The Pan Orthodox Christian Singles of the Baltimore/Washington DC Area

By Diana Haverlack and Chris German

Singles Flyers (.pdf)

Over a year ago, approximately 150 single Orthodox Christians from throughout the Washington, DC region gathered for the inaugural Pan Orthodox Singles party. The participants came from as far as Baltimore and Hagerstown Maryland, and Charlottesville and Gainesville, Virginia. The need for such a group has long been recognized, but only recently has action been taken to fulfill this need.

After much planning and discussion that began in January, 2003, Fr. Gregory Safchuk, pastor of St. Mark Orthodox Church in Bethesda, MD and spiritual advisor to the group, and chief organizer, Diana Haverlack, set the date and location for the initial get-together.
Flyers announcing the 21-and-over party were distributed to Orthodox churches throughout the region. Through e-mail, and word of mouth, news of the pending event spread. The “Chilie Party” with DJ and dancing was held in June, 2003 at Diana’s home.

The purpose of the event was to bring together people who not only share the same Orthodox Christian faith, but also have their singleness in common. The attendees, many of whom had never met many Orthodox people from other local parishes, for the first time had an opportunity to meet scores of single Orthodox Christians from the region.

While partygoers mingled most of the time, a few minutes were set aside as Fr. Gregory led a discussion about living as a single Orthodox Christian. Other questions for discussion included “What needs do we have in common that could be addressed?” “How would we like to see this group grow?” “What future events would we want to participate in?”

The group truly lives up to its Pan-Orthodox goal. Our demographics span the ethnic cultures of traditionally Orthodox lands to American converts. Churches that were represented were the OCA as well as members of the Antiochian, Armenian, Bulgarian, Carpatho-Russian, Greek, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Ukrainian and Western Rite Antiochian.

An Overwhelming Response

The turnout and response from that first gathering were so overwhelming that plans were launched to hold subsequent socials. In September Diana hosted us yet again in her home for a “Hawaiian/Polynesian Party.” (Again, over 150 in attendance) In November a number of us met in Bethesda for a night of fun, food and bowling. (84 in attendance) January saw the “Winter Wonderland” celebration with music, buffet and dancing, held at SS Peter and Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church in Potomac, MD. (Over 200 in attendance.) A Lenten potluck social followed the Liturgy of the Pres-Sanctified Gifts at St. Luke in McLean, Virginia. (Over 70 present.) In April we returned for another night of bowling. A First Anniversary Party was hosted, again at Diana home, in June 2004. (Over 100 present.)

Preparation Notes

Events are scheduled not to conflict with the Gregorian/Julian Church Calendar, with Feasts/Fast Days or with the Liturgical Services of the Church.

As in our Orthodox tradition, most all our events include a variety of foods, beverages and music.

We consistently choose events, as per the desires, requests and wants of our young adults.

The preparation time for the First Singles Event was 12 weeks! This was to ensure plenty of time for advertisement! Thereafter , 6 to 8 weeks was necessary for advertising purposes.

As per the request of our “Younger Singles,” not only do they want to receive emails to know what is “going on,” they also want flyers mailed to them individually, “so I can put it on my refrigerator door to remind me!”

RSVP’s are necessary.

Forming a “Pan Orthodox Christian Singles Group”

Getting Started

Needed—A spiritual advisor/leader
A coordinator who must have a good relationship with the spiritual advisor
(and one who is very dedicated to making this group work. Ed. Note)

A designer of the flyers. Ideally two or three people to send out the mailings in addition.

A person to keep a database. At the first event and every event thereafter, each person signs in with their name, mailing address, telephone number, email address and parish. At subsequent events, if the person’s demographics have not changed, the person only signs in. We have not only a “public database”, but a private one as well for those singles who do not want their information shared. This confidential database is only accessible to the spiritual advisor, coordinator and database specialist.

Money—for advertising materials, postage, food, drink, paper products, ice, party favors and decorations. (Some events have had a set fee. Where a fee is not indicated, a basket for a free will offering is placed on the table. For some events attendees have also brought food contributions.)

DJs have volunteered.

Places to hold the socials. Homes and church halls have been volunteered.

Communication about the Formation of the Group and its Events

Telephone every Orthodox parish priest in the area and tell them about the group that is being formed. Ask them if they will publicize material about events that you will send them, and if they would appoint a lay person who is single from their parish to be a contact person. Let them know that they, too, are welcome to attend these events.

If a single lay person is appointed, telephone him/her, explain the program and that you will be sending information about events periodically. Give the appointed lay person all your coordinates so that they can be in touch with you as well.

Publicity of Events is Most Important

For best results there must be constant communication. The coordinator should be in touch with every Orthodox single in the database and every parish priest in the region (with his permission) on a regular 10 to 14 day basis. In this way, as questions, concerns, and suggestions arise, they can be addressed.

To ensure that the spiritual advisor and the coordinator are on the same wave length as they lay the foundation for the singles group, the coordinator should send the first several email announcements to the spiritual advisor for review prior to sending them to the group. (After Fr. Gregory and I had sent out two emails, we found we had a mutual understanding, so then I sent them out independently.) When the coordinator is ever in doubt about the text of the email, he/she should send it first to the spiritual advisor for review.

Information in the emails can include details of the next upcoming event, suggestions that have been made for future events (to get feedback as to which are most popular,) other activities being held in the area Orthodox churches in which the young adults might want to participate.

Flyers—Fifty flyers are sent out to each parish priest and lay coordinator as soon as an event has been formalized. (A larger quantity of flyers has often been asked for, and this can be accommodated when possible.) A personal note is included with the flyers. In the note, always include the spiritual advisor’s phone number in case there are questions.

Fourteen days before an event, we send emails every three to four days and telephone calls are made. The phone calls are important not only to remind our singles of our upcoming activity, but to address any concerns that may be expressed.

When possible, it is important for the Coordinator to visit the other Orthodox parishes in the area, either for a service, or for one of their social events, to spread the word about the Pan-Orthodox Singles group.

Bits and Pieces

You must be 21 years of age or older to be included in the Pan-Orthodox Christian Singles. There will be times when alcohol is served at an event. For consistency and to include everyone from function to function, 21 years and up is appropriate.

The Pan-Orthodox Christian Singles is inclusive of single Orthodox Christians only! In preparation for our first event in June of 2003, Fr. Gregory and I received phone calls and emails from non-Orthodox who wanted to attend. I referred all these communications to our spiritual advisor who told them tactfully, “No.”

In Conclusion

We are bonding. Except for the first event, our singles voluntarily arrive early to help set up, and generally stay for clean up, until the last dish is washed and dried. We are happy to share the news that two couples who met at one of our events last year recently got married.

If you have questions or comments concerning the formation of this program, please contact us:

Very Rev. Gregory Safchuk, Spiritual Advisor—(301) 320-0739, email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Diana Haverlack, Coordinator—(703) 759-1551, email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Karen Nichols—Graphic Artist/Database Specialist—(301) 656-6412, email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Diana Haverlack is a physical therapist and Chris German is in real estate and radio communications. Both are very active members of St. Mark Orthodox Church in Bethesda, MD.