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Training Up a Child: Educational Options for Orthodox Christians (His Grace Bishop Thomas)

My son Timothy, you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, my sufferings, what befell me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra, what persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived.

Summer Liturgy

by Phyllis Meshel Onest, M.Div.

The summer will be upon us soon and I'm sure we're thinking about vacations, relaxing, fewer or no car pools, lots of sunshine (very important for those of us in Ohio and other parts of the Midwest), a slower lifestyle, ball games, visits to the zoo and amusement parks, short trips to places of interest, working around the house, gardening, summer sports leagues, and more.

It seems to me that regardless of the time of year, we all have much for which to thank God, and as His creations, we need to worship our Creator. As you begin to fill the calendar with activities, try not to let Sunday Liturgies fall by the wayside! For those whose parishes conduct Church School during Liturgy, this is the time to help our children learn to worship and reinforce what was learned "about" worship in class. For all of us summer should be less stressful which should, in turn, enhance our participation in Liturgy. Some parishes even go to earlier "summer hours" so that families can have more of the day for summer fun. This is also a good time to visit nearby sister Orthodox parishes.

Graduation Day (Robert J. Snyder)

Graduation Day- we look forward to it with great anticipation. It’s a rite of passage from adolescence to adulthood. This rite of passage maybe true for Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. Most great teachers will tell you that the schooling received prior to graduation is only a preparation for “learning to learn” and a lifetime of learning. And so it must be with Christian education.

Saints Peter and Paul

The following two articles pertain to Saints Peter and Paul, who we commemorate on June 29th. Both articles were taken from the Orthodox Family Life Archives.

Epistle: 2 Corinthians 11:21-12:9
Gospel: Matthew 10:13-19


 

St. Peter traditionally is regarded as the leader of the Twelve Disciples of Jesus. He was intimately connected with the earthly life and ministry of our Lord, and after His death tried to preserve the spiritual legacy left by Jesus to him followers. In the course of his missionary journeys, Peter founded the Church in Antioch, where the followers of Jesus were first called Christians. St. Peter is regarded by the Church as the first Bishop of Antioch, and the present-day Patriarch of Antioch is his successor in that Apostolic See.

St. Paul is the greatest of missionaries. The marvelous story of conversion on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:1-12) is hardly more striking than the rest of his life, one of the greatest adventure stories of history.

Keeping Lent at Home

The following article was taken from the “Orthodox Family Life” archives. May it provide motivation, encouragement, and direction in your journey through Great Lent.

by Matushka Nadia Koblosh

When asked to write an article about what we do in my family to prepare for Pascha, my initial reaction was to decline for I felt vaguely uncomfortable writing on such a subject. It is my feeling that Lent is, be definition, more a time of doing than of talking.

But on second thought, I decided to go ahead. I think there are legitimate questions and problems all Orthodox parents have who sincerely desire to keep Lent and instruct their children in its meaning. And this includes priestly families as well as lay, for there is no special Lent for rectories as opposed to "normal" families! I think that these common questions naturally call for a common discussion and sharing and it is in this vein that I share my thoughts.

Lenten Goals

First is the whole reality of Lent as such. I think it is very important to approach Lent not as some period of "religious intensity" as opposed to some other period that is not so "religious." In a real sense, the whole Christian life at all times is naturally "Lenten" because the whole Christian life is a preparation for death, resurrection, and judgment. In a way, all Christians are monks and pilgrims. Lent only serves to focus and intensify this basic element of Christian life. I think that if we really experience Lent in all its beauty and power, its spirit always remains with us - even sitting on a beach during a July vacation! This is one goal our family strives for and what we try to cultivate in our children.

Why Do We Have Our Homes Blessed?

by Phyllis Meshel Onest, M.Div.

Begin Everything with Prayer

Since we are reminded in Scripture to begin whatever we do with prayer, it has been the practice of Orthodox Christians for centuries to have new dwellings blessed either before or just after settling in. This has been extended to one's business or office, and even college dorm rooms. "The service performed by the priest to bless the new dwelling is somewhat similar to the consecration of a church [in the Russian practice] in that holy water, holy oil, and incense are used and a lesson from the holy Gospel is read. All the rooms of the house are sprinkled with holy water and each of the four outer walls are anointed with the sign of the Cross with holy oil, a candle placed before them, and after the censing of the house, the lesson from the Holy Gospel is read [in Greek practice the service of the Small Blessing of Waters is generally done]. At the conclusion of the blessing, the inhabitants are blessed with holy water: the husband first, followed by the wife and then the children - the oldest first. Relatives and friends present are then blessed." (Marriage and the Christian Home, by Rev. Michael B. Henning, p.24.)

Let’s Celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas

by Melissa K. Tsogranis

O Christ, what shall we offer You for Your coming on earth as a Man for our sake? Every creature that has its being from You give thanks to You: the angels offer hymns of praise, the heavens give a star: wise men present their gifts, and the shepherds, their wonder; the earth provides a cave and the desert a manger. As for us, we offer You a Mother, a Virgin Mother. O God who are from all eternity, have mercy on us!
–from the service of Great Vespers

The presents have been opened, the food has been eaten, and the Christmas tree is really starting to shed—yes, your house is showing the effects of Christmas Day. Now you begin to focus on putting your house and life back together from the hectic pace you have likely kept since Thanksgiving. But while the “holiday season” may be winding down—for Christians the Christmas season is just getting started. You’ve heard of the 12 days of Christmas, right? This is when they begin!

Two Articles on Christianity and School

Below you will find two articles taken from the archives of Orthodox Family Life. May God bless you and your families as you begin a new school year.


 

Making the Most of Your Children's Public School Education

by Ann Marie Gidus-Mecera

While the trend of many Christians today, including a growing number of Orthodox Christians, is to home school their children, many have chosen (or do so out of necessity) to educate their children through the public school systems.

Any concerned Orthodox parent is aware of the negatives attached to a public school education, and very often struggle with this on an on-going basis. While the purpose of this article is not to defend the benefits of a public school education, it will attempt to help Orthodox parents turn those negative factors into positive learning experiences.

Family Activities for the Lenten Journey

by Shelley Pituch

One idea that leads and guides our family during the Lenten season is the use of our Lenten coin box. Around the start of the Great Fast, we bring home our Lenten coin boxes from church. Throughout the season, we are to give alms to the poor and needy by putting coins into the box. After celebrating the Feast of Pascha, we return our filled coin boxes to church, who then distributes the money to those in need.

A Second Round of Soul Searching

by Carole A. Buleza

This article is the second in a series based on Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, by Christian Smith with Melinda Lundquist Denton (Oxford University Press, 2005. The book received the 2006 Christianity and Culture Book Award.  The first article, “Christianity’s Mis-begotten Child” appeared in the March 2011 issue of The Word.

I knew that I would be writing more articles based on this book, which I consider exceptionally insightful and valuable. Soul Searching is the project report of professors at the University of North Carolina who received a grant to investigate how important faith is to American teenagers, why, and in what ways. The book received Christianity Today's 2006 Christianity and Culture book award.

The data for the report was gathered from 3,290 teenagers in the United States. The majority of the teenagers categorized themselves as Christian (82%); Protestants comprised the majority (52%) and Catholics were second (23%). The third largest category, those who considered themselves not religious, accounted for 16% of the respondents (31).

The book offers not only statistics but excerpts from the many interviews that were conducted, and the reflections of the authors. From my experience of working with teens and having two of my own, their analyses are correct, and their reflections are extremely valuable. Furthermore, they believe the beliefs held by the teenagers reflect those of the baby boomer generation, making the book valuable not only for youth ministers but also for pastors.

Preparing for Our Lord's Nativity

For the first four centuries of Christian history the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord was not a separate Church feast.

It was celebrated with Epiphany in one great feast of God’s appearance on earth in the form of the human Messiah of Israel.

The celebration of the Nativity began to be celebrated on Dec. 25 to offset the pagan festival of the "Invincible Sun" that occurred on that specific day. The Church consciously established it in an attempt to defeat the false religion of the heathens.

The Troparion of the Feast calls us to adore Christ, “the True Sun of Righteousness" (Malachi 4:2), who is Himself worshiped by all elements of nature, rather than worshiping the sun and stars. The three Wise Men or Magi (i.e. Sages) were astronomers, people who studied the stars.

Two Articles on Orthodox Education: Public School and Home School

The following articles are archived selections from Orthodox Family Life. The first deals with secular education in the public school setting. The second article pertains to Orthodox Home School, which is becoming increasingly popular and more common. Whether your children are part of the public school system or receiving their instruction at home, there are specific challenges unique to each setting. 


 

Making the Most of Your Children's Public School Education

by Ann Marie Gidus-Mecera

While the trend of many Christians today, including a growing number of Orthodox Christians, is to home school their children, many have chosen (or do so out of necessity) to educate their children through the public school systems.

Any concerned Orthodox parent is aware of the negatives attached to a public school education, and very often struggle with this on an on-going basis. While the purpose of this article is not to defend the benefits of a public school education, it will attempt to help Orthodox parents turn those negative factors into positive learning experiences.

Book Review: Christian Education in the Small Membership Church, Part 3

Part 3: Where Does It Take Place?

Click here to read Part 1
Click here to read Part 2

In her book Christian Education in the Small Membership Church, Karen Tye discusses the beginnings of the Sunday School, and the reasons it became relegated to formal Sunday morning classes exclusively.  In this section, she encourages us to expand our vision of Christian Education beyond the traditional Sunday morning box, to examine the one-room schoolhouse model , and the homeschooling concept of education.

The one-room school model is firmly fixed in American history, as it was the way early small communities collaborated to educate their children.   This form of education is certainly custom made for the small church school, which must of necessity have groups with a range of ages, as did the one-room schoolhouse.  In this sort of setting, older children learn while helping younger ones, and younger children have the older students as ready-made role models.  Each student learns at his own pace, and receives individual attention from the teacher, and there is very little presented in the group lesson format. 

Book Review: Christian Education in the Small Membership Church, Part 2

Part 2: It's all About People!

Click here to read Part 1

In her book Christian Education in the Small Membership Church, Karen Tye reminds us that Christian education, like so many other things in life, is not primarily about programs or curriculum, it is about people.  When you are talking about a smaller church and its educational program, this is even more the case.  In a smaller church, you do not have the large numbers to draw from for participation, everyone knows everyone else, and in general, healthy interaction with the people involved becomes even more crucial.  The history of the parish comes into play, and so do the personalities of the parishioners.  Positively, in smaller programs, the talents and good will of the people are often the greatest assets of the church school.

Tye feels, along with most educators and psychologists, that there are three aspects of the human being that must be taken into account when teaching them- especially children:

Book Review: Christian Education in the Small Membership Church

Part 1:  Who Are We?

In her book Christian Education in the Small Membership Church, Karen Tye reviews the tendency of churches in America to want to “Super Size” their churches, much as we do our burger meals. She emphasizes however, that small churches are not just smaller, but also, different from their larger counterparts, and that we must realize this as we plan any programs in our churches, perhaps especially Christian Education programs. Smaller is not only different, but in some respects, better for the purposes of educating our children. While there are certainly differences between our Orthodox Churches and the Protestant ones she focuses on, most of the generalities she discusses run true for us also.

The first step in planning Christian Education programs in the smaller church, Tye says, is to evaluate what you have in your particular church.  There are certain characteristics of all small churches:

  1. There’s a strong sense of community
  2. It’s like a family
  3. It has deep traditions
  4. There is a high percentage of participation
  5. The organizational structure tends to be simple in nature
  6. Worship is the prime activity

While some of these characteristics may show up very strongly in one church, another may find different characteristics more true for them.  Deciding what your church “is,” involves evaluating the degree to which each is applicable in your case.

Moral Issues Overview for the Department of Christian Education

Some years ago when I was the Eastern Region Teen SOYO spiritual advisor, I was asked to put together a Teen Retreat Manual that could be used by Church School Teachers as well as SOYO members to hold retreats for their teens which were based on Moral Issues. The Eastern Region Teens at that time chose the topics they wanted covered in the manual. This manual became a how-to manual for setting up retreats as well as outlines for talks during those retreats. That manual was later published by the Antiochian Archdiocese of Christian Education and sold through the bookstore.

Today the Orthodox Christian Education Commission (OCEC) is conducting teacher training programs for our Church School teachers throughout the US and Canada. In the second set of Teacher Trainings, we cover moral issues. At the Orthodox Institute held each November at the Antiochian Village, I have been asked to address moral issues once again. From those talks and discussions and in the preparation of materials used for the OCEC manual, The Way, The Truth, and The Life, I put together the following booklet that I have used in workshops, Teen classes and retreats.

As I was asked to prepare the material for this July posting, I wanted to share this material with our readers. I have run it off as a booklet and given it to our teens to read. This can be done a week in advance, or, since it is short and concise, it can even be given to the teens at a retreat or conference to read the night before the discussion is held. It is by no means an exhaustive work on moral issues, but I think it touches on and introduces ideas for discussion.

I hope you find it useful in your ministry with our children.

In Christ, 

V. Rev. Fr. George Alberts

Take the Summer Challenge!

It’s so easy to get caught up in our vacation plans and grow lazy in our church attendance and spiritual life during the summer months.  As the following story reveals, God never goes on vacation and we shouldn’t find excuses to take a vacation from church.  How can we continue on our journey with Christ during the summer months?  Try implementing some of the ideas below and use them for inspiration in finding additional ways to keep your family close to Christ! 

Creation, Wonder and Ecology

For the Lord is a great God, and a great king over all the earth.
In His hand are the deep places of the earth;
The heights of the hills are His also.
The sea is His, for He made it;
And His hands formed the dry land.
Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.   (Ps. 95: 3-7)

There is nothing that our great God has created in heaven and earth that does not have its purpose.  He gave us the four seasons; one for planting; one for growing; a season to reap the harvest and a season for the earth to rest and be ready for renewal. 

He gave us the sun to warm us and light for the labor of our day.  He gave us the moon and the stars in the evening to soften the darkness we need to rest from our labors. 

He gave us the animals to help us in our labors.  He gave us the plants for food and to bring beauty to our lives.

We are the breath of God, created in His image.

Ways to Share Great Lent and Pascha with Your Child

Children are never too young to be brought to Church for services. The sooner we introduce them to the Church, her services, and her wisdom, the sooner we begin the process of "becoming" an Orthodox Christian. In order for Orthodoxy to make sense, our children need to experience all that the Church offers.

Make it part of this year's Lenten commitment to attend more services, or attend more often. When Holy Week comes, block out all other activities. Make it a point to attend every service you can with your children. Be creative so that you can keep little ones directed and occupied. Locate service books for children who can read. Explain what's going to happen. Talk about what Holy Week and Pascha were like when you were growing up.

The following article is taken from the Orthodox Family Life Archives:
http://www.theologic.com/oflweb/lentpask/share.htm

 

Ways to Share Great Lent and Pascha with Your Child

Christianity's Mis-begotten Child

By Carole A. Buleza, Director

I am not alone in thinking there is something very wrong with Christianity today. A particularly salient symptom is the phrase, “It doesn’t matter the church you go to, we all worship the same God.” The disorder has been named “relativism,” but I believe I have found the true diagnosis: moralistic therapeutic deism.

I came across the phrase “moralistic therapeutic deism,” or “MTD,” in the middle of Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, by Christian Smith with Melinda Lundquist Denton (Oxford University Press, 2005). The book is the research report of professors at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. By way of forms, phone calls, and personal interviews, they surveyed 3,290 teenagers from around the United States to find out how important their faith was to them, why, and in what ways. The book contains stories as well as data, and received Christianity Today’s 2006 Christianity and Culture Book Award–-well-deserved.

Nativity Greetings from Bishop Thomas

Beloved in Christ,

Greetings in the name of our incarnate God and Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ!

As we turn our thoughts once more to the birth into this world of the God-man Jesus, let us consider what God has given us to witness. While His conception at the Annunciation to the Virgin was in secret, His birth reveals Him openly. And what is revealed?

It is that our God, the Maker of all things, eternal, invisible, untouchable and incomprehensible to mortal man has now become one of us, a member of the human race. He retains His eternality while stepping into time. He remains the invisible God while becoming visible. He is beyond touching yet is now touchable. And though His essence as God is forever incomprehensible to us, in His incarnation as man, He has become truly knowable.

From the Director’s Desk

Greetings in the name of Our Lord,

I finished reading the book Soul Searching recently and believe that it has a great deal to say to those involved with the catechesis of children and youth. The authors, Christian Smith and Melissa Lundquist Denton, conducted a research project to find out about the religious and spiritual lives of today’s youth. The subject of my essay “Christianity’s Mis-begotten Child” is one of several topics treated in the book. Although the researchers surveyed mainly Protestant youth, the results are important to us too, as we live in a predominantly Protestant culture. My title ties the secularization of Christmas to the beliefs expressed by the majority of youth surveyed.

One major finding of the researchers was that today’s Christians are very inarticulate about their faith.

Coming Soon to a Parish Near You: Training Institutes!

Ontario Training InstituteOntario Training InstituteDon't miss these training events this fall:

October 2, 2010, at St. Philip Church, 15804 – 98 Street, Edmonton, AB. Contact Nellie Salloum at njsalloum@yahoo.com. 

     Go HERE for the Priest's Letter; Go HERE for the flyer; Registration information and details HERE.

October 9, 2010, Christ the Saviour Church, 5501 Old Locust Lane, Harrisburg, PA 17109. Contact Myra Kovalak, mekovalak@gmail.com.

     Go HERE for the flyer; Registration information and details HERE.

October 23, 2010 at the “Orthodox Institute Ontario,” St. George Church, Richmond Hill. Contact Joanieunis@hotmail.com.

     Go HERE for the flyer; Registration information and details HERE.

Ontario Training InstituteOntario Training InstituteDon't miss these training events this fall:

October 2, 2010, at St. Philip Church, 15804 – 98 Street, Edmonton, AB. Contact Nellie Salloum at njsalloum@yahoo.com. 

     Go HERE for the Priest's Letter; Go HERE for the flyer; Registration information and details HERE.