I'm still not convinced of the correctness of this system. I currently have no job and no income, due to illness. My previous job paid very little. I am very hestitant to call the priest for any services due to the fact that I know he expects money, and I cannot afford to give it.
I do not think a priest would expect money from someone with no income. Although it is reasonable for him to hope, if he is on a minimal income, that you would give him something to cover his busfare or petrol.
If you think that we clergy have it easy.... here is something from Fr Alexander Lebedeff...
"The fact is that with very few exceptions the clergy of the [Russian] Church Abroad receive a salary that is so far below the poverty line, that all of these clergymen and their families would be easily eligible for welfare."
As a former Chancellor of the largest Diocese of the Russian Orthodox
Church Outside Of Russia (the Diocese of Eastern America and New York), I
was well acquainted with the salaries paid to clergy in the Church Abroad
(in addition to my own personal experience).
The fact is that with very few exceptions the clergy of the Church Abroad
receive a salary that is so far below the poverty line, that all of these
clergymen and their families would be easily eligible for welfare.
My predecessor at the Cathedral of the Transfiguration in Los Angeles, the
late Fr. Theodore Martynenko, who served at the parish for 16 years,
received throuout that entire time $230 per month, in addition to
housing--a very dilapidated one-bedroom bungalow, more a shack. This was a
married priest with two children, who served some 180 Liturgies (and
evening services) a year, taught at the parish school, and spent part of
every day visiting parishioners in hospitals and nursing homes.
Even in Bridgeport Connecticut, one of the largest Orthodox parishes on the
East Coast, the priest's salary was $600 per month, plus a rectory. No
insurance--no car allowance.
Two or three years ago, I was sent by the Ruling Archbishop of our diocese
to chair an Annual Parish Meeting in one of our parishes that had not had a
permanent priest for some time. At that meeting, the parishioners implored
me to persuade the Archbishop to send them a permanent priest. I asked what
they could pay a priest. "Six Hundred Dollars--with no insurance or car or
telephone allowance." And a "Rectory," whose kitchen, dining room and
bathroom were shared by the parish--meaning the priest had no privacy at
all. (I had the same situation in my first parish in Schenectady, NY--and
it was very difficult for us--Matushka and the baby, especially. Of course,
in that parish I was being paid $100 per month).
I am sure that we have many parishes where the priest is paid, right now,
in the year 2000, --$400 per month, $600 per month, $800 per month.
Just try to put food on the table for your family at $600 per month. Not to
mention medical costs (since there is no insurance)--or car insurance, much
less the cost of a car, car repairs or gasoline.
The number of parishes in the Church Abroad that pay their priest more than
$1,000 per month is very, very small.
And, another, typical problem is that once a salary is established, it
stays the same just about forever. When civilian employers typically give
annual cost-of-living raises and merit raises--this virtually never happens
in parishes. There, the priest receiving $600 per month will get the same
$600 per month ten years later in most cases.
And noone in the parishes seems to be bothered that they are paying clergy
below-welfare wages or not even keeping up with inflation through
cost-of-living adjustments or that the priest and his family have no health
Stewardship is virtually unheard of in our parishes. The majority of
parishioners still drop the same dollar bill into the collection plate that
they did back in 1950, and complain if the parish dues are raised from
$2.00 per month for seniors to $5.00 per month. Most of our parishes have
monthly dues, for working individuals, from $5.00 to $10.00 per month.
Ten Dollars per month is less than the cost of a Happy Meal at McDonald's
each week--for an individual--not a family.
Truly sad--at the time when our Church parking lots are sporting more and
more Mercedes, BMWs, and Lexuses.
With love in Christ,
Prot. Alexander Lebedeff