Over 160 hierarchs and clergy from parishes of the Orthodox Church in America attended the pastoral ministries conference at Saint Tikhon’s Monastery and Seminary June 5-7, 2001.
Following an opening Service of Thanksgiving, His Eminence, Archbishop Herman of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania, Temporary Administrator of the Orthodox Church in America, welcomed the participants, after which greetings from His Beatitude, Metropolitan Theodosius, who is on a four-month medical leave, were read.
“To continue the ministry of the Lord—to proclaim the Gospel of new and eternal life—requires that we empty ourselves of all that would prevent us from becoming one with Christ,” Metropolitan Theodosius reminded the clergy in his message. “Thus, without our engaging in self-emptying and self-sacrificing love, our efforts can be weakened and the message we proclaim can be misunderstood. Jesus as the Lord empties Himself so that He may take on our nature and become in every way like us, with the exception of sin, so too must we empty ourselves so that we can truly affirm that Christ is among us and within us.”
“Pastoral care or service to others is the ongoing expression of self-emptying love,” Metropolitan Theodosius continued. “Though we preside—or rather, because we preside—over the celebration of the Eucharist and every facet of parochial life, we are to be the last and number ourselves among the least. While instructing His disciples the Lord made clear the meaning of diaconia: ‘And He sat down and called the Twelve, and He said to them, if anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all [Mark 9:35].’”
His Eminence, Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas and the South, delivered the opening presentation, “The Priest and His Parish,” in which he surveyed a variety of elements related to pastoral ministry. Small group discussions followed this and subsequent presentations throughout the conference.
Other conference speakers included the Very Rev. Alexander Garklavs, Chairman of the OCA Pastoral Life Ministries Unit, who spoke on “The Historical Development of OCA Parishes;” the Very Rev. Arthur Liolin, Chancellor of the Albanian Orthodox Archdiocese, who delivered a presentation titled “Who is a Spiritually Healthy Priest?”’ and Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko, Dean of Saint Vladimir’s Seminary, Crestwood, NY, who addressed the topic of “What is a Spiritually Healthy Parish?” His Eminence, Archbishop Nathaniel of Detroit and the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate, offered a thought-provoking meditation following the celebration of Compline on Wednesday evening.
Participants also shared a variety of concerns and insights related to aspects of parish administration during a panel discussion conducted by the Very Revs. Paul Kucynda, Sergius Kuharsky, Michael Simerick, and David Shewczyk and the Rev. Mark Sherman. Protopresbyter Robert Kondratick, OCA Chancellor, offered closing remarks, sharing his pleasure for the enthusiastic response to the conference.
The conference also provided an opportunity for liturgical worship with the monastic brotherhood and fellowship among the clergy.