The Department of Religious Education in April published First Among Equals: The Ecumenical Patriarchate. This new zine is the newest in a series of materials that have been developed by the Department for parish religious education programs. First Among Equals was a collaborative project of the Department and the Order of St. Andrew. Each contributed their respective expertise and experience to produce this resource. Education is an important key to unlocking the many chains that prevent the Ecumenical Patriarchate from fulfilling its global mission of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ and shepherding the Orthodox Church.
Through the stewardship of Dr. Stephen and Dr. Anna Yallourakis of Kingsport, Tennessee, the Order of St. Andrew was also able to underwrite the production costs of the publication. Dr. Yallourakis chairs the Patriarchal Education Initiative Committee for the Archons. Dr. Yallourakis expressed the importance of the new publication saying, “The Ecumenical Patriarchate is the sacred holy land of Orthodoxy. We need to recognize the importance of educating the Orthodox faithful to gain an understanding of our spiritual, apostolic, and hierarchical heritage and to reorient ourselves to Constantinople as the center of Orthodoxy. Through education we gain knowledge and thus the passion that develops into action to preserve, protect, and defend the Ecumenical Patriarchate.”
First Among Equals presents history, theology, the present ministry of the His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and the daily challenges the Ecumenical Patriarchate faces. It offers snapshots of Byzantine and Orthodox Church history, especially related to the role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople within the life of Christianity. It explains basic topics, such as the vestments of a bishop, but also looks at the organization of the global Orthodox Church. Filled with photos and written for an eighth or ninth grader, the zine will sometimes use language and imagery aimed at them, but all members of the community will find this piece informative and beneficial to broadening awareness about the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
"This fills an important gap in our religious education resources," said Dr. Anton Vrame, Director of the Department of Religious Education. "Our resources focus mostly on the immediate world of the learner, the local parish, the local Metropolis. First Among Equals exposes them to the global Orthodox Church and the leadership of the Patriarchate."
The Order of St. Andrew mailed a sample copy to all the clergy and religious education directors of the Archdiocese, all Archons, and the members of Leadership 100. Additional copies are available for purchase from the Department of Religious Education.
The Department of Religious Education is completing a teacher's guide with lesson material. The Department also carries other products about the Ecumenical Patriarchate, including the "60 Minutes" DVD and A Brief Guide to the Ecumenical Patriarchate that parishes may also want to obtain.