Last Thursday evening, as a favor to a colleague and as a representative of our Diocese, I attended a lecture at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral entitled “Canonical Reflections on the Greek Orthodox Parish.” OK – let’s be truthful: if I had had tickets to the Mets / Marlins game at Citi Field, you know where I would rather have been. Despite my “expertise” in matters canonical, most lectures in this discipline possess all the excitement of watching paint dry!
However, I was struck by one thing: in their very legal definition of a “parish,” our Eastern brothers do not begin the conversation defining parish boundaries, referring to townships or even what the building looks like or where the church building is located. For our Orthodox sisters and brothers a parish first and foremost is defined as a group of Christians who come together and celebrate Holy Eucharist in a specific place weekly. This is where we Christians gather to hear God’s word and to be fed by the sacramental presence of the Risen Lord Jesus. “Membership” is viewed in terms of worship, not merely in the number of times I choose to or not to attend. Nor by how much I tithe (although such is expected).
What makes us a parish is the fact that we as a community come together each week to celebrate with joy the Good News of God in Christ, to be spiritually fed and to then share the good news of Jesus with others. So I wonder how others view us: are we “to the world” a parish?