A record 70 individuals representing parishes across the US and Canada participated in the Small Parish Forum at Saint John the Baptist Church here July 13-15, 2017. The number of participants was the largest of any previous forum, attracting clergy and lay participants from eight OCA Dioceses—Western Pennsylvania, the Midwest, the South, New York and New Jersey, and New England, and the Bulgarian, Albanian and Romanian Dioceses—as well as the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
Jointly sponsored by the Orthodox Church in America’s Archdiocese of Western Pennsylvania and the Diocese of the Midwest, the Forum — the fourth in a series initiated in 2014 — had as its theme “Becoming a Community of Engagement.” The program was facilitated by Joseph Kormos, Parish Development Ministry Leader for the Archdiocese of Western Pennsylvania.
His Eminence, Archbishop Melchisedek of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania and His Grace, Bishop Paul of Chicago and the Midwest welcomed the participants and offered their insights throughout the three-day gathering.
“Individual sessions explored the dimensions of engaging in worship, engaging with the neighborhood, engaging across generations and engaging with our parish future,” Mr. Kormos explained. “Eight speakers offered remarks of various length along with video presentations and open discussion.”
Among the presenters were
- Priest Justin Patterson, Rector of Saint Athanasius Church, Nicholasville, KY; Archpriest Joshua Frigerio, Rector Holy Ascension Church, Albion, MI; and Priest Jonathan Bannon, Rector of Christ the Savior Church [ACROD], Rockford, IL, who offered profiles of life in their small parishes.
- Mother Seraphima, choir director at Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration, Ellwood City, PA, who offered remarks and a music laboratory session titled “Engaging in Worship.”
- Igumen Patrick [Carpenter], Rector Holy Assumption of Mary Church, Pittsburgh, PA, and Matt McCroskery and Janet Damian Lapko, both of Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral, Detroit, MI, who shared their experiences in the segment on “Engaging with the Neighborhood.” Archpriest Jonathan Proctor, Rector of Holy Trinity Church, St Paul, MN, joined the session via video.
- Archpriest Marc Vranes, Rector Holy Trinity Church, Willimantic, CT, and Cathy Vrugitz of Saint Gregory of Nyssa Church, Columbus, OH, who collaborated to share perspectives on “Engaging Across Generations.”
- Archpriest Peter Baktis, Rector of the Mother of God, Joy of All Who Sorrow Mission, Princeton, NJ, who helped attendees focus on “Engaging with our Parish Future.”
Mr. Kormos also facilitated a number of workshops on related themes.
“One important product of the Forum was the development of a set of ‘Principles of Vibrant Small Orthodox Parishes,’ the final version of which will be available shortly,” Mr. Kormos added. “We felt that building a consensus around fundamentals of healthy small churches was an important breakthrough for the Forum, and we hope to build on these in the future. We also encouraged attendees to select one initiative for their parish upon return. Members of the Forum planning group will be available as catalysts for follow-up to encourage parish action.”
The 2018 Forum tentatively has been scheduled for July 12-14, 2018.
Presentations and resources offered during the Forum are available on-line.