To meet the changing needs of youth and young adults across North America, His Grace, Bishop David of Sitka and Alaska hosted a series of discussions with members of the Orthodox Church in America’s Department of Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministries [YYACM] at Saint Mary’s Cathedral here on Saturday, July 22, 2017.
Under the guidance of Bishop David, who serves as the department’s liaison for the Holy Synod of Bishops, participants in the gathering reviewed plans for a revitalized youth-oriented presence on the internet, collaboration with the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America [FOCA], and initial objectives and plans for the youth program at the 19th All-American Council [AAC].
“Our meetings were very thorough, and I thank God that we had the opportunity to meet,” Bishop David said. “There was a common focus and commitment by those in attendance to inspire and reach young people of all ages living as faithful Orthodox Christians in today’s world.”
A key component of the department’s efforts is planning for the five-day youth program that will take place in St. Louis, MO during the 19th All-American Council, slated to be held July 23-27, 2018.
“Like the Council at large, our youth and teen program will focus on the AAC theme, ‘For the Life of the World,’” said Priest Benjamin Tucci, 19th AAC youth program coordinator. “We will explore the sacramental life of the church and how our children can find the sacred in an often challenging secular society.” More information about the AAC youth program is available on-line.
Other topics discussed during the meeting included a review of initial plans to re-launch a dynamic and engaging web presence for Orthodox Christian youth and young adults. Leveraging cutting edge trends in web development and social media resources, new department members will work with existing department members and youth to develop a web presence that will meet young people where they are, encouraging them to be active Orthodox Christians on-line, in person with their friends and in the life of the Church.
Bishop David and members of the department also discussed ways for a renewed partnership with the FOCA.
“The members of FOCA have long supported the OCA’s efforts to have a vibrant youth program,” said David Lucs, recently appointed department Chair. “We value their participation in events for youth and young adults, and look forward to meeting with FOCA leaders soon to discuss concrete ways we can work together.”
Department members will also begin reviewing the wealth of existing resources and content developed by the YYACM Department over the last three decades. His Grace noted much of the content will be made available through the new website. “Our prayer is that God will bless our efforts as He has blessed our predecessors who dedicated their time and efforts to nurture the youth of our church.”
In related news, two OCA young adults—Victor Lutes from the Archdiocese of Washington, DC and Anastasia Serdsev from the Diocese of New York and New Jersey—were among some 40 participants from around the world at this year’s Syndesmos International Orthodox Conference in Samos, Greece during the last week of June.
“We discussed scripture texts and the historic teachings of the faith and we also explored current issues, including ministering to the needs of migrants and refugees,” said Victor. “The mayor of Samos spoke to us about the ongoing refugee crisis and the work of International Orthodox Christian Charities [IOCC] in supporting the efforts of local volunteers providing care and resources to those in need.”
Among the conference’s speakers was His Eminence, Metropolitan Eusebios of Samos and Ikeria, who shared the history of the Church in Samos and stories from his life. He also presided at the celebration of the feast of Saints Peter and Paul at the church dedicated to their memory in the town of Ireon.
“It was a wonderful experience to meet Orthodox people from all over the world on the beautiful island of Samos,” Anastasia said. “We shared presentations on our home countries, listened to thought-provoking lectures that often led to independent discussions afterwards, and participated in services, reading and chanting in many languages including English, Greek, Slavonic, French, Arabic, Romanian, and Swahili.”