Small Parish Forum Update  
Hotel Deadline Approaching 
Speakers and Topics Announced
Archdiocese of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania 
and Diocese of the Midwest 
Orthodox Church in America
June 2017 - Vol 5, Issue 2               

Small Parish Forum 2017
July 13-15, St John the Baptist Church,  
New Kensington PA
Quick Summary
What, When, Where, Registration, Rebates, Hotel Deadline

The Forum is a clergy-laity conference seeking to inspire and motivate small parishes to accept their calling to live a life in Christ without necessarily becoming "big."

St. John the Baptist Church
New Kensington PA

Dates Times Place
The 2017 Small parish Forum will be held from 3:00 PM Thursday July 13 thru 12:15 PM Saturday July 15 at St John the Baptist Church, 150 Elmtree Rd, New Kensington PA

You must register for the conference to attend. Cost to attend is $100 per person which covers meals and conference materials. To maintain an intimate atmosphere for dialogue and sharing of ideas registration is limited to 60 persons .

Attendance is open to clergy or laity from all Orthodox parishes regardless of jurisdiction. Registration is online only and can be accessed from this link.
register now
Diocesan Rebates
Attendees from the Diocese of the Midwest and the Archdiocese of Western PA will have the registration fee rebated at the conclusion of the conference.
Hotel Discount Deadline Approaching June 13 
A block of rooms has been reserved at the Spring Hill Suites at Pittsburgh Mills. For phone reservations call +1-(724)-274-1064 and ask for group rate for "St John's Church". Or use this link for hotel reservations .
Speakers and Topics 
See article below.

Travel Grants Available
Attendees from the Archdiocese of Pittsburgh and the Diocese of the Midwest are eligible for grants to assist with travel costs.  
register now 

Speakers and Topics
July 13-15, St John the Baptist Church,  
New Kensington PA
Speaking and topic assignments have been announced for the 2017 Small Parish Forum.

Emphasis on Open Discussion
The forum features an array of workshops, presentations and case studies dealing with life in small Orthodox parishes. Much more than in past forums the agenda will place an emphasis on attendee interaction and open discussion. Presentations will be short and designed to engage attendees to examine actions to build a bright parish future. To improve impact from Forum participation each attending parish will be encouraged to select at least one improvement initiative to undertake upon return from the Forum."

Click Here to Register for Conference

Becoming a Community of Engagement
Theme for the 2017 Small Parish Forum is "Becoming a Community of Engagement".  "Engagement" will be explored in terms of engaging in change, engaging in worship, engaging across multiple generations, engaging the neighborhood and engaging with the parish future.
Parish Profiles - Engaging in Change
Father Justin Patterson, rector at St Athanasius Church, Nicholasville KY, will open the Forum with a profile on the life and practices at that parish. In a similar vein Fathers Joshua Frigerio, rector of Holy Ascension Church in Albion MI and Jonathan Bannon, rector of Christ the Savior Orthodox Church (ACROD) Rockford IL will offer parish profiles emphasizing renewal and embracing new ideas in 100 year old parishes.
Engaging with Our Neighbor
The topic of "engaging with our neighbors" will include multiple brief reflections on charitable service offered by
  • Matthew McCroskery of Orthodox Detroit Outreach and Detroit's Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral
  • Janet Damian Lapko, also of Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral
  • Igumen Patrick (Carpenter) rector of Holy Assumption of St Mary Orthodox Church Pittsburgh PA. 
  • Father Jonathan Proctor, rector Holy Trinity Church St Paul MN, will offer a brief video contribution.   
The session will conclude with a broad ranging discussion of ways parishes can engage with their neighbor and neighborhood.
Engaging in Worship 
Mother Seraphima, choir director at the Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration in Ellwood City PA, will enliven the "engaging in worship" topic by offering thoughts on the role of the small parish choir and sharing a few practical small parish singing solutions.   
Engaging Across Generations
Father Marc Vranes, rector of Holy Trinity Church Willimantic CT and Cathy Vrugitz member of St. Gregory of Nyssa Church Columbus OH will challenge attendees to consider the importance of "engaging across generations" by harnessing the opportunity for intimacy and close relationships inherent in small parishes.
Engaging Our Parish Future
Core Values The critical topics of leadership, mission, vision, values and change in the context of "engaging with our parish future"  will be led by Father Peter Baktis, former military officer and chaplain and rector of Mother of God Joy of All Who Sorrow Mission, Hopewell NJ.
Numerous small group workshops will be held.

Attendees will  examine case studies of life in not so mythical small parishes and build an action plan to help "fix that small parish".
Early in the  Forum attendees will propose a list of "Principles of Vibrant Orthodox Small Parishes". The list will be updated at the conclusion of the Forum and will  serve as a "product" of the Forum to be shared with interested parishes not in attendance.  (See next article.)
Joseph Kormos will serve as conference facilitator.
Principles of Vibrant Small Parishes
As you've heard before, just as a clinic is not the same as a large metropolitan hospital small parishes think feel and act different than larger parishes.

But what sort of thinking and acting is involved in being a small parish with a bright future?

That will be an important topic at the 2017 Small Parish Forum. We will begin with a proposed list of "Principles of Vibrant Small Parishes" and attendees will work throughout the Fo
rum to fine tune that list to 10-15 principles that all can agree upon.  

Some examples:

"Any Orthodox parish can become more vibrant. All that is required is that its members, beginning with its leaders, be firmly resolved to have it so.
Their afflictions will be great, as Christ has promised, but their successes are assured by His victory. 'In the world you have tribulation,' Jesus says to his apostles, 'but take courage, I have overcome the world.'"
Fr. Thomas Hopko
Small is OK. Really. There is nothing wrong with being small. Small parishes can live a life in Christ without necessarily becoming "big". Bigger is not better. Better is better.
A Parish is a Living Organism - Parishes can (and do) die. You are responsible for health of your parish.
Strengths - The true secret weapons of small parishes are love, community, fellowship and authenticity. Don't lose authenticity by trying to be something you are not. But don't be satisfied with the status quo.

register now    
Build Fellowship - Do everything you can to build on the strength of fellowship. Pray for one another. Assist one another. Build the social fabric of the parish. Engage across generations.

Canton Group SPF 16 Obstacles
- Key issues facing most small parishes are: overcoming denial, self-pity and insularity. 'Small parishes with a future' limit the impact of these obstacles by regularly 'facing facts, having dreams/goals and engaging with their locale.
Any Church Can be Charitable - No church is too small to reach out to others in need. "Serving others breaks you free from the shackles of self-absorption that choke out the joy of living."
Vision and Aspiration - Small Parishes with a future: engage with the future by discussing their mission and vision. They examine and understand their values as church and community. They understand their gifts, talents and resources. 
Build on Success - What past parish choices and actions worked and why? What went well?
Take Risks - 'Successful' small parishes with a future try new things. They are not afraid to take risks.  
Priest's Time Commitment - In parishes where the priest has secular employment it is necessary to clarify the division of labor and priest's expectations? The greater the need for priest' supplementary income  the more lay person's need to assist.

"The strong commitment of members to one another, to the concept of one big family with modest program emphasis  reinforces the single cell nature of the church. When combined with the intergenerational nature of a small church these forces tend to enhance the caring nature of fellowship at the cost of potential growth. These unifying principles tend to make the small church exclusionary. The more closely knit the fellowship the more difficult it is to achieve growth." "The Small Church is Different" Lyle Schaller
Replenishing Is Imperative - To be a (small) parish with a future you must be able to retain current members/communicants AND to attract new members/communicants. As a minimum you need 'replacements'. Growing is good. Replenishing is imperative.
Welcome - Attracting new faces requires actively working to engage newcomers - to invite them in to what may well be a very (perhaps unintentionally) closed community.

Laity Responsibility - Laity have a responsibility to know and live their faith.


Watch this space for the final principles list as developed at the Forum. 

As always we appreciate the opportunity to land on your desktop or mobile device. We hope you can take some encouragement and fresh ideas from the topics presented.
Please let us know of other topics that would be relevant to you.
In Christ,

Joseph Kormos   Parish Development Ministry
Archdiocese of Western Pennsylvania and Diocese of the Midwest
Orthodox Church in America