Last Sunday, fourteen people gathered together in worship and fellowship at our parish on the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee. They prayed the Service of the Typica, also known as the Reader’s Service, which is what Orthodox Christians do when there is no priest available to serve liturgy.
As most know, since our founding in mid-2008, I have traveled from Raleigh three times a month to serve the Orthodox Christians of Greenville, NC. The other weekend of each month, our faithful gather for a lay-led service, following the words of the Savior: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). Having a regular life of prayer is essential to the Christian life, and our parish does not want to go a week without worshipping as one body.
In some Orthodox parishes, if the priest were absent, the Church would be closed that day. Yet Reader’s Services have a long history in the Church, and highlight that through our baptism, we all share a part in Christ’s priesthood, even while some of us are set aside for the ordained ministry. We all benefit from worshiping God and asking His blessings, hearing the reading of Scripture and the hymns, from praying for each other, and from being present with each other to encourage one another.
In times of clergy shortages or social strife, lay-led services have sustained the Church in many places. They are also a tool for missionary expansion; for instance, a family that lives some distance away from the Church could pray Typica on the weekends they cannot travel to the parish, and begin to invite others, eventually forming the nucleus for a future mission parish.
It is such a blessing for me as a priest to see the faithful maintaining the cycle of prayer even when I am not able to be present, and instilling a sense of spiritual responsibility in their lives and their children’s lives. I invite everyone to come out on the Sundays when Typica is celebrated. Fourteen people this Sunday; how many a year from now? It is an exciting time!