Religious education is a pivotal aspect in the life of the Church. It strengthens the internal life as a community of believers and her external activity as a missionary Church. In fact the Church is bidden to offer catechesis her best resource, in people and energy in order to organize it better and to train qualified personnel.
In the context of the ongoing spiritual and theological awareness, evangelization and conversion process that is the goal of the Church for every Christian., the Eastern USA Diocese has successfully completed the First Catechetical Course (March-October 2014). It has consisted of five fundamental theological topics:
- Life in Christ: Morality in the Life of Assyrian Church
Instructor: HG Mar Paulus Benyamin
This course delved a loving relationship with God in Christ. It will present the dignity of the person, the moral responsibility conferred on us by God’s gift of freedom, the process of conscience formation, the social teaching of the church, and the personal and social responsibility to live in justice as members of the Assyrian Christian community and steward of God’s creation: 1. Sources of Knowing How to Live Justly: a) Natural Law; b) Dignity and Freedom of the Human Person; Grace and Sin; 2. Decalogue (Ten Commandments): Living in Right Relationships a. Relationship with God and Others; b) Personal and Social Sin; 3. Jesus Christ: The Reference for Moral Living: a) New Commandment of Love; b) The Beatitudes; 4. The Moral and Social Teaching: a. The Universal Call to Holiness; b) Respect for Life in All its Forms; c) Contemporary Issues: (death penalty, war, abortion…)
- Revelation through Scripture & Tradition
Instructor: Rev. William Toma
This course explored Church understanding of God’s self-revelation through Scripture and Tradition. It covered all types of God’s revelation; the meaning of the term Apostolic Tradition; Scripture as a source of wisdom and truth and its books; Syriac Scriptures; and how to read the violence in Scripture texts: i) Type of Revelations; ii) What do we mean by Tradition and its relationship with Scripture; iii) Scriptures: a) The Word of God written by Persons under the Inspiration of the Holy Spirit; b) Scripture as Source of Wisdom and Truth for Christian Living; iv) Old Testament: God’s Revelation through History; v) New Testament: God’s revelation through Jesus: Synoptic Gospels & Gospel of John; vi) the Early Church: Acts and Letters; vi) Bible in Syriac Tradition; vi) Church understanding of Scripture interpretation and how should we read and interpret the dark passages.
III. Profession of Faith – Creed
Instructor: Rev. George Toma
This course has lead the learner to an understanding of the CREED as the core theological source of catechesis. It will examine the development and the Church’s understanding of the nature of God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as well as other important concepts of our Christian faith. It covers the following aspects: 1. History and Development of the Creeds; 2. God the Father: Creator and Giver of Life; 3. God the Son: Redeemer: Major Christological Heretics; Christological Terms of the Assyrian Church: qyana, qnuma & parsopa & Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ; 4. God the Holy Spirit: Sanctifier a) the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church; Gifts of the Holy Spirit; 5. The Church: Body of Christ; the Church: One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic
- The History of the Assyrian Church of the East
Instructor: Rev. Gewargis Sulaiman
The Church history is the heart of the story of God’s kingdom work on earth. This course explores the development of the Assyrian church from Pentecost through the 21st century. It covered key people and events that God used throughout history to bolster His church, and it also explored the glorious and tragic events that have influenced the life of this Church. The goal of the course is to use lessons from church history to advance the Assyrian Church in the life and ministry: 1) The Apostolic Origin of the Assyrian Church of the East; 2) The Establishment of the See of Seleucia-Ctesiphon; 3) The Effects of Establishing of Christianity in the West on Christians in the East; 4) The Assyrian Church’s Relationship with the Ecumenical Councils of the Byzantine Empire; 5) The council of Ephesus (431 AD) and the church of the East; 6) Ecclesiastical Organization and Expansion; 7) The Period of Survival, Persecution and Decline; 8) The Assyrian Church of the East – Modern Time; 9) The Vision of the Church for the Future
- The Liturgy of the Church: Sacraments and Prayer
Instructor: Rev. Tawer Andrius
This course invited the participant to examine, understand and appreciate in the liturgy of the Church as it is celebrated through the Sacraments and prayer. Special attention was given to the Sacraments as sources of God’s Grace and as a response to God’s call to a rich life in the Assyrian community. 1. Liturgy as the Prayer and Action of the Church; a) Definition: Liturgy, Ritual, Sign, Symbol; b) Definition of Prayer and its Forms; d) Prayer in the Life of the Church: Liturgical Year and Popular Devotions; 2. Sacramental Theology of the Assyrian Church of the East: a) Definition: the Meaning of the Word Rāzā (mystery); b) The Validity and Effects of the Sacraments; 3) The Seven Sacraments of the Church: a) Priesthood; b) Baptism; c) The Oil of Unction; d) The Oblation of the Body and Blood of Christ; e) Absolution; f) Holy Leaven g) The Sign of the Cross.
The above courses were given for catechists and Sunday school teachers. They were also available to Deacons and sub-deacons. There were approximately 50 people who attended these courses. Due to the sad circumstances which our Church in particularly Eastern USA diocese went through last year led the awarding certification for those who had participated in the above courses to be bestowed with a certificate on Jan 24, 2016. The event took place at St. Andrew’s Church under the auspicious of His Grace Mar Paulus Benjamin, along with some diocesan priests: Revs. William Toma, George Toma and Tawer Andrius.
SECOND CATECHETICAL COURSE
In the context of continuing religious education and ongoing evangelization and conversion process that is the goal of the Church for every Christian the Eastern USA Diocese has initiated with the Second Catechetical Course (Jan – April 2016). It will be exploring the following themes:
- The Infant Baptism & Truly Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ during Eucharistic Celebration in Syriac Tradition, (6 hrs) by Rev. William Toma.
- The Intercession of the Saints & Praying for the Dead, (6 hrs) by Rev. George Toma.
- Salvation by Faith and Deeds. (6 hours) by Rev. Gewargis Sulaiman.
- The Importance of the Apostolic Faith and Mariology,. (6 hrs) by Rev. Tawer Andrius.