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Podcast! “Church in a Box” by Alumnus Fr. John Parker
31 January 2012 • On-campus Presentation
Hear Fr. John Parker's entire presentation, podcast on Ancient Faith Radio!
Alumnus Priest John Parker recently visited our campus to present an encouraging talk, "Realities of Life in Orthodox Christian Mission Churches," to a roomful of seminarians—aka would-be-pastors. During his informal and informative presentation, Fr. John described how his parish, Holy Ascension Orthodox Church in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, went from being a "church-in-a-box" in a nursing care facility to one of the most beautiful edifices in the country, and from a handful of believers to a lively and growing body of Christ.
Mixing entrepreneurial spirit with pastoral advice, Fr. John shared gems and bits from his own experience:
- Your cassock and cross can be a missionary witness to the faith.
- Don't preach the "Church," preach "Christ."
- Beauty speaks to people; make sure your church is clean and creates a peaceful, pleasing atmosphere (even when in a storefront!).
- Invite strangers to Vespers instead of Divine Liturgy the first time around; some folks feel hurt by not being invited to the Eucharist.
- Always say the Prayers for the Catechumens during divine services.
- Seek out non-Christians and the unchurched.
- When you hold a Bible Study, explicate the text from an Orthodox Christian point of view, in contrast to other faiths.
- Hand out to seekers something to remember you and your church by, like a nicely printed book about your parish and the Orthodox faith.
- Go to your local newspaper and tell them you want to write a religion column from a "minority point of view"—the Orthodox Christian perspective!
"Most of all," said Fr. John, "offer hospitality to strangers. My favorite word, as related to missionary work, is philoxenia, translated as 'care of strangers.' And, one of my favorite quotes in that same regard is from the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?: 'Everybody's looking for answers'."
"That is," he concluded, "everyone's looking for a community that cares about them. The pastoral approach of our parish has been to offer basic friendship—a meal together—and something stable and unshakeable—our Orthodox Christian faith."
NOTE: Fr. John is the recently appointed Chair of the Department of Evangelization of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA).