Love for the church

We had a very nice clergy seminar the day before yesterday. We have one every year and the bishop usually picks one of the clergy to prepare a talk which eventually gives way to further discussion on not only the theme at hand but usually we end up talking about a whole wide range of topics. The speaker did an excellent job and I hope I’m not saying that with any favoritism since he’s my brother in law.  The speaker was Prota Dragomir Tuba from the Akron parish and the topic assigned him was “Every Parish is a Mission – Reaching out to former Parishioners in the Parish  – Bringing New People into the Church.”

Even though he gave a good talk he didn’t really address how to bring people to the church. Instead he pointed out the philosophy of, if I remember correctly I think it was car dealers. They spend 90% of their time with people who are serious about buying, 9% of the time with people who aren’t sure and 1% with people who have absolutely no interest. We do the opposite, he said. At times we ignore (or maybe even take for granted) those who come every Sunday, those who help out, in other words those we know we can count on and put all our focus on those who don’t come around. What’s more we try to figure out what it is that we’re doing wrong, what is it that we can be doing to attract them to the church. In fact, in our discussion which followed the talk there was some discussion about language, should there be more Serbian or English in the service? Naturally, this depends on the make up of the parish. But in the end it’s not about language or any other thing like that. It’s a question of whether or not the person has love for the church. As the bishop pointed out, You tell some in Serbian to come to church and they don’t come; you tell them in English and they still don’t come. Ours is to create such an environment in the parish, to work with those who come around and create a loving, peaceful community of faithful which will attract others.

He also made what I thought was a good point when he reflected on the praise we give to parishioners at our various banquets and such, who make large donations. At times (and it doesn’t always have to be the case) but more often than not those big donor don’t always come around that frequently. The question then is, apart from us thanking the person, is that really the kind of parishioner we want to praise and emulate?

I was hoping to make a more thorough write up about the talk and the interesting topics brought up but I’m afraid I’m out of time. Just some food for thought.

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One thought on “Love for the church

  1. The answer is simple…..teach and bring Stewardship into your parish – talk about it every Sunday. Let all those that come to church hear you speak weekly about what Stewardship is and that most of the ones that are there are already stewards of the parish through the work they do; cooking, physical labor, singing, directing, teaching, board positions, etc.) It doesn’t happen overnight but takes time but it also takes weekly messages as well as written messages in the bulletin. You may be surprised to see others that return or new people attend because they are attracted to this Christian way of being a member of your church. Stewardship is nothing more than love for your church and commitment, much like that to your own family. Gone are the days of people writing checks for the so-called amount of dues (like a club environment) and receiving the privileges of voting, burial, marriage,etc., from the church. Others that are true stewards and do not write this specific check to the church for “dues” but do more, in every aspect, are turned away from these privileges, this is totally ridiculous. This is far from what our Orthodox Church is supposed to be and every priest needs to take a stand, if they want their parish to grow and sustain itself. This is not something that church council members need to decide or vote on, but something they need to promote and work toward. They take an oath to follow the rules of the church and be obedient to their Diocesan Bishop…it is their obligation as well as the parish priests obligation to instruct their flock and not be concerned with what some people might say. Stand firm to the teachings of the church and your parishes will grow. Surround yourself with council members who are willing to be obedient to the bishop and not set their own agenda. I get so tired of hearing people (board members especially) say, “this is my church and nobody is going to tell me what to do” . Are you serving on the board to serve God and your Church, meaning all, or, for your own glory? This is a struggle, I know, because for many years, decades and in some parishes a century, being a member of a church was based on dues. How do the parishes in Serbia survive? Most definitely not by collecting dues, bingo, and other fund raising efforts. The dances, concerts and dinners are wonderful and we should have them, but mostly for fellowship, because this too is very important. It teaches people to work together while enjoying each others company. This is a huge benefit that we, here in this country, have, the fact that our church is the focal point for socializing and working together.

    I do know that without Stewardship our churches will not survive.

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