Check out our new series, “5 Minutes with…” Recently, we caught up with His Eminence Metropolitan Nathanael. He spoke candidly about the Listening Tour, youth, and more. Find out! [Q&A]
Catching up with His Eminence Metropolitan Nathanael
Late last month, as the Metropolis Listening Tour was coming to a close, we had the opportunity to speak with His Eminence Metropolitan Nathanael of Chicago. He talked about the tour, the youth, and what’s next. Read on.
His Eminence Metropolitan Nathanael at the Hellenic Heritage Parade 2018 in Chicago. IMAGE: GREEK ORTHODOX METROPOLIS OF CHICAGO
Q&A with Metropolitan Nathanael
Maria A. Karamitsos: How’s the Listening Tour going? Surely, it’s been eye opening.
His Eminence Metropolitan Nathanael: Yes, it has. We split the Metropolis into 12 regions and visited them all summer long. It’s truly been amazing to be able to meet the people, spend time, and listen to them. The purpose here is for me to listen and not to talk. We want to begin a dialog. By collecting data and taking careful notes, we can make sure that the concerns, advice, opinions, frustrations, etc. will be part of the overall strategic planning practice of our Metropolis. The people have been very receptive. They’ve posed some challenging questions for which I did not have answers, but it was important for them to express them. I was able to share some of the developments at the Metropolis. Since many are not as close to Chicago, it seems they hadn’t been receiving the info as they should.
I’m inviting everyone to get involved, to be active participants in our Church. The host parishes have posted their Listening Tour meetings on their Facebook pages so I hope anyone interested spends a little time to listen to them.
MAK: You’re planning something similar for the youth.
HEMN: Some young people have come to the Listening Tour sessions; young adults show up and have been very bold and posed questions to me. The suggestion came up, and we see that we need a roundtable discussion with our young people. We are working on this to start a direct dialog with them. Parents always ask me to work harder to bring the youth into the Church. We need to know what they desire, what their aspirations are. If we are to serve them appropriately and the best we can, we need to know what they want and need.
MAK: Your talks to the youth have been refreshing and inspiring, particularly one I heard about drug abuse. Previously no one wanted to tackle these subjects, thinking we’d “give kids ideas”. Why is this open and frank discussion important?
HEMN: It is important to note that kids are already having these discussions with their peers. The fact is if they aren’t trying drugs, they may be pressured constantly to do so. There’s a lot of peer pressure. It’s part of their lives whether we want to admit it or not. We want to make them feel comfortable to come to us to discuss things, even challenging topics. I tell them the door is unlocked and always open. They should never be afraid to speak to us. They shouldn’t be afraid of talking about this in church; we come when we’re weak to get well. If we only address certain issues, we only offer a sanitized church. I’m not afraid to have these conversations. How far they’re willing to go is up to them.
Metropolitan Nathanael greets the faithful at the first Listening Tour session, at SS Peter & Paul in Glenview, IL. IMAGE: GREEK ORTHODOX METROPOLIS OF CHICAGO
MAK: Going forward, what will we be doing for the youth? Will we see new programs coming at the Metropolis level or more at the parish level?
HEMN: First we need to determine what they need and what we can do at both the Metropolis level as well as the Parish level. It is easier to capture their attention at the parish level, but all programs require input, time, and energy of people. Programs also cost money. There are practical considerations, too. We will be as creative as we can and need to, but we need the input and support of our people, or it won’t happen. It’s up to all of us, not just me. The programs and initiatives only work with the input and help of our faithful.
MAK: What message do you want to get across to the faithful?
HEMN: Three words: Lead by example. We need people to be actively involved in the life of the Church. Don’t wait for a special invitation. You are the Church – the people of God. Together we have a scared duty to help our neighbors.
Since this discussion with the Metropolitan, the Metropolis of Chicago announced a full financial review of the years ending 2015, 2016, and 2017. As part of the strategic planning process, the audit will “evaluate Metropolis financial management practices, controls, and provide management recommendations for needed improvements”. It will also allow for the creation of internal controls over long-term contracts, expenditures, resource management, compliance, budget approvals, etc. Learn more here.
The faithful also recently participated in the Strategic Planning Initiative by undertaking a SWOT analysis. They listed their thoughts on the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats to our Church and community. The information will help shape the future of our Metropolis.
More than anything, His Eminence wants people to know that he is here for us, and that since we are all part of the Church, we are all part of the Strategic Planning initiative. The Metropolis must know what we want and need from our Church, so they can be responsive. This is a monumental opportunity. How blessed we are to be a part of it. Join in! The first Roundtable with the Met will take place on October 13 at St. Andrew’s in Chicago.
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