Please Note: This is something I wrote over a year and a half ago, which I never published online. I am posting it now for posterity. – Anastasios
Dear Friends in Christ,
September marks our fourth anniversary, and as in previous years, I’d like to take a moment to recap some of what has happened over the past year. As in previous years, we have continued to grow, by God’s providence and grace. The primary purpose of the Church is the salvation of souls, and we were blessed to baptize six people in the past year at our parish. Several others have embarked on the path to baptism as well.
In terms of “personnel,” we welcomed into our community a professor of music who quickly began to participate in the chanting ministry of the parish. The divine services have thus been enriched by hearing traditional ecclesiastical music, known colloquially as Byzantine Chant. Also, my godson who lived out of state made arrangements with his studies that allowed him and his wife to move to North Carolina so that they could participate in our missionary endeavors and help the parish in its work. We are actively seeking additional opportunities for parish internships.
We have begun having parish meetings once a month (with a break in the summer) and this is encouraging each person to feel his or her role in the community directly, and is a necessary step as we grow, to reduce bottlenecks, single points of failure, and overburdening of volunteers. So far, the response has been quite positive. Outside of Church, we are continuing to grow in our relationships; some of the children meet for play dates, and the adults have had numerous social engagements. Recently, some of us met in Raleigh for a Greek night at a local restaurant, and enjoyed traditional cuisine, music, and dancing. These social engagements are outgrowths of our mutual faith, and enrich our experience as Christians living in this world.
In the year ahead, I have identified two key areas of focus. The first is the development of additional clergy. There are prayers to formally ordain chanters, altar servers, and wardens, and we will request that the bishop give his blessing to those who have been filling these roles already. Additionally, the parish community has expressed a desire that a deacon candidate be identified, trained, and ordained. A deacon helps the priest in both the liturgy and in the ministries outside of the liturgy, and having a deacon would allow additional services to occur when I am unable to be present in Greenville. The role of deacon is a ministry in and of itself, but it also can serve as a step toward the priesthood if that need were to arise.
The other area of focus is to encourage each family to take greater “ownership” in the spiritual and material development of the parish. Those who come to the parish meetings are already beginning to engage in this model, but I encourage the readers who live far away or who have not been attending regularly to also consider how they might help the parish. There are always tasks to be done, some of which could be done remotely, which would help us continue on our mission. Those who come regularly should continue to ask themselves if there is anything else that might need to be done which no one else has mentioned or thought of. If each family takes the lead in an area, then we will find that there are less gaps and that we are better insulated against uncertainties. Also, we want to make sure that work does not fall on a small group of people who may become overwhelmed.
In the spiritual realm, each person and family should take ownership by learning how to pray the Reader’s service, also known as the Service of the Typica. This service is done by Orthodox Christians when no priest is present, and presently we have this service each Sunday when I am not available to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. Attendance at the Typica is as important as attendance at liturgy, and no one should feel that it is somehow “less” of a Church service. The priestly-celebrated Divine Liturgy provides Holy Communion, but every Sunday Christians are called to gather in prayer. If we cannot attend liturgy at the Church or the Reader’s service there, then we should pray it at home with our family. It only takes twenty minutes or so, but it is important for us to nurture the rhythm and cycle of Sunday worship, so we stay connected to our faith. This is especially important for those who live far away. Every family should be able to lead these prayers if the need were to arise. If you would like a copy of the service text and advice on how to pray it, please contact me, or pick up copies at the Church.
I look forward to another year of growth in our parish, and to our own spiritual growth over the same period.
Through the prayers of all the saints, may God bless us!