AUSTIN, Texas – In late January, 125 representatives from several Orthodox jurisdictions gathered in late January for the Youth and Camp Workers Conference (YCC) at Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church, the host parish.
What is the YCC?
Hosted every year by one of the canonical Orthodox jurisdictions on a rotating basis, Y2AM and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese organized YCC17.
The conference at the Greek Orthodox Church took place Jan. 26-28. Y2AM and the Archdiocese last hosted in January 2013.
Theme and Speakers
The theme was “The Seamless Garment: Towards a Unified Model of Ministry.”
The conference was organized around a common problem: our tendency to divide ministry efforts into small, discrete boxes.
Rather than work towards a unified model of ministry grounded in Christ, Church workers tend to cultivate an ice cube tray model of ministries and programs (JOY, HOPE, GOYA, YAL, etc.) that work in parallel rather than cooperatively, in a spirit of true unity.
The conference began with a keynote address on the evening of Thursday, Jan. 26. After matins on Friday morning, nine speakers offered short reflections that built upon the keynote address. Their talks focused on particular divisions (such as the separation between summer camp and parish life, or parish life and home life) and how those could be reconciled in light of a unified, Christ-centered model of ministry.
YCC17 concluded with a Divine Liturgy on the morning of Saturday, Jan. 28, and a farewell brunch.
Talks and Speakers
Fr. Stephen Freeman, an AFR podcaster and blogger, offered a keynote address on the YCC17 theme. In it, he laid a theological foundation for a Christ-centered and Kingdom-oriented ministry model. He explained how the image of “the seamless garment of Christ” reflects the unity of the worship and life of the Orthodox Church and how this unity exists throughout all the world in Christ.
Fr. Stephen is an archpriest in the Orthodox Church in America and serves as pastor of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tenn.
Maintaining the Spiritual High: What Happens When Camp is Over
Fr. Panayiotis Sotiras discussed the phenomenon of young people returning from camp and losing “the mountain- top high” experience of their faith. He offered insights into how parish life does not necessarily have to help young people maintain this heightened experience, but rather how parish life can help young people develop a consistent and robust faith after camp.
Fr. Panagiotis serves at St. Basil Church in Stockton, Calif., and has extensive youth and summer camp ministry experience.
Kids Come Second: Building Parish Ministry by Developing Young Adults
Jacob Saylor drew on his experience as a parish youth director to discuss an approach to ministry with youth that involves forming young adults as Christians while equipping and empowering young adults to “make disciples” in the youth ministry of the parish.
Jacob serves as the pastoral assistant/ youth director at Assumption Greek Orthodox Church in Scottsdale, Ariz. He has extensive youth, young adult, and summer camp ministry experience.
Raising Saints: Finishing the Work of the Parish at Home (and Vice Versa)
Elissa Bjeletich, an AFR podcaster and blogger, as she discusses an approach to youth ministry that not only includes parents as partners, but which includes parents themselves as the targets of ministry as she suggests that one of the best things the Church can offer youth is good and holy parents.
Elissa works at the Transfiguration Church Sunday school. She is also a speaker, blogger and author.
Catechizing Heads and Hearts: Towards a Holistic View of Orthodox Formation
Matushka Jenny Haddad Mosher discussed an approach to religious education that moves beyond a head-based, intellectual model to one of formation, that helps orients hearts towards a love of God.
Matushka Jenny is a scholar, researcher, writer, and teacher who is currently working on a doctorate in Religion & Education at Union Theological Seminary in NYC, writing her dissertation on the life and work of Sophie Koulomzin.
“United in Diversity: Bringing Together Church and Neighborhood.”
Fr. Aris Metrakos reflected on concrete and practical ways a parish can begin engaging its surrounding neighborhood and the people who live it in, steadily building a reputation as a place where good, Christ-centered work takes place.
Fr. Aris is head priest at Holy Trinity Church in San Francisco. He has extensive youth, young adult, missionary, and summer camp experience.
Finding Success in Failure: Why Ministry is About More than Making “Good Kids”
Christian Gonzalez reflect on the ways a negative, moralistic view of ministry can preach a God who’s too weak to heal us.
Christian serves Y2AM as Young Adult Ministries coordinator. Perhaps best known for his work on “The Trench” and “Pop Culture Coffee Hour,” he has extensive ministry experience and is a Licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapist in Arizona.
Keeping the Faith: Why the World Isn’t That Scary After All
Emma Solak discussed on the ways that a simple, confident faith in Christ and His Church can help lead a young student through the day-to-day challenges and temptations of life. She is a senior at the University of Pittsburgh, and is Orthodox Christian Fellowship Student Leadership Board chairman.
Singing Together: Towards Unity in Worship
Dr. Grammenos Karanos reflected on ways that our unique traditions, and the guidance of the lived experience of the Church, can offer guidance on how we approach the difficult question of coming together as a Church united in worship.
Grammenos earned his Ph.D. in Byzantine Musicology and Psaltic Art at the University of Athens, Greece. He is assistant professor of Byzantine Liturgical Music at Hellenic College Holy Cross.
From the Bottom Up: A Grassroots Approach to Orthodox Unity
Steven Christoforou offered a twist on grassroots action, framing any questions of change in the Church as beginning in the heart and our movement to God in humble repentance.
Steve, perhaps best known for his work on “Be the Bee” and “The Trench,” is the director of Y2AM.
Recordings of YCC17
These talks were all recorded, and videos of each are available on the official Y2AM YouTube channel: youtube.com/y2am.
Audio podcast versions are also available on Ancient Faith Radio.
YCC18 is scheduled for Jan. 25-27, 2018. The Carpatho-Russian and Ukrainian Diocese will co-host at a location yet to be determined. Visit OrthodoxYCC.org to learn additional details as they are made available.