Parish inquirers’ classes and catechumenate programs are great for those preparing to become Orthodox as well as the baptized and chrismated members who want to revisit the basic teachings of the Faith. These classes would also be perfect for the man-off-the-street who is curious to learn more. For that audience, however, coming to the church may still be out of their comfort zone. This is why it is important for our Missions & Evangelism Ministries to find ways to go out and share the Gospel.
This past week in Portland, Oregon, the Missions & Evangelism Ministry of St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church made an effort to do just that. They presented an introductory talk in a public library meeting room with Fr. Russell Radoicich, visiting from Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church in Butte, Montana. Fr. Russell has over 10 years of experience traveling around Montana and starting Orthodox Christian communities. In each community, Fr. Russell offers a 4-part talk to introduce the Orthodox Faith. He says that every time he has given one of these presentations, at least one person attending has been received into the Church.
Here are some notes regarding how the presentation was planned:
In addition to public libraries, Fr. Russell has given talks in bank meeting rooms, coffee shops, and even mortuaries. Choose a location that is neutral, well-known, and safe. Also consider if there will be enough space and parking to accommodate your group. The library meeting room was reserved about six weeks in advance and required a simple registration form.
St. John parishioners designed and printed fliers, which were posted at coffee shops, grocery stores, and libraries. Most places want to have the flier approved by the shopkeeper or store manager before posting. In the process of asking permission, remember that this gives you an opportunity to introduce yourself and the parish, and invite someone to the talk!
The talk was also publicized online through local newspaper websites, craigslist, and on the parish website and Facebook page. Fliers were posted at church and publicized in the Sunday bulletin. Parishioners were encouraged to come and invite friends.
Members of the parish Missions & Evangelism Ministry worked together to set-up the room, provide refreshments, and put the meeting room back in order at the end of the event.
Hospitality Items included:
- two tablecloths
- a vase of flowers
- two serving trays with liners
- a small pitcher for cream
- 8oz hot cups
- small plates
- homemade treats
- cream, sugar, and stirrers
- freshly brewed coffee in a thermos
- an electric kettle and thermos for tea water
- assorted tea bags
Presentation Items included:
- a dry erase board and eraser
- dry erase markers – test to make sure they work!
- guest sign-in sheet with clipboard and pen
- a stack of parish business cards and/or brochures
- a stack of current parish newsletters
Twenty-five people attended, including three non-Orthodox. In this case, each of the non-Orthodox people were personally invited by a St. John parishioner and sat with their friend. Fr. Russell confirmed that word-of-mouth is the most common way that people hear about these events.
This was the first talk in what is usually a 4-part series. Fr. Russell started by drawing a timeline of church history–from Adam & Eve to 2017–and then went on to address the differences between Eastern and Western mindsets, and how these lead to major differences in teachings about God, the Bible, and the Church. Fr. Russell answered questions throughout the talk and was available to chat with attendees afterwards.
Offering this presentation at a location outside the church was a positive step for our parish and our Missions & Evangelism Ministry. Even in the process of planning and publicizing we interacted with at least two dozen new people in our community–from coffee shop owners, to the library staff, to the printers who produced our fliers. It pushed us to go out of our comfort zone, which enabled us to meet people who may never find the Church otherwise. We hope this will be the first of many such events.
We hope this inspires you to think about how you can go out to share the Gospel in your community. May God bless your efforts to Grow Orthodoxy in America!