Outreach & Evangelism Report Annual Meeting January 2003
Prepared by Lee Kopulos, Chairperson
"For by God's grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."(Eph. 2:8-9)
Saved by God's Grace
St. Paul offers every community he writes a blessing at the beginning: "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." So it is with God that He is good and loves His creation. He created us as good beings with free will expecting us to make right choices. Once we wavered and sinned, we alienated ourselves from Him subjecting ourselves to corruption and death. However, He sent His only begotten Son to redeem us from our sins. Christ's resurrection restores us to our original form as God-like people if we repent and accept Him as our Lord and Saviour. As St. Irenaeus said (202 AD), " In His unbounded love, God becomes what we are that He might make us what He is." Once on the path of salvation, we can now be energized by God experiencing and partaking of the Holy Mysteries our Church offers in this earthly life.
"It is for God to grant his Grace and your task is to accept that Grace and guard it." St. Cyril of Jerusalem (4th Century)
God's gifts are free. When we do works for the purpose of God's glory, it builds on our faith as we rely always on His strength and grace. A meaningful and God-loving faith without works is dead. "You see then that a man is justified by works and not by faith only." (Jas. 2:24)
What more does God expect of us?
We have mentioned in years past that God expects us to be His witnesses to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8). Also our Lord has commanded us to "Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." (Mt. 28:19-20). He gives us great hope because He promises to be with us unto ages of ages. In effect, "bring my creation back to me." We do this in our daily living by witnessing to our friends, relatives, associates and neighbors. The Church grows through personal relationships of it members. Salvation is gained in the Church according to our Orthodox Christian practice. Therefore:
Our Church property now has plenty of space and is a beautiful property for worship in the Orthodox manner. Times are changing in America. Even though we are growing in number, fewer and fewer attend Church nationally. Here are some alarming trends in America to name only a few:
In times of great change we must make great sacrifices of faith. We have chosen to be Orthodox Christians -- we must be what the Church is called to be---- a body of people who are messengers of the Gospel of Christ in this world.
The following are Special Programs we ran in 2002:
Two Woman's Retreats -----
Orthodox Christians for Life ---- St. Luke hosted this event in November.
A Day of Remembrance ------- Sept. 11, 2002. Fr. Andrew and staff planned and implemented a full day of worship and prayer honoring those who perished in our terrible National American tragedy in 2001. A relic (Steel Beam) of the World Trade Center given to our Church by the Mayor of New York City was brought in a solemn procession by Police and Firemen through the Palos Communities for blessing by our Bishop Job and veneration by the community people; At noon we rang bells and did Psalm readings and lunch was served; and At 7pm a Memorial Service for the deceased with our Choir responding was prayed. Well over 300 parishioners and community people took part in these prayer services at St. Luke Church.
The Blessing of Church Bells-----December 5. The six special bells purchased for our Church were given names, anointed and blessed after the Vesperal Liturgy for St. Nicholas with Deanery Churches present.
Newspaper Articles, December---- of particular importance were the two articles in the Daily Southtown Newspaper, front page, featuring Fr. Andrew and a few weeks later Fr. Andrew and Lynn Betsanes with her children Joan and Madeline. Both articles were front and center second section highlighting the bells and their purpose in worship. Excellent exposure for our Church and part of its Christian message in this widely read southside newspaper.
St. Luke had a record year of welcoming first time guests to our Church for the Divine Services. We welcome the guests, introduce them to our community and follow-up with a written note and telephone call. After a very slow start, we welcomed a record 90 new people in our Parish this year! Here is a summary of the last five years:
Finally, we pray that through the intercession of our Patron St. Luke, our Lord & Saviour will continue to guide and build our love of Him and His people forming us into "an icon of an American Orthodox Christian Church."