DEFENDING THE FAITHHome > Spirituality > DEFENDING THE FAITH
Presentation by Father Tom Gallaway
DEFENDING THE FAITH: CATECHESIS OF THE
A. Parish Catechism: Teaching the Orthodox the Faith which established the Universe!
My dear brothers, it is both my pleasure and my honor to be asked to humbly address you on the vital subject of parish education. I am sure many of you are far more qualified but please accept my suggestions and I would invite your discussion and comments as part of the presentation. Those of us who are old enough to remember the OCEC’s (Orthodox Christian Education Commission) attempt to call total parish education to the forefront of Church life in the late 70’s are familiar with the chart they distributed to parishes throughout the early 80’s. The attempt was to be more than just a total “Sunday School” or “Church School” curriculum and invigorate the Church with an education ethic that reached every age group.
The environment and educational demands of a parish is greater today than they were 20 or so years ago which has been brought about by many factors. A few are as follows:
1). Increasing numbers of visitors and groups to your parish asking questions of both you and your faithful.
2). Increasing numbers of inquirers and catechumens of various and educated backgrounds.
3). Respond to the natural spiritual hunger of our own people many of which are influenced by TV., Radio, Internet, and door to door religious salesmen.
4). The loss of the “old world ethos” or bubba Orthodoxy that served for generations to stabilize our parishes.
Let me start with the last first.
Some 35 years ago when I first experienced the native orthodox ethos, I came to realize how much was being transmitted to the Orthodox from the environment itself. Icons in the houses, family meals with prayers and customs, and the guiding role of grandparents, particularly grandmothers, on the religious formation in a family. My peers, playmates, and parents are just too busy being American and “making it in our little town. As I grew up, the realization was that what little was known by most families came from grandparents. We now live in a world that much of this environment has faded because this generation has passed. I now also realize that much of what was taught was well meaning but not entirely accurate although they conveyed the true love for God and His Church. My experience with new immigrates in that they are less Church oriented and may contribute little to recapturing the native ethos of Orthodoxy. I came to realize that we must both teach and unteach as part of our mission.
What do we teach those already in the faith? And how?
What do we teach? …..everything! Bible, Doctrine, Worship, Ethics and moral ………all the same topics that you would teach some one who is coming to the church as a visitor. We may choose a more subtle approach to instruct those already in the church. Increasingly, and quite naturally, many native Orthodox may feel resentment towards “converts” telling them about “their Church”. They may know many things and our task is assist the faithful “ connect the dots” so to speak. I think this is understandable and ask each of us to be sensitive to this. On the other hand we must teach since we have been entrusted with this directive and empowered with theological education by our Bishops to see that this is done.
Several methods can be employed that are general in nature. Here are a few: Newsletters, bulletins with inserts, homilies or talks with Church groups on an issue; Questions at Home blessings and visits; Retreats; a tract rack, and a Parish lending library. These alone are not enough and formal classes are needed as part of a vision of Adult education. Here are some suggestions:
1). Sunday Morning Adult Classes
2). Weeknight classes or Weekday coffee discussion groups
3). Longer semester style studies or short topical classes or 3, 5, or 7 sessions.
a. SUNDAY CLASSES – are wonderful, however, many of us seldom have the opportunity since we do not have the facilities to hold one while the children are in class. It is a great way to reach the children’s parents and set an example for the kids about the seriousness of adult education.
b. The second issue is time. While we as priest, are celebrating Matins is generally a good time for the class but it eliminates the priest from being involved directly as a teacher. We must then turn to qualified laymen to handle these duties and oversee their work with the class. This also eliminates adults from attending Matins.
c. CONTENT: depending upon the style of class, topic, and duration a number of resources are available. Perhaps the best catalog to use as a test of what is on the market summary is Light and Life Publishing, Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Eighth Day Books also have a great selection)
1). General Teaching Material pp. 145-162
2). Pamphlets and booklets for your rack pp. 163-166
3). Pastoral and Preaching aids pp. 167 – 172
4). Spirituality pp.173-186
Introduction: OUR CHURCH booklet- light but discussion leading
Hopko 4 Volume series
Orthodox Church — Ware, Meyendorff, Bulgakov, or Coniaris — the best
are the first and last.
Adult Catechism — by Rev. George Mastrantonis; or
The Living God Vol. 2 by SVS Press
These are the Sacraments by Coniaris
Bible Studies are a staple of Parish Programming and increasingly thank God more Orthodox material is on the rise. See Light and life pp. 88-94. The downside is that there are few ready prepared orthodox studies available. I am familiar with two such studies …….OCEC 3 volumes The Bible, Jesus the Word, Jesus the Teacher. And Year of the Lord Liturgical Bible Studies by Fr. Theodore Stylianopoulos 5 volumes.
Adaptable are: Christ in the Palms by Fr. Patrick Reardon
The Ladder of the Beatitudes by Jim Forest
Christian life in the early Church and Today by Barbara Pappas
The Truths We Hold
Law of God
Additional Orthodox Material for your own lesson planning is as follows:
Orthodox Study Bible
The Old Testament 3 volumes Fr. Paul Tarazi
The New Testament an Introduction 4 volumes by Fr. Paul Tarazi
The Message of the Bible by George Cronk
The Explanation of the New Testament by blessed Theophylact of Bulgaria
Ancient Christian Commentaries on Scripture edited by T.C. Oden and C.A. Hall
Orthodox Adult Bible Study set by Joanna Manley
As in adult education you must decide the text, topic, and style of class. How many weeks, length of class, frequency in which they are to be held all must be considered. Currently in Lexington we are holding monthly 2 hour in depth topical studies but are planning a weekly class on the Gospel of John following Pascha. In years past following Pascha a study on the book of Acts was quite popular. Integrating the lectionary and the Bible Study on the same material can work out very well. Some Examples are. . . .Lent — Genesis, Isaiah or Psalms: Advent – Psalms, Prophecies from the Hours of Nativity. Inviting other knowledgeable laymen to join in on the planning of studies can also be quite rewarding.
Stewardship is not about money…. it is about commitment and service. I believe it must be approached as part of one’s spiritual life. The first to establish this rule or understanding of giving must be the priest. The priest must be seen as a giver not just a taker. Materials on Stewardship are on p. 186 of Light and Life.
L. Bete Coin. Inc. — 200 State Rd, South Deerfield, Ma. 01373 1-800-628-7733
Department of Stewardship — OCA
Department of Stewardship- Greek Archdiocese
Notes on Stewardship:
1). Priest must be an example and involved.
2). Emphasis on Christianity is a giving “religion” based on Jn. 3:16, empowered by Holy Spirit on Pentecost, “giving” of the Martyrs
3). Stewardship is not isolated from prayer, fasting and almsgiving but is part of a whole spiritual life.
4). “ ” is more than money … it is time, talents, and treasure and is based on a life of
service to God.
5). Priest should not collect money…alone… but only with a visible and public campaign in conjunction with the parish council or stewardship committee. We do not want people to think we are there only to “take” when they see us coming.
PRIEST ROLE IN EDUCATION
The Bishop is the teaching voice of the Church” rightly dividing the word of truth”. On the parish level the priest is the bishops representative and as such the teaching authority in the parish. It is my humble opinion that this covers all aspects of teaching…. bulletins, newsletter, Bible Studies, Catechism, Library Content, and the quality of the Church School. The priest is the front line defender of the faith and must oversee all public expressions of the faith.
VACATION CHURCH SCHOOL
Is a topic that I have thought about but never done primarily over sharing our facilities with a Day Care doing the week. Looking into material I am aware of the shortage of Orthodox material and the common utilization of Cokesbury Publishing products. This might be more harmful than useful in the long run. Recently I have become aware of Orthodox materials from the Greek Orthodox Church….Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church of Pittsburgh has produced 5 volumes or sets of Summer Programs; and We Are The Church – from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. . We Are The Church is professionally done, where as the Pittsburgh material is fair in production and fine in content. Other sources of readymade material may exist, and if so it would be great for us to exchange that information.
CHURCH SCHOOL SATURDAY’S
Since we have been unable to have a summer program we have had special Saturday programs in June and in August to serve as special educational sessions. These have been arranged and produced inside our community around a certain theme. During the school year several of these are also held and include lunch and a social activity like a hay ride, bowling, or skating. Our Community has found these as a great alternative.
B. INQUIRES CATECHISM — Instruction for marriage, baptism, and or chrismation.
MARRIAGE – 40% of all first marriages end in divorce and 60% of all 2nd marriages. Premarital counseling can assist a couple to target “flash points” in advance to assist relationship building by forcing discussion on substantial issues regarding marriage. Our society preaches planning a year in advance for a “wedding day” but nothing about preparing for the actual marriage. Materials on Marriage in Light and Life pp. 136-137.
Some materials are of a more useful quality than other as in previously covered areas. Over the years I personally, have used many things including the borrowed premarital inventor of the Roman Catholic Church.
Currently I have a 7 session meeting format covering the text Preserve Them O Lord by Fr.
John Mack as a basic text for discussion; The Archdiocese Service Book; and as supplemental reading material On Marriage and Family by St. John Chrysostom. . Most couples have felt that St. John’s writings are both enjoyable and timely leading to an increased reverence for Church Tradition. Other texts exist, but I do not know of any standardized program for Orthodox.
For Inter Faith Marriages consult your Archdiocese Priest Guide; and Guidelines for Orthodox Christian in Ecumenical Relations by Rev. Robert Stephanopolos; and see if any guidelines or agreements are in place with the local Roman Catholic Diocese. Such agreements do exist in West Virginia, Pittsburgh, PA, Greensburg PA, Johnstown PA. or statements on marriage to Orthodox as exist in all 4 Diocese of Kentucky.
Two classifications exist in looking at baptism. Infants of those who are Orthodox and those who are adults who desire to be Orthodox. It is an infant of an Orthodox I suggest a meeting or two with the parents and godparents regarding the importance, meaning and significance of baptism.
BAPTISM & CHRISMATION
For those coming to the Church from the “outside” DO NOT BE AFRAID TO TAKE YOUR TIME! Bread taken out of the oven to soon may look done yet it will be doughy (half baked) inside and be very disappointing; cakes will fall and wine that is rushed will soon lose it flavor and easily sour. My suggestion is a graduated progression into the faith from visitor to inquirer, inquirer to catechumen and take at least one to three years minimum for this formation of faith to take place in a catechumanate.
Educational Approach: Art is studied as a whole then to the particular, small sections or colors and then back to the whole again. So should study theology at any level in a similar way.
Inquirer: at this level a general study using a light book example OUR CHURCH combined with a folder for handouts and discussion notes or observations from church attendance.
Catechumen: must attend sets of classes that may range from 3, 5 or 7 session on Doctrine, Worship, History, and Spirituality. During this process, set time aside for individual meetings and tutorials being ready to customize readings on the Church as needed. I firmly believe that all catechumens should be pledging members before there entrance into the Church. Inner conversion must take place before entrance into the Sacramental Life. Orthodoxy can not be imposed for the outside but must come from the inside out. We confirm the Orthodoxy of the individual into the body of believers to actuate their participation in the Eucharist.
Materials: I have mentioned earlier and have used a variety over the years. Remember to use a variety of teaching techniques — i.e. Lectures, videos, discussions, reading materials and only approved sights from the internet.
Now I invite your comments and ask you to share your own procedures as well as discuss the establishment of GENERAL STANDARDS.
A New-Style Catechism on the Eastern Orthodox Faith for Adults; Rev. George Mastrantonis; The Logos Mission; 1969
A Companion to the Greek Orthodox Church; edited by Fotios K. Litsas; Department of Communication Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America, New York; 1984
These Truth We Hold, The Holy Orthodox Church: Her life and Teachings; edited by a Monk of St. Tikhon’s Monastery; St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press
The Orthodox Faith, volume iv, Spirituality; Fr. Thomas Hopko; Department of Religious Education; The Orthodox Church in America; 1976
The Orthodox Faith, volume iii, Bible and Church History; Fr. Thomas Hopko; Department of Religious Education, The Orthodox Church in America; 1973, 2nd Edition 1979
The Orthodox Faith, volume ii, Worship; Fr. Thomas Hopko; Department of Religious Education, The Orthodox Church in America; 1972, 2nd Edition 1976
The Orthodox Faith, volume i, Doctrine; Fr. Thomas Hopko; Department of Religious Education, The Orthodox Church in America, 1971
The Incarnate God, The Feasts of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, vol. i, Editor of French edition, Catherine Aslanoff, translated by Paul Meyendorff, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1995
The Incarnate God, The Feasts of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, vol. ii, Editor of French edition, Catherine Aslanoff, translated by Paul Meyendorff, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1995
The Living God, A Catechism, vol. 1, translated from the French by Olga Dunlop, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1989
The Living God, A Catechism, vol. 2, translated from the French by Olga Dunlop, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1989
The Orthodox Church, New Edition; Timothy Ware (Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia); Penguin Books
The Faith, Understanding Orthodox Christianity, An Orthodox Catechism, Clark Carlton; Regina Orthodox Press, 1997
The Truth, What Every Roman Catholic Should Know About the Orthodox Church; Clark Carlton; Regina Orthodox Press, 1999
The Way, What Every Protestant Should Know About the Orthodox Church; Clark Carlton; Regina Orthodox Press, 1997
Orthodox Christian Catechism, A Basic Instructional Guide to the Ancient Christian Faith;
prepared under the direction of His Grace, Bishop Basil; Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry, 1996
Orthodox Christian Catechism, A Basic Instructional Guide to the Ancient Christian Faith, Self-Directed Study Course, A Companion Volume; prepared under the direction of His Grace, Bishop Basil; Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry, 1999