Irvine Corporate Park, 2148 Michelson Drive, Irvine, CA 92612

Parish Handbook

There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there is diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.” – 1 Corinthians 12:4-6

The purpose of this section is to acquaint you with the many aspects of our parish life and to invite you to participate in the life of the Church. It is meant to help join the parish together in the common ministry of the building up of Christ’s Church. We hope that the information it contains will be helpful to you. Covered are areas such as:

We continually pray for the Holy Spirit to inspire us to be a loving and nurturing Christian community. We are grateful for your interest in The Most Holy Theotokos Orthodox Church and encourage your involvement and commitment.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction

Worship

Education

Fellowship

Stewardship

Parish Ministries

Parish Member


Introduction

Orthodox Christianity

The Orthodox Church was founded by Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ. It is the ark of salvation and sanctification for all mankind. It is the continuation and extension of Christ’s prophetic, priestly, and kingly power.

Guided by the Holy Spirit, the Orthodox Church is the household of God with Jesus Christ at its head. The Church has struggled for more than two thousand years to bear witness in various cultural and historical settings to His birth, crucifixion, and resurrection.

The Orthodox Church’s faith, discipline and worship are based on the Holy Scriptures, Holy Tradition, the Seven Ecumenical Councils, and the Holy Fathers. The Orthodox Church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. The Orthodox Church is hierarchical and conciliar in form and function. Bishops are appointed to guide, rule and teach their flocks. Priests and deacons assist them in their sacred work. While the bishop is the divinely appointed teacher of the Faith, the entire Church membership–bishops, priests, deacons, and laity–are the guardians of the Faith. The Church is a Eucharistic society, with the profession of the Nicean-Constantinopolitan Creed and reception of Holy Communion being the on-going criteria for membership in the Church.

History of the Church in North America

Orthodox Christianity in North America was first established in Kodiak , Alaska in 1794. For more than two hundred years, Orthodox Christians in the United States and Canada have attempted to live the fullness of this sacramental and sacrificial tradition as the indigenous Church. Worshipping God in Trinity while witnessing to the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the heritage of the Orthodox Church.

Our Parish as a Continuation

Most Holy Theotokos Church is a parish of the Diocese of the West, Serbian Orthodox Church in America . We are under the episcopacy of His Grace, the Right Reverend Dr , Maxim, Bishop of Western America and the ruling hierarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church is His Holiness Patriarch Pavle passed away on Sunday Nov. 15 th and there will be election of a new Patriarch in the near future. The Rector of our parish is Fr. Blasko Paraklis.

Our parish is named after Most Holy Theotokos, counted as the Most Sacred human being a Leader of the Apostles and all the Saints. The parish was established in October of 1998 by His Grace Bishop Jovan . Our annual parish feast day is September 21st.

As members of Most Holy Theotokos Orthodox Church, we are encouraged to strive to be illumined and transformed into the Image of Christ in our communal and personal lives. We are also encouraged to take up our cross daily and follow Him, to bear witness to His image that is in us, and manifest Him to each other and to our neighbors through our words and deeds.

For Further Information

Please obtain a copy of our most recent parish newsletter entitled The Church Newsletter which contains notices of forthcoming Feast Days, events and activities. It is our quarterly forum for keeping the parish informed as well continually educating ourselves on the Church and her life. The newsletter is published quarterly and mailed to parishioners and friends of the parish. In addition we publish Monthly Calendar with the schedule of services. Monthly Calendar and the Newsletter (available in pdf format) are also on our website .

Worship

Liturgical Services

At the center of our parish life is the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. At the Divine Liturgy we rededicate our lives, encounter the Word of God, offer the Holy Gifts and partake of them for the healing of our soul and body. The Divine Liturgy is celebrated every Sunday at 10:00 am. In preparation for the Sunday Divine Liturgy, parishioners are encouraged to attend the Saturday Vespers service which prepares us for the Divine Liturgy. Vespers is served on Saturday evenings at 5:00 pm unless specified differently on the monthly Calendar. Akathist service to the Mother of God Most Holy Theotokos is served on Fridays at 7:00pm.

Annual Major Feasts Days are commemorated with a celebration of a Festal Great Vespers and Litiya on the eve of the feast day beginning at 7:00 pm and Divine Liturgy on the day of the Feast at 9:30 am. Minor Feast Days or Saints Days are commemorated with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy at 9:30 am. The Feast of the Nativity of Christ, Theophany, Great Lent, Pascha have their own liturgical character, and the schedule is in the monthly calendar on this web site and in the newsletter . All liturgical services are announced in monthly calendar.

Great Lent is an opportunity for all Orthodox Christians to examine their Christian life and to come closer to God through prayer, fasting, almsgiving and participating in the Lenten services. Lenten services include the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete during the first week of Lent and the Thursday of the fifth week; the Presanctified Liturgy served on Wednesday evenings and Friday mornings during Lent; There is also the Special Akathist to the Theotokos served on the fifth Friday of Lent, as well as the Lazarus Saturday, Palm Sunday, and Holy Week services leading up to the Paschal celebration.

The celebration of Pascha commences at 11:45 pm on the eve of the Pascha (Holy Saturday night), with the Nocturn Service, the paschal procession and Matins Service. The Divine Liturgy is celebrated at 10:00am on Pascha. Afterwards, individual “baskets” of paschal food, prepared by parishioners, is blessed. Our tradition has been for parishioners to break the fast with one another in the church hall. This is followed by a parish banquet music and activities for the children.

Please refer to the “Monthly Calendar” page for the annual schedule of services for Lent, Holy Week and Pascha.

Sacramental Life

All parishioners are encouraged to prepare for and partake of Holy Communion at every Divine Liturgy, as well as during the year at other Divine Liturgies on Feast Days and at the Presanctified Liturgies during Great Lent. In preparation for receiving Holy Communion on a regular and frequent basis one should receive the Sacrament of Confession regularly and in consultation with the Parish priest. Other preparations should include attendance at Saturday evening Vespers, the reading of the Pre and Post Communion Prayers either at home or in church, and the keeping of a Eucharistic Fast. For Orthodox Christians, it is traditional to fast from all food and drink from midnight until receiving Holy Communion at a Divine Liturgy celebrated in the morning. To receive Holy Communion at a Presanctified Liturgy, you should abstain from food and drink from at least mid-day if the Liturgy is served in the evening. Please see Father Blasko should you have any questions about your own individual manner of preparation.

All active parishioners are expected to make a personal Confession. Regular communicants are expected to make a Confession more frequently.

Confessions are heard after every evening service or by making an appointment with Father Blasko.

Choir

Singing is an essential part of Orthodox worship. The choir, under the guidance of our director of music, Gorjana Zekic, and Sanja Rakonjac have the enormous responsibility of preparing and singing the responses for all services. Using their skills and talents in liturgical music, they instruct the choir on adequate vocal technique and the understanding of liturgical music and text. Members of the choir are expected to attend rehearsals in order to learn new music and improve the ensemble and vocal technique of the choir. Young people, including children, are encouraged to participate in offering this special gift to God. If you are interested in joining this ministry, please speak directly to Gorjana.

Altar Servers

Young men between the ages of 6-25 have a unique opportunity to serve God’s Church by becoming altar servers. The altar servers are divided into two teams of an equal number of boys. They are managed by Yuri Romashuck and Marko Rakonjac who serve as mentors and are responsible for overseeing and training the younger servers. They will be required to attend an orientation class and periodically attend training sessions. Altar servers will be assigned to a schedule and should serve all services scheduled for their assigned week (Vigil and Divine Liturgy, or Presanctified Liturgy, if scheduled.) This ministry helps our young men develop leadership skills and responsibility, as well as being a peer ministry to one another. If your son is interested in becoming an altar server, he should contact Father Blasko.

Pastoral Services

The following is a general overview of the pastoral services available. If you are in need of any of these services, please contact Father Blasko.

Home Blessings

All parishioners have the opportunity to renew their dedication to Christ in their homes by having their homes blessed each year following the Feast of Theophany in January. A sign up list will be available for those wishing to have Father come for this beautiful blessing. If you would like to have your home blessed sometime during the remaining part of the year (i.e., new home), please contact Father Blasko.

Your home should be prepared for the blessing in the following way:

Slava

In our Serbian traditions, family members celebrate their family’s feast day or Slava. Fr. Blasko is available to perform those services by contacting him and arranging for a visit.

Baptisms

All baptismal arrangements are made by contacting Father Blasko. It is requested that at least a three-week notice be given to schedule a date.

Weddings

Preparations for the Sacrament of Marriage are to be made by contacting Father Blasko before determining the date or planning a reception. Weddings are traditionally held on Sunday afternoons unless there is an outstanding mitigating circumstance and are not performed any fast day of the Church. As part of their ministry, and by request, the choir is usually available to sing the responses at weddings especially on Sundays.

Funerals

The funeral of an active parishioner generally consists of the visitation and Trisagion Service held in the Church on the evening preceding the day of the Funeral. On the following morning, the Funeral service is celebrated in the church followed by the interment. All of the church-related funeral arrangements are made by contacting Father Blasko.

Memorials

A general Memorial Service is celebrated during designated All-Souls days ZADUSNICE during the year as well as on the SCHEDULED DAYS. Be sure to consult the monthly Newsletter for the specific date. In addition, Memorial Services are held during Great Lent and at other times throughout the year according to the liturgical practices of our Orthodox Church. If you would like to have your loved ones remembered at the Divine Liturgy, submit a written list of the names to be commemorated when you come to the Service.

Memorial Services can also be scheduled for other times by contacting Father Blasko.

Hospital & Shut-In Visitations

Father Blasko makes regular hospital visitations and home visits to “shut-ins.” It is important that he be notified whenever someone is sick or has been hospitalized, since local hospitals do not inform him when parishioners are admitted. Arrangements can be made by contacting Father Blasko.

Education

Our parish offers monthly lectures on various topics given by experts in various fields for all ages—. For further information about each of our educational programs, please contact Father Blasko.

Church School

The spiritual formation of our next generation of church members is very important and should be a priority at home and the church. The Children’s Educational Program places emphasis on learning and experiencing the Orthodox Christian life by becoming familiar with the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, by appreciating and celebrating the Major Feast Days, and by learning and living the history, doctrine and dynamic spiritual tradition that prepares them to become mature and responsible teens and adults. The Children’s Educational Program is open to all preschool through college and young adult aged and is held weekly on Sunday mornings after the Divine Liturgy. Last Sunday of each month Arts and Crafts session is taught by Tatiana Babaeva and Ivana Holisastos. Music class is taught by Gorjana Zekich usually send Sunday of each month. The youth in the program also participate in other events such as the annual Christmas program St. Sava program and other seasonal activities. If you would like to enroll your child in the program, please contact Father Blasko or Sanja Rakonjac.

Library

In addition to the weekly Educational Programs our Church is in a stage of making a catalog of all the books in our Library. All parishioners are welcome to borrow any of the materials found in the library.

Lectures and Other Educational Programs

Throughout the year there are seminars, retreats and a variety of lecture programs offered within our diocese that provide educational opportunities for learning, growth and fellowship. These offerings will be announced in the Newsletter and monthly Calendar. Some information is posted on the parish bulletin board (located in the parish corridor), and/or announced by Father Blasko at the Sunday Divine Liturgy.

Fellowship

Healthy fellowship among parishioners is an essential part of a thriving parish community. To help foster closer ties among parishioners while simultaneously developing a more effective, efficient, Christ-centered church environment, our parish relies on a number of small groups in ministering to our larger parish family. The ultimate goal is to encourage personal Christian growth that begins with involvement in parish life and evolves into a genuine commitment to parish life. There are various groups and ministries that parishioners can become involved. Simply talk to Father Blasko or a member of the Parish Council.

Stewardship

“Stewardship” is the managing and caring for the property and affairs of another. Since everything we have is on loan to us from God, we are called upon, as servants of God, to be wise and faithful stewards of all that we have. Our entire life is a gift from God! He asks that we offer back to Him in grateful appreciation the first portion of that with which we have been gifted, in the form of time, talent and money.

Financial

Financial Commitment Campaign

Each year the Stewardship Ministry of our parish requests parishioners to make a financial pledge to the parish by completing a commitment card. Your financial commitment enables the parish council to plan and budget for the parish’s expenses and programs for the upcoming year. The amount you give back to God is entirely your choice. As a parish community, we recommend and encourage a personal commitment any percent you wish of your monetary net income. However, whatever you decide to give, let it be a first portion percentage gift that is your expression of thanksgiving to Him Who has created us, blesses us with the material needs required for our sustenance, and continues to love us beyond measure. Please see Father Blasko or a Board member for further information.

The amount you offer is never published though a personal report of your offerings for tax purposes is sent to you annually at the end of each calendar year.

Endowment Fund

Our Parish would like to established an Endowment Fund. The Endowment Fund functions as an expansion fund for the parish. With the principle in the fund always remaining untouched, as the fund grows it is anticipated that part of the annual interest will eventually be added to our operating budget. For more information or to make a gift or bequest for the Endowment Fund, please see Father Blasko.

Wills and Bequests

Please consider leaving a gift to Most Holy Theotokos Church when you make your estate plan. A planned gift is a wonderful way to leave a legacy and often offers great tax benefits. Through this service, you can remember the church in your will giving back to God some of what He has blessed you with during your lifetime. Please see Father Blasko for more specific information.

Time and Talent

At Most Holy Theotokos Church, we strive not only to support our parish financially but to support it with our time and talent as well. It is our goal to have each parishioner pledge a percent of your time per week/month in support of our church programs and activities. Only through actual involvement can we bare witness to our commitment to serve God and to serve our neighbor as Christ loves and serves us. We ask each parishioner to accept this challenge and offer their God-given gifts of time and talent back to God in order that we as a parish may fulfill our mission of spreading His Word.

The Stewardship Ministry of our parish will conduct and maintain the records of the Time and Talent Survey of all parishioners. The purpose of the survey is to seek the involvement of each parishioner as a “partner in ministry” in at least one of our nine parish ministries, as identified in the section below. Each ministry has certain areas of responsibility that, together with all other ministries, make up our entire parish life. By completing the survey, you will enable us to match your talents to a need within our parish. Ultimately, your involvement will add value to your life, as well as strengthen the life of our parish community.

Some of the many opportunities available include:

If you are new to our Church, we would like for you to complete a survey. Or if you are a parishioner and have not yet involved yourself in one of the ministries and are in need of further information, please see Father Blasko or a Parish Board member.

Parish Council

The operation of our parish life is directed by the priest and Parish Board. The parish council consists of the priest and nine parishioners elected at the Parish Annual meeting. The officers of the council consist of parish priest, the president, vice-president, Secretary, Treasurer, Financial Secretary and Board members and , they act as the Administrative Ministry of our parish. The priest and the parish council in an effort to create orderliness in our parish life, use nine ministries as the framework for our community life. Generally, each member of the parish council is asked to assume the role of chairperson for one of these ministries and, as such, is responsible for coordinating the activities of their ministry. Each ministry, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, establishes their goals each year and then implements a program that incorporates the entire parish community in achieving those goals.

Parish Ministries

Below is a brief description of the nine ministries. For each ministry’s current goals are described.

Administrative Ministry

The Administrative Ministry is headed by the Rector and has as its members the Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. The Administrative Ministry oversees all long-term projects and goals, as well as daily operations of the parish. To effectively and efficiently achieve this, the Administrative Ministry oversees and coordinates the activities of the other parish ministries. This ministry also is responsible for coordinating all parish communications including the monthly newsletters, Diocesan Sunday bulletins, telephone communications (including the “telephone chain”), community communications, press releases and annual reports. In addition the Administrative Ministry coordinates all major projects of the parish, including our biggest fund raiser, the Gala dinner. This ministry is responsible for representing our parish to the Annual Assembly of our Diocese of the West, of our Serbian Orthodox Church in America .

Liturgical Ministry

The Liturgical Ministry is headed by Father Blasko. It coordinates the liturgical life of the parish. The scheduling of and preparations for all services and liturgically-related programs fall under this ministry. This includes the choir, altar servers program, liturgical readers program, and all other aspects of lay participation in the Divine Services. This ministry works with the Church Service Ministry to ensure the coordination of all liturgical activities. The Liturgical Ministry is also responsible for the purchase of the many liturgical service books used in the parish.

Education Ministry

The Education Ministry develops, implements, and coordinates all educational programs and activities within the parish. The Education Ministry also sponsors and organizes retreats and workshops at our parish, as well as coordinates our parish’s participation in diocesan and seminary-sponsored retreats. This ministry also maintains the parish’s adult and children’s libraries and reference information, and purchases and maintains our educational equipment. The Education Ministry also sponsors a number of activities for our youth throughout the year, the most notable of which is the St. Sava and Vidovdan Program –one of the highlights of the year. It should also sponsor holiday parties, movie nights, and youth charity efforts. Should you have any questions about this ministry or would like to enroll yourself or a child in one of our educational programs, please see the Fr. Blasko or Sanja Rakonjac.

Outreach and Evangelization Ministry

One of our responsibilities as Orthodox Christians is to take up His Cross and spread The Word of God. The Outreach and Evangelization Ministry is the ministry within our parish that “reaches out” to the local community, guests, new parishioners, and even established parishioners. Its role is to make Most Holy Theotokos an inviting parish and to make all who enter our doors feel part of our Christian family.

In order to achieve these goals, this ministry should work on developing strategies and materials to reach out to our local community and assists the Administrative Ministry with publicizing the life and activities of our parish through available media. In addition, the Outreach and Evangelization Ministry maintains the Greeters Program, a Follow-up Program for Parish Guests and a New Parishioners Program. In conjunction with the Young Adult Ministry, this ministry maintains contact with local colleges in an effort to reach out to those students who are Orthodox or who are interested in Orthodox Christianity.

The Outreach and Evangelization Ministry is also responsible for integrating all parishioners into our parish community by encouraging greater participation in our parish ministries. To achieve this, the Time and Talent Survey will be prepared and distributed so that all parishioners can ascertain the talents they have and may wish to share with our church family to help make our parish more vibrant and spiritually-fulfilling.

Finance Ministry

The Finance Ministry coordinates the financial matters of the parish. The Finance Ministry prepares the annual budget proposals for the Annual Parish Meeting, counts and deposits all financial offerings and gifts, and oversees the weekly offerings. It issues checks for all debts and obligations, remits parish assessments to our diocese, remits funds collected for annual appeals to the various charities, and will oversee the Parish Endowment Fund. An auditing committee functions under the auspices of this ministry.

Stewardship Ministry

The Stewardship Ministry develops programs intended to increase each parishioner’s commitment of time, talent and money. It also coordinates the maintenance of all records of individual financial gifts of parishioners. It is responsible for conducting the annual Financial Commitment Drive , the results of which are used by the Finance Ministry to plan the Annual Parish Budget.

Human Services Ministry

The Human Services Ministry coordinates the charitable and human services work of our parish. Our parish’s major charitable effort is our involvement in different charitable organizations most especially IOCC. There is also a food collection for the needy in the area. Receptacles are located in the church hall for your food donations. Throughout the year, our parish also conducts other appeals, such as financial drives for those in need.

In addition, the Human Services Ministry provides parishioners with information regarding various social services programs, such as Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security. The ministry also coordinates transportation for parishioners in need of a ride to or from Divine Services. The ministry is also responsible for informing the rector of specific needs of parishioners and tracking those in need of visits.

Church Services Ministry

The Church Services Ministry coordinates all necessary preparations for Divine Services. This includes overseeing the candle desk, ushering parishioners and guests into the church, lighting the candles, conducting the collection of the offerings, and the cleaning of the candle stands, chairs and general church area following services. This ministry coordinates and decorates the church for major Feast Days, such as Christmas and Pascha.

This ministry uses volunteers to aid their efforts. If you are interested in assisting with any of the numerous duties, please see the Fr. Blasko.

Building Ministry

Our parish is blessed to have a leased space for a regular church life. Its maintenance and that of the buildings, fall under the jurisdiction of the Buildings and Grounds Ministry. This ministry is responsible for organizing and coordinating volunteers for the Cleanups, coordinating volunteers for basic maintenance tasks, and proposing to the Parish Council any necessary repair work, improvements, or equipment purchases. If you are interested in volunteering your services or if you have any questions, please see the president of the Church Board.

Becoming a member of our parish

If you are interested in becoming a member of our parish or if you are considering becoming an Orthodox Christian, please speak to Father Blasko. He will assist you with your journey and, with the assistance of our parishioners, make your integration into our parish life a joyful, spiritually-rewarding experience.

To become a parishioner of Most Holy Theotokos Church , you are requested to: