|Fr. Paul’s Weekly Meditation
ANNUAL MEETING PASTORAL REPORT 2023
As I think back over 2022, I am grateful to God for the many good things happening at St. Luke’s. This past year was, by and large, a year of continued rebuilding from the challenges we faced during the COVID crisis of 2020-21. The number of regularly scheduled services is back to normal, and we are slowly returning to the pre-COVID attendance numbers. Along with this, the many ministries which were temporarily put on hold are slowly being reestablished. Our Church school is up and running wonderfully. Our choir is holding rehearsals once again. And our adult education programs continue to show very good participation, with both parishioners and non-parishioners joining in online from all over the country. I am especially thankful to our Church council, which has diligently overseen all of the administrative areas of our parish life.
I am also pleased to share that we are moving forward with the work of our new parish strategic plan. Our fundamental purpose with this plan, as you may remember, is to envision the kind of parish our Lord wants us to be for the next five years, from 2023-2028. I believe this is necessary because the Orthodox parish, in America especially, must never allow itself to become “static,” i.e., to succumb to the status quo. For while it is true that our faith is the unchangeable faith of the holy apostles, this does not mean that the Church, in either its universal or local expressions, must be frozen in the past. On the contrary, the faith of the apostles must be understood as something living and dynamic, and this for one reason: because the Holy Spirit brings the faith of history into the faith of the present.
On a parish level, this means being watchful for the spirit of apathy, which will always devolve back to “customary” modes of operation, of “business as usual.” Parishes that are lukewarm and reluctant to make the kind of intuitive changes necessary to thrive and grow are parishes that are unresponsive to the living voice of the Holy Spirit. As the Lord says to the Church in Laodicea in the book of Revelation, “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’” (Rev. 3:14).
We know that change is hard. But positive change begins with the faith and the courage to stare reality in the face and not run away screaming in fear. It means not changing merely for the sake of change. Nor does it mean changing things in order to be conformed with worldly ideals and expectations. No, I am convinced that the right kind of change, even at a parish level, can and must be inspired by the gift of the Holy Spirit, Who not only guides the Church (as in the book of Acts), but is the very life of the Church itself. Some parishes are incapable of looking at reality and accepting it for what it is. Perhaps the priest doesn’t want to “make waves.” Perhaps the parish council is stuck on doing things “like always” because they have elevated their parish-past to the status of a “golden age.” When this occurs, everything becomes frozen, congealed, and this is what precipitates a long, slow spiritual death.
The responses to these hard questions were numerous and insightful. Many pointed out that our parish is aging and that we do not have the young adults (in their 20’s & 30’s) and young families we once did. Some are disappointed that our lay ministries are not as robust and as effective as they once were. Some said our youth group is not consistently up and running and that our care for the elderly can be hit and miss. Many also conveyed their concerns over the need to “up the ante” to make our faithful as safe as we possibly can attending worship services. Another common concern was the revitalization of evangelism and outreach ministry to the community. These areas of our parish life are weak points, and we must address them if we are to be faithful to our calling to be the kind of Church our Lord has called us to be.
The strategic planning committee is currently working through the data submitted from the surveys. (It is not too late to take the survey!) Once the information has been summarized, a tally sheet of “action items” will be sent to everyone in the parish so that we might vote on which of these action items (e.g., reconstituting the youth group, updating the website, etc.) might be prioritized, as we did with the previous strategic plan developed in 2017. Finally, once the tallied votes have been received, we will be able to move forward.
Most importantly, however, we must each continue to grow personally in our Holy Orthodox faith. The best thing any of us can do, myself included, is to commit to a life of holy repentance, and to persevere in it no matter how difficult it may be. In a practical way, this means building good habits: daily prayer and the reading of the Bible, observing the fasts, and most essentially, coming to Church regularly for all the services so that we might partake of the holy Sacraments. St. Luke’s is a wonderful, amazing community. But we must not allow ourselves to “rest on our laurels.” May God help us to begin anew, not only in our commitment to strengthen this parish, but also in the need to be responsible for our own life of faith—thus keeping the “horse before the cart.”
Fr. Paul Jannakos
|“ORTHODOXY 101”: Fr Paul & Rick Wolf have began a new Adult Education Series on “Orthodoxy 101: the Basics,” beginning on Wednesday, January 11th at 6pm. The first 4 weeks will be dedicated to “THE MEANING OF HOLY TRADITION.” These classes will be livestreamed on both Zoom and Facebook live. Pass the Word!
|IOCC KENTUCKY TRIP: Michaelyn Sloan will be leading a team from St. Luke to participate in the IIOCC Kentucky mission trip on the week of March 20-25th. For more information, contact Michaelyn at firstname.lastname@example.org. A Flier for this trip is attached to this email.
|2023 PLEDGE DONATIONS St. Luke’s Church Council would like to remind all the members of the parish that they are welcome to set up direct depositofferings to the Church for this new year. If you are interested in doing this please contact the our Parish Treasurer, Mrs. Christine Bischoff at stluketreasurerpalos@gmail.
|THE FEAST OF HOLY THEOPHANY: Houseblessings have commenced! If you would like to have your house blessed please sign up HERE.
|2023 St. Luke Annual Meeting:Our Annual Parish meeting will take place on Sunday, February 12th immediately following the Divine Liturgy. Reports will be sent out soon.
|JANUARY MONTHLY CHARITY: Our St. Luke monthly charity for the month of January will be the COPTIC CHILDREN’S FUND. Please be generous.
|LUBA’S KITCHEN ANNOUNCEMENT: Update: Debbie Shiflettpicardi will resume the emailing for coffee hour hosting. We would like to have a 2–3-month rotation commitment from everyone. So, watch for those emails. This coming Sunday (11th) neither Crys nor myself will be staying for coffee hour so we do ask for a true community clean up to take place. Thanks! Matthew and Crys.
|DRIVERS FOR ELIJAH’S CHARIOT: Elijah’s Chariot – if you would like to help us drive our elderly to Church for services please let Tammy Tsiones know. Click here to sign up: DRIVERS FOR ELIJAH’S CHARIOT SIGN UP.
|St. Luke Orthodox Church – 9300 W. 107th St., Palos Hills, IL., 60465