Wednesday, January 20, 2016

a successful resolution for 2016 (so far)- reading aloud every day

Life gets crazy, I teach at the college late, and I needed a push to read aloud to my children. I made it a resolution for the new year, and I told them. They keep me honest. 
My children are 16, 15, 8 and 6; all are fluent readers and book-lovers except for the baby. She would be considered behind if we were at a brick and mortar school, but we are working slowly as usual in our homeschool. My gentle, slow and steady method of teaching reading has been successful but perhaps 'behind' by today's standards. Children #1 and #3 were fluent at the end of second grade and child #1 was fluent at the end of first grade. 
One reason why they love reading, I believe, is because I read to them a lot. With only one non-reader, I feel like I wasn't reading to them enough. My resolution was to read a chapter from our chapter book and one picture book a day every day- bare minimum. So far, so good. Here is what we have read this year so far (affliate links if you click through and buy) ....
our chapter books- finishing up

...it is so satifying when Nellie gets her comeuppance, and the Christmas chapter is so wonderful. I love stories that depict true girl power in a context of family and morality. My children listens and wondered to the portions about church days. They cannot understand going to church in a space that is simply an empty box with no vestments, icons, stautes or Eucharist. They can appreciate the Bible verse memorization, though and poor Laura's humilation when the teacher gave her the shortest verse to memorize. 
We are reading The Trumpet of the Swan. I adore the language of the prideful cob swan father; his vocabulary is so challenging to my six-year old, but he uses so many synonyms in a row that everyone understands the new words in context. This is a story that is really all about overcoming disability to the best of one's ability... lots of lessons here, but not preachy or heavy-handed. 
some of our 2016 picture books so far...mostly for fun
I Really Like Slop! by Mo Willems is a new favorite. Gerald the elephant decides to try a tiny bit of slop (part of 'pig culture') so he can understand his best friend, Piggie. Elephant and Piggie books consistently depict strong, loving friendship and empathy. We love them!
The Flowers' Festival by Elsa Beskow is vintage illustration at its best with a beautifully gentle, simple story. The only conflict is that the troublesome weeds want to join the flowers in their Midsummer party. I am on the hunt for her other books.  
We keep our Christmas books in a bin, hidden away; it only comes out during St Philip's Fast (Advent) and the Christmas season. Mr Willowby's Christmas Tree is a new favorite. What happens when the tree is too tall for the room? Trim it, and then....someone else gets the trimmings...and then...
Jen Brett just is Christmas for me, so we read all of her works during wintertime... every book has so many surprises to find....and I love hedgehogs!

We enjoy everything from Tomie dePaola. Probably our favorite is The Holy Twins, about saints Benedict and Scholastica. The Legend of the Poinsettia and The Night of Las Posadas are Christmas favorites.  
Debi Gilmore's crabby small fox asks his mother- "if I were a squishy bug, would you still love me and give me a hug?" She answers like all mothers, fox, chicken, sheep or human. 
and there were so many more! It has been fun fulfilling this resolution! 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

What concrete steps could improve your Eastern Christian faith community? survey results



In the words of one of the priests, teach them that it's a church, not a club. We need to reach out and bring in, one by one, the scattered and lost
more spirituality
projects to help needy / sick / incarcerated
I'm not sure, we have regular teachings and lots of activities already, but maybe keeping our website updated would be a good start.
Encourage men that are married to educate at local seminaries rather than up and leave family to study at the designated seminaries. I believe this may encourage an increase in men who are considering the priesthood.
We'd love to have a permanent community in this area that we could attend more regularly.
Visitors not being run out by obnoxious behavior by a zealous nationalist, or something like that
Try to go to more services, learn more about the faith.
Active outreach to unchurched/dissatisfied; public events to raise visibility; efforts on the part of members to bring more people to parish
that some members would attend Divine Liturgy more frequently.
More open and growth oriented.
Pews gotta go!! I'm always trying to be an "non-ethnic" promoter of the parish, and welcoming to visitors. I have been thinking about doing "St. Paul Street Evangelization" for the parish. I wrote a book about the icons in the temple. I take a turn reading the epistle, and try to do a good job. Amateurish reading detracts from the liturgy. We have icons in Greek and in the ethnic language. We have a few icons without names, and I tried to get them added in English, but got shot down. I think even a couple icons in English would send a message to visitors. Change the name of the sui iuris church, at how it's referred to in English. From what I can tell, the band we have now only dates from the mid-20th century, and the patriarch discussed changing it in the 1990s.
Something like an organized Eparchical RCIA. Training in things like an organized evangelization. Training and encouragement in things like the Byzantine Divine Office.
Outreach to others in need throughout the community. Currently, they only care for Greeks.
I figure the best thing I can do at this point is pray and try to be kind to fellow parishioners.
Closer cooperation with other Eastern Christian communities, both Catholic and Orthodox.
More clergy
Extending an invitation to others to visit our parish and worship with us more often.
better advertising perhaps.
Getting help from the bishop for new books, and a better church website.
If I had the answer to this, it would be wonderful
I have given this much thought. in my childhood, my father became a cantor and our entire family has served in several Byzantine parishes in many, many capacities throughout my lifetime. I personally have taught ECF for over 30 years until just a few years ago when the program was disbanded. I am at a loss...I just wish there was more enthusiasm on the part of the clergy. They just seem so tired. They are stretched so thin that there is no time for spiritual fatherhood. They don't reach out anymore. My humble opinion is that it may be time to merge parishes to give us the sense of community that we long for, and a priest who has time to take care of us, and who takes the spiritual leadership of his flock seriously. Many here are so apathetic, and it is difficult for their flock to feel otherwise when they are faced with such leadership.
I'm not sure what I can do, someone suggested we start a young adult group but then stopped attending the parish.
Change the priest. Barring that, have the priest understand that the people have good ideas too and to listen. Have a parish council. Have ECF and adult education and teen groups.
Better pastoral leadership - concrete action to help disciple believers and lead the congregation to a "faith that works".
evangelisation, more parish activities, more parish sponsored open invitation events
Printed and digital newsletter, digital bulletin on web site, frequent web updates
If we could provide our priest with housing, he would not have to work full-time outside of the parish.
If we could grow it. For example, being raised Roman Catholic I kind-of (in a very fringe way) may have known Eastern Catholics existed but I knew nothing about them.
We need more fellowship. We have limited space but when we do have a social event we overflow into the church. We need to do more of this. I know it's not supposed to be about the money but we need to do a major fundraiser. It has been over ten years since our last one.
Offer more liturgical services.
Evangelization
Try to stay out of and dispel conflicts. Try to be impartial and peaceful and lead by example of God's Love. At some point try to get my head organized enough to come up with something for the young adults to participate in and enjoy.
More youth activities, more effort to make visitors welcome.
Better catechesis??
More clergy.
Priest in residence
Reach out to the community to grow our parish, make others aware that the church is here.
Invite more people my age, help the young people feel welcome and appreciated
1. better cantors 2. regular choir rehearsals 3. Reaching out to those that now attend Latin churches 4. Having a Bible study
A hungry administrator ready to evangelize the people.
Education of the parishioners in what is truly their tradition.
They need more parishes for the unchurched or churched immigrants who live far away.
doing more akathists
Act as if one's eternal destiny depended on one's faith, and then spread that faith to others.
Evangelization to unchurched
prayer
Bigger building would encourage growth. Congregation may be right sized for our tiny chapel.
Education classes on the bible and the liturgy and theology.
a younger priest able to offer all the feast days, etc.
Actually my friend and I organized an after church lunch/coffee hour! Next week will be the first one so I hope it goes well. I was craving more community with them.
Increased church and activity attendance
A priest and regular access to the Divine Mysteries. Our own space from whence we could engage in evangelization and outreach to the community.
The priest could use some help, additional priest.
emphasis on Byzantine tradition and follow the typikon; release financial statements
More outreach to nonbelievers, other Rites.
I'd like to see the kids do more because I believe that will lead to them feeling more ownership which means they will be more likely to stay with us as adults.
being a Community instead of paying lip service to it
I'm a Latin Catholic - not in a position to say one way or another
Find ways to better integrate the local population.
Catechism and falling in love with the Divine Liturgy.
We'd try to build steps to greater evangelization, using our personal talents/skills advantageously.
More-dynamic preaching, stronger leadership from the pastor (saying this doesn't cancel out the problem with clericalism), finding some way to involve single people that's not bound up in the traditional "men's club"/"ladies' guild" activities
Outreach to help the community grow. Education program.
More regular liturgy
Getting more people more involved, instead of just the same core people doing things.
Getting more parishioners involved in chanting the Epistle, helping to cantor (especially men), & having some men help to serve at the altar. It would also be nice having a deacon in our parish.
I do not attend Divine Liturgy enough to offer any advice.
Increase membership
We invite friends. We are as active as we can be. We pray the Lord will sustain us.
Outreach to younger families.
The demographic of the city has changed significantly since the founding of the church, so to reach our base we need a mission that is close to their suburbs; we also need to open the church to the neighborhood and local colleges
The parish needs a good, regular Bible Study.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

What are some problems with the Eastern Christian faith community you frequent? survey results

Hard to find confession times.

drive home sometimes can take up to 3 hours.

fasting rules

Parts of the liturgy are not done in the vulgar and I do not know how to read Cyrillic text!

Cliques

It is very small and in danger of closing. We don't have our own priest.

Deacon preaches a bit fast, but other than that just the usual problems. Not enough families, not enough young people.

Geographic seperateness due to closings of parishes more proximate; still focused on ethnicity at times; many are Latinized

They don't walk their own faith path. They don't know their liturgy, they're lazy.

very Romanized!!!!!!!!!

Though my ethnicity is similar, most of the congregation are new immigrants. I have yet to talk to the priests about my desired reception to Orthodoxy.

lack of organization

All the parishes are aging and dying.

Too few children; not enough young families

not enough attend

We need to work on growing if we want to survive long term.

They are bit too ethnic and not overly welcoming to newcomers.

older priest in poor health, limited liturgical services not active community life

They are a little bit introverted. I only know and speak with a handful of the parishioners even though we have been attending that church for 6 years. And not enough community activity.

Lack of participation

It is very new, 14 months old. We do not have a priest as yet, and that limits what we can do.

A lot , a lot , of different cultures and ethnicities everyone wanting their own tradition observed and not just the traditions of the Maronite Church. Which is actually good because it exposes people to the other traditions and cultures.

pastor attempting to build a hybrid liturgical outlook, that is de-emphasis on Byzantine tradition; lack of clear financial accounting

Language barrier...priest is Ukrainian and is a bit hard to understand some time. Also, and this may sound weird, but sometimes a parishioner or two maybe a little "too religious" and can scare newer folks away....

Some people are territorial about their role in the community. This can make people feel unwelcome when they want to contribute.

They are not really a Community

There aren't enough parishioners! A couple of ladies also loudly pray the Rosary before Divine Liturgy

The Orthodox church nearest me (1.5-2+ hours away) is not very welcoming, and they only cater to Russians. We (Asians) may attend, but little is done to welcome us.

Latinizations, people stuck in small t traditions, aging population, liberal Catholics, people leaving the church.

The familial environment can be so intimate to the point of comfort, which may drive a complacency, when it comes to growth. This was brought into the discussion, when the Pew Research Study came out, during the summer.

Clericalism, minimalism in externals, being satisfied with mediocrity.

Small community, not enough extra things to be involved in. No education programs.

Need teenage / young adult group

The parish is still small, so it is difficult to have a large number of groups and ministries (Men's Group, Women's Group, Pro-Life/Social Justice Group, etc.). The parish covers a very large area (the next-closest Byzantine Catholic parish is 4 hours away), so drives can be long, which makes it more difficult to have additional events. Despite the welcomeness to visitors, the parish still does little to pro-actively evangelize.

Irregularity of liturgy makes it hard to attract people.

I think we don't always make it easy for new people to come into the community.

None

People argue about the use of English vs. the native tongue Getting to know prople on a more than purely superficial level is sometimes hard

Mostly older congregation (few men, as well), our 6 children are literally half the children in the parish.

It is too far away.

Priest shortage and the community size is too small.

It's small and fragile. It depends on one priest and a few families to keep it going. Looks of people pass through or visit rather than stay.

Lack of leadership, stagnation.

Lack of evangelization; less feeling of community for those who are not Arabic; most non-Arabic members are "refugees" from Roman Catholicism, even us converts, in a way

Non-ethnics can feel isolated.

Not enough growth in new parishioners not enough kids to have an effective 'next generation' to learn and appreciate the beauty of the Eastern Church.

Insider-outsider No evangelization No services (religious ed, etc.)

Less than perfect communications among members (no newsletter, web site out of date)

We are a commuter parish, so there is little "parish life" outside of Sundays. Religious education for the kids is sporadic, and the kids are grouped in wide age ranges. Our priest works a full-time job, in addition to his parish duties. We love him, but it is clear that he, his family and the parish all suffer from the reality that he must have a second job.

Set in their ways. Not a lot of young families w/children.

Not being in full Communion.

Dwindling enrollment. Loss of our Slavic heritage. Not enough parishoner envolvement. They must think that Father waves a magic wand & the money appears so the bills can get paid. People are resistant to try new things. In the past if people didn't like the priest they moved to a Latin Rite church instead of staying & fighting for their Church.

I left, the church was gravitating with rose colored glasses to try and act like an Orthodox church and discount being Catholic with the excuses of "latinizations" which is nonsense.

Not enough celebration of the full Byzantine liturgical traditions (i.e. no matins or vespers)

Growth and as with a small community, trying to meet so many parishioner's needs.

Sometimes many strong personalities clash and there can be some infighting that I wish wasn't there. Tight-knit community also means that there can be gossip at times. Lack of things for young adults. There is ECF and a youth group that is not active right now but has new leaders trying to get it going. But once the kids hit 18, there really is nothing that encourages them to stay involved.

Dwindled community--will we be around in ten years? Lack of youth programming.

They don't know their faith very well.

Church attendance down dramatically over last 25 years. Not many young families or children attend. Liturgy is only 50% in English. Almost all who attend speak English (but for some it is their second language).

We are really small, and most of the parishioners are not of the culture of our church origin, so some of the language and prayer is lost.

That it does not have a good book situation.

People being people. Some disagreements with the way things are done, the way things are, some negativity.

In our city, in particular, the congregations are quickly dying. We have children, but in the many area Byzantine parishes we have visited, there are often no other families with children. No ECF, no activity other than fundraisers. There is a sense of apathy here and I fear it may not be long before the Byzantine Church in this area is no more.

Not very big of a parish.

Lack of young people in the parish. Although there are some children and teenagers, there are almost no adults age 20-35. It would be nice to have some peers. (Tho I love spending time with the older folks and hearing their stories). There are also few opportunists to get involved because I work. For example, the ladies organization generally has there activities during the day (most members are retired) and bible study is also help in mid-afternoon.

Lack of leadership, lack of organization, lack of communication, poor financial management, lack of spiritual growth, focus on the needs of priest versus growing the parish, everyone waits for someone else to do things

Our home parish (Byz Cath) lacks community involvement, does not possess a missionary spirit, and does not desire to "share the Gospel" with others, which has gradually pushed us toward Orthodoxy as an alternative to our Byzantine parish. Because our family was not Roman Catholic prior to entering the church, we have very little - if anything - in common with the majority of Romans that attend our parish. Additionally, two-thirds of our parish attendees are "Roman refugees", that is - Roman Catholics who are disillusioned with their own liturgies but primarily desire to fulfill their Sunday obligation without becoming fully-committed parishioners.

Ethnic ideas: the older parishioners treat it like the Ukrainian club at prayer

people are too ethnic

resistance to change unwillingness to try new things

We experienced a drop in numbers this year due to death and families moving away. In a small community, that has a big impact. It makes those that are left responsible for much more, but it also makes us a tight-knit family.

The priest is wanting to retire, Bishop refuses to grant the retirement, therefore the priest just "puts in the minimum" and there is no Sunday school, socials, liturgy is often shortened in parts, many traditions are ignored.. It's sad, there has been much interest in newcomers that are just turned off and never return.

Because there's no permanent Eastern community here, we can only meet once a month, and if for some reason our priest can't get there, there's no liturgy that month.

very small group, and the church where we celebrate the Divine Liturgy is being sold, and no longer has a parish of it's own.

None of my family understand, difficult to follow alone at home.

Many parish members very insular, not open to assimilating Church into American society/English language; lackadaisical attitudes yielding lack of participation; very small parish, weekly deficits almost $1K

that those born into the Melkite Church do not always know exactly what our traditions are.

Poor education/catechism.

not entirely sure if they are Catholic or Orthodox..crisis of self-identification

The primary ethnicity is too inward-looking. They welcome visitors somewhat, but they are indifferent to evangelism. My perception is that culture comes before Christ sometimes. Right up to the bishop. The name of the sui iuris church of my parish scares people away. Potential converts assume it's an ethnic ghetto, or feel weird identifying with a church where the sui iuris church name is a different ethnicity. (As if all Romans were Italian. Pfft.) The local Maronites don't have this problem, they make converts. But I bet they would if they were "Lebanese Catholic."

Evangelization, to few liturgies at convenient times, and a lack of anything like an organized RCIA.
Too few people and not growing

Ethnicity takes priority over the Faith.

Most of us live a considerable distance from the church, so weekday services are difficult, as is outreach to the local community. No choir practice, and people in the choir who don't know their parts and make up their own harmony, so the music sounds pretty bad.

Small size (relative to other communities), limited resources, people spread over whole metropolitan area.

Priest inaccessible

Monday, November 30, 2015

What are the best things about the Eastern Christian community you frequent?- survey results

It is an awesome experience for my children to learn the traditions and beauty of the liturgy and the Byzantine Rite. My wife is learning as well as she is a Roman convert.
The priest is amazing and a good friend of ours. We have other good friends who attend as well. We enjoy all the singing as well as the harmonies that we and some other attendants sing.
the apparent depth of faith
Liturgical Worship, Friendly parish.
Small, welcoming, great pastor, great opportunities for learning about the faith and helping others
the closeness
Pray like they mean it.
Supportive pastor. Preaching. Chant, of course.
The Joy. My senses being fooled into not knowing if I'm in Heaven or on earth.
Small and familiar
They care for sick visitors.
We have a great worship space (basement), good priest, and small group of people who care about each other.
Strong sense of community, strong belief, observance of the Tradition, open and welcoming to all.
Hospitality, lack of zealots
"Unabridged" Divine Liturgy. Excellent sermons. Very dedicated priest and family. Small but dedicated group of volunteers who serve parish. Potluck social every Sunday after Liturgy.
I love the traditions of the byzantine church, especially the singing.
That we have a great priest, and location. We have activities and fellowship.
The liturgies, including the Presanctified during lent. It's a small parish, so you get to know more people, have more sense of community.
Right now, we are searching for a community. We are looking for a real home; a place with true believers who desire to grow in their faith and serve God with a pure heart. The congregation we have been worshipping with has an excellent cantor and therefore the congregational singing is uplifting....a plus. The sermons are educational and challenge us to be better Christians.
Traditions, Under Rome yet operates on own, beautiful Divine Liturgy, Devotions
The people. It is encouraging to spend time with others who have similar beliefs and ideals. Everyone was also kind, welcoming and helpful to me as a newcomer.
Welcoming atmosphere
I attend services at both a Byzantine Catholic parish (where we are members) and a neighboring Eastern Orthodox parish (ACROD) where we are friends with the priest and his wife. We have a special bond and relationship with our parish priest; he is particularly close with our family.
close knit
Godly Priest, outstanding choir
The welcoming attitude of all in the congregation.
We are so small that we really know each other. Sometimes, we are like a family with a whole bunch of crazy in-laws, but we genuinely care about each other. We notice when someone is missing and somebody checks in with missing members if it is for more than 2-3 weeks. Because it is harder and less convenient to be a member of and Eastern Catholic parish, the members are all highly committed and actively seeking to follow Christ, rather than coming to church out of a sense of social obligation or tradition.
Open, Inviting, Warm, and Hospitable. We also really enjoy having a close relationship with our priest.
The community is very small, but very welcoming, unlike other Eastern Christian communities in the West that I have visited. Also, the Divine Liturgy at this community is mostly in English.
The people that are involved in keeping our parish going are a great group. They work hard & put their heart & soul into everything they do.
Liturgical cycle; our priest and matushka.
I have no idea.
The Divine Liturgy and the supportive community.
Smallness, Divine Liturgy and other worship services that are not abridged. The sense of community the parish and parishioners have.
Strong sense of parish family, and commitment to and love of God, the Faith, and the parish. Used to have a very dynamic pastor until he moved to a new parish because of other duties. Parish in a tough spot because waiting for our new pastor to return after medical needs were addressed, but those who were the heart of the parish before still are.
Close knit community, liturgical solemnity.
I'm not part of the parish on a social level but just attending Divine Liturgy.
Sense of community.
smaller, more comfortable, love the chanting. you could say it is my blood.
camaraderie
The small, tight knit community.
Love their church.
A deep sense of spirituality, reverence, and love.
The care shown to the liturgy and the orthodoxy of the preaching.
focus on discipleship, focus on our brokenness and not just on 1 or 2 moral issues. Good preaching.
Sadly, none.   
Divine LIturgy
The liturgy contains the Church's theology.
Strong sense of community, we do a good job at singing the Liturgy beautifully, welcoming to newcomers
It's a very tight community, and many of my local school friends are Greek.
The Traditional Liturgy.
Reverence of worship
Liturgies services and bible studies
Community, history, spirituality
The Liturgy, Vespers and Matins are all celebrated. They are not abbreviated and do not have the politically correct gender neutral language of the Byzantine Catholic Church. Choir is excellent. Mostly English. Bits in Slavonic.
small and friendly
Great food! Devout families. A nice religious ed program.
Community feeling
Lots of young people. I do not think there is anyone over age 50, and about 2/3rds are youth. We struggle, but we have each other   
Non-judgemental, everyone’s welcomed ,they can "come as they are "
the people who are very welcoming
Sense of community, smaller than Roman parish and everyone is very nice, welcoming, and friendly. The absolute best thing, though, is definitely the Divine Liturgy... I just don't get that sense of Sacred/mysticism/closeness to God in the other Rites.
Acceptance of my unruly children. Hands down. Welcoming community. Support from the seminary. Community involvement in liturgy and social events.
It is genuine; I have friends there; the liturgy is beautiful, fervent, and well done; the priest loves God and the people
The community in my original country is very welcoming AND maintains the ancient traditions and customs.
Theosis and love for the Communion of the Holy Spirit.
Familial Environment; the people are there for their Faith, having to travel great distances to get to church, when contrasted against the fact the likely live much closer to a run-of-the-mill Roman Catholic parish. There's a next man up mentality I got to participate in, since involving myself in the three years I've spent in the Byzantine communities.
Sincerity, love for beauty in religious practice, awareness of what we are and what we are called to be (though we still struggle with that).
The community life. Availability of the services. Keeping of traditions.
Like a family
The reverent liturgies, the strong community, and the welcomeness to outsiders.
Small and close knit
It's a family. We feel welcome and a string part of the community. It's wonderful to worship together with people we love.
We currently attend two different churches, each an hour from our home. We are new to the area.
It is the one true faith! Handed down unadulterated from the time of the early church!
Reverent Liturgy & excellent preaching.
Holy communion and the priest.
Liturgy and people in the Church.
Intimacy and friendliness. Lots of large families like ours. Good preaching grounded in Fathers. The Faith is clearly taken seriously but people aren't uptight. Children are welcome. There is joy and peace. Christ is among us.
Long term family-like community.
Respect for the liturgy; beautiful sanctuary
beauty
The parish has regularly scheduled Vespers, Matins and Divine Liturgy for all Sundays and Feast Days, and the services are celebrated in full.
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