Department of Religious Education
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
Report to the Archdiocesan Council
The purpose of the Department of Religious Education (DRE) is to serve the parishes and dioceses of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America by providing materials and services that will advance their programs of religious education. The Department also serves individuals, organizations, military bases, ecumenical groups, and overseas parishes with catechetical resources that advance the spiritual admonition to "Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18).
The Department of Religious Education is ambitiously pursuing the advancement of an educational agenda that will correspond with the seven general objectives described by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios in his departmental vision outline, namely: (1) Parish Development, (2) Role of Archdiocese in Parish Development, (3) Family Ministry, (4) Youth and Young Adult Ministry, (5) Stewardship Development, (6) Communications, and (7) Philanthropy.
Current Projects and Programs
Teenage Curriculum Committee: The Teenage Curriculum Committee, established by the Department of Religious Education, has begun the process of developing a comprehensive curriculum that will focus on the spiritual, emotional, and intellectual formation of teenagers in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. The Teenage Curriculum Committee is comprised of four specific teams (one team for each grade level) for the 9th through 12th grades.
Currently, each Curriculum Development Team consists of approximately 20 clergymen and 5 lay representatives. Two co-directors (one clergyman and one lay person) will lead each team. In total, there are approximately 100 individuals involved in the Teenage Curriculum Program. Four Metropolitans of the Holy Synod will serve as Spiritual Advisors, one for each team.Praxis Magazine: Seven issues have been published to date beginning August 1999. The most recent issue published in July 2002 is dedicated to the Sacraments. The theme of the next issue is Enhancing Parish Religious Education which will be published in December. The magazine is mailed to approximately 12,000 individuals from the Department’s mailing list including all Archdiocesan clergy, and Sunday School teachers listed in the computer database; and to Archdiocesan Council members, and Leadership 100 members. An annual subscription (four issues) is $15.00 (U.S.).
Ecumenical Patriarchate CD-ROM: An interactive, educational, multimedia product to help Orthodox Christians better understand the historical, theological, and ecclesiological aspects of the Ecumenical Patriarchate has been completed. The CD-ROM includes video clips of Patriarch Bartholomew, a comprehensive menu of past Ecumenical Patriarchs which, when activated, will hyperlink to their respective biographies, activities and their theological achievements. In addition to a virtual reality tour of the Patriarchal chapel, a list of the past and present Archons of the Order of Saint Andrew with short biographies is included.
CD-ROMs: Two interactive CD-ROM instructional resources are currently being developed: (a) Celebration: Understanding the Twelve Feast Days and (b) Dancing Together: Understanding the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. There is a need for additional funds to complete this project.
Teacher Training Workshops: The Director of Religious Education has been conducting Religious Education Teacher Workshops and Adult Leadership Training Seminars throughout the Archdiocese for three years. The Seminars are based on a 5-Year Curriculum that includes an annual educational theme that is extrapolated and taught to Orthodox Christians in every context of parish, diocesan and Archdiocesan life. Workbooks are developed by the DRE and provided to the participants.
Spanish Translations of Educational Resources: In response to the overwhelming need for religious education resources for Spanish-speaking Orthodox Christians, the DRE has hired seminarian, Mark Munoz, to translate its catechetical resources such as its interactive CD-ROMs into Spanish. This project is being carried out in collaboration with His Eminence Metropolitan Tarasios of Buenos Aires. Once completed, the Spanish CD-ROMs and other translated resources developed by the DRE will fulfill an indelible role in the re-evangelization of the Spanish-speaking Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike in North and South America.
Internet School of Orthodox Studies (ISOS): The Internet School of Orthodox Studies (ISOS) for adults interested in learning more about their Orthodox faith was established by the DRE in November 1998. The class meets each semester on Tuesday evening (7:30-8:30 p.m.) at Hellenic College/Holy Cross. The classes are broadcast in real-time on the Internet with the assistance of Internet Ministries through the Archdiocese Web Server and are archived for those who wish to listen to them at a later date.
The 2002 fall semester will feature 10 lectures by Fr. Frank Marangos entitled "Enhancing Professional Practice: The Qualities and Skills of the Effective Religious Educator." The classes will take place from October 8 — December 9, 2002. The ISOS website address is: www.isos.goarch.org. All previously broadcast classes have been archived and are available at this website address. The DRE has been receiving phone calls, letters and E-mails from throughout the Archdiocese and the world in appreciation of this educational program.
Annual Resource Companion (ARC): Each year, the ARC is based on the annual theme of the Department and is dedicated to an esteemed Orthodox educator. The newly published 2002-2003 volume contains 32 insightful essays, and catechetical articles written by Orthodox hierarchs, clergy, theologians, and seminarians. The theme of the fifth volume of The ARC is "Orthopraxia: The Life of the Orthodox Church."
The following four previously published volumes are: Volume 1 (1998-1999) "The Liturgical Year," Volume 2 (1999-2000) "Holy Tradition," Volume 3 (2000-2001) "The Holy Fathers," and Volume 4 (2001-2002) "Orthodox Theology." Each volume also contains the Saint John Chrysostom Oratorical Festival topics, tips and bibliography for the coming year following the same thematic focus. Therefore, the volume is also a resource for students and teachers preparing for participation in the Oratorical Festival. The ARC is sold for $5.00 each.
Saint John Chrysostom Oratorical Festival National Finals: The 2002 National Oratorical Festival was hosted by the Diocese of New Jersey and the Annunciation Cathedral in Norfolk, Virginia on June 7-9, 2002. The Department of Religious Education, with the assistance of Fr. John and Presvytera Margaret Orfanakos, plans and coordinates this program throughout the year. The DRE makes an annual appeal to all parishes and Philoptochos Societies for donations to the Oratorical Foundation which awards college scholarships and savings bonds annually to the national finalists.
2002 Religious Education Climate Survey: Since 1998 the DRE has conducted a comprehensive survey of the overall educational climate of parishes throughout the Archdiocese. Administered every two years, the Religious Education Climate Survey (RECS) gathers data concerning the catechetical programs and the number of children and adults that attend them in each of the nine dioceses. Apart from budgetary and other general demographic information, the needs assessment survey also evaluates administrative progress in a number of key educational areas such as (a) teacher and parish volunteer training, (b) distance learning, (c) library and multimedia services, (d) oratorical festival, (e) leadership development, and (f) magazine subscription. Every two years the survey data is tabulated, evaluated and distributed in a comprehensive report to the Clergy-Laity gatherings for discussion.
Teacher Training Manual for Clergy: A financial gift of $25,000 has been received for the purpose of developing resources for the continuing education of parish clergy. The DRE is developing a Teacher Training Manual for novice clergy of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese.
Based on a comprehensive literature review and input from formative and summative committee experts, the DRE designed an interview tool that was used to determine the most common religious education training problems encountered by novice (0-5 years) parish clergy. The classified list of the most common training problems were then sent to a group of expert (20+ years) Greek Orthodox parish clergy who were invited to recommend successful training solutions, approaches and strategies that novice clergy can use to overcome these concerns. Apart from a brief introductory section concerning the background and significance of teacher training, each chapter includes appropriate research information concerning each general problem.
New Resource Catalog (2002-2004): A new resource catalog has been published and mailed to over 12,000 individuals. The catalog includes more than 600 resources for adults, teachers, parish youth, vacation church school programs, children’s books, prayer books, multimedia resources, icons, gifts and more. The catalog was mailed to all clergy, Sunday School directors/teachers and individuals on the DRE mailing list. It is also available on the Department of Religious Education website at www.religioused.goarch.org.
Construction of Interactive Website for Teachers: The Religious Education website is one of the most active sites on the Archdiocesan web page. The construction of an interactive website will provide on-going religious instruction for educators, clergy and parents and include (a) the ISOS Distance Learning Program (Internet School of Orthodox Studies), (b) Teenage Curriculum and updates, (c) St. John Chrysostom Oratorical information, (d) Resource Catalog, and (e) Teacher Certification Program information.
The re-designed website will include interactive web-based monthly instructional resources for parish RE teachers and their classes. Parish students will be encouraged to visit their respective age-focused website where they will have the opportunity to view appropriate catechetical material and interact with other Orthodox students from across the nation in a safe and adult supervised environment. The site will also provide teachers with rich-media and interchangeable lesson plans. There is a need for additional funds to complete this project.
2002 Clergy-Laity Congress Religious Education Workshops: The DRE conducted four educational workshops that coincided with the overall theme of the Clergy-Laity Congress. The workshops provided delegates an opportunity to review data concerning the current status of our archdiocesan religious education agenda, discuss new and creative parish-based educational methods and programs, and make recommendations concerning the design of our future administrative and catechetical agenda.
CIDITS Center-Holy Cross School of Theology: The CIDITS Center (Center for Instructional Design and Information Technology Services) has been completed under the auspices of the Lilly Grant (information technology grant for theological teaching; Fr. Marangos, Project Director). The Center has been constructed according to the parameters set forth in the Implementation Grant. The CIDITS facility is open and available specifically to support the development of proposals that fall within the Lilly Grant scope. This facility has been designed to provide an open and accommodating atmosphere to allow faculty members to experiment with and develop technological approaches to their teaching.
Religious Education Summer Institute: The Religious Education Summer Institute took place on June 28 — July 1, 2001 on the campus of Hellenic College/Holy Cross School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts. The theme of the institute was The Great Feast Days of the Church: A Liturgical Catechesis that coincided with the fourth year focus of the 5-Year Catechetical Plan. Workshops were conducted for each of the12 Great Feasts Days of the Church with question and answer periods at the end of each session. Audiocassettes of each workshop are forthcoming.
The Religious Education Institute is held every other summer on the campus of the seminary during a non-Clergy-Laity year. The 1999 Religious Education Institute took place on July 29-August 1, 1999. The theme of the conference was Understanding Holy Tradition and coincided with the second year focus of the 5-Year Catechetical Plan. The Institute provided 25 workshops and lectures to more than 150 adult students from across the United States. Twenty-two videos from the Institute were produced.
Religious Education Teacher Database: The database of Religious Education Teachers is continually being updated. An annual request (mailing) is made each fall to all Clergy and Sunday School Supervisors to submit their teachers’ names and addresses to the Department. This database file is used for all mailings. This is a tedious and on-going process.
The Department of Religious Education recommends pursuing the following five-year plan (2003-2008). The initiatives are based on summative and formative needs assessment data obtained from the 2000 Religious Education Climate Survey (RECS). Please refer to the RECS Report distributed at the 2002 Clergy-Laity for supporting information.
Most, if not all, organization (OD) and human resource development (HRD) experts highly recommend that secular as well as religious institutions should expend appropriate resources for the on-going educational development of their employees and constituents. Consequently, most institutions allocate a substantial budget for education and training. In fact, research has demonstrated the connection between education, productivity, and overall institutional health and financial stability. At a time when the Archdiocese is confronted with numerous internal as well as external threats, a comprehensive focus on religious education and training is important.
Numerous authors (Timiadis,1994; Davis & Davis, 1998; Tsoutsouras, 1995; Foltz, 1998) discuss the impact of education and training on organizational effectiveness. An examination and comparison of these issues with current parish problems has resulted in the following outline of suggested RE initiatives that might contribute to the nurture and overall renewal of the Greek Orthodox parish. The data obtained from the DRE’s Biennial Religious Education Climate Survey supports the assertions of current research. The following is but a sample listing of the internal as well as external threats that the survey data reveals. These problems are, indeed, opportunities that might be considered under two general headings of Religious Education: (a) Long-Term Goals, and (b) Short-Term Objectives.
The need to seriously consider establishing educational goals, objectives and priorities according to data obtained from appropriate qualitative and quantitative research cannot be overstated. Current research on organizational administration of religious institutions has demonstrated that stewardship and other financial revenues increase when ministries and programs are developed to serve the expressed needs of its constituents.
1. Teacher Training
There is an expressed need to continue offering teacher-training workshops throughout the Archdiocese. Data from the 2002 Religious Education Climate survey indicates that the majority of parishes consider teacher training to be one of the top five priorities of the Department of Religious Education. Apart from conducting regional and parish-based teacher training workshops, the following list of objectives will be pursued:
2. Annual Themes
1997 the initiatives of the DRE have been guided by a five-year cycle
of themes. Articles, lessons, sermons and appropriate reflections
written by hierarchs, clergy, and teachers concerning each year’s
respective theme are published in the Annual Resource Companion (ARC). Beginning in September of 2003 the following themes will be addressed:
3. Volunteer Training
There is an expressed need to develop resources and programs for the on-going nurture and support of parish volunteers. Data from the 2002 Religious Education Climate Survey indicates that the majority of parishes consider the training and support of parish volunteers an essential component of effective parish administration. The Department of Religious Education will develop the following list of educational resources that focus on supporting volunteer-based parish programs and ministries:
4. Leadership Training
There is an expressed need to design resources and programs for development of more knowledgeable parish leaders. Data from the 2002 Religious Education Climate Survey indicates that the majority of parishes consider leadership training an essential component of effective parish administration. Apart from continuing to provide leadership training workshops, the Department of Religious Education will develop the following list of educational resources for parish leaders:
5. Internet School of Orthodox Studies (ISOS)
6. The Annual Resource Companion (ARC)
The topics for the Annual Resource Companion are based on the five-year cycle of themes. Apart from this focus, the ARC will provide educational resources that will help Orthodox Christians better understand the liturgical cycles. Consequently, the next five-year cycle of ARC publications will focus on the theological and scriptural content of the following liturgical books:
7. Praxis Magazine
8. CD-ROM Future Development
9. Interactive Website
10. Curriculum Development
11. Orthodox Information Pamphlet Series
Data from the 2002 Religious Education Climate Survey (RECS) indicates that there is a need to develop pamphlet-sized educational resources on a variety of administrative and Orthodox faith topics. The Department of Religious Education will develop a pamphlet series that will address the following list of topics:
is a need to develop a more consistent administrative infrastructure
for religious education programming throughout the diocesan structure
of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. With the advice,
oversight, and blessings of the Holy Synod, the Department of Religious
Education will emphasize a more comprehensive system of communication
and input from diocesan and parish RE representatives. Apart from
continuing to develop an up-to-date RE database, the DRE will establish
an Internet List-Serve and schedule regular meetings with the following
committees and educational entities:
III. Long-Term VisionVision
1. Create a National Endowment Fund for Religious Education. Financial gifts will be accepted for the purpose of supporting the on-going development of effective and appropriate catechetical resources for clergy, teachers, parish leaders, adults, and children.
2. Build a Center for Orthodox Religious Education on the campus of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. This long-range goal was previously articulated and recommended by the Religious Education Committee at numerous past Clergy-Laity Congresses.
3. Hire an associate to assist the current director with the implementation of the departmental agenda. This long-range goal was previously articulated and recommended by the Religious Education Committee at numerous past Clergy-Laity Congresses.
4. Develop a Home Schooling Program that would link and provide weekly educational resources, discussion forums and evaluation instruments to Orthodox families across the nation. The Home Schooling Program would supplement the existing Parish religious education curricula and programming.
5. Raise the necessary financial assets
to establish a Chair of Religious Education at Holy Cross Greek
Orthodox School of Theology.
Leadership Development and Educational Seminars