It was with a great sense of joy and camaraderie that the hierarchs and the priests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA gathered in South Bound Brook for the annual clergy conference on Sunday, October 15th.
The first evening was spent registering for the conference, settling in to the hotel, and saying hello to old friends. The hierarchs greeted their priests with warmth, like the spiritual fathers that they are.
The first full day of the conference started with a Divine Liturgy presided over by His Eminence Archbishop Daniel; then moving to the Ukrainian Cultural Center. Then began the program of informative presentations that were to fill up the majority of the days here.
The morning was dedicated to mentoring the laity for parish leadership by the Very Reverend Father Bohdan Hladio of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada.
The afternoon was given to the idea of setting boundaries. A discussion of mental illness in parish ministry was presented by the Very Reverend Father Demetrius Nickoloudakis of the GOA.
After vespers in the seminary chapel, the clergy partook of a wonderful dinner. And then took the evening to connect with and catch up with brother ministers and meet one on one with the hierarchs.
On the second and final full day of the conference, which started with morning prayer, we heard from Subdeacon Adam Roberts about small group ministry and evangelism. During that time, he presented the movie titled “Becoming Truly Human.” It is the first American made documentaries on orthodoxy and the problem of the “nones,” people who have no religious affiliation. “Becoming Truly Human” is a wonderful movie, but it is also supported by a program developed by the Antiochian Archdiocese. Which trains lay people in developing small group ministries, aimed at the eventual development of new missions. Historically, that is how the Orthodox Church has approached evangelism: the planting of missions and the developing of new communities in the mission field.
After lunch father Steven Hutnick, made a presentation on the clergy pension plan, and father Anthony Perkins made a presentation on the clergy strategic plan goals and presented the clergy with a survey to more fully developed that goal.
The youth director Natalie Kapeluck-Nixon and Father John Charest gave a presentation on successful youth ministry in which Mrs Kapeluck-Nixon reviewed and explained those resources which have been developed for the youth of our communities and which are available to our clergy for their use. Father John gave insights on how to best retain our children and help our them grow in the faith and in our churches. The fathers then retired to the museum in the consistory library, where they were given a tour of the new exhibit there on the metropolitans of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA.
The final morning of the conference dawned bright and clear and the clergy and hierarchs gathered for a Divine Liturgy, sung by the seminarians attending Saint Sophia’s.
The priests used this time, at the conference, to share both their joys and their struggles with their fellow priests. Only fellow ministers can understand other ministers, because they have gone through the same joys and sorrows. The conference was punctuated by common meals and common liturgical services whether it was the Divine Liturgy or vespers or morning prayer. It is Through common serving and experience that we as a brotherhood draw closer together and feel part of a greater family. The clergy leave this conference renewed and reinvigorated. Encouraged by the support and wisdom of our hierarchs, and that shared experience of our brothers.