Dear Editors of the St. Nina Quarterly,

I feel as if a new day has dawned. Your publication is such a new and exciting and much needed concept: bringing Orthodox women together so that we could all pursue the "discovery and cultivation of [our] gifts for the nurturance of the entire Body of Christ." Having the opportunity to read pieces written by and for faithful, committed, thinking, searching Orthodox women gives me new hope and much needed strength and support in my own life as an Orthodox woman.

I have great respect for each of the members of the editorial board, who had the vision to know that there was a profound need for such a publication. I read their biographical sketches with great interest and admiration: each of them is a woman who clearly puts a high priority on her faith and her ministry; each has shown real courage and vision and dedication to her faith; each has devoted great amounts of energy and time into developing and using her God-given talents to their fullest, to the Glory of God. It is both an inspiration and a support to those of us who pale in comparison!

I read your mission statement, and the "More on the St. Nina Quarterly" page, with great care. I really appreciate that you are articulating your mission, philosophy and goals so clearly right from the start.

What I appreciate in the bulk of your articles (as well as in your stated goals) is that in discussing or alluding to the question of the ordination of women to the diaconate, your overall tone is a thoughtful, measured, prayerful one. The message I get from this issue of your journal is that it is time to learn more about the history of the role of women in the Church, and that it is time to begin and maintain an ongoing dialogue about a woman's role in the Church today. I feel that this is an Orthodox tone; a more strident, political tone would be unacceptable to me in dealing with this complex, and "loaded" question.

In your goal statement you use the words "committed action toward reestablishment of the permanent diaconate." This phrase is vague and general enough to encompass both the more deliberate and reflective approach of your current issue of the Quarterly, and a more strident, aggressive approach, an approach which I could not support. On the other hand, in the opening statement on your philosophy, you write that "our strength, hope, and capacity for right service to God arises from praying, asking, listening, and trusting the Holy Spirit's action in the Church to guide our thoughts and actions." I believe that this must be our guiding precept; as long as the articles in your journal continue to support this statement, I will continue to applaud your work and to support it in any way I can.

In gratitude for the inception of a wonderful, much-needed journal by and for Orthodox women,

Sincerely,

Tania Bouteneff
West Hartford , CT

To the Editor,

I have been searching for a forum which seriously explores issues related to women and their life in the Orthodox faith.

The literature on Orthodox theology and practices never seems to zero in with answers to questions concerning my participation in the church. Most, if not all, of the reading doesn't quite speak to my heart, is consistent with my experiences, nor touches my spirituality. As women do we have a distinct spirituality? Is our journey toward God the same as a man's or do we travel a slightly separate but parallel path? Does Orthodox theology affect females the same way it affects males? Is it supposed to? Where do we as women fit into liturgical theology and practice according to Christ's teachings?

I am anxious to read a publication which is geared specifically for women as it critically examines their issues, concerns and experiences as related to the Orthodox church.

Sincerely,

Rebecca McMahon

I read the advertisement for W.O.M.E.N. in the Directory of Orthodox Parishes in North America, 1994 Edition. I am writing to say that I would welcome more information about this organization.

I have recently been able to take early retirement from school-teaching, although I am still in my 50's. This has allowed me to begin working towards my aspiration to a monastic commitment and I believe a link with W.O.M.E.N. may help to foster this aspiration.

I am a widow with no family and I was received into the Orthodox Church five years ago, having been a lifelong Anglican before then. I know New Testament Greek and, having worked through a course of Modern Greek with tapes, I am now studying Modern Greek through Extra-Mural classes at the University, where there is an opportunity for a little practice in conversational Greek also. The small local Orthodox congregation in the Ecumenical Patriarchate is an amalgam of Russians, British and Greeks and both Russian and some Byzantine chant is used for the services. I am managing to learn a few hymns in the Byzantine tradition.

After two years I hope to feel sufficiently confident in Greek to visit a Greek Monastery for a short while and become more familiar with the monastic tradition. Eventually I hope to make a commitment as an idiorythmic monastic if the Church approves. At present I say Vespers, Orthros and the Hours day by day as a foundation for deeper commitment. Except for saying a few psalms in Church sometimes, I am not involved in any Church work as (i) it is a very small congregation and (ii) I believe that I should concentrate on more particularly monastic concerns, such as study and prayer.

I would welcome a female correspondent with the same type of aspiration as myself. So far, I have not been able to locate anyone like this but perhaps there may be a single woman in W.O.M.E.N. who is interested in monasticism and who may be willing to correspond with me. Although I have lived in this part of the country for some time, I am English and I hope to move back to England eventually as I lived there for the first half of my life and I feel more at home there.

I would be grateful for any suggestion you can offer, please.

Yours sincerely in our Lord,

A. Theodora Leybourne (Ms.)

Editors' Note: Please contact the Quarterly for address information if you wish to correspond with Ms. Leybourne.

Orthodox Christian Penfriends Club

In many countries Orthodox Christians are in a minority. Some of them live far from an Orthodox Church, and most of their friends and neighbours are not Orthodox. In response to requests from such people, we have started an Orthodox Christian penfriends club. It has been operating for about a year now, and has forty-six members.

Quite a number of those wanting to join have said that they would like to correspond with monastics. For Orthodox Christians living in isolation, correspondence with a spiritual father or mother, though a poor substitute for face to face contact, may be the only way they can get spiritual guidance. If you know of Orthodox monastics, male or female, who might be blessed by their hegumen for this ministry, please let them know about this, and encourage them to join.

There are possibilities for correspondence at many different levels, letters can range from deep spiritual discussions or theology to ordinary everyday matters. If people in different parishes started corresponding, they could exchange tapes of their services, parish newsletters and other things. Enquirers could learn more about Orthodoxy.

So, are you interested in participating, or do you know anyone who might be, a member of your family or parish, perhaps? They can be of any age, from nine to ninety, monastic, clergy or laity. The only stipulation is that they must be Orthodox Christians, or interested in Orthodoxy.

If you are interested, or know people who are interested, please send their "snail mail" (postal) addresses to me at any of the following addresses. We will send details of how one can join the Orthodox Christians Penfriends Club mail.

Steve Hayes
Orthodox Society of St. Nicholas of Japan
steveh@khanya.bbs.co.za