During Great Lent this year, the Southern Colorado Greek and OCA parishes joined together on the theme of outreach and evangelism during the Sunday night Vespers in Colorado Springs, Pueblo and Calhan.
A simple summary of the overall message :
The first step in evangelization is dedication of one’s own life to God, not simply at conversion and baptism, but throughout our lifetime as new experiences change and deepen us. Do we sometimes feel we have two lives, a secular worldly life and a Church life? This indicates a need to re-dedicate our whole life to Christ. Do we have inner imaginary thoughts and temptations that we keep secret, an inner life separate by our own design from God? These deep and hidden inner places need to be opened, these inner places dedicated to God, which is a theme of Great Lent. All the homilists gave examples of transformational witness in their own lives and in the lives of the saints.
But what about a parish? How does an Orthodox community grow their outreach? Sure, welcoming newcomers is basic, but that means newcomers are already inside the church building. Outreach looks further into the community around us, those who might be drawn if they knew what Orthodox Christianity is.
Has your parish done a strategic plan? If so, you may have noticed your plans consisted mostly of tasks, heavily weighted towards addressing present circumstances. The old saying is that most parishes overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in five. That’s a good saying, valuable when planning tasks. Vision goes beyond that, beyond our present circumstance, is an eye to opportunities that have not revealed themselves yet, beyond the existing membership of the parish, as well as seeing the opportunities that are right in front of us. Vision is a capacity, not a task.
Examples ? Sure, we’ve got examples, but they are particular to each situation, not necessarily to your parish. Some examples involve lay leaders doing projects and study groups outside the church building, creating a presence in the community at large. Even that idea can take many forms.
In Calhan we took 2030 as a good horizon, especially since the School Class of 2030 already had a float in the Simla Homecoming parade this school year. Everyone who will be an adult in 2030 is already born. Part of cultivating Vision is to see that the future is not an abstraction. We’re shaping it now.
A spiritual sense of vision is lives in us, is capable of seeing and touching others, of seeing beyond what present circumstances say is possible. The Holy Spirit works in us to make this possible. Glory to Jesus Christ!
-submitted by Fr. David Lowell