|Office of Educational Services
Melkite Eparchy of Newton
1710 Surf Avenue – Belmar , NJ 07719
Voice 732-556-6917 – Cell 201-417-3804
email – firstname.lastname@example.org
In many western Churches, Catholic and Protestant, catechetical materials (and worship materials, for that matter) are produced commercially without any specific connection to the structure of the Church itself. In other Churches, including our own, many curriculum materials are produced by the Church Itself and so are an actual statement of the faith of the entire community. Some materials, such as the God With Us series, are produced by a number of Byzantine Churches together; others are published by our own diocese. All these resources are approved by all the bishops of the respective Churches. We believe that catechesis, like liturgy, is a function of the Church, not of each individual catechist or group of catechists. This is why many curriculum materials are mandated (obligatory) in our Church in the same way that the typicon of our Church prescribes the liturgical services for the parish. These items are indicated in the listing below.
A number of other materials discussed below are produced by one or another Eastern Church, Catholic or Orthodox. They are recommended because they reinforce the basic orientation of our Church toward re-appropriation of our entire Tradition. Since there are few differences between the various Byzantine usages, at least at the church school level, we are able to use many of them without adaptation.
Required and recommended materials for the church school
A major element in the conduct of any catechetical program is the curriculum, which provides the content for the session in which it is employed. The choice of curriculum, therefore, is a basic aspect of program planning. In one sense, however, the local community does not have an unrestricted choice in this matter. Like the texts of our liturgical services, the content of our catechetical programs is meant to reflect, not simply our own preferences, but the Tradition and mind of the Church. In our situation this means that, whenever possible, all materials employed should reflect the Tradition and direction of the Byzantine Churches.
Adult Instruction Progran on the Sacraments of Initiation Instruction Program on the Sacraments of Initiation (Educational Services) – Catechesis for parents planning to baptize a child. Includes a leader’s guide and two participant’s texts, one of which is also available in Arabic. Mandated in our diocese.
A Guide for the Domestic Church (Educational Services) An introduction to family practices through the year. Useful for instructing new families and for parents who wish to implement Byzantine family prayer in their homes.
Anthony Coniaris, Making God Real in The Orthodox Christian Home (Light and Life) – Close to 100 suggestions for family centered activities to reinforce the young child’s church experience, the liturgical seasons, etc.
Anne Gallagher, Nurturing The Seed of God-Life (Educational Services) – Suggestions for introducing religious practice to infants from birth to 30 months. Includes five activity cards graded according to the child’s development.
Mary Lafter, God Made a Beautiful World (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese) – Thirty one-page stories on family and church life for pre-nursery and nursery.
Mary Ann Gidus-Mecera, A Way of Life: Introducing Your Child to the Orthodox Faith (available from both OCEC and the Greek Archdiocese). Material for weekly discussion on saints, major feast days, the Church, and Christian living in the home.
Constance Tarasar, Feasts and Families: 1, The Season of Christmas (OCA Religious Education Dept) – Suggestions for celebrating the ChristmasTheophany season in the home. The text is complemented by a supplement containing patterns for an Advent calendar, Jesse tree, and iconographic creche.
Note: The revision of the God With Us Series currently under way includes the addition of two pre-school resources, Learning About God (a two-year pre-school curriculum) and God Is With Us! (kindergarten), currently being piloted in selected parishes. Until these resources are available, we continue to recommend the following:
Basic Curriculum (Recommended):
The Wonder of It All (OCEC) – A basic program for nursery-3 year olds based on pre-liturgical themes introducing the child to the wonder of life and creation.
God My Friends, and Me (OCEC) – A continuation of the above program for nursery-4 year olds, emphasizing relationships among friends, family and God.
Together With God (OCEC) – An introduction for kindergarten-5 year olds to the church building, liturgical gestures, the Divine Liturgy and some major Church feasts.
Note: Many prefer using the current God With Us first grade text, Discover, in their pre-school class and Together With God in the first grade.
Guardian Angel Children’s Prayer Book (Toronto Diocese Religious Ed Dept, available from the Greek Archdiocese) – A beautifully illustrated child’s introduction to the Divine Liturgy, basic prayers and the Great Feasts.
Byzantine Coloring Books (Byzantine Seminary Press) and Our Church (Stylite Publishing, Lid) – Basic coloring books on the church building and the Divine Liturgy, Great Feasts, etc..
Basic Curriculum (Mandated):
God With Us Series (God With Us Publications, available through Theological Book Service) –The official eight-grade series for all Byzantine Catholic dioceses in the United States and several in Canada. The grade-appropriate texts are as follows:
Discover (Grade 1) — the gradual discovery of creation in the light of faith.
Life (Grade 2) — the mysteries of Christian initiation
Together (Grade 3) — The Church, God’s people, made visible in the church building and realized in the local community
Promise (Grade 4) — Introduction to the New Testament
Share (Grade 5) — The signs of Christian life as manifested in the lives of the saints
Respond (Grade 6) — Introduction to the Old Testament and Church history
Becoming (Grade 7) — The divine economy as shown in creation, the re-creation in Christ and the life of the world to come
Journey (Grade 8) — A summary of the elements of Christian teaching and living presented throughout the series.
‘Pre-Chrismation Catechesis’ in General Policy for the Administration of the Sacraments of Christian Initiation (Educational Services) – Suggestions for catechizing children who may have been baptized but not chrismated on three levels (primary, intermediate, and junior high).
Celebrating Life and Love: A Guide for Families Growing in Appreciation of the Divine Liturgy (God With Us Publications) – An eight-theme program for parents helping their primary age children (6-8 years) grow in understanding of the Liturgy and the Eucharist.
Celebrating Forgiveness: A Guide for Families Growing in Appreciation of the Mystery of Repentance (God With Us Publications) – An eight-theme program for parents preparing primary age children (6-8 years) for their first confession.
Constance Tarasar, We Return to God & A Manual for Preparing Children for the Sacrament of Penance (OCA Religious Education Dept) – A text designed for parents working with their children in preparation for first confession. More useful with older children (8-10 years old) than the above, as it presumes the child will read the text.
Note: The above resources must be adapted for group use.
John Boojamra, ‘Penance and Confession’, in All Together Now (Antiochian Archdiocese)- A five-session program for primary and intermediate children (7-11) on sin, repentance, and confession, including instruction on how to prepare for this mystery and to participate in it.
Did You Ever See a Steward? (Concordia, 3558 S Jefferson Av, St Louis, MO) 63118; 1-800-325-3040) – A program for primaries on the basic sense of Chriostian stewardship of creation. Includes sound filmstrip (also available on VHS videocassette), planning guide, and coloring book.
Learning to Give (OCA Department of Stewardship) – Suggestions for introducing this topic with children on five levels of development, beginning with nursery age. Includes a 12-minute sound filmstrip and an idea booklet, Giving Children the Opportunity to Give.
Celebrating Faith (God With Us Publications). A seven-lesson program on the Nicene Creed. Each theme is developed on three levels: primary, intermediate and junior high. This allows each of three classes to experience the program at age-appropriate levels. Also useful for beginning programs in smaller parishes unable to mount a full 8-grade program.
And Jesus Said… (CORE, Romanian Episcopate) – A five day program on Old Testament stories and the parables of Christ with lesson plans on four levels (pre-school through junior high).
Saints and Celebrations (CORE, Romanian Episcopate) – A second vacation school series on the
Great Feasts (Ascension through Dormition) and saints days of the summer.
All Together Now (Antiochian Archdiocese) Six five-session mini courses on various topics (the beatitudes, Christian witness, belonging to the ‘ Church, the church building, confession, and creation) for different levels. Appropriate for a one ~ week summer program or other use.
Baptism and Chrismation (OCEC) – An eight-session program on the mysteries of Christian initiation on four age levels (preschool through high school) on concept/activity cards. Originally designed for the non-graded or combined-grade situation, this- program, now out of print, is useful for an experienced catechist designing a program on these mysteries.
Other short-duration programs can be formed from the OCEC and Greek Archdiocese curricula (see Chapter 16).
Build Your Own Church: A Paper Construction Kit (Antiochian Archdiocese) – A cut-and-assemble model of the exterior of a Byzantine church building, useful as a project when studying the meaning of the church building (eg in God With Us books three and five).
Byzantine Coloring Books II, III and IV — Feastdays, Sunday Gospels, and Parables (Byzantine Seminary Press) – Three iconographic coloring books containing images for these celebrations and pericopes.
Come Bless the Lord (God With Us Publications) — Forty 8½ x 11″ icon prints of the great feasts and major saints. Each print includes a detailed explanation printed on the back of the print and in a separate booklet as well. Booklet also available in an English-Spanish edition.
Coming to Worship and A Visit to the Sanctuary (OCEC) – Two plastic design storyboard sets on the icon screen, holy table, prothesis, and Divine Liturgy enabling students to place the items in these scenes in their proper locations. Useful for reinforcing lessons on the church building and the Divine Liturgy.
Ikon Packets (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese) – Three separate packets, each containing 20 3×4 prints, of icons of the Life of Christ, the Miracles of Christ, and the Saints.
Sophie Koulomzin, God Is With Us: Bible Stories for Children (OCA Religious Ed Dept) – Thirty two-page stories from creation to Pentecost useful for primary classes.
Leslie Merlin, Courage for a Cross (Friendship Press, available from Light and Life) – Six brief stories about the difficulties encountered by a boy growing up Christian in the Soviet Union. Themes include icons, wearing the cross, witness, and the celebration of Pascha.
Louis Savary, ed, The Holy Spirit for Children (The Regina Press, available from Light and Life) – Nineteen Scriptural citations and descriptions on the work of the Holy Spirit from creation to the Church.
Lenten Lotto (OCEC) – A board game teaching the basic biblical and historical events celebrated during the Great Fast and the Great Week.
Lenten Workbook (OCEC) – An activity book based on the themes,’ services, and practices of the Great Fast and the Great Week.
Saints for All Ages (OCA Religious Ed Dept) – A ten-booklet series on various sains grouped thematically (eg women martyr; new apostles, Church Fathers, monastics, hymnographers, etc). Useful to supplement classes from the sixth grade on.
We Pray to God: A Prayebook for Children (OCA Religious Ed Dept) – A 24-page booklet of basic daily and seasonal prayers (OCA text) with a brief explanation of prayer for children.
The Divine Liturgy Activity Book (OCEC). Fifty fun activities for the home and classroom to teach children about the meaning of the Liturgy.
Build Your Own Kits: Church; Iconostasis and Altar; Bishop, Priest and Deacon (Antiochian Archdiocese). Each of these three punch-out and assemble kits is a useful help for teaching children about the church building and the orders of the priesthood.
While the following materials are not assigned to any grade level, they are listed in an increasing order of sophistication:
Second Helpings (OCEC) – A two volume anthology of 40 articles from past issues of On the Upbeat treating a wide assortment of topics from basic Christianity to liturgy to contemporary questions.
Come Let Us Worship (Educational Services) – First of two ‘liturgical catechisms’ covering topics including the concept of worship and the church building. The companion teacher’s guide, Exploring Eastern Christianity, offers lesson plans for four mini-courses (history, iconography, church design, worship) using this book as its text.
Sacrifice of Praise (St Basil’s Seminary)- Second volume in the series, currently out of print, presenting the Divine Liturgy, and the liturgical year.
Sexuality and Personhood:
The first supplementary track in Becoming (book seven of the God With Us series) discusses this topic from a Christian perspective in four lessons covering the following themes: sexuality is of God and therefore good; it is touched by sin and therefore broken; it is transfigured by the victory of Christ in the mystery of marriage, and – as witnessed by monasticism – its ultimate destiny is to be transfigured in the Kingdom.
The Bible: An Introduction (OCEC) – A six-session text on Scriptural basics, including the makeup of the two Testaments, the cultural background, and the life of Christ. No teacher’s guide available.
Jesus the Word (OCEC) – A ten-chapter treatment of the formation of the Gospels, the infancy and theophany narratives, and the temptation in the wilderness, connecting these passages with liturgical use and the commentary of Church Fathers.
Jesus the Teacher (OCEC) – Companion volume to the above, focusing on the call of the disciples, the sermon on the mount, and the messianic mission of Christ.
‘The Beatitudes’, in All Together Now (Antiochian Archdiocese)- A five-session program on this summary of the messianic proclamation.
‘Christian Witness’, in All Together Now (Antiochian Archdiocese) – A five session program on the concept of bearing witness and scriptural examples. Appears to be based in part on Called to Be Witnesses (OCEC), a 17 segment series of concept cards which also includes segments on the martyrs, confessors, and monastics in Christian history. Originally intended as a follow-up to the unit on the mysteries of initiation (see Vacation Programs).
The Jesus Prayer (Educational Services) – A six-session introduction on learning to pray the Jesus Prayer. Teacher’s guide and participants’ leaflets.
Dee Pennock, Who Is God? Who Am I? Who Are You? (Greek Archdiocese) – A 14-session program on issues relating to personal maturity and the Christian life (identity, guilt, sexuality, fears, etc.), based on the psychological teaching of the Church Fathers. Text and study guide.