This month of January we embark upon our Year of the Family, a period of intensified ministry to families across America. As we begin this very special New Year, it is worthwhile to reflect upon the connection of our own families to the Church, and to consider the extraordinary manner in which the Church influences the growth and development of our families. This reflection constitutes in itself a valuable spiritual exercise for us as Orthodox Christians living in a challenging and complex society.

Our theme for the Year of the Family follows the biblical phrase used by the Apostle Paul, kat'oikon ecclesia, "the church in the home" (Romans 16:5, Colossians 4:15). This phrase hearkens to the early Christian communities who met in homes for worship, teaching, and fellowship. Here, we see a unique connection between the Church and family life. Like the early Christians, we too are called to cultivate nurturing environments within our own homes that promote a closer, more direct relationship between our family and the Church. This is what is meant by the phrase "connect your family to the Church", which is an important sub-theme for this Year of the Family.

How may we take steps to promote environments within our homes that bring our families closer to the Church? A very practical way to do this is to schedule regular periods of time as families to come together for prayer, even if only for a few moments each morning or evening. A helpful way to promote family prayer is to set aside an area of space within the home exclusively for this purpose. Already, our Archdiocesan Center for Family Care is developing resources to guide families in establishing an iconostasion in the home for this purpose.

An equally important and practical component for connecting your family to the Church is the establishment of a weekly family night. During such a time, families can come together to read the Scriptures and to reflect upon important events happening in the world around us. By extension, parishes should also promote healthy families by conducting a monthly parish family night, a designated period of time where families within the community can come together for prayer, fellowship, and also social outreach activities.

Each of these components are but initial steps in promoting the spiritual health of families and their connection to the Church. They are also components that underscore the tremendous importance of families as essential building blocks of society and the Church. By devoting time this month to reflecting upon the conditions of our own families and their relationship to the Church, we take important steps toward strengthening our connection to the Church and our growth in Christ, the Redeemer of our souls. Moreover, we embark together upon an important and ultimately endless journey of faith as one united Greek Orthodox family in Christ.

As we consider the extraordinary ability of the Church to transform lives and communities, I pray that we continue to reflect upon the tremendous influence of the Church upon our families each and every day. May the love of God strengthen and nurture your families each and every day of this very promising and very special New Year.

Archbishop of America