Establishing a Mission Parish
Sermon Delivered on January 25, 2015
Fr. Alexander Goussetis
Thursday, March 26, 7pm
Lititz Mennonite Church
165 E Front St
Lititz, PA 17543
"As a fish cannot swim without water, and as a bird cannot fly without air, so a Christian cannot advance a single step without Christ and His Church." These are the words of St. Gregory the Theologian, whose memory we celebrate today. As a bishop, St. Gregory understood that the Church community, the Body of Christ, is essential to our salvation.
This is true for all of us as well. We have each benefitted and been blessed by this parish. We would be selfish to keep this precious Orthodox faith for ourselves. This is the reason our parish vision statement proclaims: "Receive and Share the Light of Christ!"
Thus, as a result of our parish strategic plan that was developed last year, our hope is to establish a mission parish somewhere in Lancaster County. The intention in not to divide this parish in half, but to create another parish for the many people in Lancaster County who have never heard of or been exposed to the Orthodox Christian faith.
So why is a mission parish something Annunciation should consider? For starters, our Lord tells us to make disciples of all nations. This icon on the sanctuary wall makes clear that we are commissioned to receive and share the light of Christ, not just to other countries of the world, but to our own neighbors as well.
In the Divine Liturgy, immediately after receiving Holy Communion, we sing: "We have seen the true light; we have received the Heavenly Spirit; we have found the true faith, worshiping the undivided Trinity who has saved us." This treasure of Orthodoxy, handed down from generation to generation from the time of the Apostles, is a gift so wondrous that we must share it.
Why now? The time is right. Our parish is firmly established, strongly united, and bursting with ministry and energy. If not us, then who? If not now, then when?
Fr. Timothy Hojnicki, pastor of Holy Apostles Orthodox Mission in Mechanicsburg PA has offered to serve as our mentor. Fr. Timothy has served his mission parish since its infancy. He is knowledgeable of the steps necessary to plant and grow a newly established parish. In his presentation to the parish council last Tuesday he made the following analogy for us to consider. Your family raises children. When your children mature and move away, do they cease being part of your family?
Do you resent them for starting their own families? Of course not! The Annunciation parish, in essence, would be giving birth to a new parish. This would be our child to nurture and help grow. Like our own children, we would have the satisfaction of producing and developing a new family; in this case, a new family of faith.
What is the process of establishing a new parish?
First, we begin with worship and prayer. Jesus states clearly in the Gospel of John, "apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). We must be discerning and wise, allowing Christ to guide the course of action.
Second, we must continue educating our own parish as well as potential seekers on the fullness of Orthodox teachings, practices, and evangelism. The more we know the more we can share.
Third, we must model and encourage stewardship of time, talent, and resources, so the newly established parish can quickly become self-sustaining. And,
Fourth, we must practice patience. There will be challenges and obstacles in the development of a new parish. But anything worthwhile demands and accepts sacrifice and perseverance.
So, to summarize:
- The recent five-year parish strategic plan, developed in June 2014 by the parish council, committee chairs, and leaders of the community, established the goal of birthing a new parish somewhere in Lancaster County.
- The intention is to increase Orthodox faithful through the founding of a mission; not to divide the parish but to expand the Body of Christ.
- Who is this parish for? Potentially for the people in Lancaster County who have never been exposed to or heard of Orthodoxy.
- Who is going to build this Church? Jesus is; He states:
"On this rock I will build my Church" (Matthew 16:18). The rock is our faith; our obedience; our love for Christ.
- What will it require from this parish? Trust in God and reliance upon His holy will.
Right now there are more questions than answers. This is a walk of faith. If you are interested in learning more and becoming an active member of this mission parish committee, please speak with me.
One last thought for today. In 1921, when our forebears established this parish, these are the same questions, doubts, and challenges they addressed. And because they answered them with faith, hope, and love, we now enjoy the fruits of their labor. This can be the same moment for future generations in Lancaster County. Amen.