Glory to God for all things!
The 2022 Metropolis Youth and Family Conference was held for the first time in over a decade at the Dormition of the Theotokos parish in Clearwater, Florida. The theme of this year’s conference was “Orthodox Building Blocks: The Restoration of an Orthodox Way of Life”. The conference was attended by over 250 faithful from all across the Metropolis of America, not including the local parish community, with visitors and vendors coming from as far away places like Etna, California and even Guatemala. In attendance were also a number of clergy that participated in the conference activities giving lectures, talks and panel discussions as well as concelebrating in the various services during the conference, particularly in the central Hierarchical Divine Liturgy on the Lord’s Day. Much was discussed in the various sessions of the conference, which edified the faithful of all ages, from toddler to adult. We hope to share the many blessings we experienced and collected during the conference in this article.
The conference’s central theme was “The Restoration of an Orthodox Way of Life.” The conference of faithful acknowledged that our modern life is one that is bisected and fragmented in many different ways. The political, social and economic orders of our life here in America have been increasingly and are now ungodly and therefore anti-christian. The disorder can be found everywhere: in our country’s overtly secularized political institutions, which have no moral bearing beyond legalism, our public schools that indoctrinate our children in folly, and in the frenetic daily marketing of “goods” and “services” that spoil our hearts and incline them to the vices. As the Body of Christ, we are often exposed to the passions of the world in multiple media, including on television and on the internet. These last two no longer limit themselves to public spaces in the home, such as a TV or computer in the living room, but are also now ubiquitously located in the privacy of our pockets and therefore have easy access to our eyes and minds and the eyes and minds of our children if we are not careful.
According to the Apostle of the Nations, we are “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Jesus Christ Himself is the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, fitted together, grows into a holy sanctuary in the Lord. In Him, you too are built up into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:20-22).
In order to build up the dwelling place of God in the Spirit, to live a holy life, we must actively work toward the restoration of an Orthodox way of life in each of our lives and our children’s lives, pushing back against the onslaught of ungodliness hurled at us and our youth and families each day. And so the conference presented some of the vital tools and blocks needed to build up a holy life in our daily life. Orthodox Building Blocks therefore became the title of the conference with each session presenting a block needed to build the walls of the dwelling place of God.
A final note on the theme of the conference, and the inspiration of restoring an Orthodox way of life, was the teaching of Archbishop Andrei Rymarenko of Novo-Diveyevo of blessed memory and contemporary of our Metropolis’ patron St. John Maximovich Archbishop of San Francisco the Wonderworker and founder Metropolitan Petros of Astoria. Archbishop Andrei taught the need to bear a “conscious struggle” to hold what is God’s in honor each day. It is necessary to be attentive to all aspects of our life so that we may commit ourselves and all our life unto Christ our God.
Visitors and Vendors
Unofficially, the Youth and Family Conference began with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy for the Synaxis of All the Saints of America on Friday, October 7, 2022. The Saints of America were the first visitors to arrive who we firmly believe stayed with us throughout the conference, including St. John Maximovich and St. Philaret of New York. Over 250 faithful arrived over the next day from across the Metropolis. Far away lands like California and Canada were represented alongside New York, North Carolina, Maryland, Illinois, Michigan, South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Combined with the local faithful from across Florida, it was estimated over 300 participated in this year’s conference. Thank God that it was successful.
There were also five vendors that arrived, including one out-of-state and two local artisans that sold baked goods, the proceeds of which were donated to the conference, handmade clothing apparel and accessories as well as hand-painted authentic Byzantine icons. In addition to the artisans, the St. Photios Orthodox Theological Seminary (SPOTS) was represented by a booth as well as the Seminary’s representatives to share with the faithful the mission of the Seminary.
Finally, in a first for the Youth and Family Conference, San Ignacio coffee from the Metropolis’ hermitage San Ignacio in Guatemala was served and sold to raise funds for the evangelization of Latin America. San Ignacio coffee is grown on the Hermitage grounds in Guatemala. May St. Ignatius intercede before the Lord to help the clergy and monastics serving the Orthodox Christians of Latin America!
Visiting Clergy and Speakers
The 2022 Youth and Family Conference included a number of visiting clergy that spoke on various topics affording conference goers various blocks with which to build themselves and their families up. Speakers included His Eminence Metropolitan Demetrius of America, who gave both the keynote as well as the close-note address to the conference, Archimandrite Fr. Akakios, abbot of the Monastery of St. Gregory Palamas and a professor from SPOTS who spoke on the value of order, Fr. John Somers of the St. John of Damascus Education Initiative and Fr. Leonidas Pittos who made virtual presentations to the conference on education and the services in the lives of Orthodox Christians respectively, Fr. George Liadis who taught youth on the Jesus Prayer, Fr. Theodore Giannakopoulos who spoke on the early youth and child martyrs of the Church, Fr. Victor Dobroff on sanctification, Deacon Nicholas Laggis on how to live a holy life, Mr. Paul Azkoul introduced the youth to iconography and Mr. Mateusz Ferens spoke on the family as the domestic church and issues dealing with addiction, as well as panelists Fr. George Psaromatis and Fr. Nicholas Chernjavskywho along with Fr. George Liadis and the Metropolitan talked about various aspects of parish life. Additional speakers included Mrs. Helen Bezas, Presvytera Sofia Liadis who made crafts with the children, Ms. Maria Pittos who workshopped with the youth and Presvytera Constantina Pittos who read The Suitcase by Jane Meyer. By God’s mercy and grace, the speakers made over 20 edifying presentations, panel discussions, workshops, and crafts to the faithful on Saturday and Sunday that spanned all ages from toddler to adult.
The Hierarchical Divine Liturgy
The conference was punctuated by the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy that was celebrated on Sunday, October 9, 2022, the feast day of the Beloved Disciple of our Lord, St. John the Theologian. It was fitting that over 300 faithful from across the Metropolis were together on this day at the Dormition of the Theotokos parish, commemorating the Holy Apostle who made known to the world “the holy mystery of love… that love of God is concealed in love of one’s neighbor and is not found apart therefrom.” His Eminence Metropolitan Demetrius of America presided along with eight priests and two deacons. The analogion included many chanters from across the Metropolis in a united chorus that glorified God throughout the weekend with all the Saints.
After the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, the clergy and the faithful went to Spartan Manor in New Port Richey, Florida for trapeza. At the trapeza, His Eminence gave the close-note address to the conference and announced that the next Youth and Family Conference will be in Chicago, Illinois.
Many thanks to our Lord for all the wonderful things He has done for us and for guiding the organizing committee by the intercessions of His most holy Mother, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary our patron and speedy protection here in Tampa, Florida.
May Christ our true God have mercy on us and save us, for He is good and the Friend of man. Amen!
For a photo gallery, please click here (note: you will be taken off of our site).
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Greetings St. Xenia Camp family,
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