We Should Go to the "Church of the Home" Seven Days a Week

"Icon Corner" by Ted ©2011, Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Every day I call upon You, O Lord; I spread out my hands to You.

In the last reflection, we discussed how the primary activity of the church community needs to be worship. This is true. And if one is worshipping each week, they are most definitely doing the most important thing the church does. Unfortunately, for many people, even faithful church attendees, the relationship with Christ and with the church is compartmentalized to a couple of hours on Sunday morning. Ideally, we should “go to church” seven days a week. 

What? Church, seven days a week? I don’t have time for that! My church doesn’t even have services seven days a week! What do you mean go to church every day?

There is a tradition in Orthodox Christianity for a “church of the home,” the kat’ oikon ekklesia (κατ’ οίκον εκκλησία) is a custom of setting up an icon corner, either on one wall or in the corner of a room, as a sacred space where we can spend time with God. Of course, we don’t have to go to a special place to be with God. We can be with God in any place. However, the icon corner serves several purposes. Let me explain. 

In my home growing up, we had an icon corner in our living room. On the wall we had over a dozen icons. There was a little shelf on the wall, and on the shelf was an oil-filled kandili (καντήλι), a small glass container which had oil in it with a candle wick burning. I remember that every morning my dad would get up, take the oil lamp to the kitchen, fill it up with oil, light the wick and then go place it on the shelf in front of the icons. And then he would offer a prayer, but while moving the lamp and again once he had it in its place. There was a Bible on the shelf, and Dad would read a page from the Bible each morning. Dad never sat while doing this and never took a cup of coffee with him. That doesn’t mean one can’t pray while sitting or read the Bible while having a cup of coffee. Dad just wanted to give God his full attention for a few minutes each morning. Every evening, right before bed, Dad would go and blow out the wick burning in the oil. He didn’t want the oil burning while we were sleeping. And while he did that, he would offer a prayer. The icon corner and the burning candle provided a daily structure for my dad. He began and ended his day there each day. 

There was a movie many years ago called War Room. It was about a woman who had a bad marriage and a bad life and who created a “war room” out of a closet in her home. She would go into the closet alone each day to pray. She put up little sticky notes about all the things she wanted to pray about. She wrote down goals, strategized, and taped up her notes, and prayed over them. In the movie, the war room is life-changing for her. 

Whether it’s on a wall or in a closet, the idea of the “home church” is that we create a place where we can intentionally go to be with God each day; a place we can put keep our Bible and a place we can take and keep notes about the things we read in the Bible or what we offer to God in prayer. 

For those who are parents, it is critical that our children build a relationship with God every day, not just on Sundays. The world, most especially public schools, make no place for God. Yet the children spend the majority of their hours involved with school, extra-curricular activities, and homework. If we leave spirituality to an hour each Sunday, unsupported by anything during the week, it’s no wonder that our children don’t have a relationship with the Lord. It is critical that we teach our children to pray to God and to be with Him every day. It is critical that we model prayer and Scripture reading for them. I am forever grateful that our parents not only took us to church each Sunday, but for the memories of my dad going to the prayer corner twice a day. 

I encourage you to set up a prayer wall or a prayer corner. It does not need to be big nor have many icons — just a small space that is sacred where we can spend sacred moments with the Lord. I encourage you not only to bring your children to church each Sunday—that is critical—but to make spirituality part of your regular life by utilizing a time and a place each day to purposefully and intentionally spend time with the Lord. 

God is uncontainable. We can’t compartmentalize God into a neat bundle that is unwrapped only on Sundays. God is ever-present in our lives, whether we believe it or not. Our goal then is to be ever-present with God, just as He is ever-present with. That means an intentional pause to be with Him each day, which is made easier by having an intentional place and time where we can be with and share time with Him. 

Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways!
You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;
you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine on the walls of your house;
your children will be like young olive shoots around your table.
Lo, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.

The Lord bless you from Zion!
May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life!
May you see your children’s children!
Peace upon Israel!

Go to your parish church each Sunday. Create and spend time in your “home church” every day.

+Fr. Stavros