Orthodox Christian young adults often wonder how to best to contribute their talents to the world around them, especially in what can be trying and turbulent times in their lives. The Diocesan Fellowship of St. John the Divine sponsored the 2nd annual Young Adult Conference and reached out to over 90 young adults who traveled to Orange County, California on the weekend of September 21-23. Some young adults traveling even as far as Michigan, Texas, Kansas, Colorado, Canada, and Massachusetts.
As the keynote speaker, V. Rev. Jon Braun, pastor of St. Anthony Orthodox Church in San Diego, California brought his always-welcome dynamism not to the Conference, but to the “family gathering” of Orthodox Christians as he called it. He pushed the attendees to be an ethnic Church, but not in the terms of Antiochian, Greek, Russian and the like. Fr. Jon wants us to remember that we are citizens of the Kingdom of God, that our citizenship on earth is only temporary and that we need to act accordingly. The way to live for the Kingdom, Fr. Jon said, is stated in the Beatitudes our Lord Jesus Christ gave us as they appear in the Gospels (Matthew 5, Luke 6).
Four talented Diocesan parish pastors served as workshop speakers to teach and inspire the “family gathering.” V. Rev. Michael Laffoon (St. Mark; Irvine, CA ) spoke about living an Orthodox witness in our everyday experience. Rev. Patrick O’Grady (St. Peter the Apostle; San Dimas, CA) said that “living is giving” when it comes to Orthodox Christian mission work, which always begins with a simple, loving encounter with another human being. Rev. Thomas O’Dea (Holy Cross; Palmdale, CA ) talked about building community in the parish. Rev. James Coles (St. Ignatius of Antioch; Mesa, AZ ) helped the attendees to rededicate our lives to God despite the hurdles, confusions and changes we are living through. On Saturday evening and Sunday morning, V. Rev. Wayne Wilson opened his parish (St. Barnabas; Costa Mesa, CA) to us for Great Vespers, Orthros and Divine Liturgy. We are indebted to the time and wisdom these fathers shared with us.
The young adults got to make new friendships and rekindle old ones in several enjoyable excursions. Friday night started with ice breakers and an opportunity to get to know one another following the keynote address. Saturday night, we set sail around Newport Harbor on a dinner dance boat cruise. Sunday afternoon, we took our seats at an exciting baseball game at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, where the Angels won the game and the American League Western Division!
Such a successful and spiritually-renewing retreat could not have been possible without the hard work and efforts Diocesan Fellowship officers (President Kyra Pelachik, Vice President Maria Whelton, Secretary Gina Johnstone and Treasurer Chris Dillion) and the rest of the Conference Committee (Allyson D’Arms, Claire Kruse and Robert Samo). All of the attendees in this “family reunion” of Orthodox Christians are extremely grateful to them, and we look forward more enriching experiences when we next get together.
By: Subdeacon Peter Samore