The Center for Family Care hosted a conference titled "The Orthodox Family in a Changing World" in an effort to explore critical issues in the family life-cycle and practical methods to address them in the parish and the home. The conference was held September 20-23, 2017 in Pittsburgh, PA.

The conference welcomed clergy, pastoral-care workers, ministry leaders, and laypersons interested in the development of family ministry in their parishes. A generous grant from Leadership 100 aided in funding the event.


Keynotes

 

His Eminence Metropolitan Savas

 

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Elissa Bjeletich

Orthodox writer and speaker Elissa Bjeletich presented a remarkable keynote address on how exemplary faith practices modeled in the home and church community establish necessary foundations for life-long spiritual formation. The presentation spoke to traits promoting compatible connections between the character of an Orthodox Christian household and the overall ministry of its parish.  

As a parent and religious educator, Elissa’s presentation is grounded in a richness of experience. While sharing practical suggestions for cohesive education and civic outreach, she reflects, as well, on parenting challenges during cultural shifts, the ever-growing ubiquity of technology, and—especially—in the face of personal tragedy. In summary, the keynote speaks to the fruit of witness when the “church of the home” becomes a true microcosm of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

The Center for Family Care presents the keynote address in its entirety for viewing with supplemental discussion points to inspire thought and beneficial conversations.

Discussion Points

The keynote address underscores the importance of faith regularly exhibited in the home as a corollary of the Church; i.e., its doctrine and praxis. How does your family’s collective habits in the household reflect an Orthodox Christian ethos? How can your family adopt a natural two-way mentality between home activity and parish life? How do you the foster spiritual growth of each family member—from the youngest to the oldest?

This presentation contends that parents must be aware of a culture that is often misaligned with—or even hostile to—the Church. Yet, we are called to engage this environment without losing our central identity as Orthodox Christians. How do you talk to your family about corrupted elements of a fallen world? How do you discern what is acceptable within the culture? How do you talk about temptation in an overall way?  

In the process of recounting significant life events, Elissa intimately reveals how she and her family eventually learned to turn to their church community in when in crisis. What is your inclination in the most difficult of times? Would you turn to—or away from—the Church? How does your parish, clergy and congregation, support its people when they are suffering? How does your parish show hospitality in general?

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Steven Christoforou

The Director of the Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministry of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, Steven Christoforou, delivered a persuasive keynote address on the effectiveness of parish ministry. His perspective is one that challenges misguided conceptions of how we ‘keep’ our youth—and ourselves, for that matter—in the Church.

Much of this, Steven says, comes from contradictory messages that are too frequently communicated—verbally or otherwise—in our communities. As well intentioned as they might be, many of our ministry efforts miss the mark because they don’t ultimately direct participants to the essence of what it means to be a Church member. As a result, we risk significant populations disengaging from the Church when the ‘why’ of faith is lost in undiscerned ministry.

The Center for Family Care presents the keynote address in its entirety for viewing with supplemental discussion points to inspire thought and beneficial conversations. 

Discussion Points

Steven talks about the unintended consequences of “implicit” messages within the culture of a parish. What were the stated and unspoken lessons of the parish of your youth? How did they shape your spiritual development? What are the “explicit” and “implicit” lessons of your current parish? Are we still prone to think we ‘graduate’ from the Church from 8th or 12th grade? Are there opportunities to respond to certain inadequacies?

Survey data and anecdotal evidence point to a steep decrease in Church attendance as young adults reach their 20s. Unfortunately, a number of our family members and peers have detached themselves—consciously or subconsciously—from the Church at various ages. The Church unfortunately becomes irrelevant or an afterthought for many. What have you observed? Do reasons stem from society, family, or perception of the Church?

The keynote also speaks to a specific ability of iconic corporations—ones that are skilled at stirring loyalty through the customer’s desire to identify with their brand. How do our ministries fall short in tapping into consciousness of their membership? How can we better convey the Church’s greatest ‘selling point’—intimate communion with God and the promise of eternal life in His Kingdom?  

 

Intensive Sessions

Workshops