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Author Topic: Sunday school during liturgy  (Read 3935 times) Average Rating: 0
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Salpy
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« on: May 09, 2009, 12:49:38 PM »

Every now and then the subject comes up at my church about when the best time would be for Sunday school.  It's not a raging debate or anything.  It's just sometimes it gets discussed, and lately it has come up again.

Being an Armenian church, our liturgies last about two hours, to two and one half hours.  The kids go to Sunday school during the time of the liturgy, not before or after.  Once a month the kids are brought in shortly before Communion to hear a special sermon from the priest and to partake of the Sacrament.

There are those who would like to put Sunday school before or after the liturgy, so kids can attend the service with their parents.  The Orthodox Church is, after all, a Church of worship, and children should be immersed in this as they grow up.

Those who want to keep the current system argue (perhaps realistically) that no Armenians are going to get up early enough on a Sunday to bring their kids to church before the liturgy starts, and that people are not going to want to stay longer for the classes to take place afterward.

So I am posting this topic here because I am wondering what is done about Sunday school in other OO Churches.  I guess I would also like to hear from our EO friends, but really only if their services are as long as ours.  (I get the impression that some EO services are, but some aren't.)  I know that Armenian services are more or less on the short end of what you will find in the OO tradition.  Ethiopian services, from what I have seen and experienced, can go for four or five hours. 

So what is done in most churches in this situation?  I don't believe in shortening the liturgy.  I'm very much opposed to the "our liturgy is too long, let's shorten it to 45 minutes" mentality.  So I'd like to know what other churches with long services do with regard to educating the children.  Do you also have Sunday school during the liturgy?  If so, how do you get the kids into church?  Do you have Sunday school before or after the liturgy?  If so, what do you do about parents who don't want to come early or leave late?  Or do you find that people are happy to accommodate an early or late schedule for the classes?

I just want to see what works in other parishes.   Smiley
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« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2009, 01:41:32 PM »

We have Matins from 8:15-9:30 and Sunday school is 8:30-9:30, then Liturgy is roughly 9:30-11:30 or so (longer when we use the Basil liturgy or like when the Bishop presides- that was 4 hours!). Sunday school isn't year round for us- really just Oct-Jun.
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Salpy
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« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2009, 03:08:50 PM »

To me that sounds like a great schedule.  We also have matins, and it lasts perhaps about an hour and a half before the liturgy.  I think it would be ideal to have Sunday school at that time, with parents attending matins as the kids learned.  The problem is they say no one wants to get up that early.  Indeed, the church is not very full during matins.  I wonder, though, if the Sunday school were to change the schedule and say that classes would only be offered during that time, if parents would rise to the challenge and get up earlier. 

Do people at your church complain about it being too early, or are people pretty supportive? 
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« Reply #3 on: May 09, 2009, 03:37:46 PM »

Every now and then the subject comes up at my church about when the best time would be for Sunday school.  It's not a raging debate or anything.  It's just sometimes it gets discussed, and lately it has come up again.

Being an Armenian church, our liturgies last about two hours, to two and one half hours.  The kids go to Sunday school during the time of the liturgy, not before or after.  Once a month the kids are brought in shortly before Communion to hear a special sermon from the priest and to partake of the Sacrament.

There are those who would like to put Sunday school before or after the liturgy, so kids can attend the service with their parents.  The Orthodox Church is, after all, a Church of worship, and children should be immersed in this as they grow up.

Those who want to keep the current system argue (perhaps realistically) that no Armenians are going to get up early enough on a Sunday to bring their kids to church before the liturgy starts, and that people are not going to want to stay longer for the classes to take place afterward.

So I am posting this topic here because I am wondering what is done about Sunday school in other OO Churches.  I guess I would also like to hear from our EO friends, but really only if their services are as long as ours.  (I get the impression that some EO services are, but some aren't.)  I know that Armenian services are more or less on the short end of what you will find in the OO tradition.  Ethiopian services, from what I have seen and experienced, can go for four or five hours. 

So what is done in most churches in this situation?  I don't believe in shortening the liturgy.  I'm very much opposed to the "our liturgy is too long, let's shorten it to 45 minutes" mentality.  So I'd like to know what other churches with long services do with regard to educating the children.  Do you also have Sunday school during the liturgy?  If so, how do you get the kids into church?  Do you have Sunday school before or after the liturgy?  If so, what do you do about parents who don't want to come early or leave late?  Or do you find that people are happy to accommodate an early or late schedule for the classes?

I just want to see what works in other parishes.   Smiley


Well, I'm EO, but in my parish what we've done for the last few years, are 2 different things, both of which have worked out VERY well. 5 or 6 years ago, when we had a priest who did longer Liturgies all the kids attended liturgy up until the Gospel reading; they hear the Gospel, and then after the Gospel there is a brief "kid's sermon", then the kids go downstairs for Sunday school, then the regular sermon would follow. Then just before Communion, they come back up for Communion and the end of Liturgy. That worked out pretty well, and might work for Church's with longer Liturgies.

The other thing we've done more recently with a priest who's Liturgies run a little shorter  is the kids attend the entire Liturgy, but all kids receive Communion FIRST, then go downstairs from Sunday School. The priest then gives the sermon at the END of Liturgy (not after the Gospel reading), which ends up giving the Sunday school a good half an hour, maybe more depending on different things, length of sermon, number of Communicants etc....

Both I think worked out pretty well. The first example was originally done as a "stepping stone" towards kids coming for all of Liturgy, since before that plan was in use, there basically wasn't much of a sunday school program at all, and no families ever attended Liturgy.

BTW yes, we do have Orthros but NO ONE ever comes to that, except 2 or 3 people.

Smiley


I heard that years ago, (like 15 yrs) they used to have Sunday school during Matins, but too many people complained and no kids ever showed up for sunday school, so the program basically died for years until my first example was put into action some years back. It depends on each parish though I suppose....


Hope that's helpful.......
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« Reply #4 on: May 09, 2009, 04:58:11 PM »

It is a requirement to receive communion that you attend either Matins Sun morning or Great Vespers Sat. evening. There are complaints and it is hard to get up. But it is well worth it. I don't think 1/2 an hour is long enough for Sunday School. When we were looking into parishes we had a choice between a parish that had Sunday school during liturgy or the one we go to now. I think it is more common to have Sunday school during liturgy.
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« Reply #5 on: May 09, 2009, 05:03:28 PM »

We have Sunday School during Matins.


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« Reply #6 on: May 09, 2009, 08:46:18 PM »

In the UOC parish I grew up in, Orthos is at 8:15, Liturgy is from 9:00 to 10:45 (sometimes 11:00) and Sunday school runs for an hour afterwards. The parents go to the Parish hall for coffee hour, giving the adults time to socialize while their children were educated. The parish is celebrating their 100th anniversary this year, and they’ve used that schedule from the beginning.
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« Reply #7 on: May 09, 2009, 08:50:59 PM »

^ Don't the kids get hungry? Being at church from 8:15 noon without food would make my kids go insane with hunger.
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« Reply #8 on: May 09, 2009, 08:55:09 PM »

^ Don't the kids get hungry? Being at church from 8:15 noon without food would make my kids go insane with hunger.

Nah, our Sunday school teachers would usually have a gallon of milk and a box of munchkins waiting for us to hold us over until lunch. Till this day whenever I have munchkins I think of Sunday School! lol
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« Reply #9 on: May 09, 2009, 09:03:10 PM »

OK, what are munchkins? Cheesy I have to know and google isn't helping.
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« Reply #10 on: May 09, 2009, 09:23:51 PM »

I think Handmaiden means munchiesSmiley
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« Reply #11 on: May 09, 2009, 11:27:23 PM »

OK, what are munchkins? Cheesy I have to know and google isn't helping.

Munchkins are spherical donuts from Dunkin Donuts about 1 inch in diameter.  Munchkins Usually come in a box and my Church usually serves them at coffee hour.  Dunkin Donuts is very popular in NE USA - not sure about NW USA?   Huh
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« Reply #12 on: May 09, 2009, 11:39:30 PM »

Oh! OK. Yeah Dunkin donuts isn't real popular around where I have grown up in OR and WA. People like to bring coffee and costco muffins;)
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« Reply #13 on: May 09, 2009, 11:48:54 PM »

I think Handmaiden means munchiesSmiley

Nope, I meant munchkins. As in donut holes from Dunkin' Donuts.

One doesn't need to have a Dunkin' Donuts around to pull this off. Any breakfast pastry that kiddies like will do. Smiley

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« Reply #14 on: May 09, 2009, 11:53:47 PM »

…I just cannot fathom Sunday School being held during any Liturgical service…I find it very disturbing!

In my teenage years I had never taken Church life too seriously. And yet, in the most difficult of times of those years I distinctively recall being powerfully drawn to attend these services (of my own accord) for comfort and serenity. I did not as of that stage adequately understand or appreciate what the Liturgy was all about, but my consistent childhood experience (which I really have my parents to thank for) helped develop this innate sense that God was present and working during this service in an extraordinary manner, and that it was here that I was truest to myself and more "at home" than anywhere else. I'm honestly frightened to think where I may be today had my childhood not been regularly nurtured by the liturgical experience.

We always have Sunday School after Liturgy. Not sure what more I can say apart from, "it works."

Look, Salpy, I know you Armenians are a bit of a funny bunch (cf. pointy hats), but surely it won’t kill you guys to stick around a bit longer in the house of God  laugh

On a serious note, I guess maybe something to work on is your sense of community. In our churches (in Sydney at least) there’s a very strong sense of that. People look forward to sticking around after Liturgy to enjoy an agape meal together; the children look forward to being with their friends during Sunday School, and generally share a strong bond with their Sunday school servant (we call them 'servants' rather than 'teachers') etc. I’ve never seen the church empty on a Sunday until at least about 4 pm (that's at least 5 hours after the last Liturgy). It's the same sense of community that inclines a group of about 50-100 youth to gather at church every Friday night for Vespers (for a Saturday Liturgy most of them won't attend) followed by more prayer, hymns, and a 30-40 min sermon/discussion—when they could be out doing the usual things most youth do on a Friday night…
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« Reply #15 on: May 10, 2009, 12:05:31 AM »


We always have Sunday School after Liturgy. Not sure what more I can say apart from, "it works."

Look, Salpy, I know you Armenians are a bit of a funny bunch (cf. pointy hats), but surely it won’t kill you guys to stick around a bit longer in the house of God  laugh

I still say the pointy hats are more fashionable than your round ones.  You guys are so stuck in the fourth century...
 Grin

Actually, from what I understand, Sunday school in the Republic of Armenia is held after the liturgy.  They also wouldn't dream of having it during the liturgy.  I think that to the extent you see Sunday school during the liturgy in Armenian parishes, it is in places like the US and it is an unfortunate Protestant influence.

I get the feeling that if my parish does change how Sunday school is done, it would be after the liturgy.  I think the idea of having some sort of fellowship or activity for the adults while the kids learn is ideal.  Maybe some day it will happen.  Pray for us.   Smiley
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« Reply #16 on: May 10, 2009, 12:15:38 AM »

I never had Sunday School after the Divine Liturgy even though I've been to plenty of Churches which do so.

From Grades 1-8, we went for Communion and went back for Choir rehearsal after Communion where I learned all the responses in Greek.  I learned about the Divine Liturgy by waiting for Communion.  Some of my teachers took the class to Communion a few minutes early to see the Great Entrance, the Creed, et al.

In the high school group, we sat in the second level of the Church after Communion.  I memorized the memorial service in Greek and retained that memory until recently when the Priest mixed in English and cut off half the prayers.

After 2003, the Priest required the Sunday School students to sit in Church until the Gospel.  After a brief sermon on the Gospel, the children were dismissed to Sunday School.  Sunday School attendance fell off a cliff and continues in its free fall as 2009 School year comes to an end.  30% of the registered Sunday School showed up at the 2008 End of the Year exercises.   Sad
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« Reply #17 on: May 10, 2009, 12:40:59 AM »

Actually, from what I understand, Sunday school in the Republic of Armenia is held after the liturgy.  They also wouldn't dream of having it during the liturgy.  I think that to the extent you see Sunday school during the liturgy in Armenian parishes, it is in places like the US and it is an unfortunate Protestant influence.

I understand. Spiritual/Religious laxity seems to automatically follow when we compromise our attachment to the very mindset/attitudes/customs of the culture of our motherlands responsible for delivering and preserving Orthodoxy for us for over two thousand years. This is why I personally cringe when I hear Copts here in Australia pushing the false Coptic vs. Orthodox dichotomy. "Is an Australian expected to become a Copt if he wants to join the Coptic Orthodox Church?" Yes, I say, insofar as that means adopting a culture more faithful to the Orthodox spirit than that which raised them: "If anyone loves their mother or father more than me..." Hmm...I digress...

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I get the feeling that if my parish does change how Sunday school is done, it would be after the liturgy.  I think the idea of having some sort of fellowship or activity for the adults while the kids learn is ideal.  Maybe some day it will happen.  Pray for us.   Smiley

Yes, I think your church just needs a committed group of servants to dedicate some serious time planning and organising practical ways of enhancing the entire church's sense of community; "the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light."

The foundation is already laid by your common participation in the Divine Eucharist, and of course prayer will raise and preserve the final structure. But the Grace of God will only produce the basic building blocks through the commitment of a dedicated few to applying the wisdom, effort, and time often successfully applied to their family and career lives, to the parish life also.

PS. I hope I have not come across judgmental or critical! I genuinely care and hope to see your church resolve this matter in a way that benefits all.

PPS. I hope I have not come across as an arrogant know-it-all either. I am just offering food for thought based on my witness and experience of the success here in Sydney of the line of approach advocated above.
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« Reply #18 on: May 10, 2009, 12:55:56 AM »

Your insight is always welcome EA.  I've always appreciated the fact that you call it as you see it and don't hold back.  I'm not in the least offended.  I know you are not being judgmental.   Smiley
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« Reply #19 on: May 10, 2009, 01:05:39 AM »

From Grades 1-8, we went for Communion and went back for Choir rehearsal after Communion where I learned all the responses in Greek.  I learned about the Divine Liturgy by waiting for Communion.  Some of my teachers took the class to Communion a few minutes early to see the Great Entrance, the Creed, et al.

Where were you before Communion?  Were you in Sunday school up until that time?  That seems to be what you are saying, but I want to clarify.

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After 2003, the Priest required the Sunday School students to sit in Church until the Gospel.  After a brief sermon on the Gospel, the children were dismissed to Sunday School.  Sunday School attendance fell off a cliff and continues in its free fall as 2009 School year comes to an end.  30% of the registered Sunday School showed up at the 2008 End of the Year exercises.   Sad

This is really scary.  In fact, I would say that those who are opposed to changing the schedule at my church would say that they are afraid of something like this happening.  I need to understand more, though.

Do the kids come back into the church for Communion, or are they gone for the rest of the service?

Why are the parents no longer bringing their kids to Sunday school?  Is it because the kids are missing Communion (if that is the case?)  Or is it because the parents don't want to come early enough to have their kids there during the part before the Gospel?  If it is the latter, that would be why my church wouldn't want to change Sunday school to be during Matins.
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« Reply #20 on: May 10, 2009, 12:17:44 PM »

One local church has church school on Saturday. Apparently when they first introduced this change, the reaction was very lukewarm. But the priest stuck it out and now turnout is very high.

Because church school is held on a Saturday, there is always at least one priest present and the parents are also involved in the classes.

I think this is critical to involve the parents. It doesn't matter how much you teach the kids in church school if its not followed up at home.
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« Reply #21 on: May 10, 2009, 01:23:59 PM »

At my Coptic Church Liturgy is (usually) from 8:00 am to 11:30. Lunch is from 11:30 to 12:00, and then Sunday School is from 12:00 to 1:00 pm, often realistically 1:30. I think that if you have a sense of community so that people are going to be there after the Liturgy it works well. If there is no such sense of community and people just come for the Liturgy and leave afterward that's a problem in itself.
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« Reply #22 on: May 10, 2009, 02:15:06 PM »

From Grades 1-8, we went for Communion and went back for Choir rehearsal after Communion where I learned all the responses in Greek.  I learned about the Divine Liturgy by waiting for Communion.  Some of my teachers took the class to Communion a few minutes early to see the Great Entrance, the Creed, et al.

Where were you before Communion?  Were you in Sunday school up until that time?  That seems to be what you are saying, but I want to clarify.

I was in my Sunday School class until the PA system announced it was time for Communion.

Quote
After 2003, the Priest required the Sunday School students to sit in Church until the Gospel.  After a brief sermon on the Gospel, the children were dismissed to Sunday School.  Sunday School attendance fell off a cliff and continues in its free fall as 2009 School year comes to an end.  30% of the registered Sunday School showed up at the 2008 End of the Year exercises.   Sad

This is really scary.  In fact, I would say that those who are opposed to changing the schedule at my church would say that they are afraid of something like this happening.  I need to understand more, though.

Do the kids come back into the church for Communion, or are they gone for the rest of the service?

The children return for Communion.  After Communion, I believe they attend Junior Choir Practice before being dismissed to their parents in the Social Hall.  I used to sit with my parents and receive the Blessed Bread - we're talking about the 1980's.   Wink

Why are the parents no longer bringing their kids to Sunday school?  Is it because the kids are missing Communion (if that is the case?)  Or is it because the parents don't want to come early enough to have their kids there during the part before the Gospel?  If it is the latter, that would be why my church wouldn't want to change Sunday school to be during Matins.

Dear Salpy, there are many factors that determine why parents no longer bring children to Sunday School.  IMO, the #1 reason is the offspring of mixed marriages and parents taking their children to the "closest" Church or the Church where God can be worshipped without <Insert Ethnicity>ism or because there are activities scheduled on Sunday mornings or people feel that Sunday is a day of rest and nothing else.

I was at another Church today and there were perhaps 20-30 Sunday school students who showed up.  There was a poorly attended dance on Saturday night that most parishioners of that Church attended.  There weren't too many children under 5 receiving Holy Communion.
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« Reply #23 on: May 10, 2009, 02:16:09 PM »

…I just cannot fathom Sunday School being held during any Liturgical service…I find it very disturbing!

I agree. To teach kids by removing them from the very thing they are supposed to be learning about seems absurd. Copts are very fortunate in that they come from a culture where the church is the centre of, not only strictly spiritual things, but social life in general. Even if this means that a minority come only to socialise, the pros far outweigh the cons in my opinion.

It is a cultural thing, and so would need more than a couple of dedicated servants to change things, but we could all learn a lot from the way the Coptic Church has been so successful in galvanizing and actively involving its congregation.
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« Reply #24 on: May 11, 2009, 12:17:15 AM »

In some coptic churches in North America the kids leave for Sunday School immediately after taking communion, which I find equally disturbing. Many excuses and explanation are provided but the real reason is the lack of respect for the liturgy and the sacraments.

The sense of community is usually more intense in lower and middle class churches. Uptown churches socialize outside the church and do not appreciate the community spirit as much and therefore want to leave the church as soon as they take communion. To have any chance to teach the kids, the churches resorted to a 10 minute "quality" time lesson during communion while the parents still linger around. The alternative is to loose the kids and the parents together if their wishes is not "respected". You cannot afford to keep them waiting while some Sunday School servant fills their minds with bedtime stories. 

I personally think it is not acceptable, but nobody really cares and the "practical" mentality always prevails everywhere.
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« Reply #25 on: May 11, 2009, 11:45:52 AM »

It is a requirement to receive communion that you attend either Matins Sun morning or Great Vespers Sat. evening.[


i've never heard that. I think you mean it's a "custom" or small t tradition, because many parishes never have Saturday night Vespers or Matins. The only hard and fast rule that I've ever heard that is consistent among all Orthodox, is to be present BEFORE the Gospel reading to receive Communion. What you're talking about is a local custom, but I'm sure it's not a canonical requirement. (even though I think it would be great if people came to Orthros)


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There are complaints and it is hard to get up. But it is well worth it. I don't think 1/2 an hour is long enough for Sunday School. When we were looking into parishes we had a choice between a parish that had Sunday school during liturgy or the one we go to now. I think it is more common to have Sunday school during liturgy.

Actually I kind of timed it this week, and our Sunday School is a solid 45 minutes actually. My half estimate was a bit short. Anyways, Salpy was asking for a middle ground and what works in parishes where people will simply NOT come for Orthros no matter what, and an alternative to having Sunday School during the entire Liturgy and thus missing all of liturgy....I gave what works at my parish. I totally agree, kids should be there for the entire Liturgy, and Sunday school should/could be done during Orthros, but sometimes it takes small steps to get people to change. I once was told a (true) story of how a Lutheran pastor wanted to move the piano from one side of the Church to the other, but knew people would throw a fit if he did that. So he and his Church secretary (who told me this story) decided to move the piano a little bit at a time...just a few inches....after a year, the piano had been moved from one side to the other, and NO ONE ever noticed. LOL! So sometimes it takes small steps to get to the final destination or the ideal situation.
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NorthernPines
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« Reply #26 on: May 11, 2009, 11:53:48 AM »

At my Coptic Church Liturgy is (usually) from 8:00 am to 11:30. Lunch is from 11:30 to 12:00, and then Sunday School is from 12:00 to 1:00 pm, often realistically 1:30. I think that if you have a sense of community so that people are going to be there after the Liturgy it works well. If there is no such sense of community and people just come for the Liturgy and leave afterward that's a problem in itself.

The Coptic Church I've attended does it similarly I think. (Sunday school after Liturgy) However not all parishes are really equipped with the facilities to do that, which is one of the reasons my parish does it the way we do. We have the Church, and a basement and that's it. The basement is the sunday school room, social hall, dining room, and kitchen...and yes it's all the exact same room (the kitchen part is separate of course) So once Church is over, Sunday school must be as well. A  lot of these newer Churches, or converted protestant Churches (like the Coptic Church I've been to) have larger facilities with separate rooms for the social hall, dining room, sunday school rooms etc....but there are some Churches that do not have that. Not sure how many Churches are in the same situation that mine is, so we could a rarity in this respect, I don't know.
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ytterbiumanalyst
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« Reply #27 on: May 11, 2009, 12:05:56 PM »

We have Sunday School during Matins as well; it lasts from 9:00 until 10:00, and then the Liturgy begins. Many people with children that age say that it actually helps them to be on time for Matins, and I have seen our Matins attendance increase since we started it the beginning of this school year.
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"It is remarkable that what we call the world...in what professes to be true...will allow in one man no blemishes, and in another no virtue."--Charles Dickens
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