Missions and Evangelism Conference Focuses on Spreading the Word of Orthodoxy
A small but committed group of clergy and laity from the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco gathered most appropriately during the week of Pentecost, June 6 – 8, 2023 for a Missions and Evangelism Conference at Saint Nicholas Ranch and Retreat Center in Dunlap, CA. Under the leadership of His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos and the Metropolis of San Francisco Missions and Evangelism Ministry, the Conference focused on the theme, “Let your light shine for you shall be My witnesses” and included two days of spirit-filled discussion about evangelism.
The Conference began with a welcome message from His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos where he shared, “The church of Pentecost should always be our model for the work we do. As we know from Acts of the Apostles, it was the descent of the Holy Spirit that empowered the Apostles to preach the Gospel with conviction to the crowds in Jerusalem. Their message brought thousands of souls to Christ and inaugurated the church.” As he concluded his remarks, Metropolitan Gerasimos challenged the conference attendees to, “open yourself to the power of the Spirit so that our Faith and Way of Life in the Church can be shared with the world around us, drawing many more thousands to Christ!”
An inspiring keynote presentation was offered by Fr. Luke Veronis, Director for the Missions Institute of Orthodox Christianity at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. To begin his presentation Fr. Luke shared a quote from Fr. Thomas Hopko, who wrote: “If a parish has no awareness and consciousness of being sent by God, to speak His words, to do His work, and to accomplish His will in this world, it is not an Orthodox parish.” He also talked about the motivation for doing evangelism according to the Church. He did so by asking the question, “What is the opposite of love?” He said that the opposite of love is ego, explaining that love is outwardly focused while ego is inwardly focused. In a later presentation about the parish, he extrapolated from that motivation to encourage our parishes to move from parishes with mirrors, to parishes with windows.
The second presenter at the conference was Dr. Paraskevè (Eve) Tibbs. In addition to her work leading the Christian Education ministry of our Metropolis, Eve is an Affiliate Assistant Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, the largest evangelical seminary in the world. Eve shared her experience teaching Eastern Orthodox theology to evangelical Protestant students. One of their assignments is to visit an Orthodox church and write a reflection on their experience. Eve shared some of those reflections and connected them to how parishioners and parishes can be better engaged in evangelism.
In addition to the presentations, attendees participated in breakout sessions which enabled them to take a “deeper dive” into aspects of “spreading the word”. Being together with others who shared the same passion for evangelism, and having the opportunity to share ideas and resources, was the highlight of the conference. Conversations begun in the breakout sessions continued at meals and late into the night. As a result, attendees departed to their parishes feeling reinvigorated, inspired, and encouraged to continue and expand the work they are doing in their parishes.
Before they did, however, they gathered for a Commissioning Service led by His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos. The Commissioning Prayer reads:
“O God, our God. Who sent Your Only-Begotten Son for our salvation, and at His bidding gave to His disciples the Holy Spirit; send down Your Holy Spirit upon these, your servants, and commission them for this ministry of proclaiming Your Good News; sharing Your love. Be with them always, and deliver them from all agitation, slander, and all devices of the evil one. Keep them strong in body and soul, so that they may be light to those in darkness. Grant that they may fulfill in righteousness Your commandment to go and make disciples of all people of this nation; baptizing them in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all that You have commanded. May their service be pleasing in Your sight, that they may praise and glorify Your most honorable and majestic Name, of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
Videos from the Conference can be viewed online here. For more information on the Metropolis of San Francisco Missions and Evangelism Ministry, please visit www.groworthodoxy.org. We hope to see you at next year’s Conference!
PHOTO CAPTION (Photo Credit: Kostas Petrakos Photography)
- Attendees at the 2023 Metropolis of San Francisco Missions and Evangelism Conference held at Saint Nicholas Ranch and Retreat Center in Dunlap, CA.