Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Welcome to The Daily Prayer Team messages, each day includes a passage of scripture, a reflection and a prayer. Sponsored by Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
Jesus said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. Luke 10: 30-34
Today’s Scripture passage is from the well-known parable of the Good Samaritan. The lesson of this parable is that our neighbor is everyone, even our enemy. The man who had been beaten and left at the side of the road was ignored by two people from his own temple. It was his sworn enemy, the Samaritan, that went to help him.
Many times, we consider a “successful” parish to be a parish that can pay its bills, maintain its facilities, and save money for a rainy day. There are, however, lots of people in the towns where our parishes are located who have been kicked to the side of the road. In fact, there is no church community that doesn’t exist in relationship to a greater community. Currently I serve the parish of St. John the Baptist, located in Tampa, Florida. We are not just a community that sits on five isolated acres. We sit in the midst of a major cosmopolitan area. We have an obligation to be involved in the community around us.
One sobering question that can and should be asked in each church community is this: If our church community closed, would the greater community around us even notice? Perhaps they would miss the Greek Festival, but would they notice if we were not around anymore? Sadly, the answer in all too many communities is yes. If we are going to transform our church, we need to integrate into the community around us. That doesn’t mean being involved in politics or in city government, but it does mean being a presence that is noticed.
Whether it is being involved in a ministry to feed the homeless, priests participating in the local Christian clergy association, or some other initiative, the Orthodox Church should be a presence and a voice in the city in which it finds itself. I have always accepted invitations to offer the invocation at city meetings.
The Greek Festival, used as a fundraiser and showcase of Greek food and culture, should also have an impact on the local community. In our parish, we are very intentional about promoting church tours, and inviting festival patrons who take the tour to come back for a “come and see” dinner, where we can speak more in depth about Orthodoxy. We also have donated 10% of festival profits to local charities in our area.
While we still have a long ways to go in terms of being a “presence” in our community, we are taking small but concrete steps to be a church not only for the Orthodox community of Tampa but an institution that is ready to step forward and assist far beyond the boundaries of our property.
Praise the Lord! Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty firmament! Praise Him for His mighty deeds; praise Him according to His exceeding greatness! Praise Him with trumpet sound; praise Him with lute and harp! Praise Him with timbrel and dance; praise Him with strings and pipe! Praise Him with sounding cymbals; praise Him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Psalm 150
Transforming the church includes being involved in the greater community!
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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