The Seminary's annual Fall Lecture Series concluded on October 25 with a lecture by Dr. Andy Geleris, entitled "Money to Burn: A New (Old) Approach to Christian Stewardship.”
Dr. Geleris' presentation examined the biblical and patristic vision of generosity, and suggested that how we use our money is, at root, a spiritual issue.
"Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are the pillars of Orthodox spirituality and worship. Since I became Orthodox 20 years ago, I have come across a vast literature on prayer and fasting, but comparatively little literature discussing almsgiving or how to think in a Christian way about finances," Dr. Geleris observed. "Yet it is one of the most important areas of our lives where we need to find God's peace, wisdom, and salvation."
Dr. Geleris shared his own spiritual experience with tithing, and discussed how a robust understanding of the Providence of God should re-orient our understanding of money, both in our own lives and also in the lives of parish communities.
As an example, Dr. Geleris shared a story about St. Athanasius Antiochian Orthodox Church in Santa Barbara:
"The parish community in Santa Barbara had very strong interpersonal relationships and commitments to one another," Dr. Geleris related. "Everyone in the parish was strongly encouraged to tithe because they deeply believed in God's blessing on tithing and longed for everyone in their parish to experience it. However, if as a result of tithing anyone was unable to pay any of their essential expenses, such as rent or utilities, the church would pay it for them. Furthermore, the church was really willing to help its members in other kinds of difficult financial circumstances... I believe that this example is a model of how parish financial priorities should express the priorities of the Kingdom of God."
Dr. Geleris encouraged everyone present to at least ponder these things, and to not neglect the spiritual significance of financial issues: "None of us like talking to other people about money," he said. "It is much more satisfying to talk about love and forgiveness. I suspect that even Jesus wasn’t thrilled about potentially offending people by talking about finances. But He loved people enough to do it anyway. And perhaps so also should we."
After giving his talk, Dr. Geleris and his wife, Jeri, spent a few days at St. Tikhon's, attending services, sitting in on classes, and spending time with members of the community.
"St. Tikhon's impressed me as a uniquely Orthodox oasis in the midst of modern American culture," Dr. Geleris said. "I was uniquely refreshed and stimulated by the combination of the monastery with its daily Liturgy and other services and the seminary pursuing its academic and pastoral missions. I was really impressed by the open-hearted kindness of the seminarians and professors and the fascinating stories of the journeys that led them to St. Tikhon's."