Baptism in the Jordan: Another Step Down

The Great Prokeimenon, sometimes chanted at Vespers in the Orthodox liturgical tradition, asks the rhetorical question, “Who is so great a God as our God?” I often think that by “great” one might also mean “gutsy”. The gods of other nations and religions are comparatively tame and timid when set against our God. The God of the bookish, Talmud-reading Rabbis, the God of the chanting, prostrating Muslims, the God of the woke,…

Snoopy’s Christmas: A Seasonal Meditation

Each year one of my favourite Christmas songs is an old novelty song called Snoopy’s Christmas, released in 1967 by the Royal Guardsmen as a follow-up to their previous hit Snoopy vs. the Red Baron. (Those who are too young to have heard it or oldsters like me who enjoy a stroll down memory lane may find the song here.) The song was inspired by actual events. During the First World War…

Does the Orthodox Church Have a Woman Problem?

One sometimes hears the assertion that the Orthodox Church has what has been called “a woman problem”.  Usually the assertion comes from people (most often women) from other churches who cannot understand Orthodoxy’s refusal to ordain women as pastors and bishops, and attributes this refusal solely to an ingrained and irrational misogyny.  Or, as one woman with whom I worked once said, “Your church is very retro!”  She said it without venom,…

A Prophetic Voice

Thirty-eight years ago last Monday, Fr. Alexander Schmemann reposed in the Lord on the feast day of St. Herman of Alaska.  His family lost a beloved husband, father, and brother; his Seminary lost a revered teacher, and all the Orthodox world lost something of similarly inestimable value. We lost a much-needed prophetic voice. Alas, I never got to meet Fr. Alexander in the flesh. Reading his books helped me convert from Anglicanism…

The Church and Apocalypticism

Second Temple Judaism was a many-splendoured thing.  That is, it included many different elements—so many elements in fact that some people talk not just of Judaism, but Judaisms (in the plural). While the use of the plural might be a bit of a stretch, there is no denying that Second Temple Judaism was more diverse than the Rabbinic Judaism you now find down the street at the local synagogue.  It included what…

William and Wendy

Recently I was reading about two very different people: William Barclay (whose works I have been familiar with since high school; inset left) and Wendy O. Williams (who I had never heard of until recently; inset right). William Barclay was a preacher and teacher in the United Presbyterian Church in Scotland, famous for his Daily Study Bible series of commentaries. He was born in Scotland in 1907, flourished during the middle part…