Orthodox Educators

Picture of Constance Tarasar

CONSTANCE TARASAR (b. 1938) was long-time Executive Secretary of the SCOBA-endorsed Orthodox Christian Education Commission, taught religious education courses for a generation of students at Saint Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, and, at one time or another, directed the religious education departments of two Orthodox jurisdictions in America (the Orthodox Church in America and the Antiochian Orthodox Church). Over the course of her long career, she produced an immense amount of curriculum and was at the forefront of curriculum-development efforts for the Orthodox Church in America. Tarasar reflected a good bit in articles and book chapters on the task of Orthodox Christian religious education, and penned a dissertation on curriculum development in the Orthodox Christian context. She was the first religious educator in the US Orthodox community to hold a doctorate, and she was the first female M.Div graduate from St Vladimir's. Much work remains to be done in assessing and analyzing Tarasar's legacy, as to date few authors have referenced her writings, and none has attempted to substantially assess her contribution to Orthodox Christian religious education.

Biography

Constance Tarasar was born February 3, 1938 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she was baptized into the vibrant community of St Mary's Orthodox Cathedral, one of the largest and oldest parishes within the Orthodox Church of America, an Orthodox jurisdiction of Russian heritage. Her grandparents were Russian and Czech immigrants, and she was the oldest of three sisters. Her father was a banker and her mother a homemaker. Both parents were very involved with St Mary's throughout their lives. In fourth grade, Connie took up the clarinet, which she studied seriously through college-usually holding first or second chair. Her many high school involvements give a sense for her energy and capacity; in addition to clarinet, one can add: debate team, school choir, student government, working at the local parks and recreation department, working at summer camps, and teaching elementary Sunday school. This last role she filled for several years while in high school.

After high school, Connie studied English education at the University of Minnesota, where she became quite involved with the local Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) group. With OCF, she helped to organize a number of panel discussions on Orthodox Christianity in the Twin Cities area. Upon completing her bachelor's degree, she took a position teaching English at the middle school level. After two years in this position, Connie brought her sharp mind and determination to Crestwood, New York, where she enrolled in the MDiv program at St Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary. The decision to enroll at St Vladimir's owed, in large part, to the encouragement of Fr Vladimir Borichevsky (+1990), with whom Connie became acquainted during her college years. Fr Borichevsky was a dynamic and respected leader in the Eastern Orthodox community, and the eventual Dean of St Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary in South Canaan, Pennsylvania.

Connie's years at St Vladimir's would prove eventful, even determinative, for her life. There she met Fr Alexander Schmemann, who became her theological inspiration and lifelong mentor. As the first woman admitted to the MDiv program, she wrestled deeply with the role of women in the Orthodox Church. A fruit of this labor was a thesis tracing this theme historically and dogmatically (1965). (The thesis also gives some indication of Connie's determination: to the present day it remains the longest ever submitted in St Vladimir's MDiv program.) Long-time friend and colleague Elena Silk noted that "it was not Connie's last time being first; indeed, she was the first woman to do things in the Orthodox Church her whole life." At St Vladimir's Connie also developed her capacity to contribute to the religious education field.

After completing her MDiv, Connie took a full-time position organizing religious education workshops at parishes around the country. The workshops were designed to help the many Orthodox immigrant communities establish graded parish schools, as prior to this time most parishes lacked formal religious education efforts, and those that had them usually lacked graded curriculum. She was offered this position by the Orthodox Christian Education Commission (OCEC), a pan-Orthodox group established in 1956 by Fr Schmemann and Sophie Koulomzin. The OCEC aimed proactively to define and shape Orthodox Christian religious education efforts in the US setting, something which had hitherto received little attention. In advocating for the group, Fr Schmemann issued a clarion call: for too long, Orthodox parishes in the US had uncritically adopted educational models from external sources-one of his main complaints was with the Protestant Sunday school model-without considering, as from first principles, whether or not the models and practices were authentically Orthodox. The effort received broad support: when the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in America (SCOBA) was established in 1960, the OCEC became its first endorsed agency. After five years probing general and introductory themes, in 1961 the OCEC turned its attention to curriculum development. A few years later, Sophie Koulomzin invited Connie to give up her travels and formally join the commission. She accepted, and would remain associated with the OCEC throughout her professional life, for many years serving at the helm.

The OCEC-which at this point basically meant Sophie and Connie-produced its first curriculum in 1966. The same year, Connie published her first article, in Religious Education, entitled "An Orthodox Curriculum in Development." Her sense of excitement is palpable: "In the midst of the debate and experimentation that has taken place in the western world in the field of religious education, the Orthodox Church has too often appeared to be silent and rather unconcerned about issues and developments that have been occurring in this area of Church life" (1966, p. 459). However, she goes on to say, things were now beginning to change. The goal of this first curriculum was to bring insights from current educational theory and developmental psychology to bear upon an integral understanding of the Orthodox faith-no small task!

In the ensuing years, several things occurred. Connie took over as Executive Secretary of the OCEC, and the curriculum underwent numerous revisions, developments, and expansions. In a presentation (1994) at Kykko Monastery in Cyprus, she recounted some of the lessons learned in the early days and along the way. The first editions, she said, were too content-heavy and prescriptive. They learned, based on a lot of good feedback, to streamline lesson plans and build in more options for their varied use. In 1970, Connie also began teaching the main religious education course, along with other elective courses, at St Vladimir's. She held a position as adjunct instructor-she was never offered a tenure-track position-until 2003, though in the late 1980s the main religious education course was given to John Boojamra. Connie and Boojamra viewed the educational task through somewhat different lenses, which led to points of tension, more on which will be said below. Connie also served for a number of years as Director of the Department of Religious Education for the OCA and even spent a few years heading up the Department of Religious Education for the Antiochian Orthodox Church in America.

Two other aspects of Connie's career began to develop in the mid-1970s. In 1976 she was selected to represent the United States at an international "Orthodox Women's Consultation" at Agapia Monastery in Neamt, Romania. The consultation sought to dialogue and explore the role of women in the Orthodox Church in modern society. Participants included Elder Cleopa and Elizabeth Behr-Sigel, and Connie later edited a collection of the presentations (1977a). This experience was especially meaningful for Connie. A second aspect of her career that began at roughly the same time was her involvement in ecumenical work as a representative to the World Council of Churches. Here she worked closely with Fr Leonid Kishkovsky, long-time Director of External Relations and Ecumenical Affairs for the OCA. She was a regular contributor to ecumenical discussions on women's roles and issues.

In the late 1980s, John Boojamra took over as Executive Secretary at the OCEC and, with more time on her hands, Connie turned her attention towards research and writing. While she had begun the EdD program at SUNY-Albany years earlier, she now completed the degree with a dissertation proposing a curriculum design model for Orthodox Christian religious education (1989). She also produced a small group of articles and book chapters. Yet she continued to remain involved with curriculum development. And her accomplishments in this regard were substantial: her materials were no doubt the most widely used in Eastern Orthodox communities in the US. And the output over the years was impressive: one attempt to gather the curricular materials she either authored or edited over the years resulted in five stacks each several feet thick.

In 2003, Connie formally retired from St Vladimir's, though she continued to consult for the OCEC for a few more years. She has since returned to Minneapolis, where she resides at present, in declining health.


Contributions to Christian Education

Constance Tarasar was long-time Executive Secretary of the SCOBA-endorsed (Standing Council of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in America) Orthodox Christian Education Commission, taught religious education courses for a generation of students at St Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, and, at one time or another, directed the religious education departments of two Orthodox jurisdictions in America (the Orthodox Church in America and the Antiochian Orthodox Church). She penned a number of articles and book chapters on Orthodox Christian religious education, as well as a dissertation on curriculum development in the Orthodox Christian context. Anton Vrame (2006) noted that Tarasar is "probably the most widely published and best known of all Orthodox religious educators" (p. 282). That said, at present there are few references to her academic writing by other authors (an exception is Elias, 2002), and no substantive assessment of her contribution to Orthodox Christian religious education. Here an attempt will be made to begin to thematize some of her contributions to Orthodox Christian religious education in the US setting. Three major and two minor themes will be noted, followed by a few remarks by way of assessment. Because Tarasar's contributions are not solely academic-that is, are not entirely captured in her writings-it is important to also bear in mind the accompanying biographical essay, which details some of her many involvements.

1. Strengthening Orthodox self-identity: Throughout the latter half of the twentieth century, Tarasar worked tirelessly to help US Orthodox Christians, especially in Russian Orthodox communities, establish and strengthen their self-identity. This is the first contribution we will trace. Her "identity strengthening efforts" registered both within Orthodox communities and amongst Orthodox Christian religious educators. Sociologically, this theme has been particularly important for Eastern Orthodox communities, in part due to the predominance of immigrants in those communities. In addition, the rise of communism in many Orthodox countries compounded the issue. Because communist governments severely compromised many Churches and their administrative and hierarchical structures, many US Orthodox communities were deprived of much ballast they might otherwise have received from the "mother Churches."

Tarasar promoted "identity strengthening efforts" in numerous ways. She was a chronicler of the Orthodox experience in America, editing one of the first histories of Orthodoxy in the US (1975), and also contributing a chapter to a history of St Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary (1988c). More substantively, her academic work regularly engaged questions pertaining to this theme. We find her lamenting the "uncritical adoption" of Protestant and other educational practices (1988a), wrestling with how to reclaim authentic Orthodox Tradition while meeting the world of the present and future (1981a), reflecting theologically on the "minority status" (1988b), reflecting on women's roles in the Church (1977a), and, in general, promoting Orthodox Christian identity through her many curricular and instructional efforts. As we will see, her curricular efforts emphasized close adherence to the liturgical life of the Church. Here she closely matches the sensibilities of her mentor, Russian Orthodox theologian Fr Alexander Schmemann, who regularly voiced concern with reclaiming authentic Holy Orthodox Tradition and identity not only in the US context but, more generally, from what he perceived as its centuries-long "Western captivity."

Tarasar also chronicled early Orthodox Christian religious education efforts, contributing to the development of this group's identity. She has pieces devoted to various aspects of this history (1966; 1994), for instance, an article analyzing the contributions of her forebear, Sophie Koulomzin (1978). Pieces on other themes also often detail key moments of this narrative. Perhaps her most helpful piece in this regard is not yet published (1994).

2. An Orthodox Philosophy of Religious Education: Tarasar also contributed to reflection on the philosophy of Orthodox Christian religious education. She wrote a good, small number of book chapters and articles reflecting on various aspects of this question, her main contributions likely being "The Orthodox Experience" (1981a), "Taste and See: An Eastern Orthodox Perspective" (1988a), and "Orthodox Theology and Religious Education" (1995). As was said earlier, it remains to be seen how these works will be appropriated, and what impact they will have. What can be accomplished at this point is a summary some of the characteristic themes. Two will be traced below.

First, as was just noted, Tarasar was deeply concerned with retrieving an authentic Orthodox identity from various forms of "captivity." A part of this interest involves the "reintegration" of the patristic witness. She makes a careful distinction between "reintegration" and "return": whereas the former keeps the present horizon active, the latter discounts it (1988a, p. 73). However, for her part, Tarasar spends little time citing patristic sources; rather, she envisions the "sources" primarily in terms of the liturgical life of the Church. Here, again, she follows Schmemann, who understood the liturgical services as the voice of the Fathers, as these were refined, honed and shaped by the Church through time. In this sense, the liturgical life of the Church is the integrated curriculum of Holy Orthodoxy. Thus, we read:

In one sense, the church has already conceptualized religious education in the light of its theology, having formulated a 'liturgical' curriculum. Every liturgical service, festal celebration and season has been intentionally constructed to communicate and celebrate the basic truths of the faith in order to lead persons into the life of God. (1995, p. 107)

This liturgical emphasis is a first broad theme of her educational philosophy. Since the center of the Church's liturgical life is the Eucharist, Tarasar claims that it also ought to form the center of the Church's educational efforts (1981a, p. 256). Christ, working in His Church, is the real teacher and educator and healer of Christians. And in general, the primary education of Christians occurs by participation in the life of Christ in the liturgical life of the Church. "Taste and see," Tarasar says; "experience and then understand-this is the form of catechesis that has been given to us by the church" (1981a, p. 256). Because of this liturgical emphasis, Tarasar was quite conscious of viewing her own curriculum development efforts as secondary. The goal of these efforts is to unpack the liturgical cycle, its services, and its attending formative practices (confession, prayer, the reception of the Holy Gifts, and so forth), in ways that are understandable to people of various ages and life situations.

Second, a regular refrain in Tarasar's writing is her concern that religious education be "holistic" or "integrated" or "organically connected." These terms return time and again in her writings. The Eucharist, as we saw, provides the "key" to this integration. It was this key, she believes, which was lost in medieval times, which loss led to excesses on numerous sides: pietism, rationalism, nominalism, activism and so forth (1981a, p. 256). All of these elements, taken by themselves (i.e., without the "isms"), are partial clues, are good and essential, but all in themselves lack "essential integration." The Church means to exist differently, in an integrated manner, which integration is found only in Christ, in the Eucharist. Without this unifying center, otherwise good themes run awry.

Tarasar later pursues this same theme of integration from a bit different angle, proposing three elements that must be simultaneously enlivened within Christian life: worship, teaching (and learning), and practice. "Throughout the ages," she says, "the strength and cohesiveness of church life depended upon the presence and integrity or 'wholeness' of all three dimensions" (1988a, p. 74; see also 1981a, p. 256-7, and Elias, 2002, p. 244-5). She ties these three elements to three principle contexts of parish life: the Church (worship), the school (teaching), and home and community life (praxis). As our lives involve all three, all three should be addressed and sanctified. That is, the sanctification of all three contexts constitutes the optimal environment for religious formation. Thus, to summarize, for Tarasar the religious educator must focus not merely on teaching this or that good theme, but also on demonstrating how all elements of Christian faith cohere together in simplicity and unity, with the Eucharist forming the living center of this curriculum. The educator must also attend to the various activities and contexts in which Christian life is lived out.

In light of these two themes, the liturgical emphasis of Orthodox Christian life, and also its deep organic unity, one might characterize Tarasar's approach to Orthodox Christian religious education as either "liturgical catechesis" (pace Schmemann) or "total parish education" (the title of one of her final initiatives).

3. Orthodox Christian Curriculum Design: Tarasar made major contributions to the development of Orthodox Christian religious education curriculum in the US setting. This is likely her largest contribution. It would be difficult to find a figure who published more curriculum over a longer period of time in this community, or who reflected as much as she did on how best to go about it. The curricular materials Tarasar either directly produced or oversaw the production of, when gathered together, make some five stacks, each several feet thick. The stacks primarily consist of graded lesson books, yet she also developed a popular series of booklets on the lives of the saints and an array of other resources (learning cards, story books, etc.). For example, late in her career she spearheaded a broad-based initiative, called "FOCUS," which developed a generalized curriculum for each major liturgical event of the year (Pascha, Nativity, etc.). The idea was to fashion a set of resources adaptable for widest use: by parishes, families, adults, teens, children, and etc. Tarasar was also involved in helping to bring Orthodox education "online." A good number of curricular materials are now available in that format, complete with chat rooms and supplemental material. Curriculum development was, in a sense, Tarasar's life, and it was also the primary lens through which she understood her role as a religious educator.

Her guiding principles in regard to curriculum development may be summarized in four points (on what follows, see 1994). The first two were already discussed above, and so will receive briefer mention here. First, as we saw, curriculum must be integrally tied to the liturgical life of the Church. Second, it should be holistic and integrated, both in itself and in how it engages students. It is not enough, Tarasar says, to get a few good themes right. One must order the specifics rightly within the context of a larger whole. With regard to curriculum design, Tarasar suggests two frameworks to help with this ordering: a) the Church in history, and b) the sanctification of time and life. The first, the Church in history, focuses on the development and refinement of Church life and its liturgical cycles, on the key events of salvation history, on the Biblical narrative, on the lives of the saints, and so forth. The second, the sanctification of time and life, focuses more existentially upon the "here and now," on individual appropriation of Tradition, on the acquisition of the Holy Spirit, on the importance of authentic spiritual growth and life, and so forth. Due to the importance of attending to these multiple contexts at once, curricula must be quite "broad-based."

Third, curriculum should be developmentally sound (i.e., age appropriate). In emphasizing this point, Tarasar clearly also means to suggest the more general point that curriculum should incorporate insights from modern educational theory. She mentions as much directly in her earliest essay (1966). Also, her students at St Vladimir's regularly read, to this end, the major figures in developmental psychology and religious education (Fowler, Piaget, Erikson, Kohlberg, and so forth). Her dissertation (1989), which proposes a "process model" for curriculum development, blends on every page contemporary educational curriculum design sensibilities with the content of Holy Tradition-as does all of the curriculum she produced. However, unfortunately, though she offers some thoughts on the "reintegration" of patristic sources with modern life (1988a, p. 73), she does not reflect at length about her rationale for employing modern educational theory.

Fourth, and finally, Tarasar's "process model" proposes a "three-dimensional matrix" for parsing Church life into curriculum. This matrix involves three steps: (1) organizing a content domain (a general thematic area, such as "the Paschal cycle"), (2) identifying educational goals ("understanding the Gethsemane narratives," or "understanding the Resurrection"), and (3) refining and distributing the goals across the developmental spectrum (1989). While many of Tarasar's materials are still in print, their use began to decline substantially in the 1990s, and some of the material has since undergone further revision. The library at Saint Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary contains complete holdings of all curricula she either produced or edited.

Other Areas of Contribution

In addition to these three major areas of contribution, two minor themes also deserve notice. Since these are discussed more fully in the biographical sketch, they will merely be noted here. The themes are, first, a contribution to the understanding of women's roles in the Orthodox Church, and second, a contribution to ecumenical dialogue. Regarding the former, see her article on this theme (1992), and the book she co-edited following an international consultation on Orthodox women (Tarasar and Kirillova, 1977a). A recent discussion of Tarasar by Leonie Liveris (Liveris, 2005) will perhaps give this theme more prominence in years to come. The latter theme, ecumenical dialogue, is perhaps especially minor; even though Tarasar regularly contributed to World Council of Churches dialogues, she devoted but a few words to the theme (1993a, 1981b, and 1976c).

Assessment

Three words will now be said by way of assessment. First, much of the richness in Tarasar's work lay, as has been said, in her extension of Schmemann's work. Of course, his work is not without controversy, and since she leans so closely on him, it is fair to say that some of her contribution stands or falls with him. Commendable without controversy in this regard is Tarasar's careful attention to the liturgical life and rhythms of the Church, and her appreciation of this curriculum as a finely honed diamond. The manner in which its various elements intricately interweave-home life, a daily prayer rule, confession, the Eucharist, theology, hymnody, the liturgical cycle, and so forth-is pedagogically marvelous, and not to be taken lightly. At other points, Tarasar's originality and efforts clearly extend beyond Schmemann. For instance, her expression of a "holistic" vision of Christian formation is quite helpful and freshly articulated, and one certainly not well enough appropriated in many modern religious education settings, where the focus can tend towards piecemeal programs and solutions. However, questions remain regarding whether the Church's liturgical life itself encompasses all the elements of Christian formation. John Boojamra (1989), for instance, has emphasized the importance of socialization into Christian life, a theme which he believes shows that "the church is more than liturgy" (p. 30; see also Vrame, 2006). Over the years, his insistence on this point contributed to some marginalization of Tarasar at St Vladimir's.

Second, one might wish that Tarasar made more mention of the importance of monastic and ascetic life in the Orthodox Church. Part of the integrated vision of Orthodox faith includes, since St Basil the Great's monastic reforms in the fourth century, the "lung" of monasticism. However, in the US it has taken a long while to establish a substantive monastic presence-it is still in early stages-which likely accounts for its muted presence in Tarasar's work.

That said, ascesis, or training in spiritual life, extends beyond monastery walls to all Christians (see, for example, the regular fasts prescribed in the liturgical calendar, the role of a prayer rule, and etc.). Ascesis is based on the Orthodox belief that spiritual growth requires a synergy of activity between God and humans. By it we cooperate in God's patient work of reordering our attachments, uprooting vices, and upbuilding virtue. Yet while one finds occasional mention of this theme in Tarasar's work (see, for instance, 1981a), one finds no direct or integrated treatment.

This lapse is evident, for example, when Tarasar renames Schmemann's notion of "spiritual effort" as "praxis" (1995, p. 105). Schmemann characterizes "spiritual effort" as one of three marks of the early Church, and in his context it points to the ascetical life in general, inclusive of the various "exercises" employed as secondary means of spiritual training. By such effort we strive to fix the will in a Godward direction, to repent, to clean "the inside of the cup," that the Holy Spirit might find room to indwell us. For Tarasar, in contrast, "praxis" indicates either the "application" of things learned in worship (1995, p. 110) or "ethics" in general. In worship, she says, we have the "reality of the event," which we then practice or live out at home and in community life. Yet ascesis is not simply equivalent to community life. Nor is it clear that spiritual realities are primarily "revealed" in "worship" then applied to life. The situation can run the other way. For instance, St Gregory of Nyssa sees ascesis as part of the therapeutic path to true worship, which is only fully realized in the Kingdom of God. Apart from careful adherence to an authentic spiritual path-to Christ's commandments-our "worship" can be empty, hollow, even offensive to God-a far cry from the intended "reality." The same logic applies to "ethics." Ascesis is less "ethical living" than "active repentance." By repentance room is carved within us wherein the life-creating Spirit might dwell, and bring us life. And as the Spirit sustains all things in life, by this Spirit alone may we interact in harmony-ethically-with those things. In this sense ascesis, what Schememann calls "spiritual effort," precedes ethical living and is not wholly convertible with it. On these lines, one may wonder whether Tarasar offers a nuanced enough understanding of the role of ascesis in spiritual growth.

Third, Tarasar largely defines the role of the religious educator in terms of the curriculum specialist. Even though she advocates, as we saw, a "holistic" approach to Christian formation, the importance of such pedagogical concerns as attending to students' wills or agency, of fostering a dynamic and responsive learning environment, of promoting formation in virtue, and so forth receive little attention. A notable exception is her 1981 survey of Orthodox education throughout Church history. There she begins to address the importance of attending to the wills of students, above and beyond the production of curriculum and programs (1981a, pp. 254-5). Yet these remarks, in the end, are isolated. For instance, later, when she claims that Christian formation should occur in parish, school, home and community settings-a holistic theme-she concludes only by suggesting that curriculum design attend to all three contexts (1995, p. 110). One finds little regarding wise use of curriculum, regarding good pedagogy, classroom management, strategies for involving parents in their children's formation, and so forth. Her focus, of course, reflects the shape of her professional life. As was said earlier, curriculum design was, in a sense, her life. Bearing in mind that not every educator can address every theme, one might nonetheless consider the degree to which curriculum design exhausts the notion of religious education. Which is not to diminish Tarasar's curricular contributions, or her other contributions, for that matter. Indeed, such comments are possible in part because one can find a number of healthy Orthodox Churches in the US today, a good number of which owe substantial debts to Tarasar's lifetime of labor.


Bibliography

Books

  • Tarasar, C. J. (1989). A process model for the design of curriculum for Orthodox Christian religious education. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, State University of New York at Albany.
  • Tarasar, C. J. (Ed.). (1983b). Perspectives on Orthodox education. Syosset, NY: SYNDESMOS and the Department of Religious Education of the Orthodox Church of America.
  • Tarasar, C. J., and Kirillova, I. (Eds.). (1977a). Orthodox women, their role and participation in the Orthodox Church: Report on the consultation of Orthodox women. September 11-17, 1976, Agapia, Roumania. Geneva, Switzerland: World Council of Churches.
  • Tarasar, C. J. (Ed.). (1975). Orthodox America. 1794-1976. Syosset, NY: Orthodox Church in America.
  • Tarasar, C. J. (1965). "Woman: Handmaid of the Lord: The Role of Woman in the Church Viewed in Dogmatic and Historical Perspective." Unpublished M.Div Thesis, Saint Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary.

Book Chapters

  • Tarasar, C. J. (1995). Orthodox theology and religious education. In R. C. Miller (Ed.), Theologies of religious education (pp. 83-120). Birmingham, Ala: Religious Education Pr.
  • Tarasar, C. J. (1988a). Taste and see: An Eastern Orthodox perspective. In M. Mayr (Ed.), Does the church really want religious education: An ecumenical inquiry (pp. 67-81). Birmingham, Ala: Religious Education Pr.
  • Tarasar, C. J. (1988b). The minority problem: Educating for identity and openness. In N. H. Thompson (Ed.), Religious pluralism and religious education (pp. 195-210). Birmingham, Ala: Religious Education Pr.
  • Tarasar, C. J. (1988c). The 'sixties and 'seventies. In J. Meyendorff, V. Borichevsky, & W. Schneirla (Eds.), A legacy of excellence: St Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, 1938-1988 (pp. 35-40). Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir's Seminary Pr.
  • Tarasar, C. J. (1983a). Taste and see: Orthodox children at worship. In D. Apostolos-Cappadona, (Ed.), The sacred play of children (pp. 43-54). New York, NY: Seabury Pr.
  • Tarasar, C. J. (1981a). The orthodox experience. In J. H. Westerhoff & O. C. Edwards, Jr. (Eds.), A faithful church: Issues in the history of catechesis (pp. 236-260). Wilton, Conn: Morehouse-Barlow.

Articles

  • Tarasar, C. J. (1994, March). Experiences in orthodox religious education: The North American experience. Expanded edition of paper presented at the meeting of the Consultation on Orthodox Religious Education, Kykko Monastery, Cyprus.
  • Tarasar, C. J. (1993a). Worship, spirituality and biblical reflection: Their significance for the churches' search for koinonia. Ecumenical Review, 45 (2), 218-225.
  • Tarasar, C. J. (1993b). The little things that count. Christian Century, 110 (31), 1077-1079.
  • Tarasar, C. J. (1992). Women in the mission of the church: Theological and historical reflections. International Review of Mission, 81 (322), 189-200.
  • Tarasar, C.J. (1984). Christian education: Whose responsibility? The Orthodox Educator, 3 (Winter), 6-11.
  • Tarasar, C. J. (1978). Sophie Shidlovsky Koulomzin: Architect of cooperative orthodox education. Religious Education, 73 (5), 91-100.
  • Tarasar, C. J. (1968). Worship as education. International Journal of Religious Education, 44, 8-9.
  • Tarasar, C. J. (1966a). An orthodox curriculum in development. Religious Education, 61 (6), 459-462.

Reviews, Responses and Comments

  • Tarasar, C. J. (1985a). [Review of the book Catechesis: The maturation of the body]. St Vladimir's Theological Quarterly, 29 (1), 86-87.
  • Tarasar, C. J. (1985b). [Review of the books Redeemed creation: Sacramentals today and Sacraments and sacramentality]. St Vladimir's Theological Quarterly, 29 (1), 87-89.
  • Tarasar, C. J. (1981b). Response. Journal of Ecumenical Studies, 18 (4), 641-645.
  • Tarasar, C. J. (1976a). Orthodox women's consultation. St Vladimir's Theological Quarterly, 20 (4), 242-244.
  • Tarasar, C. J. (1976b). Consultation on tradition and renewal in orthodox education. St Vladimir's Theological Quarterly, 20 (4), 240-242.
  • Hopko, T., & Tarasar, C. J. (1976c). Orthodox at Nairobi. St Vladimir's Theological Quarterly, 20 (1-2), 37-42.
  • Tarasar, C. J. (1974a). Liturgical education for community life. Religious Education, 69 (2), 243-246.
  • Tarasar, C. J. (1972a). Women who minister: Encounter 1971. St Vladimir's Theological Quarterly, 16 (2), 90-92.
  • Tarasar, C. J. (1972b). Oriental churches consultation on Christian education. St Vladimir's Theological Quarterly, 16 (2), 93-94.
  • Tarasar, C. J. (1967). Consultation of the oriental churches on Christian education. St Vladimir's Seminary Quarterly, 11 (1), 40-43.
  • Tarasar, C. J. (1966b). Comment. Study Encounter, 2 (2), 61-63.

Select Curricular Materials

  • Tarasar, C. J. (Ed.). (1997ff.). Christian living series. Syosset, N.Y.: Orthodox Christian Publications, Orthodox Church in America.
  • Tarasar, C. J., and Bailey, B. J. (1987). Eyes to see, ears to hear: Study guide to the peoples and churches of the U.S.S.R. New York: Friendship Press.
  • Tarasar, C. J. (Ed.). (1981-1986). Saints for all ages, v. 1-10. Syosset, N.Y.: Department of Religious Education, Orthodox Church in America.
  • Tarasar, C. J. (1980ff.). Feasts and Families Series. Syosset, N.Y.: Department of Religious Education, Orthodox Church in America.
  • Tarasar, C. J. (1977b). The Mystical Supper. Teaching pictures on the Divine Liturgy . New York: Orthodox Christian Education Commission.
  • Tarasar, C. J. (1974b). We return to God: A manual for preparing children for the Sacrament of penance. Syosset, N.Y.: Department of Religious Education, Orthodox Church in America.
  • Tarasar, C. J. (Ed.-some manuals with co-editors, including Sophie Koulomzin). (1966-1978). Orthodox Christian Education Commission Graded Curriculum Series. New York: Orthodox Christian Education Commission.

Secondary References

  • Boojamra, J. (1989). Foundations for Orthodox Christian education. Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir's Seminary Press.
  • Elias, J. L. (2002). A history of Christian education: Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox perspectives. Malabar, Florida: Krieger Publishing Company.
  • Liveris, L. B. (2005). Ancient taboos and gender prejudice: Challenges for Orthodox women and the Church. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company.
  • Vrame, A. (2006). An overview of Orthodox Christian religious education. In M. de Souza, G. Durka, K. Engebretson, R Jackson, & A. McGrady (Eds.). International handbook of the religious, moral and spiritual dimensions in education, part one (pp. 277-292). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

Excerpts from Publications

Tarasar, C. J. (1995). Orthodox theology and religious education. In R. C. Miller (Ed.), Theologies of religious education (pp. 83-120). Birmingham, Ala: Religious Education Pr., p. 107.

On the Church's liturgical curriculum, and the role of the curriculum specialist:

In a sense, the church has already conceptualized religious education in the light of its theology, having formulated a liturgical "curriculum." Every liturgical service, festal celebration and season has been intentionally constructed to communicate and celebrate the basic truths of the faith in order to lead persons into the life of God. The role of the curriculum specialist is to articulate these truths in the light of the educational task…

Tarasar, C. J. (1968). Worship as education. International Journal of Religious Education, 44, p. 8. On Orthodox Christian religious education

On the integration of worship and education:

… every liturgical service in the Orthodox Church is really a lesson in theology. Perhaps this is why no Orthodox ever questions the relationship between worship and education. To him it is self-evident that praise and glorification are inseparable from illumination and understanding. What we know and believe, we confess in praise and thanksgiving.

A resume of the liturgical life of the Orthodox Church quickly reveals nearly the sum total of her teaching. The daily cycle of Vespers and Matins celebrates the events of man's relationship with God-in creation, in separation and repentance, in the coming of the Savior, and in the celebration of his resurrection. The Holy Eucharist is itself a great hymn of thanksgiving to God for his creative and redemptive acts. The cycle of feasts commemorates the great events of man's salvation, and the entire paschal cycle places man again within the perspective of the preparation and fulfillment of the people of God for the feast of the kingdom. Every sacramental act brings to light the responsibilities of the new community of God established by Christ in the Holy Spirit and commits each member of the community to respond personally in witness to the continuing work of salvation through the church. Here there can be no alienation between education and worship, for in gathering together in worship we have become illumined, and in becoming illumined by the Light, we praise and glorify God for that Light of new life. Thus, as we confess our faith in God, in the Great Doxology, we sing and proclaim, "Glory to Thee Who hast shown us the Light!"

Tarasar, C. J. (1988a). Taste and see: An Eastern Orthodox perspective. In M. Mayr (Ed.), Does the church really want religious education: An ecumenical inquiry (pp. 67-81). Birmingham, Ala: Religious Education Pr., p. 67.

On Orthodox Christian religious education:

Religious education, as a field of study, is a relatively new phenomenon in the Orthodox world. As an integral part of church life, however, it is as ancient as the church itself. Orthodox religious educators have only recently begun to deal with this paradox, but their searchings are beginning to establish a new understanding and basis for the practice of religious education. For them, the question: "Does the church really want religious education?" must be preceded by the question: "What really is religious education as it has been practiced by Orthodox Christians throughout the ages?"

Tarasar, C. J. (1983a). Taste and see: Orthodox children at worship. In D. Apostolos-Cappadona, (Ed.), The sacred play of children (pp. 43-54). New York, NY: Seabury Pr., pp. 43-44.

The opening question in an article on childhood:

The paradox of Christian life is that childhood is seen by Christ as a means to the kingdom, the sign of spiritual maturity: "…unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Mt. 18:2) But how can such a view of spiritual maturity be reconciled with the words of St. Paul, who says: "When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways." (I Cor. 13.11) … Childhood and mature humanity in Christ-what do they have in common? Unless we understand their relationship, we cannot understand the nature of spiritual growth, to which both Christ and St. Paul refer, nor can we understand the nature of membership and participation in the Church. The particular place of children in the Church, and especially in her worship, is inextricably tied to our conception of spiritual maturity, church membership, and our understanding of worship itself.


Recommended Readings

Tarasar, C. J. (1995). Orthodox theology and religious education. In R. C. Miller (Ed.), Theologies of religious education (pp. 83-120). Birmingham, Ala: Religious Education Pr.

Tarasar's most complete, mature statement on Orthodox Christian religious education.

Tarasar, C. J. (1994, March). Experiences in orthodox religious education: The North American experience. Expanded edition of paper presented at the meeting of the Consultation on Orthodox Religious Education, Kykko Monastery, Cyprus.

Tarasar reflects on developments in Orthodox Christian religious education in the twentieth century. Unfortunately, this paper is still unpublished, but the author of this encyclopedia entry would be glad to send a digital copy to interested parties (robmatlak@gmail.com).

Tarasar, C. J. (1983a). Taste and see: Orthodox children at worship. In D. Apostolos-Cappadona, (Ed.), The sacred play of children (pp. 43-54). New York, NY: Seabury Pr.

A wonderful reflection on the importance of children in the Orthodox Church. Excellent for parents and educators.

Tarasar, C. J. (1981a). The orthodox experience. In J. H. Westerhoff & O. C. Edwards, Jr. (Eds.), A faithful church: Issues in the history of catechesis (pp. 236-260). Wilton, Conn: Morehouse-Barlow.

The first half of this essay reflects educationally on five "periods" or "types" of the Church in history. The second half considers the needs of the current situation, including perhaps her most candid words on the inadequacy of educational efforts alone to accomplish the spiritual task of Orthodox Christian catechesis. Here Tarasar also suggests the Eucharist as the "key" to successful catechesis.

Tarasar, C. J. (1968). Worship as education. International Journal of Religious Education, 44, 8-9.

A helpful, brief introduction to the liturgical "curriculum" of the Church.

Other Resources

The library at Saint Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, NY contains the complete collection of curricula written and/or edited by Tarasar.

Author Information

Gregory (Robert) Matlak

Gregory (Robert) Matlak is a Ph.D. candidate in theology and education at Boston College.

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