Our children are full of questions… “Why does the wind blow?” “Where do clouds come from?” “What makes a rainbow?” As parents, we are challenged to help them understand and learn.
Often, we wish we had more religious resources to offer to our families. Toward that aim, His Eminence Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta inaugurated the Department of Family Life Ministry, headed by Paula Marchman. Its aim is to “inspire individuals and families in our communities to live Orthodoxy in the home. It serves our faithful through a daily updated website, dynamic seminars and retreats, as well as creative and engaging materials.”
This week, our Metropolis Family Life Ministry, as well as future-planned educational ministries, was given a tremendous resource planned by Metropolitan Alexios: the new Conference Center on the lower level of Panagia Chapel. It will serve as the learning center at the Diakonia Retreat Center and offer workshops and conferences developed for our clergy and their parishes to use. Our youth at St. Stephen’s Camp will begin using it next summer as well as our marriage enrichment and family workshops for both adult and youth. Its opening is an answer to our prayers to expand the educational programs we are able to offer at the DRC.
The new Conference Center includes a unique chapel dedicated to six honored saints named St. Gregory on either side of the central icon of the Holy Spirit – Whose guidance every gathering will seek before, during, and after learning sessions. There is comfortable and ample meeting space decorated to complement the chapel. The Conference Center will house the Metropolis library and teaching resources to support our education, youth, and cultural ministries. Groups can be served light meals prepared in the Center’s small kitchen. The space will accommodate large and small gatherings and be accessible to every parish in our Holy Metropolis.
To bless this new Conference Center, Metropolitan Alexios asked for the assistance of Bishop Gregory of Nyssa and the more than 80 Metropolis Clergy participating in their annual fall retreat. Inviting the entire Metropolis of Atlanta, the clergy were joined by hundreds of supportive parishioners on Thursday, October 12th for the first Orthros and Hierarchical Divine Liturgy before the Agiasmos and “Opening of the Doors” (Thyranoixia) Service for the new Conference Center.
On behalf of His Eminence Metropolitan Alexios, I invite you to come visit this new Metropolis resource with your parish family and encourage them to support and utilize the gifts we have received and now share with you to build up God’s Holy Vineyard. As parents, we are both blessed and obligated to “give more to our families”… we can do so by supporting Family Life Ministry and our new Conference Center at the DRC. We thank our many donors who contributed to build it… as they spoke this week at its opening, each donor in his or her unique and inspiring way witnessed the joy of their giving and their prayers that our Metropolis family will use it for the Glory of God! Thanks be to God for this new blessing, and all who have and will support it.
In advance of this Sunday’s Lunch, I share several insights on why Family Life Ministry helps us live healthy and spiritual lives. As the head of your households, I humbly ask you to consider the following lessons I have received from our Metropolis Family Life Ministry. I pray you use them to seek God’s guidance and strength to ensure your household priorities help your family grow stronger in your faith and commitment to God and His Holy Church.
First, we have the opportunity to spend more time together as a family. Turning off our televisions, computers, and electronic games can enable us to share one-on-one time to lessen the distance between parents and children. Playing with our children on a regular basis, beginning when they are young, and encouraging creative activities, taking walks in the park or biking together can lead us to closer family sharing. Eating family meals together will be remembered throughout our lives, and offering the opportunity for our family to share its daily activities, visions of life, and dreams when they grow up, will encourage communication that will never be forgotten. This Sunday Lunch blog was created in honor of my parents of blessed memory – John and Charlotte Catherine Tsahakis – who every Sunday after church, ensured our family ate lunch together – no exceptions! Both my parents would share stories of their childhoods and my grandparents and family members who had died. I have cherished their stories that helped me learn who I am and the potential God wants me to fulfill in my life.
Second, we have the opportunity to not worry so much in general and to worry less about “the little things” – by asking for God’s help daily to overcome our challenges and struggles and seeking His will in addressing them. Learning to relax and accept from our family its unique and special gifts is both inspiring and joyful. While we certainly will make mistakes as parents, we can learn from our efforts and through our life’s lessons, thus enable our children to fulfill their potential. God created each of us in His image and likeness, so by turning to God’s teachings in Holy Scripture, by sharing the triumphs of the lives of the saints, and asking for help from our family and close friends, we can trust that our Lord will help us bear much fruit in His behalf.
Third, we have the opportunity to be more consistent. In other words, parents are responsible for creating the “home rules” and enforcing them consistently. That includes the areas of discipline, assignment of household chores and expectations, clear communication (in advance) between parents, and making sure our “no” means “no.” Otherwise, we experience more problems and our children learn lessons we never intended and which will hinder healthy relationships.
In closing, these efforts all relate to the attitudes of us as parents and our managing our critical relationships. How we choose to respond or not to respond definitely affects our relationship with our children. As we consider our future responses with our spouses and children, let us remember to interact with love and respect, to listen and not just lecture, to apologize when needed, to not lose our temper and yell, nor argue with our spouse in front of our children. Ultimately, we are challenged to raise our children so that they can express themselves in a healthy manner and share their feelings, their hopes, and their dreams. We cannot afford to give up when times become tough, . . . as His Eminence always shares, let us never forget to use our best “weapon” – “unconditional love” as modeled by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Have you hugged and kissed your spouse today, your children, and those whom you love? Don’t wait – begin this tradition at Sunday’s Lunch and either before or after each meal you share!
[Photos by Fr. Michael Platanis and Fr. George Tsahakis]