“What would happen if each of us who has experienced resurrection joy…if, forgetting about large numbers, we were to transmit this joy and faith to just one other person, were to touch just one other human soul? If this faith and joy were secretly present in every conversation, even the most unimportant, in the sober realities of our daily life, they would immediately begin here and now, today, to transfigure the world and life. Christ said, ‘The Kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed.’ (Lk 17:20). The Kingdom comes with power, light, and victory, each time I and every believer carry it with us from the church into the world, and begin to live it in our own life.” A. Schmemann, Celebration of Faith, (SVS Press), Vol 2, p. 128.
Founded in 1964, St Gregory’s now marks over 50 years as the only fully English-speaking Orthodox parish in the Hudson Valley between Albany and the Tappan Zee. We are a "regional parish," with our membership in the wide dispersed over five counties, numerous school districts and on both sides of the Hudson our daily ministry transcends the bounds of one municipality. Our diversity of ethnic and church backgrounds is a great gift, along with the strength of our church council leadership and the strong sense of belonging of the whole parish community. The community gathers around the Liturgy, as well as the great feasts of the church year. It also making pirogi and other fine foods, bakes nut and poppy seed rolls and Easter breads. Of the proceeds from the Christmas Food Fair and other sales, a significant amount goes to local outreach such as meals for the hungry at The Lunch Box in Poughkeepsie, also Dutchess Outreach and St. Basil's Academy, among other care providers.
The parish has always been blessed with families and children, with older members and with many who for reasons of employment come and go. There are talented and enthusiastic teachers, musicians, bakers and cooks. We are blessed with lay leaders who choose fraternal respect over votes as the means of resolving issues. We believe that the basis of our harmony is the insistence on the priority of our gathering at the Mystical Table, the heart of the Eucharistic life.
Five pastors have served the parish: Frs George Timko, Pitirim Stehnach, Thomas Hopko, since 1978, Fr Alexis Vinogradov, with Fr Michael Plekon attached since 1996 and Fr. Stephen Evanina beginning as rector in 2015. Over the last almost forty years, the parish became a regular site of internship for seminarians, with over twenty having served over the years.
In 1963 the founding families, many of whom today remain the active and faithful core, desired to establish an exclusively English-speaking parish which would celebrate and proclaim the life in Christ to all who came in peace, without distinction. The parish was established in 1964 and celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2014. The result has been a mini-UN-in-Christ. Our founders’ foresight is evident today not in any special programs but rather in that joy of the Kingdom one finds everywhere--from parish picnics to the meals after funerals, baptisms and every Sunday, the coffee hour after liturgy. St. Gregory's is not just a beautiful sanctuary and church hall, but a community that knows and lives "the power of Love" that is the only rule in the church.
We are God's people. We are the Body of Christ. We are brought together by the Holy Spirit.
We are a community of Orthodox Christians in Wappingers Falls, New York.
We are a part of the Diocese of New York and New Jersey of The Orthodox Church in America.
- The Church in the Bible. The Orthodox Church goes back to our Lord Jesus Christ, His Apostles and the first Christians. When we read of the Church in the Scriptures, we know that we are part of that same Church.
- The Church of the Bible. Jesus Christ, our teacher, is the Word of God (John 1:1). We listen to, live by and learn from His words, from the teachings of His apostles and prophets, and from the record of God's people in the Scriptures.
- A Church of Tradition. We inherit our belief and practice from the early days of the Church throughout history. Saints defended this faith and martyrs died for it. We continue this faith and practice in our present day and age.
- A Church of History. Since our church goes back to the first centruy, our rich history reflects that. The Orthodox Church is not a newcomer to America, either. It first arrived in Alaska in 1794. Our community in Wappingers Falls was founded in 1964.
- A Church of the Cross. Crosses are everywhere in our church, from the large crosses on our roof to the small crosses we wear around our necks. These are all reminders that "we preach Christ crucified" (1 Corinthians 1:23). Christ gave us a new commandment, "that you love one another; even as I have loved you" (John 13:34). His love for us was expressed by doing this on the cross. This self-sacrificing love is what we strive to have and share with the world.
- A Church of the Resurrection. "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:14). We frequently say "Christ is Risen! Truly, He is Risen!" and we mean it. Every Sunday is the Lord's Day, when we celebrate the Resurrection and experience the Risen Lord. Our annual celebration of the Resurrection on Easter is truly a sight to behold.
- A Liturgical Church. "Liturgy" means "common work of the people" and our worship is truly the work of God's people. Our forms of worship go back centuries; they unite us to our past, are relevant today as ever, and move us toward the Lord's coming.
- A Sacramental Church. God acts in our lives. The Sacraments bring God's sanctification to our entire life.
- A Eucharistic/Thankful Church. As Christians, we always thank God for everything He has given us, both known and unknown. Our central act of worship, celebrated every Sunday, is known as the Eucharist, Greek for thanksgiving. In this, we partake of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. "For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes" (1 Corinthians 11:26).
- A Praying Church. We take the apostle Paul's directive "pray constantly" (1 Thessalonians 5:17) to heart. We have several services each week. In everything we do, we pray and ask God's blessing.
- A Church of Sinners. This may come as a shock to some, but "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Jesus has fellowship with sinners and said that "those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners" (Mark 2:17). Therefore, our church is a community of sinners. We often stumble, sin and fall short of what God expects, even as a community. Each of us struggles with this sinfulness and treis, with God's help, to repent, get up and try our best to walk in communion with God.
- A Church of Diversity. God "desires all to be saved and to some to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4). Our community is formed of people young and old, single and married, from many walks of life and occupations, and from all parts of the globe. Some were raised as Orthodox Christians and others became Orthodox later in life. Embracing these differences, we are united by our common faith in God.
- A Church of Healing. We all have wounds and scars from life's journey. The church is a spiritual hospital where we meet our Divine Physician, Jesus Christ.
- A Sensory Church. God created the whole person, so our worship of God engages the whole person and all the senses. The sight, sound, taste, touch and smell of our liturgy involves the believer and brings us into an awareness of God's presence.
- An Active Church. Our holistic approach to worship extends to all parts of our church's life. Activities and opportunities for fellowship and fun are part of what we do as a congregation.
- Small... In a Good Way! We are not a large community. We are not a "mega-church. We are a family in our church and we do not want anyone to get lost in the crowd.
- A Friendly Church. The Apostle Paul said, "do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares" (Hebrews 13:2). We welcome each and every person who comes into our midst, invite them to fellowship and serve them to the best of our ability.
Jesus said, "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation" (Mark 16:15). We exist to proclaim Christ's Good News in our small part of the world, both repeatedly to ourselves and to those around us.
We preach the Gospel through word and action, as we have received in our Orthodox tradition through:
- our public liturgical worship and praise of God, especially through the Divine Liturgy (Eucharist);
- teaching, both worship (Scripture readings, hymns, sermons) and in educational settings (lectures, classes, discussions);
- service to others, both in our local community and in the world-wide community.
We seek to "worship the Father in spirit and truth" (John 4:23).
We constantly strive to reevaluate ourselves against the Gospel and grow in our Christian life.
By living the Gospel in this way, we seek to follow Christ's directive: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).
We invite all others to give glory to our Heavenly Father and to share our life in the risen Christ.
Our basic beliefs are expressed in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, compiled by the first two Ecumenical Councils (meetings of Christian leaders from throughout the world) in the years 325 AD and 381 AD.
Everything we say, pray, sing, preach or physically do in our church exists to share and explain our Faith.
Child Protection Policy for
St Gregory the Theologian Orthodox Church in Wappingers Falls, NY
General Purpose Statement
St Gregory the Theologian Orthodox Church seeks to provide a safe and secure environment
for the children who participate in our programs and activities. By implementing the below practices, our goal is to protect the children of St Gregory the Theologian Orthodox Churchfrom incidents of misconduct or inappropriate behavior while also protecting our staff and volunteers (workers) from false accusations.
For purposes of this policy, the terms “child” or “children” include all persons under the age of eighteen (18) years. The term “worker” includes both paid and unpaid persons who work with children. The term “volunteer” means anyone involved in a day care or school, in overnight activities involving minors, in counseling of minors, or in one-on-one mentoring of minors.
Selection of Workers
All persons who desire to work with the children participating in our programs and activities will be screened. This screening includes the following:
a) Six Month Rule
No person will be considered for any volunteer position involving contact with minors until she/he has been involved with St Gregory the Theologian Orthodox Church for a minimum of six (6) months. This time of interaction between our leadership and the applicant allows for better evaluation and suitability of the applicant for working with children.
b) Written Application
All persons seeking to work with children must complete and sign a written application in a form to be supplied by us. The application will request basic information from the applicant and will inquire into previous experience with children, previous St Gregory the Theologian Orthodox Church affiliation, reference and employment information, as well as disclosure of any previous criminal convictions. The application form will be maintained in confidence on file at the St Gregory the Theologian Orthodox Church.
c) Personal Interview
Upon completion of the application, a face-to-face interview may be scheduled with the applicant to discuss his/her suitability for the position.
d) Reference Checks
Before an applicant is permitted to work with children, at least two of the applicants’ references will be checked. These references should be of an institutional nature as opposed to personal or family references, preferably from organizations where the applicant has worked with children in the past. Documentation of the reference checks will be maintained in confidence on file atSt Gregory the Theologian Orthodox Church.
e) Criminal Background Check
A national criminal background check is required for all employees (regardless of position) and “volunteers” as defined above.
Before a background check is run, prospective workers will be asked to sign an authorization form allowing the church to run the check. If an individual declines to sign the authorization form, s/he will be unable to work with children.
A disqualifying offense that will keep an individual from working with children will be determined by the Rector, under the guidance of the Policies, Standards, and Procedures of the Orthodox Church in America on Sexual Misconduct on a case-by-case basis in light of all the surrounding circumstances. Generally, convictions for an offense involving children and/or for offenses involving violence, dishonesty, illegal substances, indecency and any conduct contrary to our mission will preclude someone from being permitted to work with children. Failure to disclose a criminal conviction on the application form will also be a disqualifying event.
The background check authorization form and results will be maintained in confidence on file at the St Gregory the Theologian Orthodox Church.
Exemption: Church school teachers/directors who have been in their role for 2 years or more (as of June 2015) are exempt from the interview and reference checks. The rector of the parish must sign an exemption statement vouching for the character of the individual and place it in the volunteer’s file.
Two Adult Rule
It is our goal that a minimum of two unrelated adult workers will be in attendance at all times when children are being supervised during our programs and activities. Some youth classes may have only one adult teacher in attendance during the class session; in these instances, doors to the classroom should remain open and there should be no fewer than three students with the adult teacher. We do not allow minors to be alone with one adult on our premises or in any sponsored activity unless in a counseling situation.
Responding to Allegations of Child Abuse
For purposes of this policy, “child abuse” is any action (or lack of action) that endangers or harms a child’s physical, psychological or emotional health and development. Child abuse occurs in different ways and includes the following:
Physical abuse – any physical injury to a child that is not accidental, such as beating, shaking, burns, and biting.
Emotional abuse – emotional injury when the child is not nurtured or provided with love and security, such as an environment of constant criticism, belittling and persistent teasing.
Sexual abuse – any sexual activity between a child and an adult or between a child and another child at least four years older than the victim, including activities such as fondling, exhibitionism, intercourse, incest, and pornography.
Neglect – depriving a child of his or her essential needs, such as adequate food, water, shelter, and medical care.
Childcare workers may have the opportunity to become aware of abuse or neglect of the children under our care. In the event that an individual involved in the care of children at St Gregory the Theologian Orthodox Church becomes aware of suspected abuse or neglect of a child under
his/her care, this should be reported immediately to the Rector for further action, including reporting to authorities as may be mandated by state law.
In the event that an incident of abuse or neglect is alleged to have occurred at St Gregory the Theologian Orthodox Church or during our sponsored programs or activities, the following procedure shall be followed:
The parent or guardian of the child will be notified.
The worker or church member alleged to be the perpetrator of the abuse or misconduct will immediately be placed on leave pending an investigation and instructed to remain away from the premises during the investigation. He or she should be instructed to have no contact with the victim or with witnesses.
All allegations of abuse should be reported to the civil authorities, and the organization will comply with the state’s requirements regarding mandatory reporting of abuse as the law then exists. The organization will fully cooperate with the investigation of the incident by civil authorities.
The insurance company will be notified, and the organization will complete an incident report. Any documents received relating to the incident and/or allegations will immediately be forwarded to the insurance company.
The organization will designate a spokesperson to the media concerning incidents of abuse or neglect. The advice of legal counsel will be sought before responding to media inquiries or releasing information about the situation to the congregation. All other representatives of the organization should refrain from speaking to the media.
A pastoral visit will be arranged for those who desire it. This should be for the purpose of providing pastoral support during the time of crisis and not for the purpose of investigating the incident or influencing the investigation.
Any person who is not found innocent of the alleged abuse or misconduct will be removed from their position working with children or youth.
Open Door Policy
Classroom doors should remain open unless there is a window in the door or a side window beside it. Doors should never be locked while persons are inside the room.
We recognize that there may be times when it is necessary or desirable for babysitters (paid or volunteer) who are themselves under age 18 to assist in caring for children during programs or activities. The following guidelines apply to teenage workers:
Must be at least age 14.
Must be screened as specified above.
Must be under the supervision of an adult and must never be left alone with children.
Transportation of youth to parish-sponsored youth activities or for events away from the parish premises requires the use of licensed drivers who do not have adverse driving records. The driver is prohibited from being alone in a vehicle with one youth other than family unless the driver has the advance approval of a parent or the rector.
Special Events – Sign-in/Sign-out and liability waiver
For special events where a larger number of children attend, parents will sign-in and sign-out for drop-off and pick-up. If children are attending off-premise events without their parents but with adult chaperones, parents will sign a permission form and waiver of liability.
Sick Child Policy
It is our desire to provide a healthy and safe environment for all of the children at St Gregory the Theologian Orthodox Church. Parents are encouraged to be considerate of other children when deciding whether to place a child under our care. In general, children with the following symptoms should NOT be dropped off:
Fever, diarrhea, or vomiting within the last 48 hours;
Green or yellow runny nose;
Eye or skin infections; and/or
Other symptoms of communicable or infectious disease.
Children who are observed by our workers to be ill will be separated from other children and the parent or guardian will be contacted to request that the child be picked up for the day.
It is the policy of St Gregory the Theologian Orthodox Church not to administer either
prescription or non-prescription medications to the children under our care. Medications should be administered by a parent at home. Parents are reminded of our sick child policy.
Exceptions to the medications policy may be granted to parents of children with potentially lifethreatening conditions (such as asthma or severe allergic reactions). Parents of such children should address their situation with the adult in charge to develop a plan of action.
It is the policy of St Gregory the Theologian Orthodox Church not to administer corporal
punishment, even if parents have suggested or given permission for it. There should be no spanking, grabbing, hitting, or other physical discipline of children. Workers should consult with the Rector if assistance is needed with disciplinary issues.
Children five years of age and younger should use a classroom bathroom if one is available. If a classroom bathroom is not available, workers should escort a group of children to the hallway bathroom. They should always go in a group, never taking a child to the bathroom alone. The workers should check the bathroom first to make sure that it is empty, and then allow the children inside. The workers should then remain outside the bathroom door and escort the children back to the classroom. If a child is taking longer than seems necessary, the worker should open the bathroom door and call the child's name. If a child requires assistance, the workers should prop open the bathroom door, and leave the stall door open as they assist the child.
For children over the age of five, at least one adult male should take boys to the restroom and at least one adult female should take girls. The worker should check the bathroom first to make sure
that the bathroom is empty, and then allow the children inside. The worker should then remain outside the bathroom door and escort the children back to the classroom.
For the protection of all, workers should never be alone with a child in a bathroom with the door closed and never be in a closed bathroom stall with a child. Parents are strongly encouraged to have their children visit the bathroom prior to each class.
Accidental Injuries to Children
In the event that a child or youth is injured while under our care, the following steps should be followed:
For minor injuries, scrapes, and bruises, workers will provide First Aid (Band-Aids, etc.) as appropriate and will notify the child’s parent or guardian of the injury at the time the child is picked up from our care.
For injuries requiring medical treatment beyond simple First Aid, the parent and/or guardian will immediately be summoned in addition to the worker’s supervisor. If warranted by circumstances, an ambulance will be called.
Once the child has received appropriate medical attention, an incident report will be completed in the case of injuries requiring treatment by a medical professional.
St Gregory the Theologian Orthodox Church will provide training on this child protection policy to all new childcare workers and will strive to provide opportunities for additional training classes or events on an annual basis. All workers are strongly encouraged to attend these training events.