PARISH MEMBER'S GUIDE PAGE

 

Document as provided to all churches unedited
Uniform Parish Member’s Guide for the Diocese of Toledo and the Midwest

1. The Church

2. Liturgical Life

3. General Decorum

4. Clergy Protocol

5. Baptism/Chrismation

6. Churching of Mother and Child

7. The Divine Liturgy / Holy Eucharist

8. Preparation for Communion

9. Marriage / Weddings

10. Use of the Church Facilities

11. Funerals and Memorials

12. Stewardship and Charity

13. Discipleship

14. Visitation of the Sick

15. Home Blessings

16. Reading and Singing

17. Organizations

18. Church Bulletin

 

 

Greetings in the name of the crucified and risen Lord, Jesus Christ. Christ is in our midst!

God in His mercy continues to bless us at ___________________Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church. Through a rich life of worship and service together, the faithful are being nourished by the teachings of the Apostolic Faith and by sacramental communion with the Word of God, the living Christ. It is clear to see that, thanks be to God, there is abundant life here.

Life in an Orthodox church is not without difficulties. To follow Christ on the Way of the Cross, our time and energy, indeed our very lives, are demanded of us. As we pray so often together: “Let us commit ourselves, each other, and our whole lives unto Christ our God.” Such a total commitment requires endless prayer, hard work, and understanding.

It is our hope that through this booklet, you can begin to gain a better understanding of life at   ________________ - what we do and why. It is designed as a basic introduction to church life; but it is equally important for the most “experienced” churchgoer to read. Whether born into the Church or converted yesterday, “by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,” (I Corinthians 12:13), and we can only glorify God if we are one. The closer we follow these guidelines, and the better we understand their significance, the more we will be united in Christ.

As we strive to worship and serve God together in His Holy Church, beginning with these guidelines, may He enable us, with one mouth, one mind, and one heart, to glorify Him who has trampled down death by death and granted us eternal life.

“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” Philippians 1:27

 

The Church

To begin with the most fundamental question: what exactly is a local Orthodox Church such as _______________?

First, the local church must be understood as part of the “One, Holy, Catholic (universal) and Apostolic Church.” We confess in the Creed that it is the Orthodox Church that contains the unbroken fullness of the one Church founded by Christ through His apostles. Each individual Orthodox church is in communion with the Orthodox Church through the centuries, worldwide. __________ is in the Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese and the Diocese of Toledo and the Midwest, which means that our spiritual roots are in the Patriarchate of Antioch; it is as children of the ancient Antiochian community (in Antioch Jesus’ followers were first called “Christians”) that we are connected as members of the universal, apostolic Church. The richness of the Antiochian expression of Orthodoxy is its transcendence of ethnic boundaries.  The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese is not purely Byzantine, however, but a synthesis of Byzantine and Slavic traditions.  The Orthodox Church cannot be reduced to an ethnic club, not a community centered on preserving particular cultural customs. __________ is first and foremost Orthodox, bearing witness to the true Gospel of Christ through and to people of all types. In order to give glory to God in the greater _________, as our mission statement says, we must be pan-Orthodox, totally committed to seeking the Kingdom of God where we are, within American society. 

The Scriptures speak of the Church as the body of Christ. While the universal Church is the body of Christ, it is also important to recognize that Christ’s body is fully present in each local church. This is so because the great mystery of the Church is “Christ in us,” and this mystery is realized by our communal participation in His death and resurrection - through Baptism and the Eucharist. It is precisely as a baptismal and Eucharistic community that the local church is “the body of Christ”

This is a sober reality. We cannot lightly call our church “the body of Christ.” The very essence of Christ’s body is that it is sacrificed for the life of the world. This means that if we are His body, we too must be broken, our blood spilt daily for the life of our brothers and sisters. But this is the most difficult thing for any human to do - it is completely contrary to our woefully self-oriented mode of existence. Yet paradoxically, the Way of dying in love for our neighbor is the only path to real, joyous Life. “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing; but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.” (I Corinthians 1:18) To be an Orthodox Christian means, above all else, to accept co-crucifixion with Christ in order to live in His Resurrected Life.

It is taking up the cross and following Him that stands at the heart of Church life. We hope and pray that everything we do at _______________  contributes to our participation in Christ’s death and resurrection, i.e. to our salvation. As we proceed here in laying out what church “membership” entails, it must be set forth with absolute clarity that it is membership in Christ that is our ultimate goal. As a United body of worshipping disciples, fed by the life-giving mysteries, faithful and obedient to the Orthodox Faith, the church community can be transformed into “the light of the world,” the “fragrance of Christ.”

The languages of worship in the church should be the language that meets the needs of the membership, so that the people may understand. As St. Paul says:Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say? For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified. Yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue.” (I Corinthians 14:16-19)

Since we are a church located in _____________________ the services will be in the predominant language(s) of the people of the church, which is English, with some liturgical ____________ if the community and those to whom we are bringing the Gospel of Christ require such to embrace their faith more fully.

For the sake of outreach, the greater good of the Orthodox Church in the ___________ metropolitan area, the nurturing of personal relationships within the body, and the increased demands on the clergy as the church grows, when the church becomes pastorally unmanageable the church shall begin the process of dividing in order to establish a sister church.

The ideal Orthodox practice is to divide when the size of the church becomes pastorally unmanageable. Our vision is to plant and help nurture another mission at that time, which is the spiritually responsible action to take.

Membership at ___________________________

There are expectations involved in Church life. On the one hand, people expect the Church to be there for them in their times of sickness, joy and sorrow; to baptize, marry and bury, to bless and sanctify their homes; to teach, counsel, and serve them, guiding them into the Kingdom of Heaven. At the same time, the innumerable blessings of being part of the Church come with certain responsibilities, i.e., expectations of us. It should be understood that these blessings are intended for churchgoers who are dedicated and active - for “members in good standing.”

Who do you think could be described as a member in good standing with the church? Of course, the first condition is:

         An individual must be baptized/received into the Orthodox Church, and must be living in a manner befitting an Orthodox Christian, devoted to spiritual discipline and growth in Christ.

But beyond this, what should be the expectations for members? Stated simply, a member in good standing is someone actively giving of their “time, talent, and treasure.” This is a true member of the community. Therefore, a “member in good standing” of _____________ meets these requirements:

         - Regular participation in the liturgical life of the church.

         - Involvement in church work, such as church school, singing, reading, care for the sick, upkeep of the grounds and facilities, etc.

         Stewardship - Active commitment to the offering/ pledging program. (This is expected of anyone over 18 and not in school or the military.)

         Commitment - Timely annual submission of the Statement of Membership form indicating endorsement of the mission of this community as reflected in the Member Guidelines.

There are sometimes people in a church who regularly give of their treasure, but seldom participate in Divine Liturgy or services. While this approach does indicate a level of concern for the church, it should not be thought of as genuine, full membership.

There can also be those who rarely make contact with the church, hardly giving of any of the three categories, but who still expect the Church to provide services, such as funerals and weddings. It must be stated resolutely that the blessings of the Church are gifts, not rights.

It is only logical that the recipients of these gifts should be members in good standing. This does not necessarily mean inactive members will be refused these things, as the pastor will use discretion in making decisions. But the standard must be established for the spiritual health of the church. Remember: we seek to commit ourselves, each other, and our whole lives unto Christ and His Church.

“To whom much is given, of him will much be required.” (Luke 12.-48)
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Liturgical Life

Membership in the Church demands a complete reorientation of our life’s rhythm. To “repent” means to change one’s mind; the backbone of a life of repentance is changing from a worldly pattern of life to one immersed in the life of the Church. This begins at the most basic level: our schedules. Our personal and family calendars must be synchronized with the Church cycle given to us by God. It is a terrible tragedy when we divide our time into sacred and secular segments - assigning Sunday morning to God, plus maybe a few extra days in the year, while treating the remaining time as ours. Every moment belongs to God, and an Orthodox Christian should experience the transformation of all time into sacred time. This only happens when we are totally committed to a liturgical life, when our daily rhythm is governed by the pulse of the Church calendar. Through the cycles of prayer, fasting (which helps liberate us from sin and enables us to pray), and feast days (which center our life on Pascha); liturgical

life redeems our time and fills it with the light of Christ.

We are thankful at __________ that we can celebrate the Resurrection every Lord’s Day in such a beautiful house of worship. We also strive to move closer to the full cycle of daily services ideal for Orthodox Christians. We seek to provide the following:<

         Daily Services;

         Weekday Liturgies - various saints’ days and minor feasts;<

         Matins - Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning prayer service, which includes the day’s Gospel reading;

         Vespers - Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, the liturgical beginning of a day; on eves of Feasts and all Saturdays, Great Vespers is served.

In light of the importance of the liturgical cycle, members of __________ should devote themselves as much as possible to the daily worship taking place in the community.
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General Decorum

It is very important as worshipping members of the church that we learn to observe certain decorum in church. At all times, we should approach participation in services (and all of life!) with a keen awareness that we are in the presence of the Holy God. If our spirit is reverent, we will develop external habits that reflect such reverence, and we will not act casually. Some examples:

         Appearance. Carefully consider appropriate dress and accessories.

         Punctuality. Would you arrive late for a meeting with your boss or the President? Don’t be late for church to meet with God and His people.

         Leaving early is also inappropriate, especially from the Divine Liturgy. It is disrespectful and ungrateful to leave before completing the Divine Liturgy and giving thanks for the Eucharist.

         Bow when you are incensed. We are incensed as living icons of God.

         Show respect to clergy and each other; venerate bishops properly.

         Quiet your heart and your mouth. Train your children to do the same.

         Do not chew gum, cross your legs, or clap.

         Remove lipstick prior to receiving communion or kissing icons.

         Cell phones and pagers should be turned off (or put on vibrate mode).

         Respect the holiness of particular areas, especially behind the iconostasis. It is not appropriate to be there without a priest’s blessing.

A sober and thoughtful attitude will affect our behavior in church in many other areas. It is also important to develop an understanding about the various details of Church practice - the sign of the Cross, candles, incense, icons, etc. Please ask for explanation and/or literature. It should also be kept in mind that the worst thing is for a person to allow a spirit of condemnation to creep in toward someone they judge to be out of line. Overall, concentrate on where you are and what is happening; be prayerful and attentive, participate as much as possible, and approach all worship, especially the Eucharist, in the fear of God, with faith and love.
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Clergy Protocol

The pastor/Protos is assigned by the Diocesan Bishop with the approval of the Metropolitan Archbishop and represents him in all ecclesiastical matters. The pastor/ Protos is responsible to the Metropolitan and to the local bishop. The clergy (Protos, associate priests, deacons, and lower orders) follow strict guidelines to keep the unity of the Church. Here are some of them:

         The Protos presides at all services, unless he designates otherwise.

         The Protos is the pastor (shepherd), spiritual father and confessor of the church community.

         If you wish the associate priest(s) to assist in a wedding or baptism, the invitation must go through the pastor.

         If you wish another canonical Orthodox priest to celebrate a Sacraments, ask the pastor/Protos to invite him to assist.

         Under no circumstance will another priest be asked to preside in place of the pastor/Protos.

         When clergy concelebrate the Divine Liturgy they celebrate in order of rank. This helps avoid emotion and personality from interfering at Christ’s altar.

         All clergy are expected to serve funerals.
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Baptism/Chrismation

An individual is brought into the living body of Christ as one of God’s children by the sacred rite of initiation, Baptism. Separated from God as sinful creatures, we are not automatically “sons” of God. A son in Biblical terms is the one who receives the inheritance of his father. The great gift of God is that through being baptized into Christ, we are adopted into His Sonship, becoming sons and co-heirs to His inheritance in the household of the Father.

“For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Galatians 3.-26-7)

When we are baptized into the Orthodox Church, it is not simply an entrance into a particular religious society or ethnic club. It is to put on Christ. This is why we are called “Christians” - it means “little Christs.”

Immersion in the water symbolizes this mystery of putting on Christ - being totally submerged into Him. That ultimately means our incorporation into Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. To be baptized is to die and rise with Christ: to be freed from the sting of sin and death and to enter a life-giving union with God in His Son. Our dying is our rebirth - we emerge from the water reborn. As
St. Cyril of Jerusalem described it, baptism is both our “tomb and womb.” In St. Paul’s words from the Epistle reading for baptism: “We were buried there with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
(Romans 6:3)

Baptism in the name of the Trinity is inseparably linked with the accompanying rite of Chrismation. The newly baptized is anointed with holy oil, called chrism, as the seal of the Holy Spirit. As we are anointed on every part of the body with the sign of a cross, the chrism marks us with the imprint of the One who now owns us. This sacrament should not be thought of as separate; it is the organic fulfillment of the mystery of Baptism. However, as a compromise in the face of tragic Christian schism, the Orthodox Church permits converts to the Faith who have already been baptized in the name of the Trinity to have their initiation “made complete,” with simply the rite of Chrismation.

Please note the following guidelines for Baptism/Chrismation at _______________:

         There must be reasonable certitude that the person to be baptized will be raised in the Orthodox Faith. (It is not enough if a person merely wants their child baptized for the sake of custom!)

         The candidate must have at least one sponsor/godparent, and this person must be a practicing Orthodox Christian. If the Sponsor if from another Orthodox parish a letter from the Sponsor’s parish priest must verify he/she is in good standing with the orthodox church.  Sponsorship is a serious responsibility, a promise to do everything possible to ensure that the person (child or adult) continues in the Faith. St. John Chrysostom warned: “You, the sponsors, have learned that no slight danger hangs over your head if you are remiss.”

         A Non-Orthodox Witness in addition to the Orthodox sponsor must be in good standing with a recognized Christian Church.  The pastor of the Church must secure a letter stating that the witness is a practicing Christian in good standing.

         Preparation for Baptism/Chrismation on the part of the sponsor(s) will include participation in Confession and Holy Communion, prior to the baptism, and may also include counseling sessions with the priest and parents.

         All candidates for Baptism/Chrismation over the age of seven must receive “catechesis”, or instruction in the Faith, as the priest deems necessary.

         The priest will not baptize in individual homes except in the case of an emergency.

         Please speak with the priest to determine a date and specific requirements for the baptism. More information is available on the mystery of Baptism, and on the items and preparation that will be needed for the service.
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Churching of Mother and Child

As soon as the mother is ready to leave her home following childbirth (usually after 40 days) to do shopping, eat at restaurants, go to work, etc, the first thing she should do is return to the church with her child to give thanks to God and be “Churched.” In imitation of the purification ritual of the Virgin Mary, the rite of Churching welcomes the mother back into the community after being separated during her participation with God in the holy act of birth. It also introduces the child “in the midst of the congregation” for the first time. This is done around the 40th day to reflect the offering of Christ in the Temple on the customary 40th day of Jewish law.

The rite of Churching will be done according to the red Service Book (pp.217ff). Please call the church office for scheduling and information.
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The Divine Liturgy / Holy Eucharist

“I am the living bread which came down from heaven, if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever, and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:51)

At the very center of our worship is our weekly celebration of the Resurrection, the Divine Liturgy. We gather on Sunday, which is not the Sabbath, but the Lord’s Day, the day on which the Lord conquered death. Pascha is the center of our year and our life, and each Sunday we celebrate that Paschal mystery. The way we celebrate is to gather as God’s Church (ecclesia - those who are called out) and perform the common work (liturgeia) of God’ people, which is primarily to off thanksgiving (eucharistia). In the process of our giving thanks, we receive both admonishment and nourishment, neither of which we could survive without. This is the joy of the Divine Liturgy.

The Lord admonishes and nourishes us through the entirety of the Divine Liturgy, and these two facets are always together. We are never fed by God without also being confronted and challenged. This occurs in the two major features of the Divine Liturgy: the hearing of Scripture (Liturgy of the Word) and the partaking of the Eucharist (Liturgy of the Faithful). These two ‘halves” are knit together and dependent on each other; they are both an encounter with the Word of God, Jesus the Christ. We must first be fed and confronted by Christ through the Gospel proclamation, the Good News which exposes how we are not conformed to Christ. The sermon helps this to happen, bringing the Gospel to bear concretely on our lives. Then, confessing our faith in this Gospel and our intention to more fully unite ourselves with the Crucified One, we proceed to the chalice to be nourished by His body and blood. But again, this nourishment is simultaneously a merciful chastisement: it is an opportunity for the judge to heal us before we face the dread Judgment. Thus we pray for our partaking to be “not unto condemnation or judgment, but to the healing of soul and body.” It will be unto healing, to the extent that we surrender to the One with whom we commune, and are willing ourselves to be broken in love for God and love for our neighbor.

“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.” (I Corinthians 11:27; read vv. 17-32)
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Preparation for Communion

This is a most serious matter. The following guidelines should be carefully considered and observed:

         The first requirement is for a person to be a baptized Orthodox Christian. The importance of the Eucharist’s connection to Baptism cannot be understated. In communion, the faithful renew their baptism into the Eucharistic body of Christ.

         Regular attendance at Divine Liturgy is essential. If you miss Divine Liturgy for a mundane, unworthy cause, you should not partake without going to Confession.

         You should not commune if you are late to the Divine Liturgy. The Eucharist is not a dispensed dosage of grace to be taken at our convenience, in isolation from the whole work of the service. In light of the statements above, you absolutely must be there before the Scripture readings in order to partake.

         Communicants should prepare by praying at the Saturday evening Great Vespers with regularity. This is really the beginning of the Lord’s Day.

         You must fast from all food and drink from, minimally, midnight Saturday. Of course there are exceptions, for reasons of health, pregnancy, etc. This should be discussed with the priest.

         A prepared person must have been to Confession recently. Frequency is established individually with the priest. If you have not communed in a while, it is mandatory to first go to Confession. Note: Unless the pastor discerns reason for an exception, he will serve as each member’s spiritual father/confessor.

         Sometime on Saturday or on Sunday morning, you should pray the Prayers of Preparation. These can be found in the red Service Book, p.204, or your own prayer book. Also pray the Prayers of Thanksgiving, starting with the one the faithful pray together at the Litany of Thanksgiving.

         Perhaps most important of all, you must seek to be at peace with everyone before taking Holy Communion. Our Master taught that we cannot offer our gift (which is Christ Himself) at the Altar if our brother has something against us; we must first be reconciled. You must, therefore, seek and give forgiveness before receiving the Eucharist.

If we faithfully follow these guidelines, we will commune worthily. Yet there is a critical distinction to be made: while we strive to commune in a worthy manner, we ourselves are never worthy.
“Holy things are for the holy,” the priest exclaims; and our immediate response is: “One is holy;
One is the Lord, Jesus Christ.” By God’s grace alone, we partake of His holiness, and receive a foretaste of the Kingdom.
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Marriage / Weddings

Father Hopko writes, “Jesus taught the uniqueness of human marriage as the most perfect natural expression of God’s love for men, and of his own love for the Church.” Marriage in the Church is a sacrament, a mystery through which we participate in the life of God. Human love alone cannot sustain a life-long commitment of sacrificial love between two naturally self-centered people. This problem is only overcome in Jesus Christ, who on the Cross proved His love for His bride, the Church. In a Christian marriage, within His Church, “the Holy Spirit is given so that what is begun on earth does not ‘part in death’ but is fulfilled and continues most perfectly in the Kingdom to God.” (Hopko)

Sadly, we have gotten very unorthodox in our approach to marriage, prying the sacrament away from its true context in Church life. Affected by the extreme individualism of our day, we think of our wedding as a private affair that we can personally customize, and sometimes even treat the ceremony as a show for our family and friends. This approach tragically divorces marriage from its holy setting. On a basic level, someone who uses the church for a wedding when they are not committed to the Church is guilty of taking advantage of the church, the choir, the priest, and more. More seriously, they deprive themselves of life in the body of Christ - the only eternal sustenance for their marriage. In order to protect people from abusing the sacrament, thereby condemning themselves, ___________ cannot allow the church to be used to marry people not committed to the Church. Marriage in the Church is reserved for those Orthodox who embrace it as the beautiful and joyous reflection of the mystery of Christ and the Church.

Guidelines for getting married at __________ are as follows:

         Based on the conditions above, the priest will determine whether a couple is eligible for marriage in the Orthodox Church before a date can be set.

         A minimum of 6 months-1 year notice is required to set a wedding date.

         Premarital counseling with the priest or one appointed by him is strictly required.

         At least one of the persons getting married must be an Orthodox Christian and a member of __________ in good standing. The other party, if not Orthodox, must be a Christian in good standing with their church. (Speak to the priest about specific norms for “mixed marriages.”)

         At least one of the sponsors (usually the best man/maid of honor) must be a committed
Orthodox Christian.  Sponsors who belong to another Orthodox parish must ask his or her pastor to write a letter stating he / she is in good standing.  The non-orthodox witness must be a practicing Christian in good standing with the Christian Community he or she attends.

         At the rehearsal all participants should be appropriately dressed for entering the Nave of the Church.

         The wedding date must be cleared with the church. The proper time is Sunday afternoon, with some exceptions. If the wedding needs to be on a Saturday, it can be no later than 4 pm. Given that the liturgical day begins at the Vesper Hour (sunset), weddings are not permitted at the following times:

         Wednesdays and Fridays;

         The eve of every Sunday and Great Feast;

         Eves/days of the Feast of the Elevation of the Cross, the Beheading of John the Forerunner, during Great Lent, including Cheese Week and Bright Week; i.e., Meat Fare Sunday through Thomas Sunday, and during the Nativity Fast (November 15 through December 25);

         During the Saints Peter & Paul Fast (variable through June 29);

         During the Dormition Fast (August 1 through 15).

         Only Orthodox hymns prescribed by the rubrics are permitted. All other music is forbidden. All liturgical celebrations are Church celebrations, and so only the ___________ choir members and chanters may participate in the music.

         No drinking is allowed prior to the Wedding Service.  Anyone drinking before the wedding may not participate in the Service.

         In the case of candidates who have been divorced, the process of reconciliation with the Church is done through the priest. All necessary information is submitted to the Metropolitan in writing for his final approval.

         Our faithful must keep in mind the sacredness of an Orthodox wedding and should not engage in any activity at the reception which would bring scandal to our Church.

         The Removal of Crowns takes place at the end of the Divine Liturgy the next Sunday the couple attends (usually following the honeymoon).
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Use of the Church Facilities

Members in good standing of __________ may use of the church facilities for personal events and occasions normally expected for its use. The following are the basic rules for use of the facilities:

         Reservations will be made on a first come first serve basis. All dates must be cleared with the pastor. All events require a minimum of 6 months advance notice. Use of the church facilities for Orthodox observances will always take precedence in scheduling.

         Anyone using the church facilities must follow all fasting regulations. Meat may not be served during any fast periods, including Wednesday, and Fridays. Baptismal receptions, Mercy Meals, and church organizations are subject to this rule. Wedding or other receptions are not permitted during any fast period.

         The purpose of __________ is to worship. There will be absolutely no set-up, cooking, or other preparation activity in the church while a service of the Church is in progress.

For additional rules and responsibilities for church facilities use, and for the schedule of costs, refer to the church directory and/or call the priest.

 

Funerals and Memorials

“With the saints give rest, 0 Christ, to the soul of thy servant, where sickness and sighing are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting.” (Funeral Kontakion)

 

Funerals

___________ normally offers two options for funeral scheduling:

         A one day visitation (at funeral home) with Trisagion prayers in the evening. Funeral on the following morning at the church, with prayers at the cemetery.

         Visitation until late afternoon; the deceased then transported to the church for funeral and a repast (Meal of Mercy). Trisagion prayers the next morning at church, then to the grave (with prayers).

The spiritual care for the deceased is of utmost importance. The service provides great comfort when our loved ones can be sung away in an Orthodox funeral, lifted up before the Almighty by the prayers of the faith. These Church burials are meant for persons committed to the Church, though pastoral discretion will be used for those not in good standing. The funeral for inactive members is usually in the funeral home rather than the church. There is also a funeral rite for non-Orthodox deceased which the priest can perform, but not in the church.

The second option is encouraged, because it enables more of the family, church community, and choir to attend.

The following guidelines for funerals should be followed:

         There are no Sunday burials. The Orthodox Church does not permit funerals on the Lord’s Day, because the day is set apart exclusively for the celebration of the Resurrection in the Divine Liturgy. (For this reason, there should also be no Memorials on Sundays.)

         At funerals, there can be no eulogies by non-clergy, and no songs or other additions to the prescribed Orthodox service. Remarks by family or friends are appropriate at the Meal of Mercy.

         Rather than flowers which quickly die, donations to the family or church are encouraged.

         Conduct and appearance at viewings and funerals must be respectful. Talking should be quiet and not frivolous. Please be mindful that death is a tragedy, and while we certainly can and should focus on the hope of the Resurrection, we must not behave presumptuously as if the deceased are already saved. Be prayerful.


 

Memorials

         For anyone buried from _______________, a memorial will be held automatically for the 9th and 40th days, preferably on the exact days. When one of these days falls on a Sunday, it is best to have the memorial on Saturday evening following Great Vespers.

         On the 40th day, it is traditional for the priest to bless the grave.

         Holy Wheat (koliva) may be offered at any memorial.

         There is never a fee for a memorial service.

         At any Divine Liturgy, you may offer Holy Bread (prosphora) in memory of the departed. This is done either by preparing the bread yourself or simply by having it prepared for a small donation.

         Also at any Divine Liturgy, the names of departed can be remembered during the Great Entrance. Write and submit the names to the celebrant.

         The deceased are commemorated on St. Dimitri Saturday of Souls (last Saturday in October) and on Saturdays during Great Lent.
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Stewardship and Charity

In the Gospels, Jesus commands us not to worry about what we will eat or drink. In the same way the birds are fed and the lilies are clothed, so our heavenly Father will take care of us. And here in America, we art blessed with far more than we need. As Christians, it is a deep sin if we are not thankful to our God. If we are truly thankful, and we recognize that nothing belongs to us, it is all the Lord’s and we are His stewards, then we will give.

The primary way we give is to/through the Church. Giving to the Church should not be perceived as contributing to the “organization” and those working for it. The local body of Christ manifests God’s love in providing for the needy both within and outside the Church. In giving, we help maintain the Church, and we entrust the Church with the task of finding and giving to those in need. The earliest Christians did the same - the Acts of the Apostles describe how “all who believed were together and had all things in common, and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need.” (Acts 2:44-45)

For the Church and charity to run smoothly, we must give regularly. Jesus Himself did this, in obedience to the Temple law of tithing. Although we are out of the habit, “tithing” (10%) should be our standard as well. We must prayerfully establish a fixed portion for our offering, and commit this amount to the Church in the annual pledging program. This portion is “off the top,” not the bottom; which is to say, it is our best, representing the whole which belongs to God. It is not the amount that counts, but that we truly give what we can which is always more than we think. Our Lord praised the poor widow who gave only two coins, saying she gave more than the rich who gave proudly.

To reiterate what was set forth previously: in order to be considered a fully active member of _____________, participation in the Stewardship Program is required. Anyone whose financial situation makes this difficult has only to speak with the priest, and nothing further will be said. For all others, an annual financial pledge is expected. Again, this should not be seen as “paying dues.” We cannot offer our whole lives to Christ without offering of our treasure for the sake of the Kingdom, and the King’s children, our brothers and sisters in need. Remember that the Lord Jesus Christ demands 100% of your whole being and nothing less. Here are other specifics regarding stewardship and charity:

         The budget process is a way we as a community set our goals and priorities. Pledging to the budget is an expression of faith, trusting that God is working through us as a community.

         The Church Council shall establish funds for the earmarking of gifts.

         Church property serves to aid us in our ministry and should never become an end unto itself. The purchasing and maintenance of property should never be more than 40% of the budget.

         We express appreciation for contributions and gifts. But we do not assign attributions to them in the form of plaques or public recognition, which encourages pride rather than humility
(Matthew 6:1).

         Special donations (icons, vestments, furnishings, etc.) must be approved by the Church Council to ensure that it meets our needs and fits with our liturgical style before the church can take possession.

         __________ does not oppose fund raising per se. However, should the church community deem such an event appropriate, the Church Council must direct all proceeds to charity.

         Our tithe as a community is also tithed. The church directs 10% of its budget to diocesan approved and local charities.

“If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or speech, but in deed and in truth.” (I John. 3:17-18)
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Discipleship

A “disciple” is one who is taught or trained. The training of asceticism or spiritual discipline is part of this; so is studying and learning. We are not all called to be scholars, but we are all called to sit at the Master’s feet and be taught, to gain “the mind of Christ.” An Orthodox Church is a community of disciples striving to be transformed by the renewal of their minds (Romans 12:1). Members of __________ should participate in discipleship in various ways: church school, adult education, retreats, personal Scripture study, use of the church bookstore and library, and various special events. Please ask for information about these.

Church Council

The council consists of the pastor, elected representatives, organizational representatives and pastoral appointees. The pastor is the presiding officer and the only permanent member of the church council. The process of nomination and election of these members and the details of the council’s duties are explained in the church Constitution.

It is important to recognize the nature and purpose of the church council. It is often thought that the church council is responsible for the “material” operation of the church, leaving the “spiritual” ministry for the priests. Part of their role is certainly to ensure that physical needs are provided for, by managing funds, facilities, etc. But this task is not separate from the spiritual ministry in the Church - such labor of love is equally “spiritual,” if it contributes to the good of the community. The church council should not be seen as a governing body or business committee, but as a group of spiritually rooted individuals who assist the priest in building up the body of Christ. Council members therefore must be spiritually active, and exemplary in church attendance and stewardship. A candidate for service on the church council must:

         have been a member of the church for at least one year;

         be in church on Sunday 90% of the time, attend the feasts of Nativity and Pascha (both are required), attend the celebration of other major feasts, preferably attend Great Vespers on Saturday too;

         be in union with the teaching of the faith, which means frequent confession as established by the priest, and frequent reception of the Holy Mysteries;

         work toward tithing of their income to the general budget and the good of the church;

         attendance at the Diocesan or Archdiocesan Parish Council Workshop;

         actively pursue spiritual development and growth through the deepening of personal prayer life, reading of Scriptures, the Church Fathers, and other spiritual books related to the Orthodox faith as determined by the priest.
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Visitation of the Sick

Caring for the sick and needy is a job belonging to more than just the priest. Christ calls every one of his followers to love those who are suffering. We each have a special duty to minister to our fellow members in “the household of faith.” In the same way that individual sin affects the whole body of Christ, so does illness. St. Paul tells us, “If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it.”
(I Corinthians 12:26)
For this reason, it is very important that every member of All Saints contributes to the care for the sick through prayer and acts of mercy.

One of the priest’s primary tasks is indeed the visitation of the sick:

         The pastor will visit the sick and suffering as much as possible; but only the seriously ill will be visited on a daily basis.

         For you or your loved ones to be visited, it is imperative that an immediate family member call the priest. He cannot depend on word of mouth which is often unreliable.

         Members in good standing have first priority.

         Holy Unction is given to the seriously ill. There are no “last rites.”

“Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord…” (James 5:14)
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Home Blessings

On January 6, Orthodox celebrate the Feast of Epiphany or Theophany (the shining forth of God), commemorating the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by John the Forerunner. In this great feast we celebrate the initial appearance of Jesus as the Messiah, “the Lamb of God who takes  away the sin of the world,” (John 1:29) as John identified Him. At the baptism of Christ, He was also revealed to be one of the Holy Trinity, in the descent of the Spirit as a dove and the voice of the Father announcing “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)

A main feature of the Feast of Theophany is the Great Blessing of Water, and the tradition of having our homes blessed with the water. We need to understand the deep meaning of this practice. Christ’s immersion in the Jordan River represents His immersion into creation itself, at the same time foreshadowing His immersion into the tomb. The core of our Faith is that the Son of God took on corruptible human flesh to die and trample down death, liberating and transforming the whole cosmos, restoring the original goodness and holiness of all creation. Water is the most essential element of this redeemed creation. In consecrating it on Theophany we claim the entire cosmic renewal. By having ourselves and our homes blessed with this water we renew our own baptism into Christ’s work of redemption, begging Him to “shine forth” and fill our lives and homes with Himself.

Regarding the blessing of the homes of the faithful at _______________:

         The priest tries to bless homes during the Theophany season. Because of the church size, it continues year round, but be mindful of Theophany.

         The blessing of the home is not a social event. Take it seriously, with prayer and preparation. Televisions and radios must be off, and the family (at least one member!) should be present and attentive. Explain to your children the meaning of the ritual, including Theophany.

         Be sure to have ready a candle, an icon, a bowl of water, and a list of those you wish the priest to pray for.

         Special attention is given to families new to __________ or with new homes. If you are in one of these groups, call the priest to set up a time.

         Scheduling and rescheduling the blessing of homes in an 80 mile radius is a difficult task. Please be patient and cooperative.

         Gifts for the priest are absolutely unnecessary.

“When Thou, 0 Lord, was baptized in the Jordan, the worship of the Trinity was made manifest! For the voice of the Father bare witness to Thee, calling Thee His Beloved Son. And the Spirit, in the form of a dove, confirmed the truthfulness of his Word. 0 Christ our God, who hast revealed Thy self and hast enlightened the world, glory to Thee.”  (Troparion of Theophany sung at home blessings)
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Reading and Singing

Chanting and singing in the choir are each both a blessing and a privilege. The Holy Scriptures and the sacred prayers/hymnography of the Church must be read/sung with great care and responsibility. The worship of the whole assembly of faithful depends on how effectively these roles are fulfilled.

 

Singing

 

All are welcome to follow the choir in prayerfully singing. However, serving as part of the choir takes work and dedication. Members of __________ choir need to attend practice consistently. They should arrive early for services and attentively follow the director’s lead. It is crucial that the choir is together, in order to sing the words clearly and effectively enable everyone to pray. Anyone willing to commit to these things can freely speak to the director about singing in the choir. A basic ability to carry a tune is necessary, but choir experience is not.

Reading

 

The “reader” is actually a minor order in the Church; while many who read today are not formally tonsured, it is still a great responsibility to be treated seriously. Before anyone can read they must receive the blessing of the presiding celebrant. Readers are usually sought out by the clergy, for their desire to serve, dedication, and spiritual maturity.

Here are some basic guidelines to help readers prepare:

         Clarity of expression - Every word should be articulated with care. As there are often words that are difficult to pronounce, it is important for readers to be familiar with their text.

         Preparation - Besides needing to practice pronunciation, readers (of Scripture especially) should also prepare in advance to understand their reading. In past centuries, tonsured readers had to be able to study and meditate on the Scripture. When asked to read the Sunday Epistle, be sure to prepare the previous night.

         Reading with sobriety - It is not theatrical. The text should receive all the emphasis, not the person reading. This is why we chant, with basically the same inflection all the time. Do not inject your own personality or emotion into the text.

         Voice projection - It is better to err on the side of too loud so that everyone can hear the reading, even those with hearing difficulties. Of course, read at an appropriate volume; reading in the chapel should not be as loud as in the church.

         Speed of reading - Not too fast, not too slow! Aim for a rate which is fast enough to avoid dull droning, but slow enough to be reverent and comprehensible.
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Organizations

         Teen SOYO - Orthodox youth group, ages 12-19.

         Ladies Society

         Fellowship of Saint John the Divine

         The Order of Saint Ignatius of Antioch
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Church Bulletin

The primary function of the bulletin is to provide the faithful with Sunday’s Gospel and Epistle readings, the schedule of services for the week, and other church related information. It is not a bulletin for making personal and social announcements. It is a way to inform each other of prayer requests, usually in the form of “For the health and salvation of _____”, or “in memory of _____”. These and other suitable messages for the church need to be given to the church office by Thursday
at noon.
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