In 2004 our parish established its Mission Committee. After several years of dormancy we are re-establishing this vital element of parish life The Mission Committee is responsible for outreach and education to the membership of the parish and to the larger community surrounding us. Over the past several years we have sponsored several adult education classes, youth group activities, and the promotion of information about the parish and the Orthodox Church in the local media. Over the next several weeks look for additional information about the work of the Mission Committee on this page.
MISSION: IT'S NOT ALL ABOUT US
When our Lord commanded His disciples to go in turn and, " make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all the things" that he had commanded them, (Matthew 28:19-20), He was giving the primary mission commandment to the whole Church for all ages. This commandment applies in every parish and mission throughout the world in all times and places, no matter what the situation we find ourselves in. Too often, we think of mission as being the province of certain dedicated young priests and their families, (or of monks and nuns, or perhaps other individuals who have a "special calling") who go to exotic places far away to convert non Christians to the Orthodox faith. Or, perhaps, we think of mission as something that is done in parts of the world where there are few Orthodox parishes--again by dedicated priests and laity who have a "special calling". Seldom do we think of it as the on going work of each and every member of each and every parish--whether large or small--whether "ethnic" or "convert", well off or struggling to get by. Mission is, by definition the common work of the Church But, mission is most definitely NOT about us! That will seem to be a strange thing to state if our goal is parish growth. But think about it, when we talk about ourselves (at least most of the time) we are speaking selfishly, we are turned inward and not out to others. If our goal is to grow so that we may simply fill space, increase the budget, survive for another few decades, then we do not have a true missionary consciousness. Real mission is grounded in an intense love for God, in a burning desire to preach the gospel of salvation, in the hope of bringing people to the truth of Jesus Christ and His Church. Thus, it can never be self centered. The missionary drive is focused on the need of others. And herein lies a great paradox. When our focus turns outward--away from ourselves--we are blessed. In the past we raised over $700 for the Orthodox Christian Mission Center to support the missionary work of a priest . We raised the money from among ourselves in a series of collections after the Divine Liturgy with the idea that if we share what we have in our 'weakness' for the sake of others in even greater need, God will bless our own call to mission here at home. Fifty dollars a month will go to help support a priest carry out his call to bring men, women, and children to the Light of Christ in His holy, Orthodox Church. It is such a small amount of money here in America, but overseas it will go far in helping a priest and his family pay for housing and food for an entire month! Our church school children also purchased goats for Heifer International. Their original intention for their Lenten project in 2011 was to raise $360 to purchase 3 goats, but through our people's generosity and God's multiplying grace, they raised $600 and were able to purchase 5 goats. These animals are raised for their fur and milk and the farmers who receive them "pass on the gift" to others. When a female goat they received from Heifer International reproduces, they give one of the off spring to another farmer and this process continues. Thus one small gift given in love multiplies to help thousands. Our parish is small and 'weak' compared to so many others, but our life in Christ is not measured in numbers. It is measured in the commitment we have to the gospel of Jesus Christ--not only here in Southbridge, Massachusetts, but everywhere on the face of the earth. I am convinced that God will see our commitment, that He will see our love for His Church everywhere, that he will bless and give growth to the mission of the priest and parish that will receive our small offering and that He will bless us too--with true growth. We must certainly pray that our growth will include increased membership, but for the same reason we will pray for the growth of the parish we will be helping to support overseas--not because it will help us 'survive', but because it will spread the good news of salvation in Christ. One of the most beautiful things that will emerge from the outreach we have undertaken will be our mutual prayers for one another, our mutual consciousness of the true catholicity of the Church, our mutual love for one another and concern for the well being of our communities of faith. It really isn't about us. It isn't about money. It isn't about more people in the pews. Its all about love. It is about the love of God, Who is Love. And it is that love that gives growth and life to all who seek Him and His Kingdom. When we discover this, we discover the heart of what it means to be true missionaries.