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  #1  
Unread 16th April 2007, 09:52 PM
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Mission Ideas/Help

I know a lot of you have mission parish experience, so I thought I would throw this situation out to TAW and solicit (actually beg for) advice:

A couple of years ago, a friend of ours who is a priest started a mission parish in a suburb of a nearby city. The city has multiple Orthodox churches, but they are all in the northern suburbs This mission is in the southern suburbs, where the population is growing rapidly. At first, the mission got several families from the area who had attended the other churches, but switched to the mission because it was convenient But over time, all of these families went back to their old parishes for various reasons (ethnic solidarity, more youth activities, etc).

Anyway, now the mission is down to no regular members and a few occasional drop-ins. We attend there when we can, but it is a 90-minute drive for us, plus we have commitments at our local parish. Recently, the mission priest has sent out e-mails indicating that the mission is on its last legs and may close if things don't turn around this year. We would hate to see this happen to a mission that started with a lot of potential in an area that could definitely use an Orthodox presence.

So, we are going up this weekend to meet with the priest and talk about possibilities. We may be moving to that area in the fall, and are willing to help in any way possible. The thing is, we don't know what to do, or what to propose to/discuss with the priest. I know an internet presence is sorely needed, but apparently the priest got burned by an ISP when he first opened the mission, and is now afraid to get a website. I think I can talk him into one, though.

The other big issue, and the reason I'm telling you all this and asking for suggestions, is the location. The mission has a free chapel (the landlord lets them stay in the building for free as long as he has no perspective tenants, because his insurance is cheaper if it's occupied) so that's great. But the problem is, it's in a hole. Even though it's right off a major highway, you can't see the building (or even the roof, really) from road level. So it's really easy to miss, even if you're looking for it.

So how do you missionizers get people in the door? Any ideas?
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  #2  
Unread 16th April 2007, 10:19 PM
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  #3  
Unread 16th April 2007, 10:29 PM
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I attend a mission that recently started. I learned that transmitting authentic traditional Orthodoxy attracts people. Also, the Priest can try doing fellowships and hold services in Universites and Highschools. This way, people can experience Orthodox services, ask the Priest questions about the faith, and also, this will spread the word about the mission.

Will be praying. God Bless.
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  #4  
Unread 16th April 2007, 10:40 PM
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I really think being on the internet and having a working email/phone at which to reach at LEAST the priest is essential. The mission would only succeed if the parishes uptown supported it, with money, supplies, prayers, and maybe people (I understand wanting to go where there are youth activities when you are a parent wishing to keep your children active in the Church). The best thing to do would be to work with the existing parishes. Someone mentioned colleges--are there any around there? Any OCFs? Put an ad in the local paper weekly (costly, but gets the word out).
  #5  
Unread 17th April 2007, 08:41 AM
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Originally Posted by choirfiend View Post
I really think being on the internet and having a working email/phone at which to reach at LEAST the priest is essential.
Agreed. It always amazes me, when we travel, how hard it is to figure out service times at many Orthodox churches. It's often blind luck that we show up to a church at the right time, so I can't imagine how many inquirers Orthodoxy misses out on for this reason. How hard is it to have an up-to-date site that lists service times, or even an answering machine that tells them? I mean, really.

The mission would only succeed if the parishes uptown supported it, with money, supplies, prayers, and maybe people
There are some jurisdictional issues going on. The mission is Bulgarian, and is supported financially by a Bulgarian church in a city about two hours away. It seems like the priest and the mission have plenty of friends and supporters, only they all live too far away to do much good.

One of the established local churches refuses to recognize the mission, because their priest doesn't believe it is legit. Apparently, he wants a letter from a bishop stating that this isn't a case of Archbishop Justice Eagle Draperod, or whatever. I think that is beyond silly, since presumably that priest has access to teh internets and could very easily hop onto the Bulgarian diocese website and see that the mission is listed.

I think you're right that a good relationship with at least one or two of the older churches across town would help tremendously.

Someone mentioned colleges--are there any around there? Any OCFs? Put an ad in the local paper weekly (costly, but gets the word out).
There's a regional university and a community college in the town. No OCF, but I think college students are a good demographic for this mission to target, since the mission has a pretty cool book store, and the priest is actually a professor at the community college. I think he worries about a possible conflict of interest, since he's not yet tenured and doesn't want to be seen as prosletyzing, but there's no reason we can't put up some flyers.

Thanks, everyone, for the advice so far!
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Unread 17th April 2007, 12:08 PM
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When I first started looking for my present parish, I found the listing on the internet, but trying to find it (at our former location) was something else entirely! It was in a horrible location, kind of hidden like Ufonium's talking about. That's definitely a problem.

But if people could put out temporary signs for the mission, or even put a notice with a map in the local paper, that would help.

Mary
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  #7  
Unread 17th April 2007, 02:25 PM
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As a "missionizer" I wish I had the answer to how to get people through the door. All I know is that it takes much prayer, hard work, and some creativity. It may also take years of this to see any fruit.

Right now we find ourselves in a catch 22. It is hard to get a priest without money, and it is hard to get money without a priest. Thankfully we have a priest that serves for us once a month. You have a very valuable asset in a resident priest. This is something you can build on if you can find the right people to help you.

Fr. David Rucker of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center has told me that it takes having the right people in the right place at the right time. And the right people may turn out to be different from the ones you initially thought were the right ones.

The OCA has a very good handbook for mission planting. You can get the .pdf version here

As far as a website is concerned, I agree that it is almost a necessity. I have found Orthodox Internet Services to be a very good.

I wish you the best in your mission effort.

Steve J.
Valdosta Orthodox Christian Mission
  #8  
Unread 17th April 2007, 06:36 PM
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Christ is Risen,

Has your priest friend contacted his bishop for help? Also, one of the reasons the other parishes may not help is because generally speaking, a priest needs the permission of his diocesan bishop who normally secures the good will of any other bishops from the different SCOBA jurisdictions that have parishes in the area.

For example, if there are no Bulgarian parishes around that town, the priest would need the permission of his Bishop, plus his bishop would most likely need to consult the OCA, Antiochian, Greek, etc. bishops that have parishes there. This maintains good will (theoretically) between the jurisdictions, and most tend to bide by it. At least in the South, the OCA and Antiochians abide by this agreement.

If these steps haven't been taken, he may want to get the permission of his bishop, and contact the other ruling hierarchs. They may be more apt to give aid if the niceties of these things have been observed first.

Hope this helps.

Slainté,
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Unread 17th April 2007, 11:06 PM
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I will be praying for your mission.

I do Web sites through Doteasy.com with 100 MB for $25 year by purchasing a domain name for that. Lots of freebies. Of course, you need ftp and something like Dreamweaver. If you go through me you can get an extra 1 GB of storage on the site.

I don't have the fancy things that other site may have, but putting up something acceptable for free would not be out of my realm. I do some HTML & graphics for non-profits.
  #10  
Unread 18th April 2007, 04:12 PM
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Thanks, everyone!

Spyridon, that handbook looks really helpful.

Dn. Kevin, I htink you may be onto something about a possible social faux pas on behalf of the priest and bishop. As I mentioned, the mission is Bulgarian, and it's Patriarchal rather than OCA-Bulgarian. So this is not a diocese with a huge presence or a lot of missionary history. I would guess that the priest and bishop were unaware that they should've made some kind of formal introduction. I'll mention it to the priest this weekend and see.

Cygne, thanks for the offer! I had planned on doing something through ForMinistry.com, since it's free and was suggested previously by a TAWer. A functional web presence is something that needs to happen soon, like yesterday, as far as I'm concerned.
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