Know Your Neighbor!

By Keith Russin

Adapted from a program presented by the SS Peter and Paul Orthodox Church, Meriden, Conn., as outlined by Sub-Deacon Keith Russin The Church Council and parishioners of SS Peter and Paul Orthodox Church in Meriden, Connecticut welcomed the Meriden community to an open house at the church one Sunday afternoon in March. The theme of the open house was “Know Your Neighbor.” The event was an enormous success with some 450 to 500 people attending. Several other churches and synagogues in Meriden used the same theme and structure to sponsor similar programs that were also very well received.

This kind of program can easily be followed or adapted by other parishes. The basic ideas and structure in preparing for such an event are as follows:

A. Theme

“Know Your Neighbor” is an excellent theme because it underlines the reality of being an established neighbor. Neighbor also implies being friendly and loving.

B. Program

A printed program was made up and passed out. (Additional inexpensive pamphlets such as “Welcome to the Orthodox Church,” are also excellent give-aways that people can take home and refer to.*)

1. Choral Concert with Narration.

a. Hymns of the Day.

b. Hymns from Vespers and Matins.

c. Hymns from the Divine Liturgy.

d. Hymns following the cycle of life and the sacraments.

Selections from each of the above conveyed an understanding of Orthodox theology as well as of Orthodox worship. Each group of hymns was prefaced by an explanation and narration given by the priest and sub-deacon.

2. Question and Answer Period.

3. Guided Tours of the Church, with explanations, especially of the icons.

*(One source for purchase of basic Orthodox pamphlets is the Diocese of the MidWest, 8200 South County Line Road, Hinsdale, III. 60521.)

4. Get-Acquainted Tea.

C. To Organize the Program

1. Select a chairman.

2. Involve different groups within the church to be responsible for a portion of the event.

3. Basic committees needed are

a. Publicity.

b. Food.

c. Displays of Orthodox items and books (possibly for purchase.)

d. Guides.

D. Date and Time

Schedule the event when there are not too many activities happening that day. Check your local Chamber of Commerce, library, and state calendar of events.

E. Publicity

1. Local Newspaper. If the newspaper is responsive, the event can be reported in several articles, focusing on different aspects of the event. For best results, have the facts written up and ready to hand to, to mail to, or to relay by phone to an interested editor or reporter. The Meriden paper featured the Open House in three separate articles. Follow-up coverage came in Letters to the Editor from people writing in who had been impressed with the program.

2. Flyers

a. Mail to churches, organizations, clubs, etc. The local library usually has a community file of different organizations, addresses, etc. (Also see the Yellow Pages.)

b. Posting. Take flyers to the library, shopping malls, city hall, stores, etc.

c. Parishioners as “ambassadors.” Take flyers to work or give to neighbors, friends, and relatives.

3. Radio Spots.

4. Cable T.V.

F. The Get-Acquainted Tea

Neighbors always break bread together.


1. Food.

2. Decorations and Setting Up Tea.

3. Servers.

4. Kitchen Crew.

5. Clean-Up Crew.

Donations of food from parishioners are most successful in that homemade and ethnic specialties offer a special treat.

Decorations might involve floral arrangements, linen, dishes, tables and chairs, etc.

The “tea” can be as elaborate or as simple as the parish can handle. Some offering of refreshments always entices people and sometimes is even the deciding point in weighing whether to come or not.

G. Guest Book

Guests can be directed to sign a Guest Book set up in an easily accessible area. Information might include:

1. Name.

2. Address.

3. Place of Worship.

4. Check Box to indicate if the person would like to receive announcements of future church programs.

5. Check Box to indicate if the person would like to receive information about the Orthodox Church. (To add this box, the church would naturally need to have some pamphlets and booklets available.)

General Comments

A “Know Your Neighbor” Open House is a combination of theology, sacred music, art, and food which touch all a person’s senses. In Meriden the parishioners were proud of the program they had offered. The audience was impressed and was made more knowledgeable about the Orthodox faith and its presence within their community.

From the Program: The Concert Of The Capella Choir


Troparion of the Cross Tone One
Troparion of the Annunciation Tone Four
The Hymn of the Cross Traditional Chant


Praise Ye the Name of the Lord
(Matins) A. Archangelski
Prokeimenon: Who is as great a God, as
Our God? (Vespers) Traditional Chant
The Noble Joseph
(Vespers and Matins) Bulgarian Chant


Cherubim Hymn D. Bortniansky
Our Father A. Donckoye
Soloist: Clara Orlawski
Exapostilarion of the Canonarch Kievan Chant
Soloist: S/Deacon Keith S. Russin

BAPTISMAs ManyMoscow Chant
CHRISMATIONO Heavenly KingTraditional Chant
CHURCHINGSt. Simeon’s Prayer A. Archangelski
PENANCEBeneath Your CompassionTraditional Chant
COMMUNIONO Son of GodA. L’vov
MARRIAGERejoice O IsaiahTraditional Chant
DEATHMemory EternalTraditional Chant
HEALTHMany YearsTraditional Chant

Keith Russin is a librarian in the city of Meriden, Conn., and serves his church, SS Peter and Paul, as Sub-Deacon.