Orthodox Christians in lay ministry: an interdisciplinary study of resilience and vocation
Kostakis, Athanasia Mellos
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This interdisciplinary, qualitative study is an in-depth look at Orthodox Christian lay ministry experience and resilience in the United States. Thirteen Orthodox Christian women and men—all who identify with a vocation in lay ministry and have Orthodox theological education—were interviewed for this exploration. Their insights into the struggles and supports in ministry reveal a climate in the Orthodox Church in the United States that can be ambivalent, at times even hostile, to lay ministry. The research findings suggest that despite the stark environment for lay ministry in the Orthodox Church, emerging themes of resilience can help explain how people continue to dedicate their lives to lay ministry, persevere through hardship, and still produce “good fruit.” This investigation is important for both lay ministry in the Orthodox Church as well as the study of resilience. Common themes of support and struggle point to an emerging charism of “lay vocational ecclesiastical ministry” as well as distinct features of Orthodox Christian Resilience. Building on Michael Ungar’s theoretical framework known as the “social ecology of resilience,” the author introduces a “social-spiritual ecology of resilience” conceptual model. This can explicitly account for spiritual and religious components of people’s environments that might constitute significant factors of resilience. Study findings, then, lead to suggestions on how to better support Orthodox Christian lay ministry resilience in the United States while encouraging the dignity of the laity as a whole.