Gathered in Community: Introduction






The   following was created as the Bible Study for the Eleventh All American Council   which focused on the theme: ‘Gathered in Community.”

The   biblical passages, taken from the Acts and Epistles, focus on the life and   teachings of the apostolic community and its understanding of the Church.   The Reflections on the Text present ideas for discussion, while the section   Relating the Bible to Our Lives offers questions for personal and group reflection   and action.



Who   Should Use the Study?


The   Bible Study should be used as widely as possible in the parish. The intention   of the Bible Study is to help all members of the parish understand their membership   in the Church: how they relate to each other, listen and speak to one another,   and care for each other. The Bible Study provides an opportunity to strengthen   the life of the entire parish community, as well as the Church as a whole.   Copies of the Bible (at least one for each small group) should be available   to check additional references.



How   and When Should the Study be Used?


The   Bible Study should be used before study and discussion of the All American   Council Resource and Planning Guide. It can be used also at any time as a   separate study unit, apart from preparation for the Council. Each person should   have a copy of the Bible Study. Additional copies can be ordered from:


Orthodox   Christian Publications Center (OCPC)

P.O.   Box 588, Wayne, NJ 07474-0588.

Phone   201-694-5782, FAX 201-305-1478.



Adult   Discussions:



Leadership   requires a facilitator to keep the discussion process moving. This could be   a priest, teacher or lay leader in the parish. The leader should function   primarily as a facilitator rather than as a teacher conducting a lesson.


Time   Frame:

Five   weekly sessions are recommended, or several sessions during a weekend retreat   (Friday evening and Saturday, ending with Vespers). Each session can be 45—60   mm. or 60—90 mm. long, depending upon the size of the group (larger groups   will require more time for discussion).

Note:   A person should be appointed to keep track of time for each segment and for   the total period. Beginning and ending on time will encourage attendance at   successive sessions.


Suggested   Format - Small Groups:

  • Ask     a person to read the Bible text while others follow in their own books.     (3—5 min.)

  • Let     group members point out important ideas from the text (have one person list     these on a large sheet of paper) —elaboration on these points should     be left until the small group discussions. (10 min.)

  • Divide     into small groups of 3—5 people. (2—3 min.)
  • Let     everyone read silently the “Reflections on the Text” (5 min).
  • Each     group will then turn to the questions under “Relating the Text to Our     Lives” and discuss them in the light of what they have read in the     biblical text and in the “Reflections.” Groups may choose to focus     on one question or several questions or issues. (20—30 mm.) One person     in each group should serve as a recorder of the main ideas and questions     coming out of the discussion.


  Bring the
  groups back together to share their ideas and findings in one or more of the
  following ways:


  • What     did we learn from the text or the reflections?
  • What     is important for our parish life? (Issues, problems, challenges, possibilities     for growth.)
  • What     can we do, either personally or together as members or groups of the parish,     as a result of what we learned today?


Suggested   Format - Large Groups/Parish-Wide Study:

  • Follow     the same format as described above, except divide into groups immediately     after the reading of the biblical text. The biblical text could be read     separately in each group. (See also Option 2 below) Groups may consist of     more than 5 persons, but should not exceed 8—10. Let each group list     important points on large sheets of paper. Large groups may divide according     to functions or organizations in the parish, e.g., parish council, women’s     group, youth, etc. and focus on what their sub-group in the parish can contribute     to the life of the whole parish in the light of the issues discussed.

Other   Options:

  • For     large groups, a one-day session on a Saturday could be organized, with a     meal included to allow more time for discussion or to cover one or more     sessions from the Bible Study booklet.


  • Each     group could focus on a different biblical text, and present their topic     and reflections to the whole group at the end.


  • A     special session for younger children could be organized in a separate room,     with a focus on art projects that illustrate sections of the text or other     related texts. (See Children’s Supplement for ideas.)


Children’s   Supplement

The   following activities provide suggestions for relating the theme and Bible   Study texts to children and youth. Local circumstances — age levels,   time, space, etc. — should dictate how much and what can be implemented.   Leaders should read the adult study materials as a way of preparing themselves   to introduce the texts and ideas provided below. See the section “Other   Resources” suggested at the end of these activities. Displaying and explaining   the final products to the parish can help generate interest in the adult studies.


Themes   and Activities:

  • The     Holy Spirit gathers us together. (See Gathered in Community, Acts 2:1—4,38—47)
  • Hang     four large poster boards on the wall and label: Praising God (worship),     Loving Others (fellowship), Helping Others (stewardship), and sharing our     Faith (discipleship). Find examples of these in the biblical text and have     them describe ways they might do each of these things in the parish community,     in their families, at school, in their neighborhoods, etc. List responses     on the poster boards, or have students find pictures in magazines or draw     pictures or glue cutouts on boards to illustrate each topic. Display in     the church hail; have students explain them to adults during coffee hour.
  • We     are One Body but each of us is special. (See Building up the Body of Christ,     Ephesians 4:1—7,11—16)   
    In     advance, ask each student to bring a photograph of himself or herself. Cut     out of paper a large outline of a human body. Get a large paper icon of     Christ. Discuss how the parts of abody work together and what     happens if different parts are missing. Ask how each of us “belongs”     to each other — in the family, the church, in school groups, teams,     and other community groups. How do we need or depend upon each other (in     each context)? Describe what     you do in your family, in your parish, in your school, etc. How are we unique     or different from one another and how are we alike? Give examples or tell     stories illustrating how a group really became one — what happened     to make this so? Use the biblical text to see how St. Paul describes the     Church as a body. Mount the icon of Christ on the head of the outline made     earlier. Glue the students’ pictures on the rest of the body. Decide     how to illustrate ways in which we become one body in our lives together.     Label the poster and have students explain it during the coffee hour.

    Ask the students       to give examples of behavior that prevent our growing together as one       body. What kinds of attitudes, talk or actions break our relations with       each other? What kinds help to solve conflicts or disagreements? Discuss       ways conflicts can be avoided and write responses on a poster board. Make       a list, in large letters, of what is needed to live together in community.    

  • God     works in each of us. (See Varieties of Gifts, I Corinthians 12:4—13,27—31)    

    Divide students       into “reporter teams.” Assign each team to interview someone       in the parish: priest, deacon, parish council member, treasurer, church       school teacher, mission or outreach coordinator, youth group advisor,       coffee hour helpers, senior citizens, teens, etc. Have them find out what       each one does to fulfill his or her vocation within the Christian community.       How did they get involved? What do they do? What special talents are necessary?       How does your work help others? How do you depend on others for their       help? Have teams offer oral reports or write their findings into short       articles for the parish bulletin or a special newsletter.    


In advance,
  ask each student to bring in pictures of his or her family. Have them frame
  and mount their pictures on a sheet of construction paper, and share what
  is unique about each member of the family. List the family members’ names
  and their special gifts. Ask them to explain what each member of the family
  does to help the other members. Hang the mini-posters on the wall in a circle.
  In the center, hang an icon of the Holy Trinity (the Old Testament Trinity
  icon of Rublev). Explain that even as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are
  three unique persons, they are One God, so totally united in love that they
  can never be separated. In a similar way, while each member of our family
  is a separate, distinct person, they are also united in love and together
  form a family unit. 

  • Love brings   us together as God’s Family. (See Make Love your Aim, 1 Corinthians 13:1—13;14:1)


    the different ways we use the word “love”: “I love pizza,”
    “I love TV,” “I love my puppy,” “I love to help
    others,” “I love to give gifts,” etc. On a poster board or
    chalkboard, write the word LOVE in large letters. Ask the students to place
    other words around it that help to describe what love means. How do these
    responses compare with the way we think or feel when we say “I love
    my family.” Ask for examples of how we can show our love. Ask each
    student for ideas or guidelines for putting our love for others into action.
    List these on the board. Edit and publish in the parish bulletin.

Have students       sit in a circle and ask each to share ways that others — parents,       siblings, friends, neighbors, teachers, pastors, etc. — have expressed       love to them. Ask how they have acknowledged or returned these expressions       of love.

    at the second paragraph of the biblical text. Have each person read the
    passage, substituting his or her name for the word love. Now read it together,
    substituting the name of your parish in place of the word love. Discuss
    together how we can better show love for one another in the parish, both
    as persons and as groups.

  • Clothe   Yourself in Love. (See Put on the New Nature…Love, Ephesians 4:22—24;   Colossians 3:1—4,12—17)

In advance, ask     students to bring something for which they are thankful. Ask each to explain     why they are thankful for the item they selected. How do we show our thanks     for things we treasure? Ask them to tell about something another person     did for them which made them very thankful. How did they express their thanks     to the other person? Ask each to write the person a letter expressing their     thanks, telling the person how their gift really helped, and sharing a sign     of love for the other person. Send the letters.

Read the first     and third paragraphs of the biblical text and ask the students to recall     the white garments given to them at their baptism. What did these new clothes     represent? What kinds of behavior and attitudes are we to “put on”?     Have the older students examine passages in the baptismal service that refer     to “garments.” Put the words “thankful,” “forgiveness,”     and “love” in the center of a chalkboard or a large sheet of paper.     What do these words have to do with each other? Can any of these attitudes     exist without the others? In another color, add around these the words compassion,     kindness, humbleness, meekness, patience, and other words that were brought     up during your discussions. Title the poster: Putting on the Clothes of     New Life!


Other Resources:

  • Check Christian   bookstores for the Arch Books Series and Children’s Bible Stories for   related texts or stories that could be used to illustrate the basic themes.   Other stories, poems and songs may also be used.
  • Check regular   Church school lesson texts for story materials, other children’s literature,   liturgical hymns and songs.
  • Gather materials   for paper crafts, puppets, murals, and banners; simple props for role-playing;   newspapers and magazines for posters; tapes and texts of contemporary music   that has a message related to the texts, etc.
  • Look for concrete   images for use in art projects to convey a concept: e.g. The Vine and the   Branches (Jn. 15:4f.); A New Commandment (Jn. 13:34f., see also the hymn based   on this text), the story of the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10:30.); the story of   Babel (to contrast with Pentecost, see Gen. 11 and the kontakion of Pentecost).