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)
Discuss 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.

Look 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).