Friday, March 20, 2020

Prayer for St. Vladimir Healthcare Workers + Diocesan Clarification: Unction & Confession

We have updated our parish prayer list with the names of our St. Vladimir Healthcare Workers and First Responders. You can find the list at the link below. Please pray for all those who are fighting this war against coronavirus on the front lines, if you will, and also specifically our St. Vladimirians in this fight! If you would like to add someone to the list please email


Yesterday the diocese clarified how the parishes are to serve Unction and Confession during the time of the novel coronavirus pandemic. You can find that information here:


In short: the Unction service scheduled for April 5 in Ferndale is canceled. We have the blessing to schedule Unction in our parish this Great Lent and we will do that as soon as we reasonably can. As for Confession, this will now require a mask. There is no way we are going to punish people because they cannot find masks and there is a great shortage of these now. So the parish will be in charge of providing the masks. And with that sentence I am asking everyone who can to donate masks they may have. If you have extra of course. Or to tell us where we could buy masks if you know. Or to help us sew face masks. In a crisis (and if this is not a crisis I am not sure when that word could ever be used) the CDC allows for sewn masks to be used. To volunteer to sew masks please email If we cannot find or sew enough masks that is not your fault and we will hold confession without masks with me (Fr. Gregory) ONLY. Fr. Moses does not have a blessing to hear confession without a mask. This is not because he is a bad priest! It is because I will be the Corona Priest and Fr. Moses will be the non-Corona Priest. We will try to keep both of us helathy of course, but now we are at the point that we need to make sure that at least one of the priests remains healthy and that is going to be Fr. Moses. We should not confess to either priest without a mask if we can avoid it, and we NEED YOUR HELP to gather adequate masks. Save your mask after confession! You can use it again almost certainly. If it is a sewn mask you can wash it and use again. And confession can only be one time per week maximum unless you LITERALLY kill someone. Or rob a bank. Or something else deathly serious. Please do not abuse this privilege. If both of our priests get sick then no one can have confession and that would be a very bad outcome.

Confessions MUST be in writing unless you cannot write. The priest will come out of the confessional, receive your written confession, and return to the confessional to read it. He will then alert you that he has read it and is ready to have you come forward for absolution. The key here is brevity. Briefness. Not longness. Shortness. Non-lengthiness. I am making up words so that you see this is serious. We have to be brief. The priest may give you a little bit of advice or ask you a clarifying question. This is not an invitation to an extended conversation. The entire interaction should take not longer than 60 seconds. The written confession should essentially be bullet points. Under no circumstances should it be longer than ½ letter size piece of paper using about 12 point type and 1-inch margins. If you need to have more time to discuss your spiritual struggles with the priest that is welcome! In that case please make an appointment with one of us to have an extended phone conversation.

I don’t like any of this any more than you do. We take comfort in the way we have always done things. That is human nature. But as Orthodox Christians we are often called upon to go beyond human nature. To strive to move higher – to struggle for the Heavenly Kingdom. And this also gives us a chance to reflect on the way we confess. I’m not saying anyone does it “wrong”. If you do something just plain wrong Fr. Moses or I will tell you. But if we are honest, some of us can be a little long-winded in our confessions. Sometimes that just happens – we can’t help it. For others – it is a consistent issue. Consistency is the hallmark of excellence, of course! But in this case we need to remember that the most important pronoun in our parish family is not “I”, but “we”. We have to think about how our actions effect others in our community – whether those actions are very long confessions, letting our children run wild without supervision, singing loudly out of tune, or anything else along those lines that impacts those around us. Most things are just fine in moderation. If you know you struggle to sing in tune you can still sing, but maybe the volume should not be super loud. All kids can be a little noisy or fidgety – that is normal. But if they are really loud or need to stretch their legs it is OK to take them out for a little while. And sometimes our confessions just turn into something longer than we anticipated since the Lord, in His mercy, showed us things during the confession that we hadn’t really seen before. Thank God for that! But this should be the exception and not the rule. If long confessions are the rule for you then please pray about this. The answer is not to stay away from confession, but to talk to Fr. Moses or myself about how you could be more brief and still confess fully. It is possible – but we have to think about everyone else in order to motivate ourselves to actually do this. To seek to change for the good of others. Long confessions mean others have to wait. It is not about the priests. We rejoice that the faithful want to confess their sins! But others don’t always rejoice when the person in front of them consistently takes 15-20 minutes or more to confess. :) And now, during the time of coronavirus, the longer we stay in proximity to each other the more likely we are to spread the disease. This puts our care for each other in a more serious light: we need to be concerned for others not just out of convenience, but because this is a life or death situation.

The technical parameters of confession are clear. But do pray about all that is written above. The most important part is this: we should be very cognizant of how our actions effect others. If you are sick with a cough and a fever and you want to come to church anyway that is just wonderful for you, but it is wrong for your brothers and sisters in Christ. I hate to break it to you: it isn’t all about you. :) It is about everyone else first, then us. God is #1, neighbors are #2, and I’m #3. That is the Orthodox way. Let us ask the Lord to help us to adopt this now, during this societal crisis, when we are likely to be more spiritually flexible. If we make an effort we can have great hope of progress! May the Lord grant it!

Fr. Gregory

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