My Church, Our Home: Session II: The Household of God
This session is all about the meaning of home. It is in, it’s completeness, a place where we feel connected, loved, welcomed, supported, nurtured, encouraged, and challenged. It is our safe place where we can feel at rest, and is a base from which we sojourn and always return. We will begin with discussions of our own homes, the gifts each member contribute to their homes, and the significance of our homes in our lives. We will also begin to discover our parish as our home, the importance of the gifts we bring to the church and their meaning to our salvation.
These are the understandings we will teach in this session.
- We, as human beings, are created to be ‘at home” with God.
- We all bring gifts to our homes that contribute to our family life.
- God offers us a “home”, the Church, that is full, complete and whole in which He wants us to live.
- We are expected to bring our “gifts” to be offered up to God and these gifts contribute to the structure of the Orthodox parish. It’s organization, administration, finances, properties, activities, as well as it’s theological and moral teachings and practices and it’s liturgical and sacramental rites and services, MUST be of God.
- God expects us to live in His “home” all the time, so that we may learn the way to life in Christ.
when answered and discussed, will lead back to the understandings for this session.
All sessions begin and end with a prayer.
- To prepare the participants for the format of these sessions, it is best to have the Understandings written on lined butcher paper, and placed in the room where everyone can see them. Then the essential questions should also be written and posted. (This should be done for each subsequent lesson following) A great introduction to the lessons is to ask the questions, define words that need to be defined, and then explain that you will be on a learning journey together, and that together you will discover the answers to these somewhat difficult questions.
Explain that there will be many ways to discover the answers. Some might include discussions, reading, role-playing, and creating pieces of art, constructing things, and even singing.
- How does the phrase, “home is where the heart is” relate to our homes and God’s home? Should there be a difference? Is there a difference?
- What is a cornerstone? How does it work? Why is Christ called the cornerstone of the Church?7. How can we respond to the words, nothing in a parish can be merely “human” or “secular”?
- How does temple architecture relate to the words of St. Paul, “We are the temple of the living God?”
- How does the story of Adam and Eve explain how we are meant to be at home with God?
- What gifts has God given us to help us to return home to Him?
- Why must a parish be the Church of Christ and not simply, a church community? What are significant differences between these two phrases?
- How do we prioritize our time between Church and other activities (sports, music, jobs, etc.)?
For this session, you will be developing the concept of home and how our church, our parish is a home that is provided for us by God. We can begin by asking the question, what is a home? What is your home like? What does it mean to you? These can be answered in a group session, or even in a private journal. The participants may then share if they wish. Then ask the question, what does “home is where the heart is” mean? How does this relate to our parish as our home?
Ask the question, what is a cornerstone? If it is not defined, then explain that they will be participating in an activity that will help them to understand the term. Then pass out blocks to each small group of four, or less, (working in pairs is the best way to do this if there are enough materials) and have them build a structure. Explain that it should be a tower, a house, an office building, a church etc. Then ask them to identify the cornerstone. What happens when you try to take it out? How does the cornerstone support the whole structure? How do we relate this activity to our understanding of Christ as the cornerstone of the church?
Review the structure of the church. How is an Orthodox Church built? How is the inside structure set up? Even though all churches come in different sizes, shapes, colors etc., what do they all have in common? They all should have a narthex, a nave, and an altar. Some may say, iconostas, windows, choir lofts or bays etc., but we are first seeking the understanding of the structure of the building. There will be a handout for the students and they will fill in the areas with labels to identify the parts of the church structure.
*Not all activities will be done in one session. Some will overlap into other sessions, and some may not be done at all. It will all depend on the amount of time we will have with the participants in each session.
– In the participant’s journal, answer the prompt- IMAGINE- you
have just come home from a very hard day at school, or play, and you need
to find a place where you can rest and feel comforted. Where will you go in
your home? Describe the place, explain what you see, hear, and feel in this
- Teacher’s note: prepare students with the information that you will be asking volunteers to share some of this information with the group.
- Heart Activity - Using a flat, thin, wooden heart, etch, draw, paint, one side of the heart with a simple picture of home. Try to encourage students to create a picture that is similar to the home in which they live. Pictures from home, or even from magazines may be used as models. Then, on the other side of the heart, etch. Draw, paint,, a simple picture of your church. These may also be taken from pictures brought from home, or from pictures provided by the teacher. This may be made into a wall hanging, a door hanger, window ornament etc. Holes may be pre- punched into the top, and ribbon may be provided to use for hanging. The words, “home is where the heart is” should be inscribed somewhere on the heart.
- Building a Church - Have each participant begin the building of his/her church using the materials provided. Each model will include a narthex, nave, and altar, and its details will depend upon the age and interest of the participant. (See attached information on this project).
- To end this session,
following the directions on the Think and Write Prompts, and the Journaling
questions, have each participant respond to an essential question, or to a
question that may have come up in the discussions.
- *The questions suggested in the Think and Write prompts are meant to be used with material that is written or read. Today’s question can come from the Essential Questions, or from another question that the teacher puts up for everyone to answer. These can be private reflections, or they may be used as a basis for further discussions.
- End this session with a prayer. Collect all journals, and be sure to collect all the finished and unfinished projects. We will be keeping them until the end of the week for each participant, and will be creating a display for the council toward the end of the week.
These prompts may be used in a few different ways. They can be passed out to the participants at the beginning of their journal writing, and they may choose which one(s) they would like to address, based on their own individual experiences with the material they have just studied.
They may be given directions to choose one or two prompts, and choose to write to them, or they may be directed by the teacher to very specific questions for a specific response that the teacher wants to elicit from them. (ie. What made you “wonder” in this session? (could be from a reading, discussion, project etc.) Why? What confused you about the session? Why?
Most participants love to choose their own questions, because they are not being asked to respond to something they have not experienced, but ARE responding to thoughts, emotions, feelings, etc. that they HAVE experienced. It also is a private communication that should remain private. This is not meant as a whole group sharing, but a time for personal reflection. These should however, be responded to by the teacher before the next session.
to Direct Journal Writing:
Use these questions to help you write in your journals. This list is not meant to cover all of the issues that might concern you as you write, and it is meant to be used when you need a starting point for a journal entry. Your own thoughts and feelings are always the best source for your writing.
NOTE: If you have trouble developing your ideas in your journal try writing some of your entries nonstop. Nonstop writing (at least five minutes) will help you unlock some of your best ideas.
- What were your feelings after reading (hearing) the story? Did it make you want to cry? smile? laugh? cringe? Explain your reaction.
- What connections are there between what you learned today and your own life? Explain your thinking.
- What was the best part of something you heard about today? Why? What was the worst part? Why?
- What did you learn today about life and living through the material you read or heard? Explain.
- What did you learn about today that seemed the most believable to your life? What was the most unbelievable? Explain your thinking.
- What do you think was the most important word you heard today? The most important passage? Why is it important to you?
- In what ways are you like a person or character that you may have heard about today? Explain. How are you unlike? Explain.
- Do any of the people or characters you heard (read) about today remind you of anyone you know? Friends? family members? Classmates? Tell about them.
- What person or character that you heard (read) about today would you most like to be like? What personality traits would you like to acquire? (have for yourself). Why?
- What would you and your favorite person or character talk about in your first conversation? Begin the conversation.
- What makes you “wonder” in this lesson? Why? What confuses you about this lesson? Why?
- What came to you as a surprise today in anything that you read or heard? Why?
- Has what you learned today helped you in anyway? Explain how it has helped.
- How have you changed after today’s lessons? Did anything you read, heard, or learned help that change? Explain.
- What questions would you like to have answered after today’s lessons?
- Who else do you know who could benefit from learning this information? Why? Do you think you know someone who shouldn’t? Why?
- Compare two people or characters you have learned about in this lesson(s). How are they alike? How are they unlike?
Explain the term journaling. How do you respond in a journal? Do you have to write in complete sentences all the time? Do you have to spell everything correctly? A journal is a place to write your thoughts, ideas, dreams, fears etc.
Go over vocabulary words that children might not be familiar with: (for appropriate age levels) Examples: Parish, significant, secular, temple, architecture, society, cornerstone.
Develop the understanding of a temple as the building where the Church assembles and experiences God.
Develop the understanding that the church is a group of people who include the world-wide Orthodox Church and the saints, with Christ as it’s Head.
Develop the understanding that living in “God’s home” is not just about attending church on Sundays and Holy Days - but that it is a way of life for an Orthodox Christian.
1 Tim 3:15: if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.
1 Tim 3:19: Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own;“My soul is restless until it finds its home in God”
Ephesians 2:19-22: So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
The teachers can use this quote in a session as a discussion starter or journal prompt.
“You never find God asking persons to dream up what they want to do for Him”