The Orthodox Church in America relies on the stewardship of its faithful to support ministries in communities across America and around the world. As the Stewards of the Orthodox Church in America Annual Appeal approaches on November 19, 2017, Matushka Valerie Zahirsky, in the article below, writes about how the Department of Christian Education has been able to strengthen the life of our families with the generous support of the Church’s dedicated Stewards.
“The educational work of the Church has to be three-dimensional: building up a full liturgical life in the parish, reaching the parents and the home, and instructing the children. Any one of these aspects cannot exist and grow by itself. This total task is what the Orthodox Church in America faces today” [Sophie Koulomzin, Our Church and Our Children].
Following the guidance of the distinguished Orthodox Christian educator, the late Sophie Koulomzin, the Department of Christian Education of the Orthodox Church in America seeks to engage these three dimensions through its support of Church school teachers, clergy, families and all those engaged in faith formation at every age.
We create web-based study units consisting of age-appropriate lesson plans and activities and provide support for the teachers who use them. The Department also serves an important function by reviewing, recommending and making available resources created by parishes and other jurisdictions’ Christian education programs. One example is the Vacation Church School unit, “The Rest of the Story.” There are countless resources and materials available on the Department’s web site.
The Department also supports families. Several resources produced by the Department, such as the series of Activity Books which offer varied teaching strategies and activities based on lives of saints, are being used in homes as well as Church schools. For many families, these materials are the most reliable for authentically Orthodox teaching, having been produced by graduates of Orthodox seminaries who are also trained as educators.
Educating our faithful in the dogmas and teachings of the faith is of utmost importance, but the Department of Christian Education also provides essential resources which help to connect us to the lives and history of the saints who have witnessed here in North America. For example the study units created on the lives of the North American Saints feature the story of each saint’s icon and an explanation of the scenes depicting moments in his life, thereby providing a deeper understanding of the history of our Church in North America.
The Department continues to offer resources, workshops, retreats and support for students, teachers and families. We invite you to take advantage of what we have to offer, the life of our children and families.
—Matushka Valerie Zahirsky, Chair, Department of Christian Education