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Book Reviews

Check out book reviews for use in your Christian Education ministry.

Gleanings From a Book: Catherine’s Pascha by Charlotte Riggle

by Kristina Wenger

This book made me cry. Loud, soggy gasps accompanied my declaration, "I didn't see THAT coming!" My husband came running, thinking something was horribly wrong. "I... love... this book!" I assured him between sobs, and then I showed him the cause of my tears. We'll get to that in just a little bit..

From the moment I cracked it open, this book appealed to me on so many levels. The story is genuine. The illustrations are eye‐catching and detailed. The unity of the Holy Orthodox Church is clearly emphasized. The joy of Pascha is palpable. This book is a delightful celebration of Pascha! 

Catherine's Pascha is written in a realistic, believable way. As I read, it was like I could hear my own children being Catherine's age again, from the "Why do I have to go to bed at regular time, tonight, when I'm getting up again in a few hours to go to church? You KNOW I won't sleep!;" through the delight of shouting "Indeed He is risen!" in multiple languages throughout the Divine Liturgy in the wee hours of the morning; all the way to the gleeful "I'm not a bit sleepy!" while trying to win at the egg‐cracking game and then eating all those things we haven't eaten in weeks. The story itself is a gentle walk through what happens at the Paschal Divine Liturgy, accentuated with the pure delight that children regularly experience and share. The way the story is written fills me with anticipation for the Pascha celebration that lies ahead! Reading the book gave me excited goosebumps.

The Story of the Holy Hierarch Nectarios the Wonderworker

by Catalin Gregore, Illustrated by Cristina Ionescu-Berechet.

Little Anastasios was a meek child, thirsting for knowledge. As a young man, he decided to serve God in a Monastery and became a monk. For his love and obedience, he received many gifts from God, among which was the gift of wonderworking. His pure life showed him to people as a great Saint of the church, a protector of children and healer of ailments of all kinds: St. Nectarios of Aegina.

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Book Review: Christian Education in the Small Membership Church, Part 3

Part 3: Where Does It Take Place?

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Click here to read Part 2

In her book Christian Education in the Small Membership Church, Karen Tye discusses the beginnings of the Sunday School, and the reasons it became relegated to formal Sunday morning classes exclusively.  In this section, she encourages us to expand our vision of Christian Education beyond the traditional Sunday morning box, to examine the one-room schoolhouse model , and the homeschooling concept of education.

The one-room school model is firmly fixed in American history, as it was the way early small communities collaborated to educate their children.   This form of education is certainly custom made for the small church school, which must of necessity have groups with a range of ages, as did the one-room schoolhouse.  In this sort of setting, older children learn while helping younger ones, and younger children have the older students as ready-made role models.  Each student learns at his own pace, and receives individual attention from the teacher, and there is very little presented in the group lesson format. 

Book Review: Christian Education in the Small Membership Church, Part 2

Part 2: It's all About People!

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In her book Christian Education in the Small Membership Church, Karen Tye reminds us that Christian education, like so many other things in life, is not primarily about programs or curriculum, it is about people.  When you are talking about a smaller church and its educational program, this is even more the case.  In a smaller church, you do not have the large numbers to draw from for participation, everyone knows everyone else, and in general, healthy interaction with the people involved becomes even more crucial.  The history of the parish comes into play, and so do the personalities of the parishioners.  Positively, in smaller programs, the talents and good will of the people are often the greatest assets of the church school.

Tye feels, along with most educators and psychologists, that there are three aspects of the human being that must be taken into account when teaching them- especially children:

Book Review: Christian Education in the Small Membership Church

Part 1:  Who Are We?

In her book Christian Education in the Small Membership Church, Karen Tye reviews the tendency of churches in America to want to “Super Size” their churches, much as we do our burger meals. She emphasizes however, that small churches are not just smaller, but also, different from their larger counterparts, and that we must realize this as we plan any programs in our churches, perhaps especially Christian Education programs. Smaller is not only different, but in some respects, better for the purposes of educating our children. While there are certainly differences between our Orthodox Churches and the Protestant ones she focuses on, most of the generalities she discusses run true for us also.

The first step in planning Christian Education programs in the smaller church, Tye says, is to evaluate what you have in your particular church.  There are certain characteristics of all small churches:

  1. There’s a strong sense of community
  2. It’s like a family
  3. It has deep traditions
  4. There is a high percentage of participation
  5. The organizational structure tends to be simple in nature
  6. Worship is the prime activity

While some of these characteristics may show up very strongly in one church, another may find different characteristics more true for them.  Deciding what your church “is,” involves evaluating the degree to which each is applicable in your case.

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