As the name implies, the goal of the Outreach Ministry is to reach out and invite our surrounding community to learn about the fullness of the Christian Faith as experienced in the Orthodox Church. Sometimes, visitors walk in through our doors at St. Nicholas and make a discovery. Other times, we walk out of our doors to meet them where they are.
When visitors come to an Orthodox Church, they’re curious. Maybe they read up on us in a class; perhaps a friend of theirs is Orthodox and talked about us; or they could have spotted our dome and wondered what’s inside.
What’s inside is a totally different Christian experience, not an easy one to comprehend. It’s as ancient as the first church, the church we happen to be. While our ushers greet our guests and introduce them to our worship practices, it takes far more than a quick tour to grasp the profoundness and authenticity of Orthodoxy. For some visitors, they might be one and done. For others, it’s just begun.
Becoming Truly Human
This is a new initiative of the Antiochian Archdiocese. It is a film series spread out over several weeks. Called Becoming Truly Human, the movies focus on believers and non-believers, Orthodox and Non-Orthodox. It’s filmed documentary-style, personal stories told in their own words. The goal of BTH is to help us attain a depth of enlightenment that leads to becoming Truly Human, the way God intended us to be.
Throughout the year, our priest holds an 8 week, introductory class to the Orthodox Church. This class offers a broad, comprehensive look at Orthodoxy, emphasizing how a life of faith provides purpose, peace and fulfillment. Though this is an introductory class, it is for everyone, Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike.
WORKS OF MERCY
The most oft repeated prayer in the Orthodox Church is “Lord Have Mercy.” We continuously seek mercy from God. At St. Nicholas Church, we are also reaching out to show mercy to those in need in our community and around the world.
The Gift of St. Nicholas
St. Nicholas annually selects a local charity that we work with to award a $10,000 donation. This donation is made at our patronal feast in honor of St. Nicholas the model we all strive to emulate in works of mercy. Over the years St. Nicholas has given this gift to Inner City Christian Federation, Shepherds of Independence and Kid’s Food Basket.
Care for Our Neighbors
Our parish is located near a subsidized housing community. In the spring we conduct a drive to collect personal care items to stock the neighborhood pantry. We also join several other neighboring churches to hold a block party for all the residents in the summer. At the block party we provide food and entertainment and distribute over 200 backpacks to the school age children. In the fall we do a clothing drive to provide community members with winter clothing.
Grand Rapids Baby Pantry
The Women of St. Nicholas hold a baby shower for Moms-in-need annually. The men of the parish get involved as servers to insure the ladies have an enjoyable night out. The attendees donate items for infants and toddlers to be distributed to the Baby Pantry at Catholic Charities in Grand Rapids.
Shepherds of Independence
The parish sponsors a BBQ with live music every fall at Shepherds of Independence. Parishioners spend the afternoon at this adult foster care facility listening to music, sing along and playing games.
Let’s Go To Bat for Kids
St. Nicholas annually volunteers to assist with Catholic Charities “Let’s go to Bat” fundraiser. This event pits local celebrities and priests against each other in a softball game at 5th/3rd Park. The game is the primary fundraising vehicle for Catholic Charities foster care program which provides foster care homes and services to hundreds of local children. Our parishioners paint children’s faces, run the raffle and have a craft table.
Inner City Christian Federation “Project Grand Rapids”
ICCF’s work for displaced and homeless families is a valuable asset in our community. We support them with fundraising, work days and rehabilitating some of their many development properties.
Please read the ICCF Blueprints magazine article featuring our Pan-Orthodox work with ICCF Community Homes: [ARTICLE].
Food for Hungry People
For more than four decades, our Archdiocese has been collecting financial contributions for “Food for Hungry People.” All churches in our Archdiocese are asked to hold a donation drive during Lent. St. Nicholas parishioners give generously every year. The money goes to help the hungry in the United States, Canada, Mexico, South America, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe.
For a week, a group of St. Nicholas parishioners, led by our priest, ventured to Mexico to build a home in the northern region for one of the poorest families. Safe, secure and weather-tight houses are constructed in just four days, all with volunteer labor.
Foster Care Christmas
At Christmas members of our parish stock the Catholic Charities Foster Care Christmas Store. This ‘store” is set up annually to distribute the toys donated by Catholic parishes across West Michigan. In one evening we setup for display hundreds of gifts to be distributed to foster care children that otherwise would not receive a gift at Christmas.
International Orthodox Christian Charities-IOCC
St. Nicholas offers annual support to IOCC and organizes a city wide Orthodox Choir performance fund raiser. IOCC is an organization sanctioned by Orthodox Churches throughout the world. IOCC provides and assists with food and shelter, education and health care, employment and business start-ups for residents in the third world, refugees and victims in war-torn regions.