With the start of the new liturgical year, we look forward to the first two major feast days of the Church on September 8 and September 14. In addition we will celebrate multiple baptisms this weekend with Church School classes beginning Saturday, September 12 at 4:00 pm.
We are also anticipating St. Barbara's First Annual Parish Ministries Fair to be held during the Coffee Hour on Sunday, September 13 from 12:00 noon to 1:00 pm. Such fairs are apparently quite prevalent in some non Orthodox Churches. I am told that this particularly true within a Roman Catholic context. The basic purpose of our fair, however, is to offer an introduction to the ministries within St. Barbara's as represented by members of the Council. Each ministry will have a small booth at the fair in the Church hall, with take home materials available. Each Council member will be open to suggestions for future service, as well as to members of the parish offering their time and talents through these and other important ministries. The fellowship hour will be coordinated in the same manner as usual. Our hope is that between 12:00 noon and 1:00 pm on September 13 members of the parish will take a look at the various booths and speak to Council members about their efforts and future opportunities.
As an introduction to our Ministries Fair I would like to focus in this month's bulletin on words from Archpriest Sergei Glagolev. On one occasion while speaking specifically about lay ministries, Fr. Sergei shared profound yet practical thoughts with his audience that we may find useful as well. His words reflect the natural interest and emphasis on Church ministries with Orthodox and non Orthodox churches alike.
The Offensive Line:
Born in 1927, Fr. Glagolev is a venerable Orthodox priest, renowned musician and educator in the Orthodox Church in America. In one particular talk he compared lay ministries -- the service to God and others as offered by the entire parish -- to the offensive line of a football team. If the bishop, priests and deacons may be compared to quarterbacks, running backs, and receivers, then just as these players have their abilities enabled by the presence of a good offensive line, likewise, Fr. Sergei says, the people in a parish working together (like a good offensive line) enable each member of the Church (each player, if you will, including the bishop, priest and deacon) to perform his task to the best of his ability.
Continuing with the image of the Church as a team, Fr. Sergei invokes the venerable name of Howard Cosell -- now deceased -- but a legend in the world of broadcasting. Fr. Sergei's basic message is that the Church always desires more team members, but is not usually in need of announcers highlighting plays from the booth.
"The bottom line," he says, "is that we don’t want another generation of Howard Cosell's to talk football. I’m so tired of hearing explanations about this or that - or giving explanations. Let’s train people to help instead of talking the game, talking about missions or church schools. Let’s learn the skills so that we can teach others in order to make the Church grow, so that it might be the extension of power, grace, love and fullness that it is called to be in this country.
Fr. Sergei continues: "What I have in mind is power, people-power - not programs, not even materials - but rather people-power, power of the "laos," the lay people. This is where our strength is. “Lay ministries” is getting back to the basics of equipping all believers, all the faithful, to use their gifts and talents for the work of the Church; that is, not (just) to attend services, but to be of service, to be the servers, the ministers.
"Orthodox worship itself is called “service” by no accident. The worship of the church is an enterprise of all the Christian people who are known by one word - “servant.”"
The Christian as Servant:
Fr. Glagolev teaches that "in the sacraments, all Christians are addressed by one word - “servant” and this implies that no one may contract out of rendering service to Christ and His Church." He goes on to say that in each sacrament people are referred to by name, that sacramentally the reference to "commitment" is intentionally personal. Fr. Sergei states that in the Church, "we are identified as the servant of God, Mary, the servant of God, Andrew, the servant of God, Ann, the servant of God... That’s what we’re called to be, what we’re called to do - to be the servant of God, to be the servant of the parish, to be the servant of the diocese - the servant of God, and specifically by name. This is what ministries is all about."
Our Ministries Within the World:
Fr. Sergei states that, Baptism, Chrismation, and all other sacraments -- in which we are called "servants" -- are meant to prepare us for ministering, for our ministries in this world. Christ was Baptized, He fasted, prayed and was even "tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:14). All of this, "prepared Him for His ministry."
Fr. Glagolev goes on to say that,
"Now, who is supposed to continue this earthly ministry (of Jesus)? In His prayer for His Church (John 17) Christ says, “I do not pray that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from evil.” “As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” We remain in the world. Why? In order to do what? In order to continue Christ’s ministry in His Body, the Church."
"All are called to this ministry of service. We are not called simply to fulfill the fast and then to say, “Oh, good, Christ is risen!” or “Christ is born!” Our fasting must lead us, prepare us, again and again, reinforce in us again and again, our calling to minister."
Teach, Preach and Heal:
Fr. Sergei asks, "what was this ministry of Our Lord’s?" The answer: "to teach, to preach, and to heal. According to Fr. Glagolev:
"If our lives do not teach, preach, heal by our example, then (he says) we are no Christians at all! Teaching does not mean “to explain” the way we explain icons. We are called to "be" icons! Do you realize that if an icon doesn’t teach, preach, or heal, then it isn’t an icon, either? It is the same thing with us. That we are to teach does not mean “to explain” or “to talk about” but rather to be the followers of Christ, to "be" the doers of Christ.
Fr. Sergei emphasizes that, "In order to teach, preach and heal, the ministry of stewardship is crucial. We must learn how to manage our lives since there is never enough time, money, and resources to do everything that we are called to do in this overwhelming task for the growth and evangelization of the Orthodox Church in America. Without the stewardship and management of our priorities and our resources, we will make very little progress.
"The prophet Joel says in Chapter 2, “And it shall come to pass afterward... that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh -- on all people -- your sons and daughters shall prophesy, -- (In other words, they will be able to speak, to witness, will be able by their example to show that Jesus Christ is in their midst, that He is risen, that He has filled us, and that we ourselves are now partakers in His victory over sin and death) -- your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even upon the menservants and maidservants -- (upon them all) -- in those days, I will pour out my spirit.” (Joel 2:28-29)
"This is the kind of ministry we should be talking about in youth ministries and in the ministries of the aged. Parish growth is the work of the Parish Council, and the work of the Parish itself in evangelizing the community...
Fr. Glagolev states further that,
"Family life - this is where the ministries begin. The training to serve begins in the family itself. And in the witness of our family life, we give our witness to the community, witness to Orthodoxy by what we are, how we live, by the goals and priorities we manifest in our lives. This is what witness truly is, not another teaching film. By our witness, yours and mine, people will see how we live, how we behave, what our goals are, what Orthodoxy is all about. So, when someone says, “What is Orthodoxy?”, the usual answers ...won’t be necessary. They won’t have to ask questions if, as Joel suggests, the witness of our lives will show what it should or could be, if we take this business of lay ministries seriously. Then those who are outside the Church will say, “Who are these people that love each other so much? What kind of church do they have that it gives them that kind of power, those kinds of priorities in their lives? Look at how they rejoice! Look how happy it makes them!” They won’t see us going around with a sad face saying, “I’m Orthodox, I’m fasting.”"
Holy Scriptures -- Our Teacher:
And finally Fr. Sergei provides key passages from the Bible -- with personal commentary -- as reflections upon the topic of Lay Ministries, of service to the Lord and to one another. Matthew 20:26-28 “...whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as the ransom for many.”
John 12:25-26 “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me, the Father will honor him.”
I Corinthians 4:1 “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” (The “mysteries of God” does not just mean ordination, but all the sacraments.)
Galatians 6:14-15 “But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” A new creation, a new humanity, and this new humanity is recognized, is manifested by our behavior, by what we do, by what our goals are, not by our talk.
Philippians 2:5-8 “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” We read in this passage, and in the Liturgy of St. Basil, that He lowered Himself to the likeness of a servant so that in our serving, we might liken ourselves to His glory - doxa. Hopefully, it will be the right glory - orthdoxa.
I Peter 2:9-10 “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were no people but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy.” And, finally,
I Peter 4:8-11 “Above all hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins. Practice hospitality ungrudgingly to one another. As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s varied Grace: whoever speaks, as one who utters oracles of God; whoever renders service, as one who renders it by the strength which God supplies; in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ."
Having read the above thoughts from Fr. Sergei we hope that everyone will join us for the Divine Liturgy and for the Ministries Fair on Sunday, September 13. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact either Fr. Basil or one of our Parish Council Members.