To all parishioners and friends of Holy Assumption Church:
Glory be to Jesus Christ!
Holy Assumption Orthodox Church has been doing well, by the grace of God. There is a unity and a peace here, and people generally seem to love one another. Glory to God! One good sign is that at coffee hour no one seems to want to leave!
This last year has been a good one. We are getting to the point where I believe we can start to really fulfill our mission. I believe that we have a unique mission. In a real sense, our primary mission is to non-Orthodox. Our church has been entrusted by God (I believe) with the exciting task of bringing new people into the Holy Orthodox faith and Church. Truly the Orthodox Church has a great treasure. There is a depth of faith, worship, knowledge and experience of God that is available in few other places. How exciting to be able to share that treasure with people who are interested! We have been doing just that.
We started the new church year of 2011-12 in September of 2011 with a Saturday evening catechism class already underway. We ended up with 8 catechumens, 6 who were received by chrismation, and 2 by adult baptism. Eight new Orthodox Christians! Five of these chrismations were on Lazarus Saturday of 2012. Glory to God!
Currently we have another round of catechism classes underway, which we started on Saturday September 8, 2012. We currently have 7 new catechumens, with one more that is to be received into the catechumenate soon. In addition to the adult receptions into the faith, we had one infant baptism this past year. We also recently had two new babies born into the parish, one of which we already baptized, with the other to be baptized in the near future.
Our attendance continues to slowly increase, and we are also doing well financially, with our giving exceeding our expenses. This is extremely important for a church. In all too many churches expenses exceed giving, and the church goes into survival mode, and there simply is no money to invest in the parish's growth and future. Happily, that has not been our situation the last couple of years. We are investing in our parish. There is a lot of work yet to be done, but we are working at it! Last year we removed some trees from the side of the parish and had the parking lot paved with black top. This fall we had our exterior landscaping done and we have already approved a new sign to add to the existing one. The plan is to move our existing sign to the corner of 18th and Ohio, and to put the new sign (which will also have some moveable lettering for announcements, advertising, etc) where the old one currently is. This should be done sometime this year. We are still looking into getting a cupola (onion dome), and are also planning to replace the exterior crosses on the church. Also, we are planning to fix up the extra restroom that is in the south side of the church and make it a unisex restroom to add to our existing 2 restrooms.
But we are also investing outside of our parish, with more plans for this upcoming! Our parish continues to support monthly the Hogar Rafael Ayau Orphanage in Guatemala. Additionally, we continue to support through fundraising activities and giving, the St. Nicholas Uganda Children's Fund, the Presentation of the Theotokos Monastery in Missouri, and the Hoppe family, who are missionaries in Albania.
We also have continued our outreach to Malone University. We were privileged to receive a parish development grant from the diocese this last year. We used the grant money to bring in Orthodox speaker, writer and poet Scott Cairns to Malone University this past year in February. This was a successful outreach event, and also good for our parish. As a result of these efforts our OCF group on Malone submitted the necessary paperwork to OCF and chose officers, and is now an official OCF chapter. Many of our newly chrismated Orthodox and catechumens have come from Malone University. There seems to be a movement on this college toward Orthodoxy and many of those interested in Orthodoxy seem to end up at our parish. We also brought in Fr John Oliver to Malone in October. This event was enormously successful and (I feel) a powerful witness for Orthodoxy to Malone. He also spoke at our parish, and was a great blessing ro us!
One of our Malone graduates, Joel Brady, is now studying for the priesthood at St. Tikhon's theological seminary. Exciting! Please pray for him.
We also have helped financially a number of needy families both within and outside of the parish. This is an ongoing ministry of the parish. We are continuing to look at ways to better reach out to our neighborhood and, among other things, we are planning this coming summer to host a neighborhood block party outreach event to our neighborhood.
Concerning Parish Membership
You all should have received a parish pledge card in your mailbox. If you haven't got one, please see Scott Condo or Kathy Kisha-Wise. It is a requirement of our parish to fill out a pledge card in order to be counted a voting member of the parish, and to vote at our annual meeting. I urge you all to consider becoming members of your parish. What, then, is a member? Our church bylaws detail membership requirements, and those desiring to become members should speak with me. But the short answer is that a member is a person who has a commitment to the parish. This is the first and largest requirement to become a member. Our Lord Jesus Christ calls us to commit our whole life to him as our Savior and our God. And our local parish is the practice ground for our commitment.
Won't you consider commiting to the parish? Become a member and please fill out your pledge cards soon. We need these as soon as possible in order to prepare the church budget for next year, which will be presented at our parish annual meeting in January! So please take a moment and think and pray about it. We are called to give generously and cheerfully but not under compulsion. How much? Well, that depends on what you can give, and how much God has blessed you. Please remember the costs involved in running the parish. The first $191 of each voting member's annual pledge doesn't even go to the parish, but is used to pay our assessment to the diocese and the national church. The parish has an approximately $90,000/year bare-bones operating budget. Divide that by the amount of people involved in the church and you have an approximate idea of what your share is. Of course, some cannot afford their financial share, but can contribute to the church more in other ways. We all need to prayerfully consider our offering of time, talent, and treasure to God. Whatever our state, everyone can contributesomething. According to the teaching of the Bible, there is a blessing in giving. Our Lord Jesus said “Give and it will be given to you...” and that “With the measure (portion) you use, it will be measured (portioned) to you.” (Luke 6:38) Those who give will be blessed in return by God. Glory to God for this promise! God bless you all, I know that you will do as God calls you to do! Truly I thank God for you. We are, in fact, a very generous parish. It is anoticeable characteristic of our parish! Last year you gave more than you pledged, and I know you will rise to the challenge again! Thank you in advance for all that you do to make our parish the wonderful, exciting place that it is!
Yours in Christ,