Session 7: My Church and My Life - The Lifeboat

By the end of this session participants should be able to . . .

  • identify the Church as the community where they can learn how to be truly themselves as God created them
  • discuss how the Church is the community where all people can learn to grow in wisdom, service, and love for God and each other
  • define our relationship with the Church as our relationship with God, Himself, and with all of God’s people, both alive and who have fallen asleep in the Lord.
  • list the following as part of the Church: the people in our parish, our diocese, our Church in North American, the Orthodox Churches throughout the world, all the saints, all of God’s people both living and deceased, and with God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Useful Texts

  • Colossions 1:10b-12
  • St. John Chrysostom
    • “In the Church the joyful will preserve their joy; in the Church the heartbroken will find courage; in the Church the troubled will become happy; in the Church the spiritually weary will find rest; in the Church refreshment beckons to the heavy laden . . .”
    • “She (the Church) is your salvation; she is your refuge. She is more lofty than the heavens; she is more far-reaching than the earth. She never grows old; she always stays in bloom. And so scripture indicates her permanence and stability by calling her a virgin; her magnificence by calling her a queen; her closeness to God by calling her a daughter.”

Say, “We’ve talked about our relationships with God, ourselves, our families, our friends, our neighbor, and our ‘love.’ We have one more relationship to talk about: our relationship with the Church.” Write the words “The Church” on a very large surface. Have a number of markers available. Tell participants to come up and write down words and phrases that relate to their relationship with the Church. They can write down more than one phrase. When everyone is done, have participants explain their comments, allowing for questions from others. Be prepared for negative comments based upon their feelings.

Split participiants into groups of 2 or 3. Write the “Useful Texts” above on poster boards so that everyone can see them. Based upon their comments and the “Useful Texts” have each group write two or three sentences that explain why God established the Church. Come back and share results.

Say, “The Church gives us the support and guidance we need to grow closer to Christ and each other; to be the person God created us to be and live a life were people see God working in us.”

Ask and discuss the following questions:

  • Who are some people in the Church who are there to help us in our journey? [Others in our parish, our diocese, the Church in America, the Orthodox Church all over the world, our guardian angel, our patron saint, and Jesus Christ Himself.]
  • How can our relationship with the Church help us in our lives? [Gives a sense of the meaning to our lives, preaches against doing things that are harmful for us, challenges us to be “all that we can be,” etc.]
  • What are some ways that we can nurture our relationships in the Church? [Attend, participate, and pay attention to the Divine Services, Pray for ourselves and others, Learn about our patron saint and pray to them regularly, read the scriptures regularly, find ways to serve the Church, learn more about what our Church teaches by reading books and going to retreats, spend time with other Orthodox Christians, etc.]

Journal Reflection
Based upon everything we discussed, make a list of pros and cons for being in the Church. Write a poem, paragraph, essay, song, etc. entitled “Me, My Life, and My Church.”

Note to Leader: The Orthodox Church newspaper has a column titled “Young Voices.”Ask if anyone would be willing to have their journal entry published in The Orthodox Church newspaper. Include their picture with their entry and send to The Orthodox Church, 7900 West 120th St., Palos Park, IL 60464.

Session Conclusion
As Orthodox Christians living in today’s world, we face many choices about how we are going to live our lives and care for our relationships. It is often very difficult and sometimes we don’t know where to turn for help and support.

As Orthodox, we believe that we have the complete picture about God and that everything we need to know Him is provided by the Church and her Saints, Scriptures, Worship, and Sacraments. Sometimes we loose sight of why we believe all of these things. Remember, all of this is given to us, as St. Paul says, “in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way; bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.” Colossians 1:10-12.

Unit Conclusion
Ask your parish priest if you can end the unit with a short molieban service asking for the strength and wisdom to learn and grow toward Christ and His Kingdom.