A Great Opportunity
September marks not only the end of the summer, but the beginning of the school year and the start of a new church year. For us in our Saints Constantine and Family community, it also marks the time of our annual Greek FESTIVAL.
Each of these events is special in its own way, yet in this reflection I want to focus on the unique opportunity we have with our annual Festival. This is one of the most beautiful times of the year when we come together as a Church family in such harmony. Many people volunteer for a few hours, our chair-people, Lisa Healy and Marie McNally, along with the festival committee offer countless hours in preparation leading up to the main event, almost everyone comes out to support the festival and delight in the atmosphere, food, and entertainment, and then we get hundreds of visitors from the larger community who love tasting our Greek food and pastries, while enjoying the warm and welcoming spirit we offer. What a special time!!!
Of course, this event is also a major fundraiser for our community, helping to cover around 16% of our operational budget. And yet, I don’t want us ever to think of our festival as simply a fundraiser. Instead, we need to look at it as a special part of the overall ministry of our Church.
On the last Sunday of August, I offered a sermon entitled “Living Out the Mission of the Church,” which highlighted the Mission Statement of our Church Family (which you can read on the other side of this page). Specifically, I noted the five central characteristics of what it means to “Be the Church,” to live out our calling as the Body of Christ. These five central characteristics are WORSHIP, FELLOWSHIP, EDUCATION, SERVICE and WITNESS.
If anyone ever asks you, “Why do you go to Church?” or “What do you do as an Orthodox Christian?” what do you say? Well, I want you to respond by sharing our Mission Statement.
We come to Church to encounter and glorify God through our WORSHIP, through the LOVING FELLOWSHIP we share with one another, by learning our faith through Christ-centered EDUCATION and then spiritually growing closer to God and allowing His Spirit to transform our lives into becoming more Christ-like. Within our Church Family we also learn and are inspired to SERVE one another in Christ-like humility and self-sacrifice, as we offer a WITNESS of God’s love and hope to the larger community in Webster, Central Mass, and Northeast CT, as well as around the world!
I want us to also remember this Mission Statement of our Church as we put on our annual Festival, because the Festival gives us a wonderful opportunity to put into practice several of these five central characteristics of the Church.
For example, throughout our two day festival, we share in wonderful FELLOWSHIP. It is so beautiful for me to see how all of you come together, working side by side, doing whatever menial job is necessary, while smiling throughout the weekend. It is a fun two days, even though it can be very exhausting. And inevitably, I will hear comments from various visitors who will congratulate me on what a warm, loving, and beautiful community we have.
Of course, I agree with them, and tell them that this is what a Church family is all about! We are the family of God, and thus, it is only natural to be a warm, hospitality, loving family!!!
During our Festival, along with fellowship there are also moments of EDUCATION and learning. Surely, everyone comes primarily for the food and fun. Some of these people, however, will stop by the Church and enter in for our Church Tours. They will come up to me and ask me about our Orthodox Christian faith. Simultaneously, we have others going to the Book Store and Gift Shop, purchasing religious material, and getting into spiritual conversations there.
I hope, though, that it’s not just me and the book store people talking about our Faith. Every one of YOU should also look for opportunities to share with our visitors what your faith means to you. Tell them why you are a member of this Church Family, and who you are as followers of Jesus Christ. Share with them your favorite part of our rich Orthodox treasure. Encourage them to go inside our Church and see our magnificent icons, and let them know I’d love to talk with them if they have any questions..
This leads us to a third characteristic of our Mission Statement which I want us to put into practice during the Festival! We are all called to WITNESS for our faith. That means we want to show our faith by the way we work during the Festival, by the way we live our lives, as well as by the way we share our faith with our words. If we have hundreds of people visiting us this weekend, can each of us try to share our faith with at least new five people and talk to them about the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ? Can we invite them to come to a Divine Liturgy the following weekend, and even offer to sit with them so that they feel comfortable while you explain to them what is happening? Invite them even to try out a Bible Study, or to come back for some other special event in our Church.
Ideally, our festival can be the impetus to invite our guests to come again, not only to taste our delicious Greek food, but to even taste something incomparably better - a meal at the banquet table of the Kingdom of Heaven!
The fourth characteristic that we will see quite clearly throughout our festival weekend is that of SERVICE. The Festival exemplifies service - each of us ready to do whatever is needed, to give up our weekend to serve others for the glory of God and for the support of His holy church! May we spend the weekend serving one another and serving all our guests with a joyful spirit, a grateful heart, and without complaining at all.
Our annual festival is a beautiful opportunity to put our faith into action. Please come out and help as much as you can! (If you don’t know where or how to help, see Lisa Healy or Marie McNally) Invite your neighbors, your co-workers, your friends, and everyone else to join you and to enjoy a delicious meal, blessed fellowship and a wonderful time!
I look forward to seeing all of you on September 8th and 9th!
With love and gratitude in Christ Jesus,
Welcome to our Church