Developing Ministries and Koinonia Groups
November 02, 2013 Length: 1:33:15Sandra Anderson
Ms. Sandra Anderson: Thank you all for being here today. A few years ago at St. Vladimir’s, they had a Women in Ministry seminar, a conference, and I was supposed to speak on prison ministry, and no one signed up.
Mrs. Anderson: I had this nightmare recently, and I thought, “Here I am, I’m all prepared, and no one’s going to come.” Even one person is okay, because “two or more gathered,” but anyways, that was not the case here. Thank you so much.
Probably I guess the first thing I’d like to say is: Forgive me. I’m a sinner. I am forgiven, continue to sin, and, hopefully, will continue to be forgiven, so anything I say today… I always say things for the glory of God, so if I misspeak or say something… I ask your forgiveness ahead of time.
I am the ministry development coordinator at St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church in Minneapolis. We’re very blessed. Our people had a vision to understand that volunteering is one thing, but no one’s accountable when you have volunteers. So we had a very large capital campaign, we built a big building, we decided we wanted to have ministries, and by the grace of God there were some people on the committee who thought, “Well, if we’re going to build our ministries and have all this available, we really need to have someone to coordinate it and to be strategic.” When the volunteers don’t come, I do everything, because I’m accountable; I’m paid.
We’re very blessed, because we’re able to do so much at St. Mary’s. It is a very blessed church. First, the blessing probably having Fr. Anthony Coniaris for 44 years as their priest helped, because Father was very good about understanding getting out of the Greekness and looking for resources and to realize that we can learn from our fellow Christians. I mean, keep our Orthodoxy, but we sure can learn by the things that they do. So he really was good about women in ministry, opening up the church, not being so Greek, having women reading the epistle, doing things in the church. He got in trouble! Anyways, the church is progressive in that sense, that we have a hired person to be in charge of ministries.
I say that because I also want you to understand: not every church is going to be able to do that, but it doesn’t mean that you cannot do ministries without paying somebody. It just is an icing on the cake if you have a paid person, but they can all be done… What I want to happen today is for all of you to be able to go home with one thing that maybe you can present to someone, talk to somebody else about, and start a ministry. Then, if, God willing, we’re willing, I’d like to do a mock koinonia night.
First I want to talk about ministries. We’ll get that over with, and then we’ll talk about koinonia.
As far as the ministries go, my job: I am not a volunteer coordinator. I do not call volunteers, thank God. But in ministry development, my job is to create opportunity for our parishioners to serve God. We need check-writers, we want check-writers, we bless check-writers, but God does not want us to only be check-writers. He wants us to physically serve each other. That’s the other thing I’d like to talk about today. Please don’t think of yourself as a volunteer. Please think of yourself as a servant of God. When you are with someone, you are serving them. Christ didn’t volunteer to wash the Apostles’ feet. He humbled himself and served his Apostles, so we have to humble ourselves and not think that we’re above anyone that we’re helping, because sometimes when we say “help” or “volunteer,” it takes away the Christ in it.
Remember that we are servants. We are called to serve. We’re going to be judged on whether we serve or not. I always like to say we see Christ in Matthew 25 feed the hungry, [shelter] the homeless, go to the prisons, all that. We know that, but we’re also going to be judged on that. Then I always like to say: he says, “When did we do this?” and he says, “When you do it to the least of it, you do it to me.” So who’s the “you” in Matthew 25? Is it you? Are you the “you” in Matthew 25? We should be the “you” in Matthew 25.
By having ministries, it allows us to be the servants that we are called to be. We’re called to be servants, we’re called to be saints, we’re called to be ministers; not ordained, but ministers. When you minister to someone, that’s different than helping someone, isn’t it? Because, as Orthodox Christians, we don’t just serve; we don’t just give a meal. We teach; we teach in how we act. We preach; we preach in how we witness Christ in our life. That’s preaching, without words, just by having the smile on our face, doing what we’re doing with joy. That’s preaching; that’s witnessing. And healing. We need to be supportive and we need to be understanding and we need to be an ear.
The one ministry—we’re going to talk a lot about a lot of ministries, but the most important ministry is the ministry of presence: to just be there. The ministry of presence is very underrated, and it’s really an important ministry and anyone can do that. You don’t have to be an accountant. You don’t have to be a teacher. You don’t have to [have] all the gifts that we hear in the Bible. You don’t have to be all those things. You have to be present, and when you’re present in someone’s pain, when you’re present in someone’s suffering, when you’re present in someone’s struggle, that is an important ministry. Everyone can serve.
Everyone can serve, but to keep the church going, to keep things going, we need to have ministries. When I got my job, because we’re Orthodox we don’t get about having full-time people, my job was two to four hours a week. I was like: “Really!” So I went ahead and got a job at Light and Life. Because they were all: “We don’t know about salary,” because it always, unfortunately, comes down to money. We have people… This is recorded, but the reality is we have people in the church… We have people who are very concerned about the building and the money and the salaries, and then we have the people who want to understand the heart. Sometimes we don’t meld that together as we should. It was two to four [hours per] week. I tried to get a few things accomplished, and I did. Then it was like: “Really? This is useless.” So it became four to six, six to ten, and now since 2001, I’m full-time, and busy.
My job is, as I said, not a volunteer coordinator, but I want to connect ministries that already exist and find new opportunities for our parishioners to be able to serve. How I started was, I looked at the existing ministries in the church. For instance, we had some of our women [who] were cooking for AIDS patients. Once a month there was an organization called “Open Arms,” and our people would make this macaroni and cheese dish, and they would come and pick it up, and then they would serve it like a “Meals on Wheels”-type thing, except they were for all AIDS patients. So I went to Open Arms, and I said, “You know, we have some women. They’re cooking for you once a month, but I have youth in the church and I have other organizations. What’s some other things we could be doing for you at Open Arms?” and found out that they needed nausea packets.
Now would you think of that? These people are sick. They’re on medication. They get [nauseated]. So we had our youth make nausea packets, with a thing of ginger ale and some crackers and some mints and some nuts. So our youth now had a place to serve. They had something to do in coordination with what the women were doing, but it could be a separate ministry. We now have expanded that existing ministry. That was one of the things I did.
We had an organization called “Families Moving Forward.” Our church, in the summer time, downstairs in our Sunday school rooms, we house homeless people. We work with an organization—and that’s the thing: collaborate. We don’t have to invent everything. Go find the groups that are doing things, and find a way to fit yourself into what they’re doing. That’s the thing I’m going to tell you the most. Collaborate; don’t reinvent the wheel. You don’t have to start everything. Go to people that are doing something; find a way to work with them. It’s much easier to get ministries going that way.
Families Moving Forward: we get three to four families, depending on how the big the families are. These are families in transition. They’re going… They don’t have a home yet, but the organization of Families Moving Forward doesn’t have any place to house them, but they help them get jobs, they help them find a place to live, they keep the kids in school, but at night they have no place to put them, so they were homeless. 65 churches in the Twin Cities take turns taking these families until they get into their place of living. We take them for two weeks.
What we do is: a different organization every night cooks them dinner, so when they come at five o’clock—after the day is over, they come at five o’clock—they have dinner. Then another organization plays with the kids, does a craft, just fellowships with the parents while the kids are playing. Then they go downstairs to our classrooms and spend the night. They get up in the morning and we have food there for them for breakfast before the buses pick them up, and we have food for them to make sandwiches to take with them for while they’re gone during the day. So that created all kinds of opportunities for us, so our different ministries could take a night.
Then, after two years, I thought, “You know? Why don’t we go to the other churches and let them take a night, because they can’t afford—they don’t have the facility; they’re smaller churches—to house homeless people. We do, but we don’t have to be the only ones doing that. So we went to the Russian church and the Antiochian church, so now they take a night and their people come and they play with the kids and they cook a meal and they stay. We created a ministry and a pan-Orthodox ministry. We didn’t invent it. We didn’t have to get the staff for it. We worked with an existing organization. We grew it that way.
And also they do a thing called “Cardboard Box City.” What they do is, the kids get a cardboard box. They go to the appliance center, get a cardboard box. We go to the state fair. The kids collect money for a month for rent to spend the night at Cardboard Box City, and the teenagers do this through their churches, with their families. They get a cardboard box, we go to the fairgrounds, and everybody sleeps in a box, and they fix their boxes up, and they paint them and make them look like windows. But you sleep in a box like a homeless person. Then the money you’ve collected in your parish, that they collect, goes to pay rent that night, and all the proceeds, everybody’s rent, helps support Families Moving Forward.
The kids get to experience what it is to sleep in a box, that, really, people sleep in a box. We don’t live in that world. This is really super for the kids. They have music, and the kids get a cup of soup and a piece of bread, just like if they were going to a shelter. It’s such a great experience. Again, I didn’t invent it. All I did was coordinate it. But I found a place that was doing something, and found ways to expand it. Again, collaboration with people that are already doing things. It takes that load off of you. We all feel like we have to come up with new ministries—we have to think of it and we have to do it—and you don’t. Do your research.
A good way to get started where you live is: go online, Google “Pittsburgh shelters,” and what’ll happen is, it’ll come up and it’ll be a thing that comes up like, here I did Pittburgh because I figured it was the closest one. I just pulled up Pittsburgh shelters, and I got this thing that says “HSD, Help the Needy, Shelters and Services for the Needy.” In it, it immediately has pictures of all the shelters, what they do, their name and address. We’ve got Work Street Commons, Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh, Pleasant Valley Shelter for Men, Compassionate Care Center, Whale’s Tale, McKeesport Outreach for Homeless Youth, Women’s Space East, Allegheny Valley Association of Churches that does City Center and they do full details [and] they house homeless people as well.
I just Googled “Shelter in Pittsburgh,” and all these places came up. If you were trying to find something to do for your church, you have nine places to call that you could find something to do. I did this for Minneapolis. I’m sure where you live, you could do this. All I’m trying today is: I want you to know it’s really… You just go out and look. God tells us. Christ says, “The poor will always be with you,” and he wasn’t lying; he never lies to us. There’s always opportunity. You just have to do a little work, and then bring it back to your organizations. Again, I don’t call for individual volunteers; I share it. If it’s a women’s shelter, I go to my women’s group. If it’s a men’s shelter, I go to my men’s group. I find things for the youth to do. Connecting them. Let’s find out where I have a heart for women that are in trouble. [These are] just some ideas that you can have.
When I said taking existing ministries and building them and incorporating them, the first thing you need to know is: what are your existing ministries? That’s why I asked you: Do you know all the things that your church does? Because sometimes this group’s doing something, this group’s doing something, and unless you’re doing it, you may not know. What we did is we created this little book that I gave you. Does everyone have one? Do you have one? It’s a guide to ministry. I used to call it the handbook for ministry; for some reason they changed it. I don’t want to spend a lot of time on it, but as you can see we have a parish vision, and we have a mission and outreach team. Then what we did is we listed all the different ministries of our church.
Mrs. Anderson: We start off with the ministries that are actually what we consider the church ministries, the sacraments that are provided to our people and that kind of thing. When I say “ministries,” that’s the other thing I want us to remember. We need to minister to each other. We had a gentleman here, John, one of our speakers, at the keynote thing, [who] said, “One of the things we have to do is love each other and pray for each other.” When we’re thinking of ministries, don’t just think ministry like “I’ve got to go feed a homeless person,” because in our own parishes we need to help each other.
We started something called the intercessory prayer group. That’s a ministry for our people. We’re getting prayed for. Fr. Coniaris put this book together for them, and it’s different prayers and starts with, of course, trisagion prayers. Then he put some different prayers in there for the sick. What our people do… Here’s a great thing for people, older people who physically they’ve been cooking in the church for 50 years; they’re kind of tired of cooking, but they want to serve. This is something they can do: pray. They can pray. So they meet, and they take this book, and then we give them the list of the sick and the suffering that we put in our bulletin, and they pray for all those people. Then in these prayers, there is also, as we do in our Liturgy, pray for all the people of the world. They do that. There’s a ministry in the church for our own people, and that is outreach. It’s in-reach and outreach, something everyone can do. We all have time to pray, even if we’re working.
I just wanted to give you some little ideas. You’d be surprised, even if you just do this on a sheet of paper. There’s something about realizing what your church is actually doing, and then you can strategically go: You know what? We’re not doing this or we’re not doing that. Then you fill in your gaps, and you can see where you might want to have a focus. Kevin was here, and some of you were in here, and he was talking about being strategic. It’s something that’s new, I think, to us. God wants us to give him our best, but we still have to leave room for the Holy Spirit, but he still wants us to give our best. Put your stuff together, figure out what you’re doing. Trust the Holy Spirit. But it doesn’t just mean: “God, you take care of me. You know we need to do this.” That’s the mistake we make. We still have to be strategic, look at what we’re doing, focus on it, have a reason, have a goal.
Putting this on paper, you’d be surprised how many people will get it and go: “I didn’t know we were doing that!” And that’s the involved people who don’t know! So this is a good tool, and when we have people who visit, this is something I give them in a welcome packet, so they can see: “Oh, my kids could do this. I could do that.” It’s just a good place to start. Ours is bigger. Again, we’re very blessed in Minnesota. But these are just recipes for you. They’re ideas for you. They’re tools. This is not the only way. I just wanted you to leave here with some ideas of things that you can use and adapt to your parish and what your needs might be.
I have no idea what time it is, because this clock is wrong.
In your packet, I have something. It’s a sheet of paper. It’s with the agenda. It says, “Evolution of a Ministry.” It should be under the agenda sheet, Stacy. Yep, the second sheet. Just go over this kind of quickly. One of the things in my job that I figured out is that everybody comes and they tell the priest, “Father, we should do… blah-blah-blah-blah.” Well, I learned, because I work for a priest now, they can’t do everything that you ask them to do, and they may think it’s a great idea when people come to them with ideas. Sometimes you do have to grass-roots it, but first go to your priest and get a blessing for what it is you think you would like to do, because he is your proistamenos, and he is that for a reason, but it doesn’t mean he has to do everything.
Everything you do in the church should be in cooperation. We need to have teamwork in church, and the cooperation is that first we have worship which is leitourgia, which means “work of the people,” so we have to start with worship to stay connected with Christ. Then we have stewardship because, whether we like it or not, we have to pay the electric bill, and we have to keep the grounds clean and we have to repair the broken things. That’s part of stewardship. But we also have to have ministry, and those are three things that are connected in church. Ministry builds stewardship, because when you’re doing and working in church and you’re joyful and happy and alive, you want to give more to your church and keep it, but stewardship creates ministry, so by having the money and the ability to pay for things that you want to get started… It’s never disconnected. Fr. Steve talked to us about being in unity. We’re not alone. Nothing we do is alone. Everything has to be in union. It’s the same thing for us.
I did this “Evolution of a Ministry” to kind of give you as a guide, when you’re thinking… What are you thinking when you start a ministry? So you need your idea of what you want to do. Then prayerfully consider what God is asking you to do, and what service you want to provide. Is there a need for what you want to do? What’s your concept? Do you just want a fellowship group? Do you want something deeper, something more spiritual? Or do you just want to do a service, where you just have a food shelf or something? Be strategic, again, of what it is you’re looking to do, and keep prayer as part of it. Sometimes we think we know what we want to do, but we’re not asking God to show us what he wants us to do. Again, we have to stay connected to him. He will help you build what he wants us to do. He’ll make it clear by what works and what doesn’t work.
Is there already a similar ministry? Again, that’s where you look at: What are we already doing? Do I need to make a whole new one, because pretty much we’re already doing that? Could we maybe just work together and make this a better ministry? Is it already happening? If it’s different, how is it different? Does it warrant another ministry? Because when you make another ministry, then you’re pulling your people again, too, so you don’t want to be spreading your people too thin.
The other side of that coin is that the more ministries is good in that: “I don’t want to bake cookies. I’d like to do this. That’s not my cup of tea.” By having more opportunities for people to serve more, people will come to serve. The problem [lies] in the individual who doesn’t say no, so they think they have to be on every ministry. That’s a personal thing. That’s something that we all have to be careful of. You don’t have to be in every ministry. Someone said, “Oh, we have too many things! I can’t do them all!” I’m like: “You don’t have to do them all!” That’s the whole point. Let somebody else do it. That’s something we all have to work on in our own selves.
Try to have a mission statement, just one line, but if you have a mission statement, then you can get the buy-in from people: what you think your ministry is going to be. Who are you looking to have in your ministry? Is it open to everybody? Is it open to the community? Do you just want it for men or for women? Is there an age target? These are things you need to think about ahead of time, so you don’t get started on something and go: “Oh, what are we going to do with them?” Think about what you’re doing.
Are you prepared to communicate your vision so that you’re all on the same page? Example: “Let’s do a Bible study on Luke.” Because you say you’re going to have a Bible study, well, [the people] in your Bible study [say]: “No, we want to read Isaiah. That’s the whole thing of Christ’s coming.” So that is much deeper, much longer, much more sense of soul. You have to be clear in what it is that you’re trying to do so that you’re on the same page when you start so that people are not disappointed: “I thought this was going to be…” You have the opportunity to fix that by how you start your ministry.
What are your goals? Are they measurable? Are they attainable? Are they time-limited? You don’t have to answer any of those questions, but think of them anyways, because we’re not selling cars. For instance, if only one of you came to my talk today, to my presentation, would I be disappointed? Of course, I’m human. I have ego. I would be disappointed. However, would I think that’s a failure? I would not, because I know that if only one of you came, then that’s [whom] the Holy Spirit wanted me to share with. Is that measurable? To someone who’s doing statistics, they say, “That Sandra, she’s not very good. She only had one person.” But I don’t see it that way. You have to decide for yourself: Do you think it’s something that you need to measure, that you need to have a vision of? That’s your own thing, but I put it here because you need to think about these things.
Then, creating literature to publicize. Are you going to have a logo? We have Koinonia. We made a logo, the holding hands. Is there going to be a slogan? “Two or more are gathered.” Are you going to do flyers and posters? How are you going to publicize it, and who’s going to do that? Again, we all want to start things. We get all excited, and then we don’t really have our act together. Then it doesn’t happen, and then we’re disappointed, and then we don’t want to fail, we don’t want to try things.
Where will you meet and how often? These seem like petty things, but they become big issues when you’re dealing with people and church. When you’re presenting something to someone, have these things checked off in your mind. Or do you want to decide after you get together? So then you have to decide that. You know: “We’re not going to decide whether we’re going to meet once a month. Let’s meet together and everyone says, “No, I think we could do twice a month.” You make that decision together.
Does your ministry require a priest? Because then you do have to think about time, because their time is so precious, and they’re not always available.
That’s just a little, like I said; this is just a recipe. It’s not the way.
The next one I have is called Teamwork, because the Lord knows we are human and we’re fallen. When we’re in the church, that’s [whom] we’re dealing with: each other in all our fallenness and all our glory, because whatever we’re doing in our ministry… The ministries don’t belong to us. They belong to God, and that is the one thing that you always have to keep in mind. You do not own a ministry. It’s not your ministry. It is God’s ministry. All that we do has to be to the glory of God, otherwise don’t. Don’t do it.
Teamwork, because we’re the body of Christ. We’re the laos. We’ve heard that all this week.
I wanted to read to you from I Peter. I’m used to giving talks on prison ministry, so it’s a whole different way for me to be doing this. It’s a little different from how I normally do it. I Peter 4…
But when the end of all things is at hand, therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. Above all things, have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another, without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
We have to love each other and we have to be kind to each other and we have to listen to each other and be connected to each other, so when we’re working as the people of God, why do we have to have teamwork? Well, we want to accomplish a goal. We want to do something that we can’t do on our own. We want to maximize the gifts and talents of the people in our church. We want to do that together. We want to support and encourage one another and keep moving toward the goal, because we need each other.
How are teams formed? Well, a group is either identified or they make themselves known, that they want to be on a team, a leader or a leadership team selects a team. Team members are given roles that maximize their gifts and their talents. A commitment is given by team members to follow through with their responsibility.
Being careful about teams is… Remember that the 70 were called. Sometimes think about what you’re doing. Do you want to just put it out there and say, “We’re doing this. You all want to come”? Because sometimes the worst people that really don’t have a gift for what it is that you’re asking them to come and do are the first ones to raise their hand. I’m not saying… All gifts are given for a reason: to be used. God doesn’t like it when we don’t use the gifts he gives us. No one can say, “I don’t have any gifts.” We all have gifts. But sometimes you have to be careful how you’re inviting, because you have to be prepared for who’s going to answer your call.
Sometimes in the beginning you might consider just going to the specific person and looking them in the face and saying… Here’s what I always say: “I would like you to prayerfully consider being on this team, and we want to do A, B, and C.” I never ask a person to answer me at that time. I never say, “Will you help me with this?” I always say, “Will you prayerfully consider doing this with me? Here’s what I’m doing,” and ask them to come back to me. The reason is this. When I ask you to prayerfully consider it, and you come back and you tell me, “No,” I’m good with that. You know why? Because you considered it; you prayerfully considered it, and you thought, “You know what? I can’t do this.” Thank you! I’m glad. Now I will go ask someone else.
What I don’t like is when I say, “Could you help me with this?” and they go: “Yeah!” and then they don’t show up. Or: “I can’t come. My kid vomited.” “Oh, my husband’s whisking me off for a surprise trip. Isn’t that great?” But, no, it’s not great, because you just committed to me. So when I ask someone to prayerfully consider it, and they tell me yes or no, I believe it more because I’ve asked them to give it to God, to prayerfully consider what is really my reality, if I can do this or not. Too many times, people don’t know how to say no, so if you just ask them right then and there, they’ll say yes, because they’re pressured, not because they want to do it. Don’t be afraid to take a minute to get the answer back when you’re asking someone to help you, and don’t be afraid to be strategic in the beginning of asking certain people to do certain things. Then maybe you open it up. I don’t want that to sound negative, like certain people wouldn’t be invited, but there are times you have to be careful and loving.
In that same respect, sometimes you have people on your team and it’s not working. Is it so wrong to have the honest discussion with someone of: “I love you, and I really wanted this to work, but I’m feeling…” So you have confrontation, but loving confrontation. There’s nothing wrong with it, as long as you remember when you’re confronting someone: Is it loving, what you’re going to say? Is it true, what you’re going to say? Is it necessary, what you’re going to say? Sometimes we don’t want to be brutally honest. If it’s not loving and necessary… But sometimes it’s okay to talk to someone and say, “This isn’t working.”
If you need help, use your priest. Say, “I’m in this position, Father. Here’s what’s going on.” Never forget our spiritual leaders. If we’re lucky enough to have spiritual mothers, that’s a blessing, too. I say “fathers” because we don’t have anyone close to us that we can… We don’t have the blessing of having a monastery near so we could run and have a spiritual mother. Never forget that we can have spiritual mothers and fathers and we are to go to them. They want us to go to them. That’s the stuff they want us to go to [them for], not petty stuff. They want us to come to them, and they don’t have to be involved in everything, but they have to know what’s going on. They’ll also help you and guide you in how to have this, because they say, “Go to the person first. If it doesn’t work out, then bring a witness.” Follow the procedure; there’s even a procedure in the Bible on what we should do when we’re confronting people.
On the back of this, I wrote some things. We did some brainstorming. We did a little few-hour talk on this, on successful teams and how to start teams and leadership teams. Then we did some brainstorming. What I did is really just gave you this information. On the front where we have these notes… On the back, the notes coincide with those particular topics. You can take this with you; I don’t want to inundate you with 12,000 things here.
What I wanted to remember when we’re serving others:
Above all things have fervent charity among yourselves, for charity shall cover a multitude of sins. So use that hospitality with one another without grudging. Every man has received a gift, even so minister the same to one another as good stewards of the manifold [gifts] of God.
I wanted to remind you that we are supposed to be together in worship, in stewardship, and ministry. Ministry doesn’t have to mean going out to a shelter. It could be right in your own home, in your own church. Like I said, we have a centering prayer group.
I gave you a little packet that has the centering prayer information on it, it has the hesychia… These are kind of ministries that don’t require physicality, so people who are struggling or homebound or can’t do a whole lot of things, don’t have a lot of money… When you invite them to pray for you or pray with you, that’s a ministry. Smiling is a ministry.
Q1: Centering prayer, is that like the Jesus Prayer, or what is that?
Mrs. Anderson: Yes, it’s the Jesus Prayer. We took it from the Catholics, and they have centering prayer. But really it’s more ancient than that. It is the hesychia, and it is the Jesus Prayer. But because we took some of their format, we didn’t feel that we had the right to just sort of change it. But now, [with] Fr. Anthony, we have started calling it the Jesus Prayer, because that’s really what it comes down to. Again, don’t be afraid to learn from what other churches are doing. Orthodox is how you believe in your faith and how you live as an Orthodox Christian.
I want you to remember that sometimes things work; sometimes they don’t. Sometimes you put it to bed and try it again later. Don’t let a ministry that doesn’t happen [well] keep you from trying something else or trying again at another time, because sometimes it’s not time. Sometimes the parish has to catch up with you. I know that sounds weird, but it’s really the truth. Sometimes you really have a feeling for something. Like, for us to house the homeless people!? Oh, my Lord.
Ten years this woman kept coming to us. “These churches are doing it. We could do it.” They’re like: “Xenoi in the house!? No, I don’t think so.” Well, I’m sorry, you know, strangers. Then they realized, a lot of these people, statistically, of course, are African-American. They were like: “Can’t they stay in the kitchen, down by the…” We’re like: “You know what? If we’re inviting them to our home, would you stay to them, ‘Please just use that bathroom and don’t come into our nice room’?” No, they’re either welcomed in this church or they’re not. We will not… What does Christ say? “If you’re lukewarm, I’m going to spit you out.”
Make sure that you can really do the ministry the way you want. If it isn’t the time for it, it’ll be clear, but don’t stop. If your heart really says, “I think we can do this,” try it again and try it again, because it took us ten years, and now it’s a vibrant ministry. Our parish loves it, but at first it was frightening to them. They were terrified. I don’t know what they thought we were going to do.
The last thing I want to talk about was ministries before we go to koinonia: This was something I used to do, and then the stewardship people thought it might be good if they took over, and I was so thrilled, because my job is to create ministry, not be in every ministry. How do you find out what people in your church want to do? I’m going to give you these… My guy who does the computer was in Paris, so he wasn’t able to do this for me, but we call this the Time and Talent Sheet. This is from 2011, because, again, he wasn’t here to do this for me.
How do you know what people like or what they want to do or what they’re interested in or what their passions are? You might have someone who’s an accountant. Don’t ask them to be the accountant for your ministry. Find out what their passion is, because what we do for a living and what our passion is may not be the same at all. We put down all the ministries that we have that are in the handbook of ministry. Although this has not been updated, the ministry book has. We pass this out to people, and they, then, would check off what they’re interested in.
Then I would take the names of those people… We have a system on our—again, St. Mary’s is a blessed church. We have something called “church management systems,” and it’s really just a software for churches. It has activities, which would be these things, and that’s why they have that number, 073, 013. I can pull up under activities, 015, and everyone who’s ever been involved in Philoptochos so I can be very strategic in getting this information. I can’t tell you how you would process this, but what I then do is I find out all the people who are interested in these ministries, and I send that information to the person in charge of that ministry. I don’t call these people; I give it to that person, and that person calls a person and says, “I hear you’re interested in my ministry. Tell me a little bit more about yourself.” That’s their thing to do; I’m not a volunteer coordinator. It’s a very different thing.
This really is helpful, because I know what Gregory wants to do and doesn’t want to do in church. He’s happy to help at the Greek festival, and his wife likes to work in Philoptochos. Other than that, they’re not going to be too involved in church, and that’s okay, but I know that now. I’m not going to bug them for a million things.
Find out what you are doing in church and find a way to find out what your people are interested in doing, but never, ever give this to a person who is visiting your church on Sunday. Please. I can’t tell you, because I’ve heard somebody say, “What do you want to do? Do you want to be on my committee?” It’s like, “Do you want us to pray for you? Is there a reason you’re here today?”
That’s it for ministry stuff. What time do we get out of here?
Q2: When do you give this out?
Mrs. Anderson: Once a year during stewardship.
Q2: Does everybody get one?
Mrs. Anderson: Yeah, we have what we call a “two-cent lunch.” Everybody can stand up and give their two cents on how they think things are going with church. We give them that and ask them to fill it out. The two-cent lunch is funny.
How much time do I have left now?
Audience: I don’t know. Let’s see. One hour. 4:25, so you have time.
Mrs. Anderson: Okay, so I have till 5:20. So we can do koinonia.
Q3: Sandra, before you start, can I ask you: You said, “I coordinate the ministries, I don’t…”
Mrs. Anderson: I’m not on every ministry.
Q3: Okay, so how do you really do that? So there is a leader of each ministry…
Mrs. Anderson: Yeah, each one of the ministries…
Q3: Before or after you planned it? Like, you planned the cardboard-box ministry.
Mrs. Anderson: Right, but I didn’t plan it. I found out it was happening, and then I went to my youth director.
C1: So she went through an existing group.
Mrs. Anderson: And said to the youth director, “You know what? Do your kids want to do this?” At the women’s shelter, I went to Philoptochos; they’re women.
Q3: You do all this stuff, and you don’t need to show up at anything, unless you want to.
Mrs. Anderson: I do, but I don’t consider myself on everything. A lot of times, I will help start something, until… Here’s what happens. People are afraid to be the first one to do something, or they’re afraid to be the chief. Once they do something, and if I just help them, and then they realize, “Oh, this isn’t rocket science. Of course, I can do it”... It’s just that fearfulness sometimes, of the first time. So that is what I do. I help them, but I do everything to help make it work for them, and I help make the connections. That’s my job.
You’re not always going to have that in a church. Again, a little bit of this you have to work out how it works for you. I’m just trying to show you some ways that you can do it, but except for, of course, prison ministry… I told them, “I will help you start this, and I’ll do it for one year, so people won’t be afraid and they’ll see I’m not dead and I come home every night from the prison.” And that was in 2005. But that’s a ministry that really stuck with me. It’s my passion.
I get to see… You know, you’re all good people, and you go to church and you’re faithful and you’re seeking to be close to Christ. I don’t see transformation in you. I see Stacy every year. I’m not going to see her transformed, because she is a faithful person already. But when you go to the prison and you see someone who’s broken, and they’ve found Christ… We hear all the time: What do we hear? “A new man in Christ, a new creation in Christ.” We don’t see that in each other, but we see it when somebody who has been in the depths of hell and has been transformed into a new person by Christ—to see that! That’s a blessing, and that is one of the things… We think we’re going there for them, but really they’re there for us. They show us and they humble us in their walk, in their desperate journey to change a lifetime of brokenness and addiction and that kind of thing. The prison ministry is very special to me.
Koinonia. It’s really nothing more than something we stole from the Catholic Church that is small faith communities. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel all the time. There’s really a lot of good stuff out there that you can… I call it “Orthodoxizing” it.
Here’s what happens in our church. We’re a huge church. Well, you know, in the Orthodox… We have 650 families. Sunday after Liturgy, we’re in the great hall, and I see someone, and I’m like: “Hi, Stacy! How are you doing? Did you call Sue for me? Good, because I really… How are you doing? How are you feeling? Oh, I’m sorry, I have to go talk to Judy before I forget.” That’s coffee hour.
How do you be in communion with a person? You’re on your knees, you’re praying to God, you receive the Body and Blood, you’re feeling really good, you go in this room and we’re all in our cliques, and we’re all trying to catch [whom] we have to catch and get our stuff done. Really, I had a stroke. Half my parish doesn’t know. Who has the time? And I’m not going to walk around with a sign, although I thought about getting a cast. You know, you can’t tell that I can’t see, so I thought: I’m going to get a pink cast, and when someone says, “Whoa, what happened to your arm?” I’m going to say, “Nothing, but can I tell you about my eye!?”
But because we’re too busy… What we realize is we’re supposed to be in communion. What do we say in the Creed? One, holy, catholic, apostolic Church. We worry about our families, we focus on our families, and we should focus on our families, but we forget the most important family, and that’s this family, as my sister and brother in Christ. That family is just as much your family, sometimes more than our blood family. Sometimes at a holiday all my relatives are there and I’m thinking, “I invited these people here?” No, I love my family, but you know what I’m saying. We don’t put enough emphasis on our church family, and, really, that’s the holy family.
When we say “one,” the Church is one. It’s in union; it’s one union. It’s God, and he is in union with the Holy Spirit, like Father told us in “Living the Mystery.” It’s holy. The glory of God, the grace of God: that’s in our family; that’s in our church. That’s holy. It’s apostolic. It’s catholic, universal. That means our church, our family church is open to everyone. All of mankind is invited into this family. Whether we enter it or not, that’s our journey, but we’re invited into this family. Just as much care as we take for our little families in our little homes, we have to take as much care to our family in Christ. The Church is apostolic, which means these are the followers of Christ. Christ asked them to follow him. He’s the Word. He’s the Son of God. We’re all those things. We say it every Sunday: We’re one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. What’s that mean to us? What does it mean to us?
We realize that it’s hard in church sometimes to have the connections that we should be having with each other. We found out the Catholics do this thing, the small community churches, so we started the Koinonia project. I made this little packet for you. We can’t go through everything, but I just want you to know I have given you how we talked about it as a vision. I’ve given you how we put it together, the conversations we had, the one about implementing it in the church. I put some copies of little things that we would put in our monthly newsletter to remind people all the time about Koinonia and some direct invitations to people to come to a Koinonia meeting.
Koinonia really means… The Greek word, of course, and you’ve heard it all weekend is community, being in communion. It’s not a Bible study. It’s an opportunity to be in homes with each other. I put a list together of some of the things that you need so we have this sheet. It says:
Koinonia: Where two or three are gathered in my name.
Koinonia is a way to experience the reality of being brothers and sisters in Christ. We will be growing in our faith life by joining hands in our life experiences, supporting each other, praying for each other, laughing and learning together. There will also be ways for us to celebrate with each other at various times throughout the year. We have begun with joy, fully realizing that we will all learn lessons of patience, flexibility, and dedication along the way.
That’s what our dream was to start for the Koinonia project. I put this sheet together for you. It’s a list, and it says: Koinonia: Volunteers required. We know what we want to do. We want to be in small faith groups. We had to figure out how we were going to do it. In our church, we’re not a community church. Nobody walks to church except Stamata, who lives across the street. She knows everything that’s going on in the church. “I was in the church, and I saw the peoples. Why are all these peoples here? It’s Tuesday.” Because she doesn’t realize we rent out the church. God bless Stamata. But nobody else walks to church.
What we did is we got a big map, and we blew it up, and we took our registry of everybody, and we put pins where people live by zip code. We could look at that and we saw all these families who lived in a zip code and kind of close to each other. Then we had a Sunday where we… We had been building up to it, and I have given you everything you ever want to know about Koinonia, but I wanted you to leave here and really be actually able to look at this at home and think, “This is something our church could do.”
What is Koinonia? When is it starting? Then we had registration. We sent out invitations to people in the different areas and said, “We’re thinking of starting a group in your area. Who would be interested?” What you need… Let’s just look at this real quick. You need a lay leader to begin the ministry. You need someone who’s going to… The parishioners to make the commitment to protect the monthly date. You need a home or a meeting room. Some people live in apartments, and they have a cool room that they can meet in, if somebody wants to be that host.
Q4: How big is each group, about?
Mrs. Anderson: We usually do 12… No, try not to do more than 12. Christ was smart. He had 12 people for a reason. Once you have more than 12 people, you start separating, and then you’re not in a group. You turn into your own clique. You want to keep it that way.
Again, you have to do it how it works for your church. You need someone to bring a meal if you’re going to bring a meal. Or our group just does coffee and a snack after we have our meeting. You need the Growing Faithful Families book. Some of you will have to share. You need discussion material, which you have in your packet. We’re going to do a koinonia.
The benefits—I’ll go quickly—members become like family. Adults and kids become aware that they are not alone in Orthodoxy. More close connections to the church. Children grow closer and are supported by other church adults. We can share struggles. Newcomers bond quicker.
The challenges: Busy schedules; it’s very hard to get one time that works for everybody. Prioritizing the date, really sticking, looking ahead and saying, “I can’t do that; that’s our Koinonia night.” You have to make that commitment if you’re going to make this commitment to have this group. Too much interest for a particular group. We have a couple that is a God-send to our church—the Charis family—everybody wants to be in their group. Well, they can’t have everyone in the group. You have to draw a line and say, “We’re at this. It’s too much. We recommend…” and try to have another group.
Using existing groups to grow the program. We don’t want to… Sometimes when a group gets big, you’re going to have to divide, which is a wonderful thing that you have so many people interested in being together and wanting to be together, but you have to be careful, because you want to create a small faith community, not a clique. Because we’re grounded in Christ, it’s easy not to become a clique, because everything is about God. I’ll tell you about that in one second.
Q5: I have a quick question. When you’re forming these groups, you base it specifically on the location?
Mrs. Anderson: In our church, that’s what we did, because if you’re trying to be a community and you know that Stamata needs to go to the doctor, it’s easier for someone in her group to take her, because we know that we live near her here. For us, it was geographical.
Q5: That helps eliminate the cliques?
Mrs. Anderson: It helps, because the old church that used to be… But it’s not a clique because…
Q5: No, I mean you’re getting rid of them. You’re not asking your friends to be in your group.
Mrs. Anderson: You’re getting rid of that, right. In the old days, where that zip code was, there would have been a little church that everybody went to and they would have been together, but now we drive 40 minutes to get to church. There isn’t a church near you, so you create small church communities. That’s what you’re doing.
Then I have some little tips to get started. What I want to read… I want to take one minute to talk about this book: Growing Faithful Families. Everyone should have this book in their home and in their church.
Q6: Who wrote it? Is it new?
Mrs. Anderson: Rebecca Myerly wrote it. She’s a parishioner at our church, a convert to our church. She wrote me a little letter so I could explain to you. I’m going to read it to you real quick.
Growing Faithful Families started out as an experimental weekly handout given to the children in church at St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church. The purpose of the handout was to help families enter into the Scripture readings they would hear in the Liturgy on the upcoming Sunday so that they could and would be able to grow in appreciation for an awareness and understanding of Scripture readings.
Shortly before studying this handout, our parish, under Fr. Harry Pappas, developed a five-point mission statement. Get a mission statement if you don’t have one. For us, it’s: Hear, Share, Serve, Grow, and Pray. We adopted these five points and made them the key elements for each Sunday’s handout.
That’s how the book is written: Hear, pray, grow, serve, and share. There’s no—what do you call it when you have the letters together to make something?—it doesn’t work.
But we want to hear the word of God. We want to share thoughts and insights. We want to grow in faith. We want to serve in love, and pray. Using these five elements each Sunday, both the epistle and Gospel readings are included, and then questions to share, suggestions for growing in the faith, and serving ideas to put feet on our faith, and for prayer. The handouts were well-received, so I kept writing them, one for each Sunday until there were handouts for every Sunday of the liturgical year.
At that time, I asked Fr. Harry what to do regarding the handouts, and he encouraged me to talk to Fr. Coniaris and show him the handouts. Fr. Anthony, of course, was with our church for 43 years. He was a prolific writer and founded Light and Life Publishing Company with his daughter, Patty, [who] now manages it. Fr. Anthony continues to write and is still actively involved in Light and Life.
When I talked to Fr. Anthony about the weekly handouts and gave them to him to read, he was very enthusiastic about the importance of the handouts for helping families to grow in faith. Therefore, he wanted to publish them. That is how the book, Growing Faithful Families, came to be. Thanks be to God.
Some time after Growing Faithful Families was published, Tia Muchulas contacted me. Tia, together with Sandra Anderson, came up with the idea of starting Koinonia groups to share and grow in faith as individuals in community. When Tia contacted me that Koinonia groups had been growing quite a while. She asked me to write the monthly handouts for their meetings.
At that time, the handouts were based on Fr. Stylianopoulos’ five volumes titled, A Year of the Lord: Liturgical Biblical Studies. After completing Fr. Stylianopoulos’ study, I started using Growing Faithful Families for the handout, adapting the material as needed for a faith-sharing group instead of a family gathering with children. We are completing our fourth and final year of handouts using Growing Faithful Families. There’s a surprise coming for the Koinonia groups in 2014.
So that is how the book came to be, Growing Faithful Families. As you can see, she follows the mission of the church. We start by sharing the word, then we hear some questions, then we have some growth questions, and then “How can we serve?” and to pray.
You two can share, or you can take my book and you can teach me. Here’s what I want to do… Do you have enough to share? Can you share? I have one more book.
Q7: How many books do you have in the church [for] Koinonia [groups]?
Mrs. Anderson: Right now we only have five, four, and we’re trying to start a fifth one. We’ve had as many as ten. It weans. Some groups, for whatever reason, maybe the leader moves and nobody wants to be the leader…
I’ve given you everything that you need on how to start it, how to do it. Let’s do it. We’ll just do a little mock-Koinonia night. You can pretend you’re at my house.
Q8: All of us are going to be in one group?
Mrs. Anderson: Yeah, we’re a group. We’re going to be a group. This sheet that we have here is format for a typical gathering. Pull that sheet out. You’re going to have so much stuff, you’re going to hate me.
Audience: No, we love you. You’re fantastic. It’s fantastic. It’s great.
Mrs. Anderson: Koinonia: format for a typical gathering. The first thing we would do would be the opening prayers. What we did for everybody is we made this little card. On one side is the trisagion prayers, so let’s do that real quick. Let’s stand up and do the prayer.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Glory to you, O Lord, glory to you.
O heavenly King, O Comforter, the Spirit of truth, who are in all places and fill all things, the Treasury of good things and Giver of life, come and abide in us; cleanse us from every stain, and save our souls, O Good One.
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us. Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us. Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to ages of ages. Amen.
O most-holy Trinity, have mercy on us. O Lord, cleanse us from our sins. O Master, pardon our transgressions. O Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities for your name’s sake.
Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to ages of ages. Amen.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, unto ages of ages. Amen.
Mrs. Anderson: The first thing you would have done when you came to my house—go ahead and sit down—is somewhere in this sheet of all the madness that I had… In the facilitator’s thing. Keep this separate. This is what you would have if you were the leader, to tell you how to get through the night. It tells you everything you need to remember to do this.
One of the things that we have is a sheet of paper, and it says, “Those who prayerfully come to mind.” I would have had these cut up and on the table, and when you came in I would have had you write your name on it and put it in a bowl. Then after everyone would be there, before they left, everyone would go to the bowl and take a name with them and go home and they would pray for that person until the next month, so that we’re always praying for each other when we’re not together. I put one of those in there for you to show you. I want you to have exactly what we would have at a Koinonia meeting, and I’m available to you always. I will give you my card when we’re done. You can call me any time. My priest is already… I said, “What if a lot of people call me?” He said, “Sandra, don’t worry about it.” So I am available to you if you have any questions.
We did our opening prayer…
Q9: When you’re praying, are you praying for somebody you don’t know, then?
Mrs. Anderson: No, you’re praying for someone in your group. Because every time you’re going to pick a different name.
C2: You could only put your name.
Mrs. Anderson: You just put your name. It would be cut in sheets, so you would just write your own name and put it in the bowl. Then when we leave, someone takes that name. So we’re praying for each other. If you pick up yours, put it back in and take another one. You should be praying…
We’re going to just take three minutes, because one of the things that we don’t do, one of the things I’m most guilty of, is I can’t be quiet. I desperately want to be quiet. Let’s, right here, I want you all to go through this prayer and meditation. This is personal. This is silent. Do it yourself. I’m going to come back to you in just a couple minutes. For us, we’re just going to take a few minutes in this room to be quiet and think of these questions.
How did it feel to be quiet for just a few minutes? We have the mother and our sister here, so I’m sure it’s a huge part of their life, but for us it’s not. Once a month, having this time, right? But aren’t these questions good, even for yourself, to say: For the next month, what will be my one clear and simple plan and who will I ask to pray for me? Again, it’s that thing of: we don’t do confession alone; we have the priest there. Even though we’re talking to Christ, the priest is there to help us and guide us.
When we make a confession, people say, “Oh, I don’t need to go to confession. I’ll just tell God.” That’s fine, but you’re not accountable to anyone else. There’s no one else. You haven’t said it out loud. You don’t have to change anything, because you haven’t told anybody. If you say, “Oh, I’ll just tell God,” there’s nothing that’s going to make you change, but when you say it out loud to someone else, now you’ve put it out there and you have to do something about it.
When you ask someone to pray for us, if we have a plan and we’re working on something and you say to your sister or brother, “Will you help me with this?” Well, now you’ve shared something, and that person’s going to pray for you. Again, you’re not alone. We’re never alone in what we do unless we make ourselves alone. This is just a nice night for us, so that’s how we start. We calm down, we get quiet, and we think. Now when we hear the Scripture, we’re a little more open, because we’ve prepared in a comfortable, fun atmosphere.
The next thing, since we’re going to do it: this purple sheet says, “Koinonia November.” This is what everyone would get, and we’ve done the opening prayer, we’ve done our meditation. Stacy, would you read the prayer before reading Scripture?
Shine within our hearts, loving Master, the pure light of your divine knowledge, and open the eyes of our minds, that we may comprehend the message of your Gospel. Instill in us also reverence for your blessed commandments, so that, having conquered sinful desires, we may pursue the spiritual life, thinking and doing all those things which are pleasing to you. For you, Christ our God, are the light of our souls and bodies, and to you we give glory, together with your Father who is without beginning, and your all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now and forever, to the ages of ages. Amen.
Mrs. Anderson: Okay. Everybody open up your books to pages 74 through 77. Everyone got that? Leslie, would you read the Galatians for us?
See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand. It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the Law, but they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh. May I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world. For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything, but a new creation is everything. As for those who will follow this rule, peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. From now on, let no one make trouble for me, for I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.
Mrs. Anderson: Now, see, this is supposed to be Ephesians. Why isn’t this working for me?
C3: It’s “Or Ephesians.”
Mrs. Anderson: “Or Ephesians,” okay. We should have done Ephesians, but that’s okay. We’ll just go ahead and go. We’ll do what’s on here. We will do Luke, and I’ll read it.
So then he (Jesus) told them a parable: The land of a rich man produced abundantly, and he thought to himself, “What should I do? For I have no place to store my crops.” Then he said, “I will do this. I will put down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods, and I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years. Relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ ” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.
Now it says in here… I don’t know if this matches… Hopefully, yep. Page 75, share.
We have treasures. We have a couple questions we can ask. What are your treasures? Or what do you do with your treasures? And what does this reveal about you? Anyone want to comment what their treasures are?
A1: Craft supplies.
Mrs. Anderson: Shoes, for me. Oh, I’m with you. I’m a stamper. Don’t get me started. What are our treasures? What are some of our treasures?
A2: My children.
Mrs. Anderson: Yeah. Oh, look at you. You’re holy, see? We go right to the stuff.
A2: Yeah, but my children…
Mrs. Anderson: Well, they are treasures. So what does that reveal about us? It’s okay to have… Is it okay to have both treasures? God doesn’t say we can’t have things that we love. But I guess I would say we can have things that we love, but what goes with that, if we have that? Do we store up all our stuff or do we share? Am I supposed to? That would be what he would want of us.
What if you wanted more and more of something, and what was the end result? Did that happen to anybody?
Mrs. Anderson: Yes, Mother.
Mother: I had a really great job, and I was collecting things. When I was complaining about some things in confession, he said, “You may not be wealthy, but you’re obviously loved.” But I can turn even that around, too.
Mrs. Anderson: Having too much can be a burden. I think of how many times do we hear stories about people who win the lottery, and then their life is hell, because then they no longer know who really cares about me or are they just coming around about money? Having too much can be a burden.
But it doesn’t say we can’t have too much, but what is the responsibility if you do have a lot? We’re told if you have three coats, two of those coats belong to somebody poor. You should only have… It’s hard to walk that walk of really giving everything up. I’m not there. I go to the Hogar, I go to the monastery, and I think, “I want to live like this.” Then I think, “I can’t live like this. There’s not a Target. Who am I kidding?” But I get caught up in… where I think that I could do that, but there’s so much sacrifice that goes to do that that I know I’m shallow; I’m not ready to sacrifice. I will support it, and I’ll go and give my time, but I know I am not ready to do what that really takes. What you did. Nor do I have to.
Mother: Nor is everyone called to.
Mrs. Anderson: That’s what I mean. We’re not all called to it, but to recognize the call…
Mother: There are a lot of people who look at this and say, “I always wanted to be a nun.” Wonderful! So help us! But every single monk and nun had some miracle that brought them.
Mrs. Anderson: Can I ask you where the piece of art is?
Mother: St. Seraphim of Sarov. I gave it to a very poor man who loves art.
C4: How wonderful.
Mother: And he still has it. And he’s thinking about giving it back to the monastery.
Mrs. Anderson: And that’ll be your little guilty pleasure, Mother! [Laughter]
C5: Speaking of things, I’m a pack-rat myself. I don’t have anything of great value, but a lot of little stuff of little value. I read recently that when you grasp something and try to keep it for yourself, you lose the use of one hand. So that’s the burden that we have, that when we try to hold on to stuff…
Mrs. Anderson: So afraid to lose it! That’s great. Yeah, that’s true.
C5: Then we can’t use our hand any more.
Mrs. Anderson: Mm-hmm.
Where are we at here? I know we can’t go through everything, so how about if we go to “Grow”? Now, page 76. Ponder Jesus’ words: “For one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” What does your life consist in? Well, that’s a hard question.
I guess for me, mine doesn’t consist in my possessions, but probably I love my job. I feel so blessed that I have this job that I have. Every day, I’m one of the blessed people who doesn’t ever… I never say, “Oh, I have to go to work.” So I know that’s a blessing. But I also have to be careful, because… I can’t make that everything, because if I lose it, then, like my stamping… I don’t want to be humbled again like that, and I need to make room for someone else who might be good at this now and have the opportunity for it. I’ve been trying to let go of that in my mind. I feel like if I start letting go of it in my mind, I can work through letting go of it and realizing that maybe it’s time for someone else to come. I’ll be 65 next year, so those are the things I have to start thinking about: Really, am I going to retire? And what does it look like? I know what it looks like! I’ll do everything I’m doing right now, except I won’t get paid! [Laughter]
How are you rich toward God? How are you rich toward God? What do you think? I know you have something to say. Yeah, you, Anastasi.
Anastasi: How am I rich towards God?
Mrs. Anderson: How are you rich towards God?
Anastasi: I don’t know.
Mrs. Anderson: In your personal life, how do you feel that you’re… How are you doing with that?
Anastasi: I don’t know. I don’t know how I’m rich towards God. I wish I was. I don’t think I’m rich enough towards God.
C6: I can enlighten you. You’re passionate. You’re excitable. You share that spirit and that liveliness freely.
Mrs. Anderson: You are. You’re a humble servant. I mean, I only see you here, but I see that.
Anastasi: I’m so blessed. It’s so great where I work for sure.
Mrs. Anderson: But that joy shows in you, see?
Anastasi: You guys are great. Wow.
Mrs. Anderson: That’s what makes you so beautiful, is you don’t even see that. So you are rich; trust us.
Anastasi: Okay. Thanks.
Mrs. Anderson: Who else? How are you rich toward God? You know, these questions, because we’re kind of doing a Koinonia, but I’m also trying to kind of talk… The questions are really for us to… What we’re trying to do… Because this isn’t a Bible study, but everything that we’re doing has to come from here. We’re not really doing a Bible study. We’re not really studying Luke 12:2, but how are we connecting what we hear in the Bible—these are the things that we hear and we read—how are we connecting them to ourselves?
I spent years being a candy-striper. I volunteered in the VA home, I did all that stuff, but you know what? I did it because I was very unhappy at home, and it was an excuse for me to get out of home. I was a very insecure person with no self-esteem, so I was loved when I went there. I enjoyed the men, and they were lonely and I guess I felt lonely, so on some level I responded to that. But, never at any time was that my serving connected to God. I didn’t… So it didn’t fulfill me; it just took. For two hours I was happy, but I didn’t have joy, because it wasn’t connected to God. I didn’t connect what I did to God.
Why are we hearing the Bible verses and why are we hearing sermons and why are we going to church and why are we telling our children they should do this and that, if we don’t know how we’re connected to the Word? This isn’t a Bible study. It’s just a chance for us to hear these things and then to say, “What does that mean to me?” That’s something to do with your kids, too. How do you teach your kids to connect that? This isn’t just words. If we don’t make the connection, it is just words. Mother?
Mother: I just wanted to share the blessings that we have just to express our joy. This is your joy. We have the privilege of living in your father’s home. Sayidna Philip, at some point a few years ago, said, “We want to have a convent.” So the Antiochian Archdiocese started saving, and they found this perfect place—and I do hope you will come and see what I mean—and bought it. Do you know what it means to have a convent started and you don’t have a bill? This is your father’s place, and we’re so privileged—and we know it—to live there. We don’t have this mortgage hanging over us. It’s amazing. It’s a blessing.
Mrs. Anderson: But God is big. You’ll be good stewards of it, see, and that’s the other piece. We have to be good stewards of what we’re given, or it’s meaningless.
Q10: Sandra, this book was written for children?
Mrs. Anderson: It was written for families, to kind of have… We wrote it for the handouts for Sunday school, so that they would go home with their families and do this together. That’s why it says, “Growing Faithful Families.” It’s like people who send their kids to school, and they expect the teachers to teach them every single thing, and yet when the kids come home, the parents don’t do homework with them, the parents don’t ask them questions. It’s the same thing. If we just send our kids to Sunday school and we never say to them, “What did you think of today?” it’s like we can’t expect teachers or Sunday school teachers or the priest to raise our children! What is Father going to teach me in an hour? I have to make more of an investment in my spiritual life, otherwise we might as well just go to church on Sunday and not do anything else. Anyone can do that. It’s how much do you want your family to be connected to you and to God. We can’t expect that they’re going to get everything.
I teach Sunday… Well, I don’t now; I direct it. But when I was a teacher… I can’t teach them everything! And how can we all learn 2,000 years of Orthodoxy? How simple is this? If we keep it simple like… You don’t have to do everything so deep, but here’s some questions. You read the verse and you say to your kid, “What do you think our treasures are? What do we have here at the house?” You can have these little conversations with them. Plus, how we teach is by what we do, so if we’re showing that we’re going to get together with other faithful people—because they’re not around faithful people once they walk outside of your house, honey. Right? You have to protect that.
This faithful families, the small communities, it’s really a chance to be away from our cares, to be with each other, to find out… I didn’t know this story about Mother. Now I know something about her really personal and important. We know something about each other now. We’re not just [people] who were at a conference together. It’s the same thing. We don’t just go to church together. Now we come home, and I find out your mom is sick and you’re really struggling. She doesn’t want to go to the nursing home. Maybe we can’t answer the question, but you have a place to take it and to share where someone understands. Or my kid doesn’t want to go to Pascha; they have prom on Holy Friday night. These are real things. This is just another way to take church and get more out of being a family. We are with our families in our homes, so let’s be with our family in our homes. This family.
I have kids who come, and they talk to me about things because they know I really care about them. They tell us stuff, or sometimes they’ll be in a play or they’ll have a poem and they’ve got to do something, and they’ll read it to us and share it with us. Then they know that, not just their parents care about what happens to them. Thea Sandra cares; somebody else cares.
The purpose of this was to make the big small, to be the community the way that it used to be. You can make this work for how it works with your community. Maybe it’s so small you have to start in the church. I don’t recommend doing it in the church simply because the whole purpose is to be out of the church, but if that’s how it has to work until somebody comes forward and says, “I’ll do it at my house”...
I wanted to be the leader of this to show you: anyone can take this. Anyone can go, “Everybody, let’s sign in. Did you sign in? Make sure you put your prayer thing in here so we can all get your prayers. We missed you.” Anyone can do this. This is not rocket science. And everything you need is here. Someone’s already done it for you. I wanted to make this personal for you. I wanted you to see it’s not rocket science, and it’s really something that can be done and is being done.
My husband goes: “How much stuff are you giving them?” I said, “I want them to have the whole picture so that they can really take it home and digest it.” Maybe this isn’t what you do. Maybe you don’t do a Koinonia night, but what’ll happen is: all of a sudden, when we say koinonia, that’s going to tick in your mind, that koinonia meaning, because now we’ve planted a seed. Johnny Appleseed just went all over the world and all over the United States, and he had nothing but a pot on his head, I think, and a bag of seeds, and he planted seeds everywhere, but he never went back to any place he planted an apple tree. He never went back to see if the trees grew. He just had faith and planted those seeds and kept going and planting seeds.
I hope that I’ve planted a seed. I may not find out if you ever do it, but I’m not going to worry about that, because this is God’s ministry. God will make it happen for you if you have the desire and he has the desire, and your wills are one will.
Q11: Can I ask a favor?
Mrs. Anderson: Yes, of course you can ask anything.
Q11: Can we take this prayer back, a prayer list, and put our names on it and pass it around and take one home?
Mrs. Anderson: Yes, I was going to do it. That’s one of the things I didn’t get done ahead of time. I didn’t have a scissor. Please do it. Everyone put your name, we’ll rip it, and then we’ll put it in this bowl. We’ll empty the candy into my purse… I mean, we’ll empty the candy… and put them in here, and everyone take a name.
Are we okay on time? I have no idea.
Oh, wow! We did great! I hope it was helpful.
Audience: It was. [Applause]
"It wasn't until about a little over a year ago that I discovered the existence of the Orthodox Church. I went to Pascha last year and felt like one of the Russian spies, "I did not know whether I was in Heaven or on Earth, but I do know this: God is amongst these people." In the middle of Lent of this year, I came across a link to Ancient Faith Radio that one Orthodox Church had on their website, began listening to Fr. Thomas Hopko, among others, and have gotten hooked, if you will. AFR has allowed for me to look into Orthodoxy as I've investigated many different denominations of Christianity, and grow towards God in ways that actually HAVE been practiced since the days of the Early Church. Thank God and you all (you know who you are) for making this site possible."