St. George
Serbian Orthodox Church
Carmichaels, PA

Educational Programs at St. George Church

by Fr. Rodney Torbic
September 1, 2005


Throughout the year, religious programs are held at the St. George Serbian Orthodox Church in Carmichaels, Pennsylvania. The programs are educational in nature and are scheduled generally to coincide with Divine services.

The first program of the year is the St. Sava Program held on a Sunday in late January in proximity with the liturgical celebration of January 14/27 of St. Sava, the First Serbian Archbishop. The general practice is to celebrate the Divine Liturgy on the feast day of St. Sava and again on the nearest Sunday with a Slava Kolach and Kolijivo, dinner and program.

Church school teachers, past and present and church school students are remembered in prayer during the Divine Liturgy. At the dinner program, the Executive Board President and Vice President, the Choir and Kolo President and the Parish Nurse Practitioner give remarks. Historically, the Church School Coordinator also has offered comments.

At the St. Sava Program, parishioners normally recited poems in Serbian and English language and do readings honoring St. Sava. The St. George Choir opens the program with the Lord's Prayer and closes with the Hymn to St. Sava, Uskliknimo. The parish priest makes comments prior to the close of the program.

St. Sava Programs are traditional and young children often remember their declamacia's long after they have grown to adulthood. Some years ago a visitor from Serbia, an older gentleman, in the area visiting his son, attended the St. George Church at the time of the St. Sava Program. The older gentleman, though initially declining to participate in program was moved by the presentations that he heard from others, that he then recited length and from memory a poem in honor of St. Sava he had learned many, many years before.

In recent years, it has been the practice to have retreats during Great Lent and during the Nativity Fast for adults at the St. George Church. The retreats generally last all day. Talks by the parish priest and at times visiting priests or parishioners follow Divine services which are scheduled throughout the day.

The retreats during Great Lent and the Nativity Fast focus on themes integral to the fasts and the anticipated feasts. The retreats draw attention to the fasts and the reasons for them.

Confession and spiritual direction have been among the topics discussed. In at least two instances the Mother of God was the focus of discussion, one of these instances occurring the Feast of the Entry of the Mother of God into the Temple.

Day long retreats during Great Lent and the Nativity Fast give emphasis to the fasts of the Church and give believers an opportunity for extensive worship, talks and discussion that hopefully are beneficial to the soul.

The parish benefits from the retreats due to the additional time of prayer by a number of believers. Presumably the believers are stronger in faith and have increased knowledge as a result of participating in the retreats.

The retreats provide an opportunity for participants to exchange thoughts and to get questions answered. Often at the retreats clergy and their wives from other parishes have come to participate. At almost every retreat there has been one or more persons from outside of the St. George parish.

A parish is stronger when the opportunity for additional religious education programs exists. The St. George Church has been well known for parish picnics.

During the past several years, Outdoor Religious Programs have been incorporated into the parish picnic schedule. The Outdoor Religious Programs have had various themes including fasting, the Mother of God, and Saints Peter and Paul, Kosovo and the Holy Prophet Elijah.

During the early years of the Outdoor Programs, a doctoral candidate in psychology gave presentations on the Mother of God and various saints using his training and experience in a descriptive format.

Normally each Outdoor Religious Program begins with readings from St. Bishop NIKOLAI's Prayers by the Lake. St. NIKOLAI's prayers are very powerful and are fitting for an outdoor setting. From time to time the readers of the prayers add comments and observations about their content,

One of the readers of the prayers was visiting the parish prior to entering a monastery shortly after the program. Two of the readers have been college professors. One of the readers was a Pennsylvania State Parole Agent who was experienced in speaking with a voice of authority.

The past few years, the Parish Nurse Practioner has been scheduled to give talks on healthcare related topics. The healthiness of fasting was a memorable talk.

At each of the Outdoor Religious Programs, the Parish Executive Board President has had an opportunity to greet the attendees and express thoughts about the value of the program.

The parish priest gives ten minute talk on a topic related to the theme of the program. Following the presentations at the parish picnic grounds, the attendees are invited to to the Cross in the St. George Cemetery where one or two Akathists are served. The St. George Choir Director is present to sing and coordinate the responses.

Visitors have found the Outdoor Religious Programs to be of value and positive comments have been received. The holding of the Outdoor Religious Programs increases the outreach efforts of the parish and helps to identify the parish as a place where individuals can come to learn more about Christ and the Holy Orthodox Church.

Articles describing the Outdoor Religious Programs have been further advancing the message of the programs.

Vidovdan is a major day of interest for Serbian Orthodox Christians. At the St. George Church, since 1999, on the Sunday closest to Vidovdan, a dinner and program have been held. The Divine Liturgy is normally celebrated on Vidovdan, June 28.

The Vidovdan programs have included the showing of videos related to the Battle of Kosovo. Normally, there are readings related to the Battle of Kosovo and with Kosovo themes which are done by parishioners and serve to educate and remind of the sacrifices made. An effort is always made to have the readings both in Serbian and English when this is possible.

The choices made in 1389 and currently being made by believers in Kosovo are guideposts for believers in this country to consider and learn from.

The Holy Orthodox Church commemorates St.Panteleimon each August. Since 1999, St. George Church has taken time to recognize the contributions of emergency providers and more recently the contributions of all healthcare workers.

Healthcare Day has evolved from the first efforts in 1999 and now in addition to the Divine Liturgy in which all parish healthcare workers, living and departed are prayed there is a dinner and program. With the Archpastoral Blessing of His Grace Dr. MITROPHAN, local ambulance providers have been invited each year since 1999 to have their ambulances blessed.

The program on Healthcare Day includes the opportunity for greetings and remarks from the Parish Executive Board President and the Choir and Kolo President. The Parish Nurse Practioner speaks as does the parish priest. Parishioners read from St. Bishop NIKOLAI's Prologue from Ochrid. St. Bishop NIKOLAI's writings on St.Panteleimon, Sts. Cosmas and Damian and St. Luke are read.

Healthcare Day helps the parish to reflect on the lives of saints associated with healing. It helps the parish reflect on the important work being done in the field of healthcare benefits parishioners and the general community. Healthcare Day is an opportunity to express appreciation, but also to learn more about the Church and the ministry of the Church for the sick and the suffering.

Many parishioners work or have worked in the healthcare. The work they do is an expression of their Orthodox Christianity. The establishment of Parish Nurse's Office at the St. George Church advances healthcare education and healthcare ministry in the parish.

The St. George Church has a weekly radio broadcast which includes music related to the liturgical time of the year. Appropriate selections by the St. George Choir Director or the St. George Choir provide the troparia or other music connected with saints or feasts occurring at the time of the weekly broadcast. The Sunday Gospel and sermon are read by the parish priest. In recent months, the Gospel is read periodically in Serbian language. The Paschal message of His Grace Bishop Dr. MITROPHAN is broadcast and this year it was done in Serbian and in English language. The recording engineer/parish webmaster also provides for the radio broadcasts to be available on the parish homepage with six months of programs archived.

The radio broadcast reaches as far north as eighty miles at times and is a way to reach shut ins, those in hospitals, care homes, jails and prisons and those travelling or otherwise unable to attend church.

Having the radio broadcasts on the homepage enables individuals anywhere in the world listen if they have sound and internet capability. It is known for certain that a Serbian military officer from the parish serving in Iraq was able to listen to the August 7, 2005 broadcast.

The parish bulletin is published weekly and distributed to individuals attending the Divine Liturgy. The parish bulletin is mailed to more than sixty parishioners and friends of the parish unable to attend the Divine Liturgy regularly. The bulletin includes weekly sermon and excepts from religious books of importance. At least one Scripture reference to faith is included in the bulletin each week and one quote from the Desert Fathers. Always there are points for spiritual consideration.

Reaching out to parishioners and to interested individuals in various ways is importance. Parish education is an on-going necessity for a parish to remain vibrant.

The more parishioners choose to learn, the stronger and better the parish becomes.

In Summary

Annual St. Sava Program
Retreat during Great Lent
Outdoor Religious Program(s)
Vidovdan Program
Healtcare Day Program
PRABOCLABHA BERA - Weekly Bulletin
Radio Broadcast - Weekly by radio and available daily on home page.
St. George Serbian Orthodox Church, Carmichaels, Pennsylvania.
Adult Class, August 19/September l, 2005.
Martyr Andrew the General and 2593 soldiers with him.

BENEFITS OF EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS

Benefits of Annual St. Sava Program
----Strengthen identification with St. Sava.
----Learn more about St. Sava.
----Learn about St. Sava's father and brothers.
----Learn about monasticism.
----Learn about prayer and peace.
----Maintain Serbian Orthodox identity.
----Be exposed to Serbian language.
----Express appreciation and acknowledge contributions of St. Sava.
Benefits of Outdoor Religious Program
----Strengthen identity of parish as holy ground.
----Increase spiritual offerings of the parish.
----Reach out to visitors coming to the parish picnics.
Benefits of Annual Vidovdan Program
----Recognize the contributions of martyrs.
----Know the hard decisions necessary to be an Orthodox Christian.
----Value the Faith we have.
----Become familiar with the lives of Serbian saints.
----See the connection between Kosovo today and through the centuries.
----Recognize the hallowed ground of Kosovo.
Benefits of Annual Healthcare Day
----Become familiar with healing saints.
----See the connection between healing and Faith.
----Give thanks for healthcare services.
----Strengthen healthcare ministry in the parish.
----Increase the consciousness of Faith and health.
----Learn about prayer and health.
Benefits of Weekly Parish Bulletin
----Provide a chronicle of parish activities.
----Educate parishioners on parish life.
----Disseminate articles of educational value.
----Provide parishioners and friends of the parish with sermons.
----Recognize parishioners and groups helping the parish.
----Raise points of interest and benefit.
----Provide contact with parishioners and friends of parish unable to attend church each week.
Benefits of Weekly Parish Radio Broadcast
----Provide contact with parishioners and friends of parish unable to attend church each week.
----Reach out to individuals in the community and travelling through the community.
----Make radio broadcast available throughout the week on the parish homepage.
----Reach out to individuals in other countries.

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