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Dept. of Marriage and Parish Family Ministries News

Department of Marriage and Parish Family Ministries Announces Two New Brochures

In conjunction with Conciliar Press, the Antiochian Department of Marriage and Parish Family MInistries has released two much-requested brochures for Orthodox Christians. "Crowned with Glory and Honor," a free, downloadable brochure, presents readers with a set of helpful guidelines for Orthodox marriage preparation, including such concepts as the meaning of crowning, and the purpose of the Betrothal Service. Readers will even learn about the wedding almonds: "The white coating symbolizes purity; the egg shape represents fertility and new life that begins in marriage. The hardness of the almond represents the endurance of marriage, and the sweetness of the sugar encourages the hope of the sweetness of future life together. Giving of three almonds signifies the union is indivisible, just as the bride and groom will remain undivided in their union with each other and with Christ."

The second brochure, "A Guide to Parish Etiquette," lists everything parishioners need to know about respectful and reverent behavior while in liturgy. Department Director Khouria Maggie Hock encourages all parishes, couples and families to make use of these valuable, free resources.

Worldwide Orthodox Home Exchange Launched

For Orthodox Christians planning to travel, now matches people for free home and hospitality exchanges, both in the U.S. and Canada, as well as overseas. After joining the group for a low, flat fee, members may either exchange their homes with a fellow member for an agreed period of time, chose a place to stay with a host family for free without swapping homes, or pay a reasonable Bed and Breakfast fee to their Orthodox B & B host. Matushka Jenny Hainsworth of EGERIA Orthodox Home and Hospitality Exchange, says:  "We let people work out the details, but the nice thing is that now, whenever Orthodox Christians travel, they can have friends wherever they go!"

For instance, a home in Ballydehob, Ireland, offers visitors use of a small cottage, music lessons, three acres for strolling, and a private chapel for praying. Other countries intrigue the EGERIA web browser: Germany, Kenya, India, Greece, and Serbia.

Bobby Maddex of Ancient Faith Radio recently interviewed Matushka Jenny, EGERIA's co-founder and proprietor, about the new venture--listen here.

Sanctity of Life Observations Encouraged by Bishop BASIL

His Grace Bishop BASIL, in his St. Raphael Clergy Brotherhood newsletter on January 8, encouraged the faithful and clergy of his Diocese to mark the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision with prayers, volunteer work with local pro-life ministries, and participation where possible in the Washington D.C. March for Life.

His Grace writes:

"FRIDAY, JANUARY 22nd will mark the 37th anniversary of the infamous decision given by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case known as "Roe v. Wade." Please find below two links about how Orthodox Christians will observe that day:

Sacred Gift of Life Sunday + January 17, 2010

Sacred Gift of Life SundaySeveral years after the momentous Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade overturned the laws of all fifty states and essentially legalized abortion on demand throughout the U.S., churches everywhere began observing Sacred Gift of Life Sunday. This event, which always precedes the anniversary of this misguided decision, is a call for Christians everywhere to prayers and activism on behalf of women and their unborn children.

In the Antiochian Archdiocese, our teens are leading the way in asking our parishes to observe Sacred Gift of Life Sunday. With the blessing of Metropolitan Philip, Teen SOYO has compiled a packet of resource materials to help the faithful memorialize the 43 million lives lost to abortion in the last 35 years.

Get Involved: One Million Campaign

Khouria Maggie Hock is encouraging Orthodox parents to get involved in the fight for media decency, through two organizations:  One Million Moms, and One Million Dads. Sponsored by the American Family Association, a Christian media watchdog group, the associations provide information and resources for concerned parents. "I get so many questions about how to get involved," notes Kh. Maggie, "parents want to know how they can make a difference, and protect their children." One Million Moms and One Million Dads targets sponsors of offensive programming through email campaigns and boycotts.

OCMC Pioneers Four Family Mission Teams in 2010

Since 1987 over 1,000 people have offered a living witness to the Orthodox Christian faith through their participation in an Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) Mission Team. These Team members have taught catechism, built churches, schools, and hospitals, offered healthcare, worked with youth, and provided outreach in 27 countries around the world.

There have been exceptions, but for reasons that include liability, the risks and rigor inherent in serving abroad, and the specialized nature of mission work, Team members have traditionally been at least 18 years old. Over the years, OCMC has heard from many sources including past Team members, missionaries, board members, staff, and supporters about the importance of enabling youth participation on OCMC Mission Teams.

With board approval, OCMC has opened up four of its 2010 Mission Teams to youth participation with the condition that Team members would not be under 13 years of age and that they would be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

“The motivation behind this decision was to expose youth to the work of making disciples while giving eligible families the ability to experience service for the Church in a cross cultural setting,” offers OCMC Mission Teams Director Andrew Lekos.

The Teams in 2010 that are open to youth and families have been carefully chosen to allow youth to develop relationships with their Orthodox peers and learn about new cultures. “It is hoped that language barriers melt and horizons are broadened as families put their faith into action and share their Orthodox faith,” adds Mr. Lekos.

An Invitation to be a Signatory of the Manhattan Declaration

On Friday, November 20, 2009, His Grace Bishop Basil sent an invitation to his flock, inviting them to sign a statement affirming the historic Christian teaching on life, marriage, and religious freedom. He wrote:

"Dear to Christ:

We invite you to join with other Christians across the nation who support the sanctity of life, traditional marriage and religious liberty by endorsing the Manhattan Declaration.

Bishop THOMAS on the Manhattan Declaration

November 24, 2009

Beloved in Christ,

God bless you.

As I promised you a couple of days ago, we are forwarding you information on the Orthodox approach to issues that have been recently addressed in the Manhattan Declaration.  Below I offer a few comments on subjects relevant to that document:

Kh. Maggie Hock Speaks with Ginny Nieuwsma on OCN

On the latest episode of Mission Possible: Orthodox Parenting Today, staff member and writer Ginny Nieuwsma speaks with Kh. Maggie Hock, head of the Archdiocese Department of Marriage and Parish Family Ministry. The discussion centers around meeting the challenges of raising children in the Orthodox Faith.

Click here to listen!

Bishop THOMAS Discusses Education on OCN

On this week's Come Receive The Light podcast: His Grace, the Right Reverend THOMAS (Joseph), a bishop of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America, serving in the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland and the Mid-Atlantic, leads a discussion to the topic - Where We Send Our Children to School.

Audio Available of Department of Marriage and Family Ministry Presentation at Archdiocese Convention

Click here to listen to Dept. Chair Kh. Maggie Hock's presentation at the general assembly of the 2009 Archdiocese Convention.

More audio from the 2009 Convention is available from Ancient Faith Radio.

Reconciling Our Most Intimate Relationships

By Kh. Maggie Hock M.A., M.S., LMHP

Jesus answering the Pharisees said: "For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. Consequently they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." (Matthew 19: 5,6)

The marriage relationship between a man and a woman is a gift from God. The grace to walk in that gift comes with the blessing of the Sacrament of Marriage. It is here that the priest and the attending community offer many intercessions for the longevity and fruitfulness of the union. If marriage is our chosen path to salvation, we need to understand that we have vowed together to help both our spouse and ourselves attain this eternal state.  Therefore, our task as a married person is to learn how to apply that grace and blessing throughout our marriage, through the ups and downs, the joys and sorrows, the hopes and disappointments. For what marriage doesn't experience these emotions? What happens, then, when the marriage is suffering? Where do we find hope for reconciliation and reconnection to the grace that God offers?

First it's important to go back to where the marriage began- by standing before God asking for His forgiveness and blessing. By searching our hearts we may find where we have separated ourselves from His plan for our marriage. Many couples who have strained relations have found that their expectations have not been clearly articulated to each other. Perhaps assumptions were made about the married lifestyle without clear communication and therefore the couple does not have a shared vision for the relationship. Some may find that their expectations were full of worldly pursuits that did not honor God or each other. Still others may discover that they have not modeled Christ's example of servanthood and obedience.

Training Up a Child: Educational Options for Orthodox Christians by His Grace Bp. THOMAS

by the Right Reverend THOMAS (Joseph), Ed.D., Bishop of Charleston, Oakland and the Mid-Atlantic

My son Timothy, you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, my sufferings, what befell me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra, what persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:10-15, RSV)

We read in this passage from St. Paul’s second epistle to St. Timothy, his child in the faith, that he puts great weight on Timothy having observed his teaching, his conduct, his aim in life, his faith, patience, love, steadfastness, persecutions and sufferings. St. Paul is also quite adamant that Timothy continue in what he has learned and has firmly believed from his childhood. The assumption here is that Timothy has been acquainted with the sacred writings—that is, the Holy Scriptures—for the purpose and benefit of his salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

Fight the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA)

What is the Freedom of Choice Act and how will it affect Orthodox family values? A majority of Americans oppose this Act but it is due to be signed into law this month if we do not act to contact our representatives in Congress and the Senate to let them know our opposition. The Orthodox Faith has always protected the sanctity of human life and opposed abortion. Now is the time to make your voice heard in Washington. Please visit the Fight FOCA web site today to learn more and take action!

The Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) would eliminate every restriction on abortion regardless of previous States' rulings.  

  • FOCA will do away with state laws on parental involvement, on partial birth abortion, and on all other protections. Parents will lose their influence on their minor children's reproductive rights.
  • FOCA will compel taxpayer funding of abortions without regard for moral beliefs and objections.
  • FOCA will force faith-based hospitals and healthcare facilities to perform abortions. It will also require the disposal and dismemberment of live abortions regardless of the health care team member's religious, moral or ethical convictions.
  • FOCA will prevent the States from enacting future protective legislation for the unborn.

The Orthodox Faith has always protected the sanctity of human life and opposed abortion. You have the opportunity to vote your conscience by going to this web site and sign the petition opposing this Federal Act. You will also need to contact your elected representatives in your region to register your opinion in order to influence their vote. It only takes 50 letters or 10 phone calls to a representative to make a difference in a vote.  You may reach your Representatives and Senators at 202-224-3121.

To keep in touch with this Act and many others that threaten traditional family values, go to the American Family Association web site at

Marriage: Society's View vs. Reality

Jesus answered, “Have you not read that he who made them from the begin­ning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mt. 19:4–6).

Today, a marriage has a 50/50 chance of sur­viving intact. Many think it’s unnecessary: “Why do I need a piece of paper to prove I love this person?” is a common question. In many instanc­es the old rhyme, “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes junior in a baby carriage,” has been shuffled around: First comes love (lust), then comes junior in the baby carriage, then comes marriage . . . maybe. As much as anything else, this confused behavior comes from a com­plete misunderstanding of marriage.

California Orthodox Bishops Issue Statement on Proposition 8

A Statement of the

Orthodox Christian Bishops of California

in support of Proposition 8:

A Constitutional Amendment to Restore the Definition of Marriage

The decision of the California Supreme Court on May 15, 2008, unilaterally redefines the sacred institution of marriage in a manner unprecedented in human history — and alien to our Christian tradition. We, the Orthodox Christian bishops of California, were saddened by this decision which constitutes a direct attack upon the longstanding role and freedom of religion in American life. A majority of the justices declared not only that same-sex couplings must be allowed to exist at those couples’ discretion as “marriages,” but that the state of California is forbidden to refer to these couplings as anything but “marriages.”

Orthodox Christianity holds in high regard the God-ordained institution of marriage and the family. The Orthodox Church must and shall remain true to its faith and tradition, and affirm that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, given by God to one another for mutual support, encouragement, love and the ability to bear children.

President Calls for Constitutional Amendment Protecting Marriage

Click here to read the complete text of Federal Marriage Amendment - H.J. Res 56 


For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 24, 2004

Remarks by the President
The Roosevelt Room
10:43 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Eight years ago, Congress passed, and President Clinton signed, the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage for purposes of federal law as the legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.

The Act passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 342 to 67, and the Senate by a vote of 85 to 14. Those congressional votes and the passage of similar defensive marriage laws in 38 states express an overwhelming consensus in our country for protecting the institution of marriage.

President George W. Bush delivers a statement regarding the sanctity of marriage in the Roosevelt Room Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2004. In recent months, however, some activist judges and local officials have made an aggressive attempt to redefine marriage. In Massachusetts, four judges on the highest court have indicated they will order the issuance of marriage licenses to applicants of the same gender in May of this year. In San Francisco, city officials have issued thousands of marriage licenses to people of the same gender, contrary to the California family code. That code, which clearly defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman, was approved overwhelmingly by the voters of California. A county in New Mexico has also issued marriage licenses to applicants of the same gender. And unless action is taken, we can expect more arbitrary court decisions, more litigation, more defiance of the law by local officials, all of which adds to uncertainty.

Blessed Are the Pure in Heart, For They Shall See God

by Kh. Maggie Hock

WHEN PARENTS AT THE TIME OF CHRIST brought their children to Him for a blessing, the disciples rebuked them. However, our Lord commanded them, “‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’ And He laid His hands on them” (Matthew 19:13–15). Christ did not dismiss the children because of their youth and inexperience; instead, He brought them close and honored them with His blessing.

Everything about a little child speaks of his innocence and trust. Their refreshingly innocent spirit inspires us as parents to live a life that honors their trust. Children love with their whole heart, a love that inspires us to see God’s unconditional love. And little children believe completely in their parents’ ability to protect them, which inspires us to live a life that provides the direction and security required for their healthy growth and maturity.

A child’s very nature provides a context in which parents are inspired to provide the best possible life experiences for them. A natural synergy develops in the parent-child relationship. As the parent loves and provides for the child, the child returns that love and motivates parents to do their best job in representing God’s love in the context of this intimate human experience.

Parents are for the child the first door to the Kingdom of God. By the way the parents live a godly life, they provide the first example of God’s love and care. Saint Theophan the Recluse (The Path to Salvation) advises that “the upbringing in the home is the root and foundation of everything that follows.” Setting a right foundation, then, is the first priority of the parent for the child. When an infant has such a beginning in life, there is little that can change his belief later as he matures. The foundation of belief becomes a part of the concrete, so to speak, that hardens and forms the person the child grows into.

Smart Parenting XIV. Talking To Children About Same-Sex "Marriage"

By Fr. George Morelli


Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord (Romans 12: 9,11).



2008 Oratorical Festival Winner: Cameron Robert Close

from The Word, September 2008

On September 14, 1980, my parents tied the knot — they got married. They stood before the altar and made the ultimate promise — to become ONE in the Orthodox Church. How they came to this deci­sion, however, I will forever be uncertain: you see, my parents are exact opposites. My mom is quiet and reserved, and my dad is louder and outgoing. My mom is a true homebody, and my dad has an un­quenchable itch to travel. And when it comes to sea­sons, my dad prefers the heat of the hot summer sun, while my mom excitedly anticipates the cool crisp air of autumn.

Despite all of these differences, though, I can attest that you will not find a more perfect couple. I have heard their story over and over again. From their senior prom date to their wedding day, one thing is certain; my parents truly were meant to be together. One phrase has been used time and time again to describe my parents: “Made for each other.”

This phrase seems quite simple, as the whole they create is so much larger and stronger than each of them is individually. My parents have built a firm foundation in their marriage, which allows our fam­ily to flourish. But does this commonly used phrase, “made for each other” mean something more?