what is so cool is the very fact that I got the invitation for the Cretan conference for Orthodox Christianity in the media came through my bishop got me in touch with these folks and said, “Listen, I want you to go to this and I want you to represent what you’re doing, using media for the faith.” It was absolutely one of the most gratifying experiences and to know that I have the support of my hierarch is absolutely wonderful. Those of you who know Metropolitan Alexios, you know Metropolitan Alexios is… He’s an old-world Greek guy; he’s from Greece, and he’s just absolutely a pious man. He was a monk on Mount Athos, and now he’s here serving the Church here. This is a man who genuinely not just loves the faith but loves the people he is ministering to in this country. He knows that this is what we need to do to reach out to people and use the media to share the faith. It’s just absolutely wonderful. As I look at all this stuff, I think to myself: Man, I’m exhausted. That’s a lot of work: the capital campaign going on… Oh, and before I forget, I’m also a husband and a dad as well. So all of this stuff is absolutely amazing.

So in 2019, our goal is to continue to travel and to do some speaking, but not as much. We also want to do more videos in Faith Encouraged, so that means we’re going to need to develop a videographer, develop a relationship with a videographer, and do more video. We need to do more video. I want to do another teaching series, a video teaching series on the Divine Liturgy, and give people an on-ramp to make sure that they can understand why the Divine Liturgy is the way it is and what it’s meant to be communicating. This is extremely important. So this is a project that I really want to get off the ground. We’ve been doing the research, and we’ve been doing more research and doing more studying so that I can put together something well. It’s going to be coming up hopefully next year that we’ll start doing not just the fundraising to make that happen, but also get started [on] the video shoot.

I’m also working on a new book on taming the passions. Plus I’m also excited to be one of the speakers in 2020 at the first men’s retreat sponsored by Ancient Faith Ministries. That’s why we’re doing our partnership drive here at the end of the year. We need help to do this. We need help. Faith Encouraged Ministries can’t exist without the help of brothers and sisters who come alongside of us and say, “We’re going to stand with you in doing this media outreach.” This is something that I want to make sure that people understand this is why we’re doing this partnership drive. All you have to do is go to patreon.com/faithencouraged, and go from there.

By the way, we’re also looking into alternatives to all the things that are going on in the fundraising world. We want to make sure that we do this as best we can, but right now this is the way that we do this. Everyone that signs up to be a patron of Faith Encouraged Ministries during our partnership drive is going to get a free e-book from our ministry partners at Ancient Faith Publishing. Make sure that you look at that, and there’s some other gifts, too, by the way, that you could be a part of as well. That’s why we need help to do this. And, frankly, it’s why I need to change my schedule to accomplish everything I believe that God has called me to do. Plus, I want to be there for my girls, one of which is entering that dreaded teenage zone—God, help us.

With that, here’s the big announcement: Faith Encouraged Live, the Faith Encouraged Live show, the two-Sundays-a-month show that I’ve been doing since 2014, is going to be retired at the end of this year. My December 23 show is going to be my last Faith Encouraged Liveshow, the last 90-minute show that I’m going to do. Something’s got to give in all that’s going on if our ministry is going to accomplish everything that I believe that God has called us to do. Doing this show has been a real source of joy for me, and it’s frankly fed my insatiable curiosity of different subjects. It’s been a wonderful way to do this. That doesn’t mean I’m disappearing. I’m going to have the Monday-through-Friday Faith Encouraged Daily, I’m going to have the weekly Faith Encouraged video series on YouTube, and we’re going to have some other things that we’re going to be developing later on as well to do some more live stuff in the future, but the Faith Encouraged Live show has to be retired at the end of this year, with a wonderful program.

My December 23 program is going to focus on Fr. Gordon Walker’s life and his journey to Orthodoxy. We’ll be talking to some of his relatives, and we’re going to be spending some time there. It’s going to be really a wonderful way to tie up the work that we’ve been doing here at Faith Encouraged Live, and I’m really looking forward to that program. I hope that you’ll tune into that and be a part of that.

I confess to you, gang—I know all the chatroom folks are saying all this kind of stuff: God bless you, thanks a lot, I love you very much—it wasn’t an easy decision, gang, for those of us here at Faith Encouraged Ministries. Faith Encouraged started out with just moi, your truly, and now we have a board of directors, and we have some employees besides myself, and we’ve spent the last several months trying to organize my time in such a way that we can accomplish the vision for our Faith Encouraged Ministries. A board member from Faith Encouraged Ministries, a man that I trust, encouraged me to make this choice with both wise and loving counsel, and my spiritual father agrees as well.

So I want to answer your questions about this and about any other topic you want to discuss if you want to call in and talk about Faith Encouraged Ministries and how it’s ministered to you, I want to hear from you. The number to call is 855-237-2346; 855-237-2346. We just had a great question in the chatroom about the archived programs of Faith Encouraged Live. They’re going to be there. They’re already all there anyway. In fact, I was doing some research and looking at some of the stuff that I had been doing on Ancient Faith Radio, and I found a couple of topics that I wanted to make sure that I re-listened to just so I can remember what I learned then. All you have to do is go to ancientfaith.com, and when you go to ancientfaith.com, you can find all the archived programs that are there. Give us a call: 855-237-2346; tell us what Faith Encouraged Live has meant to you, and give us a chance to kind of say hello and God bless you.

Because I’ll tell you what, gang, one of the things that I want to see happen more and more at Faith Encouraged Ministries, is for this to be a two-way street, a dialogue, and not just a monologue. Ancient Faith Radio is expanding their live studios all over the country. That’s one of the things that I’m so excited about, what Ancient Faith Radio is doing. They’re going to be expanding their live studios all across the country, and one of the things that I find is extremely encouraging about that is that we’re going to keep getting more and more voices out there, sharing this precious Orthodox faith. One of the things that I am so encouraged about is the ability for us to discover that we are not by ourselves. Many times in our Orthodox world, we feel like we’re very, very disconnected, and we feel like we’re kind of all alone, especially those of us who are in parts of the country where it is kind of difficult to have an Orthodox church, and you’ve got that one Orthodox church and there’s nothing else around you.

A lot of things are going on in the Orthodox world here in the United States, and it is encouraging to me personally to hear from these different voices all the time what’s going on in their world, how they’re sharing the Orthodox faith with so many other people. So it’s happening all over the country, and when we hear, when we have this ability to communicate what the wonderful things that are happening all over the country, for our precious Orthodox faith, it gives us hope—it gives you hope; it gives me hope—that we are doing what God has called us to do.

Ancient Faith Ministries has just put out I think a list, a schedule, of how the things are changing, but their goal is to create more and more live shows. They don’t just have live shows on Sunday night any more. They have a live show on Tuesdays; they have a live call-in show… of course, Orthodoxy Live is on one Sunday, and then we have Stewardship Calling with Bill Marianes, Healthy Minds, Healthy Souls with Fr. Nick and Roxanne Louh—by the way, an absolutely wonderful program that’s on Tuesday nights; make sure that you find out about that—and then we’ve got Everyday Orthodox with Elissa—I always mess up her last name, so I’m not going to do that again. She was a special guest just a few weeks ago, so that was pretty cool. Everyday Orthodox with Elissa Bjeletich—I think that’s the way to say it. She’s going to be doing some more live stuff as well.

Then there’s this great program with Dr. Jeannie Constantinou called Search the Scriptures Live, which is a a really cool show. That’s another live show, and there are going to be a lot more live shows that are coming on board here at Ancient Faith Radio. So I want to encourage you to be a part of all of this that is going on. I’m not going away, gang. Goodness gracious alive, the sound of my voice comforts me too much for me to disappear, but something has to give in my schedule, and the twice-a-month, 90-minute talk shows is going to be one that has to be retired at the end of the year. I’m looking forward to whatever God has for us for the future, and I’m certainly looking forward to our last show, our last Faith Encouraged Live show on December 23. We’re going to be talking about the book about Dr. Gordon Walker’s ministry and entering the Orthodox Church through the Evangelical Orthodox and then eventually coming into the Antiochian Archdiocese when they became canonical. It’s going to be a wonderful way to kind of wrap up the work that we’ve done with the live show here.

I want to make sure that you know how grateful to God I am for you. I’m really grateful—well, I said I wasn’t going to do this. I’m really grateful to God for you. I’m thankful that you’ve been a part of this work. This is not the end. It’s just a shift; that’s all it is. I’m going to be out there speaking a great deal. In fact, I’m going to be doing an event in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on December 27-28, with the Midwestern OCF there for college students. That’s going to be coming up at the end of this year, and then we’ve got speaking engagements lined up for next year and even on into 2020. A lot of things are going to be happening. The video series is going to be coming up, the new book is going to be coming out, God willing, and all of the other media stuff that we’re doing… all of our Facebook stuff is still going to be there.

If you want to keep connected with the ministry, please go to patreon.com/faithencouraged and become one of our regular patrons. When you do that, you help us provide the resources to get more and more stuff done, because I’m convinced, dear ones, that the hunger that’s the spiritual hunger that people have in this country is fulfilled by the Orthodox Christian faith. This is the faith once for all delivered to the saints. This is the faith that created and sustains the universe. This is the faith that makes all the difference in the world and men and women’s lives. It makes people… it gives them the tools to become by grace what Christ is by nature. That truth alone should drive us and motivate us to not only live this faith out, but also share it with as many people as they possibly can.

We got a phone call right now, so I want to make sure that we hook up… [Laughter] I think this is John Maddex. John, are you there?

Mr. John Maddex: Hello, Fr. Barnabas.

Fr. Barnabas: [Laughter] How are you, dear friend? You’re on the road coming back from work, for heaven’s sake.

Mr. Maddex: We’re on the [Indiana East-West Toll Road] near South Bend, waving at Notre Dame as I go by.

Fr. Barnabas: Outstanding. By the way, great concert last night, absolutely beautiful.

Mr. Maddex: Yeah, that was fun. Beautiful music, just a wonderful choir, wonderful parish. Fr. Martin Kraus hosted us there at Holy Trinity Orthodox Church (OCA) in East Meadow, New York. It was a packed house, absolutely full. First time ever that we tried to livestream a concert like that, and we’re very pleased with the way it turned out.

Fr. Barnabas: Thank God. Thank God for this technology, John. I mean, this is absolutely revolutionizing the way we can communicate and encourage one another across the miles. It means a great deal. My partnership with Ancient Faith Radio and Ancient Faith Ministries is something that not only do I cherish, brother, but I’m convinced that iron sharpens iron, and this has been a real gift to me personally, so I’m grateful to you, brother.

Mr. Maddex: Well, I’m actually calling in to say the same thing back to you. I know our listeners are still getting over the shock of having to deal in 2019 without hearing the live show every other Sunday, as we are. But we totally understand and are thankful for the growth in your own ministry, the growth at your parish, and those wonderful girls for whom you’re the father, and that wonderful wife of yours—they deserve your time. We’re very thankful that you can provide more of that through them. I wanted to let you know how much we appreciate what you’ve brought to us over these years with the live show. You’ve worked your way into the hearts of many homes and cars and iPhones and iPads. We all want to thank you for doing that.

Fr. Barnabas: John, it’s my pleasure, and I never will forget when you and I first talked about this in 2014. We were just getting over the shock of Kevin Allen retiring from his stuff that he was doing, and then to get the opportunity to do this was absolutely wonderful. I remember I was a little bit—how is this going to work? because we then launched the Monday-through-Friday daily devotional, and all the other stuff that we’ve been doing. People ask me; they ask me all the time. They say, “Father, how do you get all this done?” I don’t know! How am I supposed to know! I don’t know.

Mr. Maddex: Yeah, you and I are from the old days of radio, where you had to hook up by a very expensive ISDN line or just nasty old telephone lines. This is new technology, and in many respects we can thank our engineer tonight, one of our freelance people, Chris, who has been just pushing us forward and challenging us to get better and better. It’s been a joy to have that partnership and the partnership with you. I’m just thankful, dear Father, that we’re not going to lose you altogether.

Fr. Barnabas: No, not at all. Not at all. Like I was telling the folks earlier, I’m too fond of my own voice to disappear. [Laughter] I’ll tell you—John, you’ll get a kick out of this—I’ll tell you how old I am back in radio. One of the first remotes I did was with WYNX radio; it’s AM 1550; it was in Smyrna, Georgia, and we—you’re going to get a kick out of this—unscrewed the end receiver of an old telephone and did the alligator clips onto the connectors there to hook up to the studio. [Laughter]

Mr. Maddex: Oh, yeah. Been there, done that. Yep. Oh, yeah.

Fr. Barnabas: So that’s how far you and I go back.

Mr. Maddex: Yeah, there were so many tricks to the trade back then. When we wanted to get a different voice for Bob Devine on Moody Radio, who did children’s characters—some of our listeners may remember Nature Corner, with Uncle Bob Devine…

Fr. Barnabas: Oh, sure.

Mr. Maddex: Before the advancement of technology, where the voice could be digitally enhanced, he would use a piece of tape and wrap it around the capstan of the reel-to-reel recorder to cause the voice to change, and manually would do the voices that way.

Fr. Barnabas: Oh, man. We’ve come a long way, brother; we’ve come a long way.

Mr. Maddex: Scotch tape, a lick or two, and a promise.

Fr. Barnabas: That’s hilarious. That’s great. John, it is my privilege. Please drive safely. Welcome home. And thanks so much for your work, brother.

Mr. Maddex: You betcha. Thank you and God bless. We look forward to more great things in the future.

Fr. Barnabas: Amen, brother. Don’t expect for me to go away. We’re just shifting gears and reapportioning time. That’s all we’re doing. God bless you. Thanks a lot, John.

Mr. Maddex: You take care.

Fr. Barnabas: All righty. And thank you so much, very much, for being part of the program. We’ve got about ten more minutes, but I want to spend this last ten minutes—if you want to call in, you can: 855-237-2346; I’d love to hear from you. We’ve had some comments in the chatroom: “Thanks, Fr. B,” and all this. It’s very touching to me, and I’m very, very grateful to God for your kind words. It means a great deal to me, and it encourages me a great deal. One of the reasons we started this ministry in the first place is because we wanted to be an encouragement. We wanted to encourage folks to practice this treasure of a faith every day, and find the tools available to us so we can be Orthodox on purpose, so that we can live out this treasure of faith as much as we possibly can, for the glory of God and the grace of God that changes our lives, gang.

This is what Orthodoxy has done. It’s changed my life. It’s changed my life completely, and that’s certainly been true several times in the past before my journey to Orthodoxy, that my encounter with Jesus Christ has changed me. But this consistent lifestyle of the Orthodox faith is an absolute treasure, an absolute school for eternity, that gives us the ability to become by grace what Christ is by nature. I’m so grateful to God for this treasure, the faith, and it deserves to be shared.

Bill’s calling in, and I want to make sure that I get his phone call. Bill, thanks for calling Faith Encouraged Live.

Mr. Bill Marianes: Fr. Barnabas, this is Bill Marianes, your friend and your mentee—

Fr. Barnabas: And my cohort in crime, frankly, when we do your show.

Mr. Marianes: [Laughter] I was going to let you say that. I didn’t want to cover that too much. I just wanted to… I’m not going to let you get off the hook so quickly on this great show over here without saying a couple of things. Number one, like I’m sure somebody else has thanked you for the extraordinary service that you’ve provided and continue to provide. That’s the beautiful thing about it. Number two, thank you for inspiring so many of the rest of us to have the courage to step forward and do what you did. You and Kevin and some of the others have blazed a wonderful path with the leadership of John and Bobby at Ancient Faith Radio. I think the platform is set to grow it even further. So those are the two things of thanks. Because I negotiated for a living, I always recognize that when someone is in an emotional state, sometimes you can take advantage of that. I wanted to see if I could take advantage of you. So here’s my request. In addition to the additional monthly shows that I’m going to be able to do with Ancient Faith Radio, God willing and the creek don’t rise, I’m still going to do the fifth-Sunday call-in program. While I know you’ve been given a reprieve from all of your Sunday programs, I want to get your commitment to be available for, oh, maybe just one or two of the Stewardship Calling fifth-Sunday programs. Can I get you to commit to at least one or two of them?

Fr. Barnabas: Brother, you’ve got my commitment. I love being your sidekick on that show, so it’s really no problem at all. I’m really looking forward to it.

Mr. Marianes: All right, because we cannot avoid, we cannot omit having as many people as possible get their Fr. Barnabas fix on Sunday night in addition to all the wonderful things you do. No, in all seriousness, I wanted to jump on real quickly and to thank you for the extraordinary service you’ve provided, from all the wonderful programming you’ve done and all the new challenges to new ways, and more importantly to challenge you to continue to challenge us, and your great leadership and guidance in the partnership with Ancient Faith Radio that Faith Encouraged Ministries has is just extraordinary. So God bless you, and thank you so much.

Fr. Barnabas: Bill, thanks so much, brother. I appreciate the phone call, and I appreciate your kindness, too. I’m looking forward to doing another show with you soon.

You’re listening to Faith Encouraged Live, and this isn’t good-bye, gang. Please, please, please don’t think that. It certainly isn’t good-bye, but it is a reapportioning of time and [necessity]. Somebody in the chatroom said, “All right, let’s all move to Cumming.” [Laughter] I think that’s a great idea. Come on down, gang; we’d love to have you. I’m grateful to God for you; I thank God for you. One of the joys of this program has been my relationship with you. It never ceases to amaze me the places I’ve traveled around the country, I’ll go and speak and somebody says, “Father, I listen to you on Ancient Faith Radio, and you’ve just become a part of our family,” and so on and so forth.

I had one mom come up to me when I was in Irvine, California. She said, “Listen, Father, you’ve got to understand. Every morning the kids and myself, we sit down together, and every morning we listen to Faith Encouraged Daily, and that’s how we get our Scripture lessons done. Then the kids go into the homeschool program that we do. I just want you to know that our kids want to make sure that we get a picture so that they can have a picture of Fr. Barnabas with me in the house.” That was just very, very touching. I’m very grateful to God for it.

But in the end, I want you to know, gang, that the goal is to create more and more opportunities for men and women to discover this precious Orthodox faith. So I need your prayers. Please pray for me, and please pray for physical strength and physical health, and please pray for wisdom, and consider this end-of-the-year campaign as well. It’s happening right now, and we’re all about to find out who’s out there listening and reading or watching the ministry. For every new patron that signs up during this special time of year, you’re going to get a free e-book from Ancient Faith Publishing, so all you have to do is go to patreon.com/faithencouraged and find out more.

I want to say congratulations to Brian. Brian, you’re the winner of our Legacy Icons drawing. All you have to do is email me at faithencouraged@ancientfaith.com. That’s faithencouraged@ancientfaith.com, and we’ll be happy to send you the link to use when you are ordering from Legacy Icons. Put it in there, and you’ll get the $55 gift certificate right there online.

I want to say thank you especially to our dear Chris, who is engineering the show tonight and being a part of this, and always thank you to Ancient Faith Radio and John and Bobby Maddex and all the work that they do.

Don’t miss, gang, the very last Faith Encouraged Live show, at least in this iteration, in this incarnation, if you will; it’s going to be Sunday, December 23, as we talk about the legacy of an Orthodox convert pioneer, Fr. Gordon Walker. That’s going to be coming up at the very last Faith Encouraged Live show for this year.

And visit patreon.com/faithencouraged, and join our group of patrons supporting this media outreach. Please listen also Monday through Friday right here on Ancient Faith Radio for the Faith Encouraged Daily devotional. It’s about five minutes long, it’s tied to the daily reading of the Orthodox Christian faith, and you can be a part of that as well. You can go to faithencouraged.org and sign up with your email address, and we’ll be happy to email you the daily devotional and a link to listen to listen to the daily devotional right there in your email every day, Monday through Friday.

Thank God that you’re here; thank God that we’re continuing to do the work of the ministry. Don’t forget, gang, the only reason we’re doing any of this is so that you and I will always be—Orthodox on purpose. Have a great night!