Charlotte, North Carolina
Orthodox Church in America
Guiding theological question: How do we become one with each other and one with God while finding and responding to our calling?
Guiding Scripture passage: Romans, Chapter 12
Signs of change:
- Some parishioners are engaging in the life of our parish through taking on ownership and leadership in ministries. For example, with Dianne’s initial reduced engagement on our leadership team, John joined us and has responded to a call as a core leader on our team.
- Another sign of change is that a parishioner is called to educate our parish on racial inequity, another young woman initiated and will partner with us to lead the Love Thy Neighbor segment of our year 2 program. During the pandemic, Nativity has had to suspend some of our ministries because of volunteer program cancellations, or our inability to meet as a group at Church- one such ministry is our annual backpack and school supply drive. A couple of parishioners have been called to support children in need of these supplies by organizing a porch pick up of supplies, and providing online opportunities for our parishioners to make donations. Others in our parish have discerned a different path in order to respond to a new calling and have let go of some responsibilities to follow this calling.
- Regarding Stephen Ministry, most members are now aware of Stephen Ministry and why it is important.
Year 2 Activities
- Conduct Living Your Strengths Journey workshops.
- Facilitate Called to Life small group session for interested parishioners. Depending on interest level, facilitate Called to Work as a subsequent small group session.
- Continue year 1 activities of parishioner personal stories through interviews and presentations and opportunities for individual expression.
- Continue training and group supervision of newly graduated Stephen Ministers, as well as train new Stephen leaders.
- Educate parishioners on racial inequity, its history in the Orthodox Church, and in our lives.
- Provide prayer resources, self-assessment, opportunities for discussion to parishioners to better understand and develop empathy in ourselves and as we raise our children.
Year 1 Learnings
Calling is unique to each member, and not all members are at a point in their life where they are able to fully explore calling through our initiative. Discussions about calling, especially in small group settings, require considerable care. These discussions inevitably force us to consider our past and current choices, as well as confronting unresolved questions. We have come to the realization that the outcomes of our initiatives can be direct and indirect. We have also learned that weaving the language of calling into our prayer, work and study is building a foundation.
Resources Developed by Nativity
- Commissioning of Stephen Ministers
- Monthly parishioner interviews
Recommended Prayer & Study Resources
During the year we have used and promoted one of the prayers that was in our June 2019 retreat worship booklet:
A PRAYER FOR CALLING
May God’s call for my life shine through how I live.
May God’s call for my life flow through what I do.
May God’s call for my life dwell in who I am.
We pray this prayer before every Community of Calling Leadership and Youth Group meeting. In 2020 we will begin using it for our Parish Council meetings. We took this prayer and laminated it on the back of our parish feast day icon and gave them out to everyone in the congregation. There is also a stack of these icon cards at our candle stand in the back of the Church for everyone to take, newcomers as well as visitors.
Throughout the year, if the text allows, Fr. Bill will include a story or two about either individual or communal callings. Certain texts like Luke 5, John 1, or Matthew 28 are good examples of this. Fr. Bill has tried to be more intentional about weaving in stories of calling and vocation in his homilies. We also have a small section in our weekly parish e-bulletin devoted to the Community of Calling Program which includes upcoming events and or a prayer or short statement about calling and vocation. If people miss Sunday worship at least they will have some information about calling and vocation in the bulletin.
We really enjoyed the Called to Life program hosted by the Communities of Calling Initiative and encourage other parishes to use it. The format is straightforward and it includes all of the information needed to run a retreat. People have found it fruitful and we have had some very personal and intimate conversations about calling, vocation, and life in general. It is really a blessing to have both the content and the format already laid out for us.
When did your church last take on something new?
Nativity is a “hard working parish.” When someone drives into our parking lot, one will encounter many things that were physically done by members of our parish family. We have numerous people with construction skills.
A few years ago several men approached Fr. Bill to start a new construction ministry. They wanted to use their skills and talents to help other small parishes. In the past we had done a lot of work for our own parish and we wanted to help other parishes in need. The model would be that we would donate our time and skills, and the host parish would purchase all of the building supplies and feed and house our construction team. The team averaged anywhere from five to seven men. The host parish also supplied volunteers.
Everything was pre-planned from the design of the renovation project to the details of the lodging and meals. The host parish designed the project and purchased all of the supplies. Good planning and organizational skills helped prevent major mishaps.
Over three years we completed three projects:
- St. Nicholas (OCA) parish, Kenosha, WI: we constructed a one hundred foot wooden handicap ramp for parishioners.
- St. Timothy (OCA) parish, Toccoa, GA: we built several domes encased with fiberglass and constructed a new porch for their existing entrance.
- Holy Apostles (OCA) parish, West Columbia, SC: Holy Apostles had purchased a large 2,100 sq. foot multi-purpose building adjacent to their sanctuary, but it was unfinished. We installed a drop ceiling, added duct-work for a new AC/Heating System, added fluorescent lighting fixtures, knocked out a portion of a wall and installed double doors, created a covered porch that connected the hall with the sanctuary area, and created a space for a bathroom and kitchen area.