Orthodox Mission told, “You can’t feed the poor!”

In what must be proving to be an all too common circumstance, the local town government is prohibiting people from feeding the poor. Below is the notification that Fr. Elias (Yelovich) of Entrance of the Theotokos Mission in  Emmitsburg, MD, experienced from town officials when he had wanted to feed the poor.  He wrote this letter to explain the situation to his congregation. (It is reproduced with his permission.)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

  Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

  I would never have thought that our plan to serve a few hungry people from the community once a month would have attracted so much attention, but evidently it has done so. The zoning authorities of the city of Emmitsburg have decided that we may not serve people from outside the church in our little downstairs social hall, and they will be coming tomorrow morning to  take photos and rule on whether or not we may gather there ourselves for refreshments after Liturgy.  Apparently, their concern has something to do with the proper disposal of garbage and bits of food that they think may block the drains in town.  It does indeed seem to be “much ado about nothing,” but there it is. Our landlords have met with the authorities and feel confident that we will be given the green light to use our little space for light refreshments ourselves, but we will not know for certain until they have seen the space and made their own ruling.  Keep to your prayers, and ask our Patroness with respect and in humility to please pray
  for us: that we bear this cross with patience and that we come together in love that reaches out to help those in need in other ways still possible – that the Lord’s Will be done in all things!

  I spent an hour or so earlier today putting things in order and cleaning things up downstairs. Apparently, the zoning officials have no interest in examining our worship space upstairs, just the area downstairs in which we have a sink and stove. The best outcome we can hope for at this point is that they allow us to use the space as it is, with paper plates and cups that we discard rather than with plastic or glassware that we must wash up. But either way, our social ministry plans must be re-examined and
  re-formed. If we cannot bring people into our space, perhaps we can take what they need to them! There are many in need in the outskirts of the town according to the volunteers at the food pantry and in the pregnancy center. This is one area of need we must explore together after Pascha.

  *Accordingly, we will not be permitted to serve lunch on Saturday.* *Nevertheless, I would like one or two of you to please volunteer to be at the church on Saturday morning from 10 AM to 1 PM, so that someone is there if anyone does show up from the community.* *If you can do that, please let me
  know.  We will need to discuss how to help those who do show up, if anyone does this time.*

  The Way is narrow, Brothers and Sisters! It is one of the lessons of this Holy Season, and we must keep to that Way, constrained by the Love of Christ and ready to adapt to whatever turns or difficulties the road presents. Let us be patient and strong together, and let us keep this Lent without anger or malice to anyone, including those who place obstacles in our way for any reason.

  I’ll keep you posted on whatever I learn after the zoning visit. And I’ll see you at the Presanctified Liturgy on Friday and at the Divine Services of this Fifth Sunday in Great Lent, the Sunday of our Mother among the Saints, Mary of Egypt.

  In Christ our true God,

  +Fr. Elias
  Orthodox Mission of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple
  306 West Main Street
  Emmitsburg, MD 21727