Annual Diocesan Antiochian Women's Retreat in Northern California - 11/16/2008Danville, California
The weekend of November 14-16, 2008, marked the 13th annual Northern California Antiochian Women Diocesan Retreat at San Damiano Retreat Center in Danville, California. The theme this year was, “Holy Scripture and the Evangelization of America,” presented by the Very Reverend Father Patrick Reardon. Attendees came from three of the major jurisdictions (Antiochian, OCA, and Greek) to hear the lectures.
On Friday evening, we began our retreat with Vespers, dinner and the first address by Fr. Patrick. He launched into the subject by comparing the Holy Scripture to the Koran. He very clearly explained how the Koran was a book dictated by one author, alleged to be the archangel Gabriel, at one point in time to Muhammad. In contrast, the Holy Scripture was the inspired Word of God written by many authors throughout the history of Israel/Church. He then emphasized that as each book of the Bible was written it went through a process of fermentation just as milk becomes cheese or grapes become wine. Finally, he pointed out that “the Holy Scripture was an aspect of the Church.” In other words, the Scripture came from the Church.
Saturday morning Fr. Patrick shared his journey into Orthodoxy from the Episcopal Church. He spoke sadly of how his former denomination has become, “the Unitarian church with vestments.” Later on in the morning, he spoke to us of how one should go about sharing the Holy Scripture with our neighbors and friends. He believes that hospitality and offers of sincere friendship are the best ways to introduce Christianity to non-Christians. He revealed that all of the parishioners in his parish, who were formerly non-believers or non-Christians became Orthodox through friendships initiated by other members of his parish. But he stated that evangelical Christians were primed to hear the Orthodox message. He contends that we will continue to receive many evangelicals because of their readiness. He further noted that he is keeping an eye on a small OCA mission, planted by Bishop Job, across the street from the Moody Bible Institute. He is interested to see how that mission will grow.
After lunch, we listened to an instruction by Fr. David Hovik, our diocesan spiritual advisor, on how to practically develop our spiritual lives. He gave us very applicable advice using illustrations from the lives of the saints, with a particular focus on St. Nektarios of Aegina. He then restated the importance of not making up our own fasting rules but that we must follow the fasting guidelines proscribed by the Church. He also encouraged us to clean our hearts and minds through the sacrament of Holy Confession.
During our time together, the ladies met women from other jurisdictions, renewed friendships, and took walks in the glorious summer weather we were favored with over the weekend. We were also again blessed to have the bookstore brought to us by Fr. Innocent of St. John’s Monastery (OCA) in Manton, California. Later on Saturday, Fr. David Hovik and Fr. Patrick Jackson made themselves available to hear confessions during the afternoon and in the evening after Vespers.
Sunday morning embraced us with blue skies and warm sunshine as we entered the church for Divine Liturgy served by Fr. David Hovik and Fr. Polycarp Whitcomb. Lucille Belomy did a beautiful job directing a choir full of members from a variety of our parishes.
Afterward, we leisurely ended our weekend with a satisfying brunch and warm fellowship. For those of you ladies who could not attend and for all of the gentlemen of our diocese, we will soon be sending recordings of this retreat to Ancient Faith Radio. It will be archived there so all of you can have the privilege of hearing the lectures from our enlightening weekend.