What if there was a program whereby new mission parishes in the U.S. could receive assistance & financial support as they strive to become self-sufficient?
Thanks to the generous support of the Leadership 100 Home Missions Grant, such a program exists to support mission parishes throughout the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America in their critical first years of existence. In special situations these funds may also be applied to parishes that have declined but are in a period of renewal and outreach.
The Home Mission Parish Program, under direction of the Department of Parish Renewal, Outreach & Evangelism, takes into consideration the recommendation of the local Hierarch, and provides gradually declining support to mission parishes over a period of five years or less. Only parishes with a full time priest are considered and the support is distributed to the priest through the Metropolis as a temporary supplement to his salary.
There are currently 14 mission parishes throughout the Archdiocese that are receiving some level of support through the Home Mission Parish Program. There are many other parishes designated as mission parishes that receive no support from this program but are allowed other benefits to assist them in the first difficult years of existence.
On the forefront of the effort to establish new mission parishes is the Commission for Orthodox Missions & Evangelism (C.O.M.E.) in the Metropolis of San Francisco. This effort has established more than 13 parishes since 1991. The Commission identifies areas where mission parishes are needed, establishes and nurtures their growth by providing clergy on an occasional basis and the guidance and assistance to mature into self-sufficient parishes. One beacon of Orthodoxy shines from the renovated basement of a Portland shopping center that contains the sanctuary, classrooms, bookstore, and fellowship hall of St. John the Baptist Church . Descending the stairs and entering the sanctuary, one senses the spirit of the early Church described in the second chapter of the Book of Acts. Visit their website at www.stjohngoc.org.
There are five parishes receiving support from the Leadership 100 Home Mission Grant within the Metropolis of Atlanta. One of these is the Hellenic Orthodox Mission of Hernando County in Brooksville , Florida , under the leadership of Father Stanley Harakas, which has grown from 36 to 60 stewards in just eighteen months. This parish has been meeting and worshipping in the chapel of a local camp facility, all 22 acres of which are soon to be donated to the parish. Later this year the community will conclude the process of choosing a name for their parish. Visit their website atwww.orthodoxhernandocountyfl.org.
In the Metropolis of Pittsburgh, the mission parish of St. Matthew in Reading , Pennsylvania is a parish in renewal. The seventy committed families of St. Matthew reflect the vast mosaic of Orthodoxy – Greek, Romanian, Ethiopian, Coptic, Arabic and those who have come to embrace Orthodoxy from other religious traditions. Now in the process of moving from the downtown area to a new location, the parish remains committed to maintaining a presence in the inner city of Reading . The St. Matthew parish is a visible presence in the Reading community, recognized for their prison ministry, outreach to the poor, and for their work with immigrants and refugees. Visit the St. Matthew website at www.saintmatts.org.
From these examples, it is clear that Orthodoxy's presence in America is growing and there are budding and thriving parishes that would be struggling or nonexistent were it not for the Home Mission Parish Program . Because of this program, priests are able to offer much-needed consistency in leadership during the critical stages of parish formation and renewal, increasing immensely the likelihood of a parish becoming self-sufficient.
The opportunities for the expansion of the Mission Parish Program are many. Preliminary findings of the new Annual Parish Report indicate that more than twenty communities in the Archdiocese have expressed an interest in establishing mission parishes. To address this critical issue, a new Guide for the Establishment of Mission Parishes will soon be available from the Department of Parish Renewal, Outreach & Evangelism. Also soon to be published is a booklet entitled, Parish Renewal, Outreach & Evangelism: Some Practical Steps . The Department will also work to expand home mission activity by seeking funds from additional sources for the support of the Home Mission Parish Program, clearly an excellent investment in the future of the Greek Orthodox Church in America. In the words of Archbishop Demetrios, “It is the Parish, it is the local community which has been, is, and will forever be the central, indispensable agent for offering our Orthodox Faith to contemporary America .”
To support the Home Mission Parish Program, please send contributions to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America , Department of Parish Renewal, Outreach & Evangelism.