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Interview with Laila Ferris: Integrated Learning in the Digital Age

Laila Ferris has devoted 25 years and counting to serving as church school director at St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church, El Paso, Texas. Presently, there are 37 students enrolled and classes are organized by groups of two grade levels, plus grades 8-12 together as one class.

Which curricula do you use for Sunday classes? 

We use a combination of curricula/materials from the OCEC and from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese to support our students’ learning. We also use online lessons provided by our Archdiocese Department of Christian Education. The teachers develop lesson plans that use active and engaging learning activities through which the lessons are taught and learned.  We are presently working towards developing more opportunities for learning activities via apps and web-based programs for our students (as the digital generation) to expand their learning experiences. Our plan is to be able to purchase iPads for use in the classrooms to support digital projects. But in the meantime, the church school staff will continue to use their personal devices to grow our instructional lessons digitally.

Time for House Blessings

Theophany has already passed for those of us following the new calendar. The waters have been blessed. Our souls have been cleansed and refreshed by the drinking/sprinkling thereof. So now it’s time to help our Sunday Church School students learn about house blessings to ensure that they are prepared when the priest arrives to bless their home.

We should teach our students that the house blessing has been part of Orthodox Christian practice for centuries. They should also learn that although the house blessing is not a sacrament, it is an important part of helping Orthodox Christians to live the Faith at home. We also should teach our students (or at least refresh their memory) about the house blessing service itself: First, we can teach them about the service – the order of service, the prayers, and the hymn. Talk together with your class about the prayers, which request God’s sanctification of the home, and what they mean. Together sing the troparion to remind the students of how it goes; and then discuss the words in the troparion. Consider how special it is that they will have time to spend with the parish priest. Remind them that every member of the family can participate in and help with the house blessing, and that the entire family will benefit from the house blessing.

On Orthodox Christian Principles of Child Rearing: Principle 6: Teach the Joy of Repentance

Note: This series of blog posts will focus on principles important to Orthodox Christians who are raising children. The series will feature a closer look at Dr. Philip Mamalakis’ book, Parenting Toward the Kingdom: Orthodox Christian Principles of Child Rearing. Each week we will take a closer look at one section of the book, which is divided into 6 basic principles of child rearing. Find an overview blog post about the book here. We thank Dr. Mamalakis and Ancient Faith Publishing for giving us permission to share his wisdom with you in this way. Purchase your own copy of his book here.

Principle 6: Teach the Joy of Repentance

Dr. Philip Mamalakis’ book Parenting Toward the Kingdom is filled with wisdom and encourages godly parenting. The sixth and final principle, “Teach the joy of repentance,” is yet another challenge towards godliness, and is as invaluable to the souls of the parents who follow it as it is to those of their children. He begins with a chapter on repentance, then discusses the joy of repentance, and closes with the encouragement that Orthodox Christian homes nurture repentance and confession.

The chapter on repentance begins by encouraging parents not to focus on “doing” parenting, but rather to focus on loving God while responding to our children. He emphasizes that only a saint would parent perfectly, and that we should not expect ourselves to be able to do so. Rather, we should expect ourselves to learn and grow, just as we expect our children to learn and grow. The Holy Spirit will raise in us the fruits necessary to be the parents we must be. If we want to best reach our long-term parenting goals, we need to labor to acquire the Holy Spirit. As we work towards living a Godly life, it is important that we not cover over our mistakes; but rather that we use those mistakes to teach our children the joy that is found in repentance. Since repentance is at the heart of our Christian life, it follows that teaching repentance should be at the heart of our parenting.

On the Liturgical Year for Teachers: Christmas and Epiphany

This series of blog posts will offer basic information and resources regarding the liturgical year. It is our hope that Sunday Church School teachers will find this series helpful as they live the liturgical year with their students. The series will follow the church year in sections, as divided in the book “The Year of Grace of the Lord: A Scriptural and Liturgical Commentary on the Calendar of the Orthodox Church” by a monk of the Eastern Church. May God bless His Church throughout this year!

The feasts of the Nativity (simply called "Christmas" in The Year of Grace of the Lord: a Scriptural and Liturgical Commentary on the Calendar of the Orthodox Church) and Theophany (referred to as "Epiphany’"in that same book) fall within days of each other, regardless of the calendar being followed. Christmas falls on Dec. 25 (or January 7), and Theophany follows on its heels, on January 6 (or 19). For many of us, local culture offers multiple traditions related to Christmas, but few (or even none) related to Theophany. The monk who wrote the book encourages his readers to think beyond our culture’s interpretations (or perhaps misinterpretations?) of these feasts, and embrace them in a truly Orthodox manner.

2018 Theophany Greeting from His Grace Bishop THOMAS

January 6, 2018
Theophany of our Lord

Beloved in Christ,

When Thou, O Lord, wast baptized in the Jordan, worship of the Trinity was made manifest; for the voice of the Father bore witness to Thee, calling Thee His beloved Son. And the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the truth of His word. O Christ our God, Who hast appeared and enlightened the world, glory to Thee. (Troparion of the Holy Theophany)

I greet you on the solemn and joyous feast of the Holy Theophany of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ! As the Nativity revealed Almighty God’s condescension and humility in becoming incarnate, so the Theophany reveals the glory and power of the triune God.

January 2018 Newsletter

Dear friend of St. Athanasius Academy:

Jesus our Christ - The Anointed One And Son of Mary – Comes to the River Jordan

Clothed in the Christmas Spirit and Light of His Nativity, we continue to celebrate and rejoice in the Nativity of Jesus – the new born Baby and first-fruit of Mary. With this, we begin to turn our eyes to His Baptism and the Spirit in the form of a dove. For here we gain helpful insight into Whom this One is – the "I AM" born in fulfillment of prophecy, born
enfleshed with His flesh, and is the Child and Immanuel.

As we contemplate His Baptism, let us remind ourselves the "Spirit of the Lord" - His Spirit - was present at His Annunciation and Nativity, even Pentecost. This same One Spirit of Jesus is Holy and expressed through Moses and His Prophets, throughout the OSB-Septuagint Old Testament.

See the attached PDF files for this month's full teaching and to order the study booklets.

Watch Boston Byzantine Choir on Live Stream: January 6

On January 6, 2018, the Boston Byzantine Choir under the direction of Charles R. Marge will present "The Twelve Days of Christmas." The concert will be held at St. Mary's Orthodox Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts and will be livestreamed here at 6 pm Eastern Standard Time. In this program, the Choir will take us on a journey of sacred chant through the twelve days of Christmas starting with the Nativity and ending with Epiphany. Each day from December 25 through January 6 brings its own hymnography rich in the theology of the season, beautifully expressed through the Byzantine musical tradition.

For the past 25 years, the Boston Byzantine Choir has endeavored to make Byzantine chant and the Orthodox Christian faith accessible to the English-speaking world. The choir grew out of the chanting tradition of St. Mary's in Cambridge, and has chanted at services and performed in concerts and festivals in New England, the Mid-Atlantic, Montreal and California. The Boston Byzantine Choir is best known for its five recordings of Byzantine Chant in English: First Fruits, Mystical Supper, Thy Passion, Thy Resurrection, and Lenten Journey. This program, which includes the New England premiere of new Byzantine chant compositions in English by Dr. Jessica Suchy-Pilalis, will form the basis for a sixth recording entitled Twelve Days, to be released later in 2018.

Diocesan Deacons' Retreat Held at St. George Cathedral in Charleston

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Friday, October 20, to Sunday, October 22, 2017, the annual retreat of the deacons of the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid Atlantic took place. This year we were hosted by the parish of St. George Orthodox Cathedral in Charleston, West Virginia and their priest, Fr. Christopher Eid. In attendance were Sayedna Thomas, Fr. Anthony Roeber (the chaplain to our deacons), and seven deacons. This year our retreat was pan Orthodox, as Deacon Wayne Paul Wright of the Romanian Orthodox Church of Fairlawn, Ohio heard about our retreat, and he asked Sayedna Thomas if he could attend.  Sayedna Thomas enthusiastically invited him, and Deacon Wright’s participation was most welcome and instructive.

Memory Eternal! + Sylvia Jean Joseph, Mother of His Grace Bishop THOMAS

Sylvia Jean Joseph, mother of His Grace Bishop THOMAS, reposed in the Lord on Christmas Eve, 2017. She was 93 years old. Writes His Grace, "As you know, she had been suffering for a good period of time. Although this was unexpected, she was visited by both a deacon and priest today....There are so many of you who prayed for my mom and offered all kinds of support. My father, my sister and I are eternally grateful to you. More importantly, Mom is grateful. I'll ask again for your holy prayers for her soul. May she rest in peace, and may God give us the strength to bear this loss."

The funeral arrangements Sylvia Jean Joseph are as follows:

On Friday, December 29, 2017, there will be a viewing from 2-4pm at Holy Cross Orthodox Church, 2365 South South Olga Drive in Ft. Myers, FL 33905. Included in this will be a Trisagion service at 3:30pm.

Nativity Greeting From His Eminence Metropolitan JOSEPH

Nativity 2017

Today doth Bethlehem receive Him Who sitteth with the Father forever. Today the angels glorify, as worthy of God, the babe that is born, shouting: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth be peace, and goodwill among men.

Beloved in Christ,

With great joy I greet you at the dawn of this bright and glorious feast of the Sun of Justice, Christ our God, making the cave a heaven and the manger a noble place!

May He Who deigned to be born in the cave and rest in a manger take up His abode in us. Let us join our voices with the angelic choirs and glorify God, beseeching Him to bring peace, justice, and reconciliation to our troubled world.

The Simplicity of Christmas

By Fr. George H. Shalhoub

It is truly a wonderful time of the year. As we approach the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, the question on many minds, especially children is: what kind of gift am I getting for Christmas? And adults agonize over what kind of gifts are we giving? In between these questions, often asked with a sigh, we hear exhaustion from families as they pace the malls of America looking for the perfect gift to give. Gift giving with the right meaning and attitude is wonderful, but this message is often lost in the obligation of holiday, forgetting the “real reason for the season.”

The reality is still the same, Christmas has never changed. It is the birth of our Lord, and always will be. When we exchange gifts with one another, the gifts should be an expression of one’s own gratitude, to God first and then to our loved ones.

Winter 2017-2018 Issue of DIAKONIA Available Online

The Winter 2017–2018 issue of DIAKONIA, the newsletter of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Women of North America, is now available online. This issue features the Diocese of New York, and the Diocese of Oakland, Charleston, and the Mid-Atlantic, and includes special messages from His Eminence Metropolitan JOSEPH and His Grace Bishop THOMAS.

The issue also contains:

  • Introductions to the diocesan officers and coordinators
  • Numerous reports and photographs from parish chapters of Antiochian Women
  • Reflections on the spiritual life

And more! Download the PDF

Bishop Anthony's Pastoral Letter for Nativity, 2017

Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ 2017

Dear beloved Clergy and Faithful of our Midwest Diocese,

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
ُ المسیح ُ وِلد!َ فمجدوه!

Home, family, friends, decorations that adorn both hearth and hearts, the texture, feel and color of love that, somehow, is renewed in us this time of year, is our greatest blessing. Christmas is composed of the rhythm, rhymes, and hymns that carry more of a presence than a present.

Jesus Christ comes into the world prepared for Him through the prayers of many generations of faithful people. His birth in a wilderness cave begins our rebirth in the wilderness of a world that has failed to find happiness, peace on earth, and goodwill toward men and women.

"Living Orthodoxy" Podcast Features Interview with Bishop Thomas

December 19, 2017

As a part of the "Faith Stories" series in the Living Orthodoxy podcast, His Grace Bishop Thomas (Joseph) of the Diocese of Oakland, Charleston and the Mid-Atlantic was interviewed in a recently posted podcast. Living Orthodoxy strives to provide "an invitation to a deeper life in Christ," and is hosted by St. Philip Orthodox Church in Souderton, PA.

The wide-ranging discussion with Bishop Thomas covers a variety of topics, including: a brief recap of his upbringing and background, his collaborative approach to ministry, his reflections on the history of the Antiochian Archdiocese, his observations about parish growth and ministry, and his advice to priests and parishioners.

Listen to Living Orthodoxy with Bishop Thomas.

 

Memory Eternal! + John George Burbules, Colonel, U.S. Army (Ret.)

John George Burbules, COL USA (Ret.), 84, of Sellersburg, Indiana, fell asleep in the Lord on Thursday morning, December 14, 2017 after a brief illness. He had a Christian ending to his life – painless, blameless and peaceful.

John’s life was simple. He served his God. He served his country. And he served his family and friends. Each with endless dedication and tremendous love. The rest of his story lives on with the thousands he’s touched.

A long-time member of St. Michael the Archangel Orthodox Church in Louisville, Kentucky, he served in various offices on the Parish Council, and – for decades – taught Bible Study and Catechism classes. Those whose lives he touched remember his humility, grace and humor.

Antiochian Orthodox Union of Canada Holds Annual Gala Event

Bishop Alexander with Antiochian Orthodox Union of Canada membersBishop Alexander with Antiochian Orthodox Union of Canada membersThe Antiochian Orthodox Union of Canada held its annual gala event on November 4, 2017, at the Chateau Royal Reception Hall in Laval, Quebec, Canada. Presiding at the event was Bishop Alexander (Mufarrij), and he was joined by all the Montreal area clergy. Close to 500 people attended, among them dignitaries from all levels of government—federal, provincial, and municipal.

After Sayyidna Alexander blessed the food, Dr. Nadim Korban, President of the Antiochian Orthodox Union of Canada, spoke about the many accomplishments of the Union. Among them: helping the local Orthodox Scouts chapter, sending kids from all Montreal churches to attend the Camp Transfiguration summer camp, helping the elderly, aiding students in need in the community, and helping the newcomers from Syria.

Statement by Metropolitan JOSEPH on the Recent Announcement by President Trump Recognizing Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel

Englewood, NJ/The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

Statement by His Eminence, Archbishop Metropolitan JOSEPH, of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church of North America on the Recent Announcement by President Trump recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel

“Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”. Luke 2:14

We in the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church stand with religious and world leaders in expressing concern over the recent announcement by President Trump in which the United States officially recognizes the city of Jersusalem as the capital of Israel and will therefore be moving the United States Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Our main concern is that this is a unilateral decision being made from outside of the framework of the Middle East peace process and that this will serve to undermine an already complex and difficult situation.

Youth Worker Conference to Feature the Theme of Gratitude

The Very Rev. Dr. Joseph F. Purpura, chairman of SOYO and the Department of Youth, encourages all parish and Archdiocese-wide youth leaders to attend the pan-Orthodox Youth Worker Conference in early 2018. Themed "The Place of Gratitude in Youth Ministry," the Conference is slated for February 1–3, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. More information is available here.

The Orthodox Youth Worker & Camping Conference is sponsored by the Jurisdictional Youth Departments of the Assembly of Bishops. The Youth and Camping Departments of the American Carpatho-Russian Diocese and Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA will host the 2018 conference.

 

Apply to CrossRoad 2018! Summer Program for High School Juniors and Seniors

Calling all Antiochian Youth! Are you an Orthodox Christian high school junior or senior interested in exploring your faith? Apply to the dynamic, life-changing program that is CrossRoad! The application deadline is February 1, 2018.

For more information, visit our website!

96 Youth

10 Days

2 Locations

1 Amazing Program

DOWNLOAD the POSTER

Antiochian Village Summer Camp Registration Opens Monday, December 11

The Antiochian Village Summer Camp Program serves young people ages 9–17 who come to attend one of four two-week sessions. A primary goal of the Village camp program is to present to young people a living experience of the Holy Orthodox Faith in their relationship with God and other campers in a natural environment.

Registrations are now open for the 2018 summer camp season. The sessions run June 17 through August 10; two special sessions are Byzantine Chant Camp held from June 17 – June 29, and Iconography Camp, which runs from July 15 – July 23.  Slots fill up very quickly for this incredibly popular program, so act now! Additionally, it's not too early to think about sending your child to your local diocesan camp; visit The Department of Camping for more information.

ANTIOCHIAN VILLAGE CAMP REGISTRATION LINK

Message From the Department of Sacred Music for Choir and Chanter Appreciation Sunday

On this second Sunday in December, the Antiochian Archdiocese recognizes the contributions of all of our church singers and their vital role in communicating the teachings of the Church through melody and maintaining the beauty and dignity of our divine services.

It is through the work of hundreds of musicians across the Archdiocese that our experience in holy worship finds its voice.

Today the Department of Sacred Music joins with His Eminence and the clergy and faithful of the Archdiocese to say "thank you" for all the time and love that so many are giving.

Metropolitan JOSEPH'S Letter for Choir and Chanter Appreciation Sunday

(To be read from the pulpit and printed in the bulletin)

Beloved Brother Hierarchs, Reverend Clergy, and Christ-loving Faithful of Our God-protected Archdiocese:

Blessings and greetings to all of you in the Name of Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ!

One of the hallmarks of our Orthodox Christian faith is the beauty of our worship. Our ecclesiastical music, when done with prayer and skill, can elucidate the rich theology of our hymnography in such a way that worshippers can exclaim – as did the emissaries sent by Saint Vladimir – "we know not whether we are in heaven or on earth!"

Because we owe such a tremendous amount of gratitude to our choirs and our chanters, we set aside the second Sunday of December to honor them for the key role they play in our liturgical life.

December 2017 Newsletter

Dear friend of St. Athanasius Academy:

The Presence of Mary - The New Eve

While yet in Eden – the Garden of Paradise – our first Eve, in the innocent curiosity of a child, turned away from the wisdom and warning of the Word. This brought clarity to Moses as to the absolute need of our being clothed, by our Father, in the mortality of His flesh. And this clothing was a blessing unto salvation – a chastisement of His love for us.

Yet in His time, our Lord and Father, became Incarnate to fulfill His prophecies – of His coming to His children with a face and a voice. Yet in this, he asked the help of a young virgin, a handmaiden of the House of David, and a child of promise to Joachim and Anna – as was Isaac the son of Abraham. In gratitude and rejoicing, they gifted Mary to the Temple.

See the attached PDF files for this month's full teaching and to order the study booklets.

Assembly of Bishops Releases Study on Young Adults and Ministering to Them

Akron, OH young adult leaders with Bishop ANTHONYAkron, OH young adult leaders with Bishop ANTHONYThe study "Young Adults and Young Adult Ministries in American Orthodox Christian Parishes" has been released by the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the USA. Download the study report here:

Executive Summary (PDF)
Full Report (PDF)

The subject of young Orthodox Church members was a major topic on the agenda of the recent Annual General Assembly Meeting (October 3–5, Garfield, NJ). This report was prepared in order to help the Assembly address our common concern about the engagement of youth and young adults in the lives of American Orthodox parishes. Examples of what the readers will find in the report include:

Which programs and activities are most crucial for attracting young adult church members?

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