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Washington, DC: A Creative Experiment that helped the Parish to connect in Pandemic Times and Beyond

"The Parishioner" newsletter was started as a creative experiment at St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Washington, DC in September 2020, and quickly became a new source for fellowship, communication, and legacy-building for the parishioners and faithful living in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area.

The COVID-19 outbreak significantly affected many parishes across the country, bringing church life to a screeching halt. Opportunities to engage were put on hold, and people felt an increasing sense of isolation, missing simple joys like sharing family and personal news with each other at church luncheons and partaking in various volunteer church activities. With so many limitations in place, what could possibly help parishioners connect on a personal level?

To cope with this crisis, a group of parishioners approached cathedral rector Archpriest Victor Potapov, asking his blessing for the launch of "The Parishioner," a quarterly publication that would highlight interviews of fellow parishioners, including family history and paths to the Faith. In addition, this newsletter aimed to help advertise local activities and assist local small business owners and non-profit professionals to connect with each other. In this way, the newsletter would serve as another source to raise funds for various church needs.

"I was delighted to see that the newsletter really expanded our knowledge of fellow parishioners and helped us strengthen the ties within our community," said Fr. Victor. "In fact, I learned so much from this experimental issue! So many people have made tremendous sacrifices to build this beautiful parish, and this is a way of passing on that ‘family history’ to newer members of our parish family."

The newsletter includes columns on parish news, parish history, youth highlights, and a business section. Thanks to the generosity of a parishioner who owns a printing press and donates the cost of the printing, as well as parish members who donate their time in writing, editing, and graphic design, the whole issue is published for free. During the pandemic, the revenue generated by advertisements covered the cost of mailing the newsletter to the more than 800 cathedral parishioners. Now that most people are attending services in person again, parishioners pick up their copies at the candlestand, which means the newsletter is now generating new income for the parish.

All four issues of the Parishioner Newsletter are available on the church website, and we invite readers to peruse many engaging stories and victories of the Orthodox faith.

"Our parishioners are our treasure, and I look forward to learning more about our people and their stories in each new issue," added Fr. Victor.

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Eastern American Diocese | Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia