“We, the youth of the 18th All-American Council of the Orthodox Church in America, have a vision for our Church,” said the older youth participants in a statement to delegates and observers. “We dream of a Church that
- exists to promote the Faith first and foremost;
- is united as one;
- consists of members who know and understand the basic tenets of the Church;
- makes the Faith accessible to members of all ages;
- welcomes newcomers with open arms;
- embraces the diversity of cultures;
- experiences growth and avoids stagnancy;
- encourages the involvement and participation of all members;
- communicates across jurisdictions willingly and often for the furtherance of the Faith;
- uses a uniform translation in the English language among all dioceses;
- has an active, well-known and central youth program for the betterment of fellowship and expansion of faith among the children and young adults of the Church; and
- sees its youth not as the future of the Church, but as the present.
“This is our vision,” their well-received statement concluded. “We challenge you to help us make it a reality!”
A recommendation to establish an OCA youth program, similar to GOYA and SOYO, also was presented by the youth.
Echoing the sentiments expressed by their older peers, the fifth graders spoke of the saints they had studied during the week who “helped expand the Mission of the Church by spreading the Word of God through the building of churches and monasteries; translating the Scriptures and divine services into other languages; living a Christian life, sometimes risking their own lives by doing so; helping others by providing food, shelter, clothing and medical care to those in need; and always relying on God and humbly putting the needs of others before themselves.”
The AAC’s very youngest participants delighted delegates and observers with their presentation of “the road to sainthood” before they sang the troparion to Saint Innocent and “Beneath your compassion.”
The youth and children presented His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon with a backpack of craft supplies and a cross they had decorated with their thumbprints and signatures. He thanked the children and encouraged them “to live a good life as Christians with their families,” to “bring [their] parents to church,” and to “never get discouraged.”
In conjunction with the presentation on the Diocese of the West, His Eminence, Archbishop Benjamin, noted that the ethnic makeup of the diocese is a reflection of America in general. He then introduced Archpriest David Lowell, who described how the diocese had initiated a program to help fund parish capital improvement programs—a model for the entire OCA and the whole of Orthodox Christianity in America. The Archdiocese of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania’s video presentation traced the Archdiocese’s lengthy history and showcased some of its current outreach ministries.
Other plenary session highlights included
- a report on monastic life by Archimandrite Sergius, Abbot of Saint Tikhon’s Monastery, South Canaan, PA. After sharing insights into the life of the monastery, he asked that encouragement be offered to those attempting to understand monasticism or exploring the call to the monastic vocation. Metropolitan Tikhon urged support for the monastic life and invited representatives from the monasteries to share their insights.
- A report was made by Archpriest Dr. Steven Voytovich, Dean of Saint Tikhon’s Seminary, in which he reflected on the encounter with Christ on the road to Emmaus and compared the response of the apostles to the need to share the Gospel—as did the apostles. In addition, Father Steven also acknowledged the $300,000 donation given to Saint Tikhon’s Seminary by the members of the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America. Father Ignatius Gauvain, a graduate of Saint Tikhon’s Seminary, spoke about the spiritual formation received at the seminary through the engagement with the monastics at Saint Tikhon’s Monastery.
In the report by Archpriest Dr. Chad Hatfield, Chancellor of Saint Vladimir’s Seminary, he spoke of the centrality of fulfilling the Great Commission. Harrison Russin, presently doing a PhD in Musicology at Duke, spoke of the way in which Saint Vladimir’s Seminary prepared him, both spiritually and academically, to take on PhD work, and the great work the school is doing in preparing the next generation of professors and teachers of theological education. Father Timothy Yates spoke about the Clinical Pastoral Education program at the seminary and the way in which it opens employment opportunities for clergy and lay graduates.
A video presentation from Saint Herman’s Seminary highlighted the school’s importance in the life of the Church in Alaska. In reflecting on the importance of the OCA’s theological schools, His Eminence, Archbishop Michael, Rector of Saint Tikhon’s Seminary, said that “this Council has shown that we are no longer a small Church that cannot do great things. We need to take care of the men and women in our seminaries, who will be taking care of us in the future.”
- a summary of the work of the OCA Office of History and Archives by Alexis Liberovsky, Archivist. He highlighted the work of the Archives Advisory Committee, which is exploring long-term plans to ensure that the Archives may continue to serve the Church in the years to come. His Eminence, Archbishop Nathaniel commended Mr. Liberovsky for the valuable assistance he offered in the preparation of the Statute revision as well as his work as Archivist.
With regard to the Resolution on Spiritual Abuse brought up at the fourth Plenary Session, it was noted that this serious issue, related to the spiritual health of the clergy, will be taken up by members of the Holy Synod of Bishops.
After the closing prayer, delegates, participants and youth began their journeys home, renewed and refreshed in the Spirit and ready to “put into action” all that they had prayerfully heard, seen, witnessed and learned during their AAC experience. As one senior archpriest commented as he ran to catch the airport shuttle, “on a scale of one to ten, this Council was a fifteen!”