The First Thriving Congregations Initiative District Seminar Held on December 4th, 2021
The first ever Thriving Congregations Initiative District Seminar is now behind us, and we want to thank all that hosted and the close to 250 people that attended!
As we mentioned in the seminar, this is simply the beginning of a long journey which will require much work as we seek to turn our beautiful parishes into Thriving Congregations. The presentations and tools offered are meant to better equip our parishioners with the knowledge to make informed decisions about their parishes throughout the life of our grant. Establishing a baseline through the tools and activities provided will assist us in memorializing our past and being able to speak intelligently to the challenges our communities face. It is tempting to jump right to potential solutions, but as His Eminence stated, this program is not meant to offer quick-fix solutions, but rather to give parishes the resources to truly understand and speak to the current reality of parish-life.
Your love and dedication to Christ, the Gospel, and your parish has the power to transform the lives of the people of New England. We are committed to learning how we can better support you to that aim and in this journey. Please take some time to fill out the survey below and let us know how we can do just that!
Thriving Congregations Initiative District Seminar
Saturday, December 4th 2021
My brothers and sisters in the household of God,
I welcome you to the first Thriving Congregations Initiative District Seminar, a long-awaited event. After months of preparation, research and dialogue, the Metropolis of Boston presents to you a program designed to enhance the vitality of our parishes. This day marks the beginning of a journey lasting multiple years and requiring us to direct our focus to both the challenges and opportunities that lie before us.
We all know that our parishes no longer enjoy the comfort of a community that lives within walking distance of the church building. Neither do they any longer enjoy the peace of a society steeped in Christian values. Rather, the clergy and parish leaders of the Metropolis of Boston are all too familiar with the continual attacks on our community of believers who diligently desire to live a Gospel-centered life. We have seen a nation-wide decrease in adherence to religious norms, a drop in church attendance, an increase in apathetic attitudes, and a demoralization of those who strive to live a life of Christian discipline. Sadly, we cannot ignore that fact that our Greek Orthodox community here in New England has also suffered casualties in this war on religion and specifically, Christianity.
We gather here today because we cannot simply sit back and watch the ravenous political division, secular influence, and disregard for spiritual well-being affect our own faithful and those around us any longer. By virtue of your participation here today, you have taken a stand against all that negatively affects our Church, and you seek to find solutions to the problems that lie before us. This program has been put together, not to provide quick fixes and band-aid solutions to these momentous tasks at hand, but rather to equip parish leaders with the knowledge, tools and resources to take ownership of their parishes and develop solutions and strategies that work for their own community.
I recognize that every parish is unique with a rich history and vibrant past that has led each community to stand where it exists at the present time. Although this journey towards revitalization will require us to critically think about the way we conduct ministry efforts, this legacy will not be threatened. Admittedly, working towards this growth can be difficult. This process will require each of us to critically examine our work up until now and honestly evaluate our efforts. It is only through an honest evaluation of ourselves that we can truly learn how to better minister to those entrusted to our care.
We are most grateful to The Lilly Endowment who made this program possible through a generous grant. Almost 1,000 applicants applied for this project nation-wide, and I am proud to say that out of the 90 grant proposals that were accepted, we have the honor to represent the Greek Orthodox Church as the only Orthodox initiative funded by Lilly. This is a testament to the broad possibilities that exist in New England as the least religious region in the United States of America. Our efforts with the Thriving Congregations Initiaitive, will not simply benefit those in the communities and neighborhoods we serve. Instead, our efforts will serve as a model for parishes and Metropolises across the Archdiocese.
The parishes of the Metropolis of Boston have engaged in transformative ministry offerings for over a century. Between the many ministries offered by our parishes, our camp, the Philoxenia House, the Philanthropic work of our parishes and Metropolis, and much more, the Metropolis of Boston is no stranger to setting the standard across our Archdiocese. It is time to transition into the next phase of transformative ministry offering through research and intentional action. In the fifth chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew, Christ tells those gathered, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” It is now time to let our light shine so that the individuals our parishes serve may have their lives brightened by the good works that you so often offer to God’s people.
Aiding us in our journey today, we welcome two renowned keynote speakers. These individuals were invited to join us to offer insight into the first of the Lilly Endowment’s characteristics of thriving congregations, that is, ‘understanding our changing social and cultural context’. Our first presenter is Dr. Aristotle Papanikolaou, a well-known theologian throughout the Orthodox Church and beyond. While he is no stranger to many of us, we once again welcome him to offer our seminar’s first presentation. Additionally, we welcome Dr. Barbara Etta Austin Lucas of the Agape Tabernacle International Fellowship of Brooklyn, NY. We will hear more about Dr. Austin Lucas shortly, but in addition to a long resume in ministry and missions, she holds three doctorates and several other degrees from prestigious universities across the country. Their presentations today will test our understanding of some seemingly familiar concepts, and I encourage all of us to open ourselves up to exploring new ideas and challenging old presuppositions we might hold regarding ministry.
Over 200 individuals from across our Metropolis have registered for today’s seminar proving that the desire for growth and vitality truly exists amongst the ranks of parish leadership here in New England. Our nine satellite host locations have warmly welcomed us into their homes, and I would like to thank the:
St. Demetrios Church of Saco, ME
Assumption Church of Manchester, NH
Sts. Constantine and Helen Church of Andover, MA
St. Vasilios of Peabody, MA
St. George Cathedral of Springfield, MA
Sts. Anargyroi of Marlboro, MA
Annunciation Church of Brockton, MA
Annunciation Church of Cranston, MA
And the Dormition Church here in Somerville, MA
The clergy and host teams at these parishes have worked hard to make today possible, and I ask you to express your gratitude to them. We now will turn to Pano Coufos for an introduction of the day’s program and an overview of this most important initiative. May The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all as we begin our first Thriving Congregations Initiative District Seminar.