Thanks again to R.D. Hohenfeldt for a followup article in today’s Rolla Daily News. Read it online here: http://www.therolladailynews.com/article/20130215/NEWS/130219209.
My original responses to his questions can be read below:
How many showed up?
We had about 40 people come to our first service. Just under half of them were local folks, and the rest came from our sponsoring parish in Springfield (driving as much as two hours one-way to be with us).
Was it what you expected?
As I mentioned in my last interview, I really try not to have many expectations for the mission. We have an idea of what we’d like it to become, but we’re not the directors in this effort, God is. I definitely wasn’t expecting to be this far along at our first service though. It’s a lot of work to get ready for a Divine Liturgy – much like a wedding – but it was a group effort to make the space beautiful and reverent. I couldn’t have been more encouraged by everyone’s participation.
More? Fewer than expected?
I actually had to give an estimate last week to the folks who were bringing food for fellowship afterward and ended up being right on target. I had told them to prepare for 40-50, and that’s how many showed up. God never gives us more than we can handle at a time.
Are you encouraged or challenged by the response? Will you be changing your mission emphasis or strategy?
Definitely encouraged – we now have a mission established in Rolla! Regarding our mission emphasis and strategy, I can only quote what we have already said on the “Our Vision” page at orthodoxyinrolla.org:
Regarding a proper approach to evangelization, Archbishop Anastasios of Albania, in his book Facing the World, tells people that they must ‘go and die with the natives’. In this day of advertisements, gimmicks, and over-saturated lifestyles, it takes a lifetime to show that the work one is doing is of Christ. This is exactly our hope as we make our move to Rolla – go to live alongside, be present and die with the folks there.
To “die” with someone doesn’t just mean to end your days with them, but to show compassion, or more literally, to suffer with them (‘com’ means with, and ‘passion’ means to suffer). Christ showed us throughout His life how to suffer and die with those around us – and it ultimately led to His death on the cross. But the cross, our image of co-suffering, is only half the emphasis of the Christian Faith, for as we sing at Pascha (Easter), “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life”. Being present in the suffering of others and calling them to the joy of the resurrection has been the Church’s emphasis and mission strategy for the last 2000 years, and remains so today.