My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
WHAT IS THE FUNCTION OF A GREEK ORTHODOX PARISH?
The major function of a Greek orthodox parish is to guide and nurture the spiritual growth of its faithful through worship, education, and to maintain undefiled the Orthodox Christian Faith. In fulfilling this demanding role some of the basic functions for which the priest and parish council are largely responsible are:
First and foremost each parish functions for the celebration of the complete cycle of worship services and ecclesiastical functions. Literally, this means the celebration of the Divine Liturgy and other worship services, fulfilling the sacramental (μυστηριακή) needs of its people through Baptism, Marriage, Confession, and Holy Communion, visiting the sick, counseling the troubled, burying the dead and carrying out the many other services that represent the spiritual mission of the Church. In addition, the Church's mission program concerns itself with the proclamation of the Gospel in remote areas of the Archdiocese, and abroad in such places as Kenya, Uganda, and Korea.
The Teaching Ministry of the Church includes the Catechetical (Sunday) School, the Greek school, the parochial school (if the parish has one) and general programs of education for adults. The Department of Religious Education supplies textbooks, teacher manuals, audio-visual materials and other religious education aids for the parish program.
Benevolence is a fundamental obligation of every parish and stems from two sources: First, the priest, who is in the best position to know what individuals or groups are in need of assistance, and second, the Philoptochos Society, which functions basically to assist the needy and serve the community. On a larger level, the Archdiocese seeks the united assistance of all parishes when a national or overseas emergency such as an earthquake, hurricane, etc. demands united action.
The scope and effectiveness of the parish program are largely affected by the amount of funds that become available. This calls for efficient accounting procedures, a sound budget, and the constant challenge or raising funds. For nearly every parish its broad base of income lies in collecting the financial obligation of each member. No single financial obligation has been established for all parishes, and it is left to the discretion of each parish to determine its own financial structure. In addition, each parish forwards its "fair share", an annual allocation (in monthly installments), to the Archdiocese to assist in the overall work and obligations of the Church. This is called the "Total Commitment Parish Support Program" and helps meet the expenses of both the central offices and headquarters office of each Metropolis.
Membership in the Church begins with the sacrament of baptism. As we grow and become self-supporting individuals we are expected to assume our fair share of responsibility within the life of the parish. In years past "family memberships" were honored, that is, the head of the household became a member of the parish "on behalf of his entire family." This patriarchal system has become outmoded in meeting the needs of the Church so that today the husband, wife and all children over 18 are invited to become contributing members.
Stewardship is the means by which every Orthodox Christian is able to live as an integral and vital member of their community. It offers everyone in the parish an opportunity to participate in the Church by giving of one's time, talent and treasure. The prime objectives throughout the entire process are to stimulate, encourage, assist and strengthen growth in the faith of the Church membership, and to encourage the sharing of blessings within the church life of the community.
An active youth program is vital to the future of every parish. Young people want activity, but they also want leadership. No program varies more from year to year than the parish youth and young adult program, and while the Archdiocese has established basic guidelines, programming, and materials, these must be considered in light of local needs.
The programs for youth below 18 years of age include JOY, GOYA, scouting, Acolytes, summer camps and similar church-sponsored activities. The youth and young adult program for those over 18 years of age are 1) Young adult or GOYAL (Greek Orthodox Young Adult League), and 2) The campus program which is organized on a pan-Orthodox basis for students in colleges and universities.
The purpose of the Church's public relations is not merely for publicity, but to project to the world the Mother Church of Christendom, the Holy Orthodox Church, and elevate the public status of Orthodox Christianity. The progress of the parish can be advanced through effective public relations. Materials such as press releases, photographs, videocassettes, press kits, etc. are available from the Archdiocese to assist these endeavors.
The parish program of outreach to others should be based upon the community that surrounds it. Each parish has within its borders organizations, institutions, and groups of people that are in need of the gifts that the Church is uniquely qualified to provide: food, spiritual nurture, fellowship, clothing, visitations, invitations and others, all of which are basically gifts of time and love. Groups such as college students, patients in hospitals or nursing homes, military personnel, the homeless, the poor, inmates in prison, and others are all in need of the Church's outreach of love and compassion. In teaching His Disciples the Lord said: "Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me." (St. Matthew 25:40)
"These foregoing responsibilities...Worship, education, philanthropy, finances, youth, public relations, parish outreach...represent the broad functions of the local parish. Yet each parish is unique and may have particular areas of interest that can be served by special committees dealing with such interests. In the final analysis , it is the responsibility of each parish to fulfill its own program that best suits the needs of its people and the community in which it is located." (Source: Welcome to the Parish Council. A Guidebook for Parish Council Members of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America)
In Christ's Service,