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The Dynamics of Change: A Lament

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Written by Basil on 07/10/2003 9:17 PM. Filed under:

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I would like to apologize at the outset of this post that I continue to be at the ebb of my biorhythm or something. I keep hitting really low points and deciding that my melancholy makes for really interesting writing. Well, perhaps ejaculating my bilious thoughts is a catharsis of sorts. But I’m sure you, dear reader, tire of reading it. So, I’m sorry. Here I go again.

I have been contemplating how the dynamics of communities change. In the United States, we just celebrated Independence Day on July 4. This was once an oppurtunity for our parish to gather and celebrate. I have fond memories of those celebrations, and I miss the people that populate these memories. In recent years, there has been no parish celebration on July 4.

This is the result of the influx into our parish of a well-defined bloc of people who have their own, long-established July 4 celebration, mixed with the destabilization of the original membership and the loss of all but a handful of the original members — myself, one other man, and the priest and his family. Nothing diabolical there: The membership was unstable before; the addition of the new bloc of members — existing as a defined group of friends before and outside of their affiliation with the parish — was simply a catalyst in the destabilization of an inherently unstable situation.

The exclusive nature of this new bloc means that the participation of others in their parties is quite arbitrary, subject entirely to the particular event’s host. This leads to some parties where the entire parish membership is invited, and others, like this past July 4, where some are invited and others are not.

Since these people are now my closest friends, I try not to begrudge them their clique. But, since I’ve always been on the excluded end of just about every clique I’ve ever known, most times I just try not to think about it. But sometimes, like on a July 4 when I leave work at six and spend the rest of the night trying not to think of the fun my friends are having without me, it gets damned hard.

Then I think about the celebrations we used to have as a parish and the people I used to know, and the grief overwhelms me.

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5 Responses to “The Dynamics of Change: A Lament”

  1. James Says:

    This is what I’m inheriting from you then? I used to have a thing against minivan drivers, but then my parents bought one. Also, four families at my new church own minivans, so I have to rethink my belief system; however, when I get cut off or feel endangered by a minivan on the road I can’t just let go of my feelings that *some people* who drive them feel that they are driving tanks and can take whatever liberties with my safety they want.

    I myself stepped onto Asbury’s campus on a visit at a time in my life when I was “more Catholic than thou” (actually I was an Episcopalian/Anglo-Catholic and not yet affiliated with Rome), so I couldn’t imagine attending. I had a very definite prejudiced way of thinking about what Asbury was all about. I was way off base of course, Basil, but it was there. Then I begin attending St. Athanasius and I meet some of the most loving, accepting people I’ve been blessed to know. Almost all of these people attended Asbury–I think maybe all of them. It forced me to re-think my prejudiced attitude; however, there is still the metaphorical minivan cruising down the road halfway on my side of the road. It makes my left eyebrow raise (as in deep thought–think Spock). I wonder what the future may hold for me.

  2. basil Says:

    Those are some wonderful insights, James. I’m certainly glad that you don’t begrudge me for being an alumnus of Asbury. However, I’m afraid I completely missed the relevance. Help?

  3. James Says:

    Oh, sorry Basil. Yes, some of my thoughts are a little hard to follow sometimes. The group you’re referring to is a small clique within the population of Asbury. People who are outside of that group (you and me) could easily take the same attitude that I have traditionally taken toward Asbury people over all. There will be people and situations that confirm our previous experiences as well people and situations that are exceptions to our experience. I guess that begs the question, where does that take us in the life of St. Athanasius Orthodox Church? And as ever I don’t know. Do I think that most of the church membership being part of a well-defined clique from the Asbury world is a bad thing? It makes me a little nervous since I’m one of the few people who are not part of that group, but I don’t want to wall myself off from them. I just hope I don’t find myself excluded because I’m not a member of that well-defined group.

    Someone said to you, in my hearing, that he doesn’t think in those terms anymore. Well, 99 percent of the mission is from that group, it would be easy for me to doubt those words. I should give them the benefit of the doubt, but it’s hard. I guess that’s what I’m trying to say. People I’ve grown to love seem to be contradictions to some rules I’ve formed in my mind, but what do I do if they go along with my rules and assumptions? Or maybe I’m just not making any sense. That’s always possible.

  4. basil Says:

    First of all, this is just a lament over a lot of stuff that I don’t like, not a condemnation of anyone. Second of all, Fr. David saying he doesn’t think in those terms anymore is entirely irrelevant. He is not a member of that group, nor can he be. (His response to me was in reference to a specific issue in the parish, and his willed ignorance of community dynamics on that point is quite disturbing, btw.) Third, and most important, the members of this parish are my friends, my brothers and sisters, and I will stick with them until the end, but that group, not all of whom are members of the parish, seem to have a somewhat ambivalent attitude towards me. Probably that’s because I do not possess the necessary characteristics to be a member: having lived on a certain hall at a certain time and sharing a certain core of experience with the other members. All I’m saying is I miss some things the way they were. I’m not even wishing they could be that way again. I just miss what I’m remembering, and I miss the people in those memories.

    Excluding people sucks. Even when the church finds it necessary to exclude, I don’t like it. Not one bit. Mostly because I don’t like being excluded, and this gives me sympathy for all the other outcasts of the world.

  5. James Says:


    I hope I didn’t offend you. I truly love the people we go to church with too. I was of course wanting to say that groups/cliques make me nervous because I too have been excluded a lot in the past. I would like to have had a fourth of July celebration at church, but like you said there were other plans in the works. Bummer.

    Like I said, man, I hope I didn’t offend you. Of course if I had thought about it I could have brought over some steaks and beers and we could have lamented all of this in common. That sort of thing never occurs to me, though. That’s a bummer too. And I thought Fr. David was a member of that group. See, I guess I don’t know what’s going on as well as I thought I did. Anyway, see you tomorrow night.