A Letter to the Parents, from the Sunday School

This weekend is Labor Day weekend — the last weekend of summer — and next week, we’ll begin Sunday School! The teachers met this week to talk about the upcoming curriculum change as we move to a parish-wide curriculum.

Please:
– register your kids online for Sunday School, if you haven’t already.
– consider purchasing some non-perishable snacks (the more they are nut-free, dairy-free and gluten-free, the more helpful they’ll be!) and put them in the back corner of the Mt. Tabor Hall kitchen.
– prepare yourself to learn the curriculum too, because this year, you are not off the hook.

Our entire parish, from the preschoolers through the yiayias and papous will be learning together on Sundays. We are going to work our way through the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. We’ll be handing out bookmarks with the schedule of readings so that you can read together with your family and friends, and show up to church prepared for the week’s lesson.

After liturgy, Fr. Vasileios will give a short talk on the reading, so that everyone in the parish can study the Scriptures together. Meanwhile, in the Sunday School classes, the teachers will be covering the same Bible reading and lesson, adjusted to fit the developmental level of the particular class. We hope that at coffee hour, on the car ride home, and at the dinner table all week, you and your families will be talking about the lesson you’ve learned and how you can see it at work in your daily life.

Get ready. We’re going to ask you to read the week’s lesson every week, along with your family and friends, and to think about it before you come to church. We’ll send you home with a written discussion of the week’s lesson, and the reading assignment for next week. By the end of the school year, we’ll be halfway through our Old Testament unit; after four years together, we’ll have covered the most important readings throughout the whole Bible. We look forward to learning and growing with you!

You see, the Sunday School’s mission is not actually to teach the Orthodox faith to children.

The Orthodox faith cannot be taught in less than an hour a week. We can talk about the faith, we can fill them in on the symbolism and the connections and the meanings of the words they’re hearing in church, but Orthodoxy is a lived faith. It’s a mindset we take on every day, as we attempt to remember God at all times. Sunday School cannot give that to your children — only the family can instill the faith, because we don’t live in parishes but in our family households.

Christina Andresen runs the Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF, the ministry for college kids) and she recently published an article about our fears of ‘losing’ our kids when they head off to college. She argues that it’s not that college is so powerfully and overwhelmingly anti-Christian that just being there destroys faith. The problem is that most of the students we send to college don’t begin with a strong faith when they arrive on campus. She’s right, and the only way we can pass on the faith is to actually live it at home. Please take a moment to read her article on the goarch.org website.

So that’s why we’re moving to a parish-wide curriculum. Because the mission of the Sunday School is to support the parents as they lead their Orthodox family. All year long, we’ll be working to inspire, encourage and equip your efforts at home.

When the Nativity Fast approaches (sooner than we imagine, in November) we’ll be providing you with an exciting way to count down the days with Scripture in a truly Orthodox Jesse Tree project for your home. (Check here for a preview.)

September 1 is the first day of the liturgical year. Let’s all take this opportunity to make some resolutions to rebuild our family routines and schedules in a way that honors our truest mission: to lead our children and one another along the road to the Kingdom of God. The Sunday School and Transfiguration’s youth ministries (GOYA, Hope and JOY, and TGOC Tots) will be there, right by your side.

With love in Christ,

Elissa Bjeletich

3 comments:

  1. This multigenerational program where parents take the lead in educating their children is inspiring to say the least. Is the curriculum available online for other parishes to use? Many thanks and may God bless your labour to fruition.

    1. We’re beta testing (and offering writing and researching services in exchange) a curriculum that is being developed by St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church in Loveland, Colorado. They’ll probably be ready to see the curriculum in time for next year (2018-9).

      I think though that most Sunday Schools have curriculum, and we could simply start by choosing one and adapting the lessons per age group.

      I’m excited to see how this goes, and hopeful that it’s a very good model for Sunday School. We’ll be going through the Old Testament for 2 years, then the New Testament for 2 years, and then we will either repeat or possibly take a year or two to cover topics like the Sacraments & the Feasts of the Church, and Church History (Light) and Applied Faith (prayer, fasting, almsgiving, living the Orthodox life in practical terms.) For these first four years, we are helping St. Spyridon develop their curriculum. We may have to write the additional two years’ curriculum that rounds it out… then we could repeat on the six-year cycle.

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