What is the purpose of the Church, and of the parish within Her? The answer is given in the word of God. The Holy Apostle Paul writes, “And He gave some, apostles, and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-13). Here, then, is its purpose: the perfecting of the saints, the work of ministry, the building up of the Body of Christ — a triple task of the whole Church and, consequently, the task also of every parish.
The first point, the perfecting of the saints, is the moral perfecting of the members of the Church. The salvation of souls in Christ is first and foremost; it must not be relegated to second place. They are wrong who consider the fundamental purpose of the Church to lie in its social task, i.e., the transformation, through the Church, of social relationships and through this the Christian elevation of the individual. Salvation in Christ is attained through prayer, through Divine services, the regulations of the Church, deeds of love and beneficence, spiritual struggle. A pastor’s main concern is the salvation of those souls entrusted to him. It is likewise the personal concern of each member of the Church. It is accomplished within the common body of the Church — not in isolation, not individually, but by way of mutual spiritual support, and thereby overcomes the self-loving thought for one’s self alone. A personal, worthy life in Christ is the responsibility of each member before the Church as a whole.
The second task is the work of ministry — to God and to men. It opens up before each member of the Church and of the parish a broad held of church social activity. Ministry to God: participation in the services — in church reading and singing, in constructing churches, in caring for the beauty and cleanliness of the church — these are some examples of works, as they say, “for God.” Ministry to men includes all manner of charitable activity for the needy, help for the sick, disinterested efforts on behalf of others (as have recently been expressed in the sending of spiritual books, foodstuffs, clothing and medicines to Russia). In some parishes, this duty of ministering to one’s neighbor has brought to life auxiliary parish organizations. A special, and very important task is the religious upbringing of children and youth. This cannot be underestimated, for we are in danger of seeing the younger generations fall away from the Church. The responsibility of the parish leadership on the one hand is to influence families in this regard, that they not neglect their duty towards their children, and, on the other hand, to form youth groups, Saturday and Sunday schools, children’s choirs, and to undertake other measures for keeping the younger generation attached to the Church and to ensure that they remain under her influence.