Archangel Michael Greek Orthodox Church
Port Washington, New York
December 18, 2021
Beloved Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Of all the events that I am called to during these busy weeks before the blessèd Feast of Christmas, I believe that today’s Liturgy – and the community that has come together for it – warms my heart the most of all.
For over thirty years, this wonderful Archangel Michael Community has made the inclusion and participation of our most precious Church members a special occasion. And it is one that I am honored, as your Archbishop, to preside over today.
If Christmas means anything, it means that we are all children of God, because God willed to become a child for our sake and for our salvation. We give gifts on Christmas, not in order to earn the love of our family and friends, but to express it. And as I look around your magnificent sanctuary today, I behold in the faces of everyone present, the greatest gifts of all: children of God and precious members of the Church. I give thanks to God because of all of you, and I thank you for your commitment to this program of inclusion and welcome.
God is present in every atom of His Creation, even when the creatures are unaware of His Divine Presence. God is always willing and ready to manifest Himself in our experience, but we have to be willing and ready as well. That is what this worship of the Church is – our preparation to receive God here, so that we can receive Him in every aspect of our lives.
And that is why this Liturgy is so important and so meaningful to me personally. We were all created in the image and likeness of God, but some of us have special, and even more challenges, than others. But it is how the community comes together to affirm the value and participation of every member, that we come to the knowledge of our own value before God.
Here at Archangel Michael, you take a leading role in this ministry of fellowship and inclusion. You follow your Heavenly Patron, who is the Captain of the Celestial Hosts. And this leadership is so much more than it appears. For, as our Lord Jesus said:
Μακάριόν ἐστι μᾶλλον διδόναι ἢ λαμβάνειν.
It is more blessèd to give, than to receive. 
Those who have come for this Divine Liturgy today are truly blessed; for they give so much more than they take.
They give us the opportunity to serve others, as the Lord served us.
They give us the chance to be better persons than we might be, if left to our own devices.
They give us the opportunity to slow down and see what is really meaningful in this fast-paced world.
And they give us the gift of their presence – a presence that is grateful for what we can offer.
My beloved friends,
There is no better way to prepare to receive the Lord of Heaven on earth, than this Divine Service you offer here today.
May the Child of Bethlehem reveal Himself in your lives and in your hearts throughout these days of celebration and joy.
And may this Christmas and the coming New Year be filled with health, happiness and the infinite blessings of God for you, your families and all of your loved ones.
 Acts 20:35.
The Story of the Challenge Liturgy Program: An Outreach Program for Special Needs Individuals
The Challenge Liturgy is celebrated on the third Saturday of every month. Individuals of all ages with special needs from the surrounding communities, and their families, are welcome to participate in this beautiful liturgy. The families also enjoy social gatherings, fellowship, and community outreach.
For more information please contact: [email protected].
The Archangel Michael Greek Orthodox Church conducts a unique ministry, known as The Challenge Liturgy Program, which reaches out to Orthodox Christians with intellectual and developmental disabilities, welcoming them into the full life of the parish. All metro-area New York challenged Orthodox Christians are welcome regardless of parish or jurisdictional affiliation.
Founded in April 1990, the program has grown from a local parish program into a regional multi-parish one, serving over fifty families from nine neighboring Queens/Long Island parishes. Complimentary transportation is provided for those with no means of getting to the Archangel Michael Church.
The primary objective of the program is to encourage attendance and participation in the Divine Liturgy. The cornerstone of the program is a special monthly liturgy that is celebrated on the third Saturday of each month, in an environment appropriate to the special needs of the participants…hence its title, The Challenge Liturgy.
Beyond the spiritual fulfillment offered, the program seeks to integrate challenged individuals into the fabric of parish life. The Group points with pride to a few members who attend Sunday School, serve in the altar or sing in the Byzantine Youth Choir.
The program also promotes acceptance through socialization. A fellowship hour following the Liturgy provides opportunities to develop friendships, meet parishioners or simply exchange information of mutual interest. Monthly birthday and Nameday celebrations and seasonal events, such as Christmas and Easter parties, as well as a Spring picnic round out the social calendar.
Member families are not the only beneficiaries of this program. The parish enjoys a dimension of parish life not experienced by other parishes as the program engages the entire AMC Community…clergy, parishioners, organizations and youth groups, in its various activities throughout the year. Volunteer social workers, lawyers, and other professionals, Archangel Michael parishioners all, offer guidance and expertise to member families.
The program has evolved to include, Hellenos House, a group residence for Orthodox Christians with developmental disabilities, and an outreach program that reaches out to Orthodox Christians in the 750+ Group Residences on Long Island who cannot participate in the Saturday Liturgy.
The Challenge Liturgy Program is a unique parish ministry. It is a ministry that has become an important part of the Archangel Michael parish…a ministry that addresses important needs yielding meaningful benefits to all involved, member families and parishioners alike.