by Anna C.
What makes a group of people a community? Merely worshipping, working in the same space, or sharing a space does not automatically transform us into a community. It is a deep connection among people through love, empathy, and the willingness to sacrifice for one another that creates communion with God and fellow human beings.
The Connections Center evolved out the office of “greeter” during the covid protocols. In time, we realized that greeters can be “connectors” — welcoming visitors and making them feel at home, helping integrate new members into the life of the church, connecting members to one another, and integrating St. Mary’s with the neighborhood and the world outside.
Our ministry to nurture deeper connections keeps growing. When visitors allows us their contact info, we follow up and help them form a relationship with the church through participation in ministries, courses, and events. We have a sign-up book and a small welcome center in the narthex. We have a much larger Connections Corner in the fellowship hall, with a Connections table with information, a Kids’ Connections Corner with crafts and games, and a revamped gift shop. We also have created, with Sophia P.’s tremendous help, a series of brochures and flyers about the church’s ministries, activities, and projects.
Although our push is relatively recent, we have seen a big difference already. We’ve seen an increase in the numbers of visitors and new members and a rise of interest in the ministries and events promoted in the Connections Center. Stimulating conversations and lively fellowship in the Connections Corner are making for vibrant coffee hours each Sunday.
The vision of St. Mary, which emerged from a leadership workshop nearly four years, ago places love and connection at the center of the church’s mission. We’re working hard to be progressing this vision: Our vision is one of becoming a model of what an English-speaking, American Orthodox Church should be. We should become an even more open, diverse, and inclusive community, in which no one is left behind, everyone is welcomed and heard, and all feel connected to the community. At the same time, St. Mary will be welcoming to communities outside the church and committed to local outreach.