From the Director: Our Orthodox Movement

On the set of “Bee-the-Bee” at Archdiocese headquarters.
© Y2AM

When I graduated seminary in 2013, and began working for the Archdiocese, I was excited to be entering the difficult and exhausting field of youth and young adult ministry.

Though it’s an area we often reserve for the least experienced Church workers, it’s one that is both incredibly complex and unbelievably difficult.

Young people in particular bear within them the tensions and challenges that permeate our contemporary culture. They are shaped by the unspoken assumptions we all take for granted, by the values and longings and questions that shape our secular age.

Our fear, as adults and parents and ministry leaders, is often that our kids will be corrupted by a decadent culture, hostile to the teachings of the Church.

So we scramble to cram their head with Orthodox perspective and ideas, lessons to lead them through temptation. We scramble to give our youth people spiritual medicine to inoculate them against the sex and drugs they’ll find in college, and the atheism that threatens to pull them from our parishes.

Unfortunately, this medicine misdiagnoses the problem.

Our secular age is not one of hostility to spirituality. Rather, it is one of ambivalence and doubt; in an age when we can choose to believe anything and everything, we are all caught in the crosspressure between faith and doubt.

(How we got here is an interesting story, though one too long for this short article. If you’re interested in learning more about this, please search for the video “Making Ministry Better and More Christ-Centered.” It’s available on our YouTube channel: youtube.com/y2am.)

Though we, as Orthodox Christians in particular, may believe the same things as our predecessors a hundred, even a thousand years ago, we do not believe those things in the same way. We are all heirs to a disenchanted culture, a world where the source of meaning is now the self. We watch movies about demons with no fear of possession, because we are safely buffered from the transcendent. We convert former churches into nightclubs without a shred of apprehension because, when we decide what is and isn’t sacred, sacrilege becomes impossible.

This is our secular age. And it has sunk into our bones more than we may want to admit.

On the surface, this may seem to make the task of ministry even more overwhelming. If we are all the arbiters of truth, if we are all on a quest for selfdiscovery and authenticity, then how can the Church even begin speaking to contemporary people?

How can we preach the truth when people don’t even believe that truth exists?

Perhaps, in God’s providence, this greatest of challenges is also the greatest of opportunities.

Because, if we are true to the Gospel, we preach more than theological principles and religious systems. Truth isn’t a something. It’s not at it at all.

Truth is a someone

And in our mercy and patience and compassion, in the ways we act for the life of the world, people can come to know the living Person of Christ before they begin to grapple with whether He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

In our relics and myrrh-gushing icons they can see a world that is very much enchanted, imbued with the very presence of the living Lord. In our fasts and prostrations and services they can see that the body is intimately connected with the soul, and that our normally buffered selves and pierced by compunction and repentance.

In our secular age, where truth has been replaced by authenticity, it has never been harder to convince people of some abstract, objective the truth. Which is why we are fortunate that we preach a personal Truth, a Truth Who took on flesh and became one of us so we could walk with Him in eternity.

The world is ready for Christ. Are we ready to reveal Christ to the world?

The Many Aspects of Faith

Belief is a tricky and difficult thing. If we’re honest, faith is something we all struggle with, which shouldn’t be cause for discouragement; even the greatest saints, from the Apostles down to our own time, wrestled with doubt.

Unfortunately, we make the struggle more difficult than it needs to be by misunderstanding it.

We discuss “faith” as if it’s a matter of philosophy and ideas, rather than an encounter with a living person (or Holy Trinity of Divine Persons).

We forget that faith is something we inherently struggle with because we are graced with freedom; as Metropolitan John of Pergamon once observed, Christ’s Ascension is powerful, in part, because it is a withdrawal that opens up a space for faith to be voluntary rather than coerced.

We gloss over the fact that faith does not necessarily preclude doubt, as we see for example in the life of St. Silouan the Athonite.

And finally, we pretend that faith can somehow be definitvely proven rather than, at best, culminate in invitation and encounter: “come and see.”

So why chose Christ, even when it may seem easier to say no?

On a very basic, human level, we all wrestle with pain. It’s the great existential problem with which mankind struggles: we’re trapped between God’s comforting assurance, as He created the world, that “it is good,” and the awful reality that the good gifts of creation are all doomed to death and decay.

We fully experience the brutal, numbing terror of the grave because we intuitively feel the unbridled joy of birth and creation.

On a visceral level, we know the world was made for something better than the tomb. The world is a good thing; its big problem is that it doesn’t last.

Yet we see the world as it was meant to be in the light of Christ’s victory over death.

We see it in the fragrant, myrrh-streaming bones of the saints. We see it in the transformed lives of the saints, whose every word and deed radiates the reality of the Resurrection. We see it in the acts of love, great and small, which sustain an otherwise dry and barren world.

And I see it in my own life, which makes far more sense in Christ than apart from Him. So I say “yes” to Christ because no temporary pleasure can compare to the eternal joy of the Resurrection; because, no matter my doubts and struggles, the same unfading Light shines through the darkness.

And the darkness will not overtake it.

This piece is adapted from a talk Y2AM Director Steven Christoforou recently gave for the “Men in Black Speaker Series,” available at youtube.com/y2am.

Youth Department Ministries

Our Department serves several important ministries of our church, including HOPE, JOY, GOYA, Altar Boys, Young Adults, Orthodox Christian Fellowship, Scouting, and Camping Ministries. Our mission is to strengthen the relationship of young Orthodox Christians with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, encouraging them to become active sacramental participants in the life of the Body of Christ. The ministries below offer them the opportunity to experience the Faith, ultimately leading them to Salvation. These ministries are not "organizations" or "clubs," but rather a ministry of the Church--a gathering of the faithful who share the same ages and common interests.

HOPE Ministry (Holy Orthodox Primary Education)

Holy Orthodox Primary Education, or HOPE, ministers to children in Kindergarten through 2nd grade. In smaller parishes, it is sometimes necessary to combine HOPE and JOY groups. If this is the case, it is important to plan age appropriate activities based on the needs of your specific group of young people. Want to learn more about creating a HOPE Ministry? Download our HOPE Guidelines or order a print copy at Orthodox Marketplace.

JOY Ministry (Junior Orthodox Youth)

Junior Orthodox Youth, or JOY, ministers to children in 3rd through 6th grade. The span from 3rd to 6th grade is a large one, and within it there are great variances in maturity. A well balanced JOY Ministry program will provide activities that meet the needs of all children in the ministry. Want to learn more about creating a JOY Ministry? Download our JOY Guidelines or order a print copy at Orthodox Marketplace.

GOYA Ministry (Greek Orthodox Youth of America)

The Greek Orthodox Youth of America, or GOYA, ministers to young people ages 13-18. Teenagers should be in sixth/seventh through twelfth grades to participate, depending on the how junior high/middle school is structured within your area. It is recommended that GOYA ministry be divided into two distinct groups, the middle school GOYA ministry and the high school GOYA ministry. Since GOYA is ministry of the church, the orientation and implementation of the program should reflect the Orthodox Christian Faith, Tradition and Life. Want to learn more about creating a GOYA Ministry? Download our GOYA Guidelines or order a print copy at Orthodox Marketplace.

Altar Boys

The role of the altar Boy remains a genuine and vital one in the Eucharistic Assembly of the faithful, as well as in other services. He stands ready to serve God in this capacity. It is a stewardship of young men; a service that they offer to God as their regular Sunday offering of talent and ability.

Young Adult Ministry

Young Adult Ministry ministers to young adults of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, ages 18 to 35 years old. There are many groups that fall within this category, including college-aged students, young professionals, young couples, etc. Each individual Young Adult Ministry should strive to minister to all young adults in the community as they transition through different life stages. Depending on the demographics of the community, it may be appropriate to provide ministry in separate groups (OCF, young professionals, etc.). For information about our National Young Adult ministries, visit www.youngadult.goarch.org. If you would like to learn more about creating a Young Adult Ministry in your parish, download our Young Adult Ministry Guidelines or order a print copy at Orthodox Marketplace.

Orthodox Christian Fellowship (Campus Ministries) www.ocf.net
Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) is the official campus ministry of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. OCF assists thousands of Orthodox college students each year to experience their faith through the annual College Conference, Real Break Service Trips, their advanced and innovative website, and the Witness, the official campus ministry newsletter. Click here to visit www.ocf.net.

Eastern Orthodox Comittee on Scouting (EOCS)

The EOCS was founded in 1960 under the auspices of the Standing Conference of Eastern Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA) and is the officially recognized Eastern Orthodox religious committee for the Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts USA, and Camp Fire Boys and Girls programs. EOCS provides support, programs, and recognition to the scouts and scouters of Eastern Orthodox faith whether in units in the Eastern Orthodox Churches, or registered in units sponsored by other institutions, via the religious youth recognitions, adult recognitions for volunteer scouters and clergy, retreats, camp-o-rees, associated events and activities. For more information, please visit their website at www.eocs.org.

Camping Ministries

The purpose of the Office of Camping Ministries is to provide direction and unity for camping programs under the jurisdiction of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Whether an Archdiocesan, Metropolitan or Parish level camp, the Office of Camping Ministries is responsible for providing resources and training for camp staff, as well as for setting appropriate standards for camp operation. The Office of Camping Ministries works directly with the Archdiocese Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries to create, implement and produce camp standards for Orthodox camping. Click here for our Camping Ministries Page. For more information about camp standards and the Youth Protection Manual, please visit our Child and Youth Protection Page. For information about the Orthodox Christian Camp Association, additional camp resources, and our annual Orthodox Christian Camp and Youth Worker Conference, please visit www.orthodoxcamps.org.

Other Ministries

Syndesmos

Syndesmos, the World Fellowship of Orthodox Youth, is a federation of Orthodox youth movements and theological schools around the world, working under the blessing of all the local canonical Churches, to serve the Church, Her unity, witness and renewal. The aim of Syndesmos is to develop cooperation and communication among Orthodox youth movements and theological schools around the world, and to promote within them a deeper understanding and vision of their common faith. For more information, visit their website: http://syndesmostemporary.blogspot.com/.

Crossroad
Crossroad is an engaging 10-day summer institute for Orthodox Christian high school juniors and seniors of all jurisdictions that takes place every summer on the campus of Hellenic College/Holy Cross in Brookline, MA. Students are invited to take part in an exciting summer vocations exploration program designed to help them discern their life callings and match their God-given gifts with the needs of the world. For more information, visit their website: www.crossroad.hchc.edu

Orthodox Camp and Youth Worker Conference
The Department works closely with the youth offices of the Antiochian Christian Orthodox Archdiocese, the Orthodox Church in America, and the Ukranian Orthodox Church of the United States of America to coordinate the Orthodox Camping and Youth Worker Conference. Visit www.orthodoxcamps.org for information about the upcoming conference in January 2013.

Youth Ministry Team

Archdiocese Youth Ministry Team

The Youth and Young Adult Ministry Team of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America includes the Directors of each Metropolis Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, along with the Archdiocese Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries. We help work towards the vision of our Archbishop and the Holy Synod (each Metropolitan Hierarch) to make the youth active participants in their Orthodox faith. On the National level, the team meets twice a year to share ideas, discuss pertinent youth ministry information, and assist in setting goals for various projects of the National Department. On the local level, the team assists parishes within their Metropolis to create and sustain youth and young adult ministry programs.

Archdiocese Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries

Steven Christoforou, Director
Maria Pappas, Administrative Coordinator
Christian Gonzalez, Young Adult Ministries Coordinator
Cassandra Garibaldi, Resources and Training Coordinator

8 East 79th Street
New York, New York 10075
(646) 519-6780 
Fax (646) 478-9358
[email protected]

Direct Archdiocesan District

Dn. Panagiotis Papazafiropoulos

8 East 79th Street
New York, New York 10075
(212) 774-0267
Fax (212) 774-0494
[email protected]

Metropolis of Atlanta

Julie Moricz

2480 Clairmont Road, NE
Atlanta, GA 30329
(404) 634-9347
Fax (404) 634-2471
[email protected]

Metropolis of Boston

Ioannis Michaelidis

162 Goddard Avenue
Brookline, MA 02445
(617) 277-4742
Fax (617) 739-9229
[email protected]

Metropolis of Chicago

Dn. Chris Avramopoulos

40 East Burton Place
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 337-4130
Fax (312) 337-9391
[email protected]

Metropolis of Denver

Rev. Dn. Paul Zaharas

4550 East Alameda Avenue
Denver, CO 80246-1208
(303) 333-7794
Fax (303) 333-7796
[email protected]

Metropolis of Detroit

Eva Konstantakos

2560 Crooks Road
Troy, MI 48084
Phone: 248.823.2411
Fax: 248.823.2401
[email protected]

Metropolis of New Jersey

215 E Grove St.
Westfield, NJ 07090
Phone: 908-301-0500
Fax: 908-301-1397
[email protected]

Metropolis of Pittsburgh

Rhea Ballas

5201 Ellsworth Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15232
(412) 621-8543
Fax (412) 621-1522
[email protected]

Metropolis of San Francisco

Johanna Duterte

245 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 814-1186
Fax (415) 753-1165
[email protected]

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