In May 2009 we were launching in Cluj the Romanian translation of Three Views on Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism. in the presence of one of the authors, my friend Dr. Bradley Nassif, Professor at North Park University in Chicago. To my joy, the 500 copies we have printed have been sold out in less than four months and we are now discussing about a new print run and a revised edition. It was the fulfilment of part of my dream to create the conditions for initiating a theological dialogue between Evangelicals and the Orthodox in Romania.
As I was explaining on a previous post on this blog, during that visit in Romania, Dr. Nassif told me for the first time about The Way, an Orthodox adult catechism that was reinventing for the eastern context the approach of the Alpha Course, that was so successful in Protestant and Catholic contexts.
At his incentive, in July 2009, I have visited the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies in Oxford, UK, and met with the group working at the design of this catechism. After that visit, I have decided to fund, through World Vision, the last of this project.
It is now fast approaching its final form and will probably be launched by the end of this year. Besides a number of diaspora Orthodox Churches, which are going to use it in English, the Romanian Patriarch has already approved its translations in order to be used by the Orthodox Church in Romania, as part of the initiatives related to the Year of the Catechism. In fact, I must confess I have used my little prerogative as a funder, to ask for this privilege from Dr. David Frost, the coordinator of The way.
I present below a concise presentation of this programme that will be included in the DVD produced for the students.
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An Introduction to Orthodox Christianity
What is THE WAY?
It is the outreach programme of the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies.
It is a course of 10 sessions, usually over 10 weeks, and consists of:
- a meal together
- a talk on a central aspect of Christian belief
- free discussion in small groups
- a ‘question and answer’ session, where members of
each group put questions to a panel
Where is its name from?
THE WAY is probably the earliest term by which the followers of Jesus Christ referred to themselves. Jesus said ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’ (John 14.6).
St Paul said ‘I worship the God of our fathers as a follower of the Way’ (Acts 24.14).
What about the badge?
Its logo comprises the Chi Rho, a very early Christian monogram for Christ, as used by Constantine, by the early Roman emperors who were Christian, and by ordinary Christians as a sign on tombs and liturgical vessels. The superimposed Greek letters are the first two in the name ‘Christ’. The Chi Rho symbol has always been in the form of a cross, with the upright Rho standing for the crucified body, and in the version we have adopted (which is taken from a coin of an early Emperor) the arms of the Chi are in fact nails, with their heads pointing to the point of intersection. The Cross is therefore at the centre of THE WAY.
What does THE WAY do?
The course aims to present the basics of Orthodox Christian faith in an atmosphere of friendship, free exchange and trust, where no position is forbidden and no question treated as foolish or unworthy of attention.
What are its key topics?
The titles of the ten talks are:
1. The Search for Faith
2. ‘The Lover of Mankind’: the Christian Understanding of God
3. Being Human: Fully Alive
4. Why Did Jesus Come to Us?
5. Why on Earth the Church? Isn’t God Enough?
6. Living the Faith: (1) The Liturgy
7. Living the Faith: (2) The Holy Mysteries
8. Living the Faith: (3) The Bible, Prayer, and Fasting
9. Living the Faith: (4) Christian Behaviour
10. ‘Heaven on Earth’: Members of the Church and Citizens
of the World
Who is the course for?
The course is taught in English and was initially designed for people between 18 and 45 who had completed secondary school. In practice, it has been enjoyed by those of all ages and attainments, people with considerable Christian knowledge or very little, those from a variety of racial backgrounds, by Orthodox wanting to better understand their faith, by other Christians seeking to know more, and by those of goodwill who have a curiosity as to what Christians believe.
Is it different from other courses?
THE WAY builds on the understanding of social dynamics and the importance of human relations in transmitting the faith as shown in courses such as Alpha. However, its understanding of key issues is Eastern Orthodox, its emphasis is sacramental, and it integrates teaching with worship.
Who have been its audience?
THE WAY has been presented with great success, in Great Britain at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Moscow Road, London in the autumn of 2004 and at the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Ennismore Gardens in 2005. Two of the team offered the course overseas in the first part of 2005, at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Resurrection, Singapore, and at the Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral of St George, Sydney, Australia. It has recently been offered in Cambridge and Manchester and presentations are projected in Cardiff, in Melbourne, Australia, and elsewhere.
What is its authority?
THE WAY derives its authority to teach from the blessing given to the Institute of Orthodox Christian Studies by those Orthodox bishops with responsibilities in Great Britain.
The initial course was put together by members of the Organizing Committee who come from Greek, Russian and Antiochian congregations in Great Britain, the United States, Australia and Greece, while its workers have been drawn from almost all the ethnic Orthodox churches in Great Britain. Its origins are therefore pan-Orthodox.
Texts of all talks were initially vetted by Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia (Timothy Ware) and ongoing revisions are subject to examination by theologians from within the Committee and outside.
Who are the organizers?
The current members of the Organizing Committee are:
His Grace Bishop Theodoritos of Nazianzus
Father Raphael Armour
Mrs Carolyn Armour
Father Demetrios Bathrellos
Mr John Bazlinton
Dr George Bebawi
Miss Gladys Bland
Dr Christine Mangala Frost
Professor David Frost (Director)
Father Michael Harper (Deputy Director)
How is it funded?
THE WAY has no paid workers and is entirely staffed by volunteers. It receives at present no funding from government, dioceses, or charitable trusts. Unavoidable expenses have been met by generous contributions from private individuals. Annual accounts are submitted with IOCS’ general accounts to the Charity Commission and can be examined on the Commission’s website:
http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/registeredcharities/first.asp. Search by our registered charity number, 1076519.
If you would like to support us, please use our Donation Form on the Institute website: http://www.iocs.cam.ac.uk. Please also sign the Gift Aid declaration attached to the form, which at no cost to you increases your donation by 28% if you are a payer of UK income tax.
How will it develop?
THE WAY is currently in a process of revision in the light of experience and this process is likely to be ongoing.
For the first time this year, we are encouraging a limited number of churches to run the course for themselves, under strict controls, and to report back on their experience.
This is part of an attempt to set the course free from its original organizers. Our aim is to put the 10 talks on DVD for churches who do not wish to present the talks themselves, and to produce both a book and a CD that will each give all the material for the course and necessary guidance on how to run it. It is hoped eventually to translate the course into various languages. There are versions of the 10 talks already in Russian and an offer to render the course into Greek.
All these developments, though not costly, depend on funding being made available.
Can we run THE WAY?
There are two methods for presenting THE WAY and both require the written permission of your Bishop.
(1) You may invite the original presenters of THE WAY to run a course in your area, diocese or church. This will involve funding the travel costs of speakers, finding a venue, arranging advertising, providing the initial suppers, and liaising with THE WAY team over other practical arrangements. THE WAY can loan a powerful Power Point projector but you may need to provide sound amplification. This arrangement is suited to large audiences (around 100 in the three Cathedrals so far) and you may decide on a small enrolment fee to cover costs.
(2) You may seek from The Director, THE WAY, IOCS. Wesley House, Jesus Lane, Cambridge CB5 8BJ permission to use THE WAY course and to make all arrangements locally.
PLEASE NOTE that you will be required to sign an agreement to present the course without additions, alterations or omissions. This condition is necessary to safeguard the integrity of the course.
THE WAY Committee will supply at cost a comprehensive CD that provides all materials and gives guidance on how to run the course.