Festal Orthros, Divine Liturgy, Organizational Meetings, General Assembly, Keynote Address, Great Vespers, Order of St. Ignatius Dinner and the Hafli - 06/29/07Portland, Oregon
Divine Liturgy, Clergy Wives Meeting, Clergy and Clergy Wives Luncheon, Keynote Address, Great Vespers with Litia and Artoklasia, and Hospitality Night - 06/28/07Portland, Oregon
A Look Back: The 2007 Diocese of Los Angeles and the West Parish Life Conference
Coming from various points of the 8,000 square miles that form the geographic boundaries of the Diocese of Los Angeles and the West, about 575 clergy and faithful participated in the 52nd annual Parish Life Conference in Portland, Oregon. It was the first time the diocese gathered in Portland for the PLC since 1978. Many attendees complimented it as one of the most spiritually and liturgically renewing in recent memory, where they came to live the Conference Theme: “Building up the body of Christ, until we all come to the unity of the Faith” (Ephesians 4:12-13). The pastor, V. Rev. Alban West, the chairwoman, Nektaria Blalock, and the entire host parish of St. George made sure that participants received the best possible hospitality, and returned to their homes with the spiritual vitamins necessary to help them and their parishes grow.
Many people who had never attended a PLC made this year’s their first. Many of the faithful in the Pacific Northwest and western Canada who ordinarily cannot travel great lengths to other Conferences formed a significant portion of the attendees. They actively participated in the organizational meetings, mixing in with the familiar faces that make the PLC a yearly destination. For example, the Fellowship of St. John the Divine hosted several activities for the Diocese’s young adults. The group spent one evening at a pizzeria, one afternoon poolside for a special “Q & A” with the Conference’s keynote speaker, and hosted the first-ever Fellowship Brunch Talent Show Sunday after the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy!
Khouriyee Frederica Matthewes-Green from Holy Cross Antiochian Orthodox Church in Linthicum, Maryland served as this year’s keynote speaker. In several sessions, she addressed the clergy and laity on topics ranging from holy tradition to fasting. Joan Farha, the president of the North American Council Fellowship of St. John the Divine, joined us from Wichita, Kansas to visit the Diocesan Fellowship to see its activity. She reported to NAC that Kyra Pelachik, the recently re-elected Diocesan Fellowship President, and her team “are doing wonderful things with the Young Adults. All [Diocesan] retreats and young adult conferences are Pan-orthodox, which often include OCF groups and others—not always the same people.”
Bringing a family to a PLC can be a costly endeavor. Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, people that purchased a ticket book received six free meals in the hotel. They did not have to worry about looking for inexpensive restaurants in the surrounding area to feed their entire family.
The highlights of this year’s PLC—like all others—are the twice-daily services and the homilies delivered by our gifted Diocesan priests. We celebrated the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the patrons and protectors of the Patriarchate of Antioch, starting with Great Vespers with the Litia and Artoklasia. In his homily after Vespers, Fr. Alban explained the spiritual and historical significance of the Litia and Artoklasia. He said this signifies that the Church is celebrating a Great Feast or the lives of major saints. In longer services, the Church would give out blessed bread to physically nourish the famished faithful, but it had a much more resplendent meaning. It recalls the five loaves Christ blessed to nourish His people while they waited upon His words. Fr. Alban said it is like we are sitting at the feet of Christ, as He Himself comes to us to multiply them and satisfy our spiritual and physical sustenance. The next morning, June 29, the PLC celebrated a Festal Orthros and Divine Liturgy in honor of the foremost Apostles, Peter and Paul.
Rev. David Sommer, pastor of St. Thomas Mission in Snohomish, Washington, addressed the PLC on Saturday, June 30 regarding the Conference Theme. As we again celebrated the memory of St. Paul—this time with all the holy Twelve Apostles—Fr. David said that dying to ourselves and allowing Christ to live in us is the way to come to the unity of the Faith, just like St. Paul instructed in his epistle to the Galatians. He said that the 318 Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council in Nicea came together with eyes missing, mutilated, for one purpose: to preach one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father. Fr. David recalled a recent Divine Liturgy in Washington state, in which some Diocesan clergy concelebrated with clergy from the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR), thus celebrating reunification with 500,000 Christians after 80 years of schism. “It was headline news in the Kingdom of Heaven,” Fr. David said. He challenges attendees to visit another Orthodox church, lest we deny the unity of Christ, living in sin. “We have to make an effort to build up the body of Christ that way,” Fr. David said. “This is how walls get torn down. This is how we preach Christ universally. We need to preach Christ crucified and resurrected, where there is neither ‘Jew nor Greek’, nor Antiochian nor Russian, nor Serbian nor convert.”
Saturday, the youth of our Diocese took its turn in the PLC spotlight. Five orators spoke on the Conference Theme, and the Oratorical Festival judges had the daunting task of choosing one of them to represent the Diocese at the Archdiocese Festival during the Convention later this month. Joel Schafer of St. John the Baptist Church in Post Falls, Idaho will do the honors in Montreal. Once again, his parish’s Bible Bowl team will also compete for the Diocese at the Archdiocese Festival, like it has for the past two years. St. John answered the most questions correctly on the Gospel of St. Luke, this year’s book of study.
Though it was the final day of the Conference, Sunday, July 1, featured the climactic event: the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, celebrated by our Father-in-Christ, His Grace, Bishop JOSEPH. Joining him were more than 20 priests and seven deacons from across the Diocese. Sayidna thanked everyone who attended for making the PLC a great success. In particular, Sayidna expressed his gratitude to the host pastor, Fr. Alban, and all the faithful of St. George in Portland. In his homily, Sayidna said our being here in Portland is not by accident. “If you believe in miracles, here in this PLC a miracle is taking place. In this morning’s Orthros Gospel, two disciples on the way to Emmaus walked with Jesus and did not recognize Him. Not everyone recognizes Jesus—not even some Christians these days. They didn’t know Him until their minds and eyes were opened. Their whole beings recognized Jesus, not only in name. Receiving knowledge and education at the PLC is one of millions of ways to know Jesus and keep Him in our lives. This is a healthy environment to receive that education.”
Following the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, the Diocese once again recognized its youth for their success in the annual Diocesan Creative Arts Festivals at the Awards Brunch. They, too, enhanced their faith this year in studies of the Conference Theme, and showed it through Creative Writing, Poetry, Arts, Photography, Bible Bowl and Oratorical.
We are about one year away from the 53rd Annual Diocese of Los Angeles and the West Parish Life Conference, hosted by the mother cathedral of St. Nicholas in Los Angeles at the LAX Marriott Hotel. Make plans to be there now to take home your spiritual vitamins, to grow more educated in the Orthodox Faith, and to help “Build up the body of Christ, until we all come to the unity of the Faith.”