Parish Structure & Dynamics

The parish requires a proper Christian structure and administration in order to provide worship, education, pastoral care, spiritual direction, evangelism, and philanthropy.  The head of the parish in its total life must be the chief parish priest (Rector) who is ordained and assigned by the diocesan bishop.  This does not mean that the parish priest functions merely as the bishop’s “representative” or “delegate.”  It means rather that he is appointed by the bishop as the community’s spiritual and sacramental leader, father, and pastor.  He is the head of the Body who images and presents God and Christ in every aspect of the Lord’s messianic ministry. 

The Christian parish headed by its priest shows that it is truly Christ’s holy Church, and not merely a human association of like-minded people incorporated to satisfy the demands and desires of its members.  When properly functioning and structured, the parish maintains its identity and integrity as Christ’s Body, the household of God.  

The parish priest, properly understood in Christian Orthodoxy, is neither a domineering despot nor a servile hireling.  He is neither an authoritarian “stand-in” for an almost always absent hierarch, nor a lackey at the beck and call of a parish council or congregation.  He is rather a called, trained, tested, and ordained teacher, pastor, and priest who guarantees the presence and action of Christ in the community.

The parish council consists of the parish priest and selected representatives from the congregation to represent them regarding the operational issues of the parish, thus, it is important to recognize the nature and purpose of the church council.  It is often thought that the church council is responsible for the “material” operation of the church, leaving the “spiritual” ministry for the priest.  Part of its role is certainly to ensure that physical needs are provided for, by managing funds, facilities, etc.  But this task is not separate from the spiritual ministry in the Church – such labor of love is equally “spiritual,” if it contributes to the good of the community. The church council should not be seen as a governing body or business committee, but as a group of spiritually rooted individuals who assist the priest in building up the body of Christ.  Council members must therefore be spiritually active, and exemplary in church attendance and stewardship.  Additionally, the Parish Council is accountable to the congregation and Bishop through reporting at the Annual Assembly which is open to all members in good-standing. 

None of this is to the exclusion of the congregation at large, which consists of all faithful stewards who are able to participate in the sacramental life of the Church. The congregation participates in ministries, functions, and events that will enable the life of the Parish to flourish in a spiritually healthy way. These can be further organized  into related groups of ministries, i.e., Christian education, mission and outreach, singing, liturgical service, stewardship and fundraising, All of this represents a relationship based on Christian virtues of love, trust, and respect for the good order of the Church.