With the intention of a weekend devoted to the young adults across the west coast in a pan-orthodox effort with the focus of growing both spiritually and socially, 40 plus young adults gathered together in Oakland, CA during the Labor Day Weekend. Together with the interaction of our keynote speaker, Father Patrick Jackson, workshop speakers and plenty of social opportunities throughout the weekend, everyone walked away with great memories.
With Father Patrick Jackson as the keynote speaker, (Pastor of St. Stephen’s Orthodox Church in Campbell, CA) we learned in our quest to find our identity on, “What does it mean to be an Orthodox Christian today?” During the Friday night keynote address Father Patrick explained the biblical concept of sainthood in contrast to the latter concept of a canonical sainthood. As the Orthodox Christian faithful, we are called to be saints by virtue of our baptism and chrismation, and to live lives befitting of this calling. Sainthood is not a vocation only for the spiritual elite, but for all of humanity. Father Patrick emphasized that saints were not super-human but real people, with real childhoods, who obtained, by grace and toil, something greater than the everyday human experience. Following Father Patrick’s address, we danced the night away in a casual setting and with our own DJ Nick Haddad.
On Saturday Father Patrick took the concept of being a Christian farther beyond living in a holy fashion. He spoke on the universal nature of the priesthood and that all Orthodox Christians are counted among the Royal Priesthood. In contrast to the special role of the presbyter, every member of the faithful is “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people” (1Pet. 2:9) with direct access to God, whose job it is to make intersession for the world. Following Father Patrick were 4 workshops with 4 great speakers. Father Michael Anderson, who serves at St. Christina of Tyre in Fremont, CA with the OCA jurisdiction, spoke on how we are TREASURE-SEEKERS, searching not to become financially rich, but to alter our own lives to achieve the REAL treasure, that is the Kingdom of Heaven. Father Silas Ruark from St. Timothy’s Orthodox Church in Fairfield, CA helped us understand the nature of an ATHLETE, and what it takes to compete in the Christian struggle to be able to finish the race. John Klentos, an Associate Professor of Eastern Orthodox Christian Studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA spoke on how we are LIGHT-BEARERS, alive with Truth that should shine in the Darkness. Finally, Father Patrick was a workshop speaker as well with his topic: We are ROYALTY, sons and daughters of God and made in His Image.
Vespers in the hotel followed the workshops and then everyone traveled to Ocean Beach in San Francisco for a beach bonfire! Complete with dinner, songs sung and smore’s, this made for a true California treat!
The group attended St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church in San Francisco Sunday morning to celebrate Matins and Divine Liturgy. Following Liturgy the group had their chance to explore the city of San Francisco through shopping or sightseeing. Sunday evening concluded with a Dinner Boat Cruise around the San Francisco Harbor. We were amazed by the beauty of the Bay and being able to ride past Alcatraz Island and underneath the Bay Bridge all while we danced the night away on the dance floor.
Monday Morning was a simple breakfast, which allowed everyone to see each other once more before leaving to go there separate ways, with some heading over to the Greek Festival at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church in Belmont, CA.
A weekend geared toward bringing the young adults of the west coast together in a pan-orthodox effort for spiritual growth and building bonds was a complete success; growing spiritually through the teachings of the keynote speaker and workshops as well as sharing great memories through the many activities. I hope you have a chance to talk with someone who attended the conference and hear their great memories of the weekend in hopes that next year we will have as great of an attendance to help grow in this ministry of supporting the young adults of the west coast.
By: Kyra Pelachik, James Murphy, and John Mahfouz