Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Faith Practices and Life Stress: An Exploratory Study of Parishioners within the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Faith Practices and Life Stress: An Exploratory Study of Parishioners within the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

Article excerpt

To date, little research has been conducted on the faith practices of Greek Orthodox parishioners in the United States. Using data from a national survey of 650 Greek Orthodox parishioners, this study explores the faith practices of families, the relationship between faith practices and stressors, and the extent to which families feel supported by their parishes. Church attendance was positively associated with greater children's involvement in church and greater overall attention paid to faith practices. Some parishioners reported experiencing high levels of stress with only moderate amounts of church support. Statistical models showed that greater amounts of stress negatively predicted parishioners' ability or willingness to participate fully in church life, but that greater parish support positively influenced religious participation. Implications for family ministry and future research within the GOA are discussed.

Faith practices of families can serve as protective factors in dealing with stress and overcoming a variety of obstacles. The existing literature also suggests that congregations are important influences of family life (Garland, 1999), and that parents are the primary transmitters of faith and values for their children (Flor & Knapp, 2001). Research shows generally positive findings regarding the effects of faith and faith practices on psychosocial well-being (Cohen, Yoon, & Johnstone, 2009; Lichter & Carmalt, 2009). A robust and widening body of literature explores the relationship between positive and negative religious coping and a variety of psychosocial and health outcomes (Ano & Vasconcelles, 2005)· One important behavioral aspect of religious coping is the strategy of seeking spiritual connectedness with others (Pargament, Smith, Koenig, & Perez, 1998) often within the context of families and faith communities. Yet, much of the existing literature provides little information regarding how faith communities may help foster religious coping and spiritual connectedness, or how beliefs and practices may shape the broader lives of families (Horwath & Lees, 2010). Furthermore, little research appears to address how life stressors impact religious involvement, and how the impact of stress on faith practices may be ameliorated by available supports.

The Greek Orthodox Christian tradition places high value on spiritual connectedness and the importance of family to individuals, the Church, and society as a whole. St. John Chrysostom stated, "The human family constitutes the primary and essential element of human society. . . peace in society will be a direct result of peace in the family" (Grube, 1998, p. 163). The Orthodox family also "belongs to the Church, finds in the Church the source, the content, and the transcendent goal of its existence as a family" (Schmemann, 1974, p. 145). Yet, research has been largely silent on the faith practices and lives of parishioners within the Greek Orthodox Church in America (GOA), particularly regarding how families practice Orthodox teachings and traditions inside and outside of church, in their daily lives and within their homes. Research on Eastern Orthodoxy in the American context is lacking more generally, with few empirical studies having been conducted (see Krindatch, 2002, and Krindatch & Hoge, 2010). The intent of the current study is to expand the research literature on the Orthodox Church by examining the everyday faith practices of families within the GOA. This study also seeks to add to the literature on religious coping by exploring the relationships between beliefs and practices, stressors, and involvement in religious activities at home and at church. Specifically, this study examines families' beliefs and perceptions about their faith; how these families practice their faith at home, in their daily lives, and in church; the stressors most commonly experienced by these families; and the extent to which stressors and perceptions of parish life influence families' involvement in spiritual and religious activities at home and at church. …

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