Church Membership, within the Orthodox world in America, can be confusing at best. We often are asked, "How does one become a member?" and "How can we support the local Church?" or, "What does the Church need?"
Let me attempt to clarify some points in the Five Points written below:
Anyone who regularly attends St. George's Church is considered a "de facto" member. However, to become an "Official" and "Voting" and most important, a "Communing" member, this is what it takes:
1) Non-Orthodox Guests: The first step, if you are not already a Baptized and/or Chrismated Orthodox Christian, and you desire to learn more about Orthodox Christianity, hopefully, in preparation for Baptism and/or Chrismation and full entry into the Orthodox Church, please talk to Father Antonio. You can officially become a "Catechumen" - one in the prayerful process of learning, or being catechized. Babies and young children can be Baptized any time 40 days after birth, the sooner the better. However, for an adult or teen, it is normally recommended that one take about a year, or a full cycle of seasons and services, to learn about the Faith and truly be prepared to fully, consciously enter the Church. We welcome inquirers, catechumens and any who would just like to pray with us or to learn more about Orthodox Christianity! All are welcome to attend and participate in any Church services or special events, guests, inquirers or catechumens alike, with the exception of Voting at our Annual Meeting of Members, and partaking of Holy Communion, which is reserved for Orthodox Christians in good standing, who have prepared themselves with prayer, fasting and recent confession.
2) Orthodox Christians: If you are Baptized and/or Chrismated or otherwise received as an Orthodox Christian in the Canonical Church, no matter what part of the world, ethnic background or former jurisdictional affiliation, you can and are encouraged to become part of St. George's, the only local Church here in the Valley. We welcome you. We need you. St. George's members come from every continent of the world and many ethnic backgrounds. We treasure both our one faith and our broad diversity. As our display stated during one of our annual December International Festivals stated, we are "One Theology: Many Cultures." No matter where we have come from, or when, or how long our stay might be here in this region, it is always and everywhere true that it is within the local church God has given us, wherever God has planted us and for as long as He keeps us there, that we, as the scriptures say, "must work out our salvation with fear and trembling... " Please make your membership "Official"!
3) Supporting St. George Orthodox Church & Your Priest: All who Attend St. George - whether declared or undeclared members, catechumens, inquirers, Winter Texans or regular guests - we are all responsible for financially supporting our local Parish.
St. George receives absolutely no funds from anywhere or anyone other than YOU!
We receive no funding from the OCA national church, none from the Diocese and definitely none at all from the government or state, as happens in many traditionally Orthodox nations. It all depends on you: The upkeep, maintenance and furbishing of our Temple & Church Hall, the compensation of your Priest, grounds keeping work and tools, church school materials, insurance, utilities and efforts to SOON begin our building expansion project for the new Church Hall - all of this comes solely from your financial support.
As Christians, we are called to "tithe" to God - to give the first portion of our Tithes, Time and Talents, for His Glory and in His service.
Financial support is definitely a part of this equation, although we are also called to give more than just money: He requires our time and talents as well! If all the people who live in the Rio Grande Valley, those who consider themselves to be Orthodox Christians, simply contributed REGULARLY to the Parish, St. George's would have no financial difficulties. As it is, we struggle from week to week and month to month. Contributing monetarily to St. George's would help us grow towards greater financial stability: Contribute weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, whether you can attend services or not, whether you attend regularly or not, we need your financial support.
4) Jurisdictional Membership & Support: Any Orthodox Christian who regularly attends St. George Orthodox Church must be declared by us as an "Official" member. Each year, the Parish must declare its census numbers to the Chancellery Office of the Diocese. For each adult member of St. George's, the Diocese of the South must pay an amount to the National OCA Headquarters a per person assessment. These funds help support our Metropolitan and his staff, the national departments and ministries, including Church School, Youth & Young Adults, Charity, the national website, The Orthodox Church magazine and much, much more. As stated, the DOS must pay an assessment to the national church for each of our members. In return, St. George Orthodox church sends a monthly tithe of its income to repay and support the the Diocese and its operations.
5) Building a New Church Hall! In addition to regular support for the Parish's ongoing needs and expenses, Please consider making special "Designated" Donations as well towards our Building Fund for a NEW Church Hall. We have just recently closed on a bank loan and will begin building very soon now. The need is URGENT, as any of you know who ever step into the hall for coffee hour or to use the facilities. We can and must do much better & soon!
What Do You Want Your Local Church to Be? Cramped and neglected? Or, something we can all be proud of: A Parish which is a functional, well tended, large enough to serve not only social, but our educational (church school) needs, a place which is a shining light and blessing to all of us, and to the community as a whole?
It is up to you.
Please let us know if you have any further questions. Feel free to ask Father Antonio about any aspect of Church membership and/or support.
Make your regular tithe donations or designated building fund contributions via check, cash or by PayPal through our Parish donation website: