DIOCESE OF SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND: January 17, 2007
Report by the Secretary of the Diocese of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand on the annual Youth Conference on the theme: "Purifying the Heart and Sanctifying the Soul" held in Adelaide.
In writing my report, I first thought to compare the situation of the prophet of the Old Testament, Lot, who lived in the city of Sodom, with that of the typical Russian living abroad, in the corrupt Western world today. But after an exhaustive reading of materials available on the internet, after the work of the Synod of Bishops was completed, I decided to look to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and her purpose; not her purpose according to mortals, but according to God.
There is a word in Russian, rasseivanije [sowing] or, in Slavonic rassejanije , in Greek this word is diaspora . To sow means to scatter seeds during planting season. Whether the seeds germinate or not depends on the soil they fall upon. Poor soil will not allow them to sprout and take root, but good soil will allow them to grow and strengthen. We are just such scattered seeds. We must find good, fertile soil. The world abroad has turned out to be this soil. We have found ourselves in the diaspora. First we thought we were here temporarily. But then we came to realize that we are destined to live here, preserving Orthodoxy, the Russian and Slavonic languages and Russian culture. We must show what Orthodoxy is here, we must take upon ourselves educational, missionary work. This was the destiny of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
I would also like to point out that our understanding of the Moscow Patriarchate must take into consideration how she developed after perestroika. In my lecture, I used certain statistics in order to illustrate this.
In addition, my lecture pointed out that it is crucial to avoid any sort of division, to avoid schism. We must remember that we are members of one body, and so, just as a finger of one hand cannot act independently from the hand itself, we cannot act in isolation.
At the same time, I stressed that our bishops have chosen a path which follows ecclesiastical law, and we must support them.
I had very positive impressions of the Youth Conference. This year, there was not a great number of young people gathering. Noteworthy was their maturity: in age and in outlook. Vladyka Hilarion spoke on the lives of St Spyridon of Tremithos and of St Herman of Alaska; Fr Basil Yakimov spoke on the Mother of God; Archimandrite Alexis spoke on Holy King Edward and about his monastery; and in his second lecture he spoke about how the world affects the Church. Also reading lectures were Protopriest Michael Protopopov, Protopriest Gabriel Makarov, Reader Alexander Paramonov, two professors and other scholars.
Fr Gabriel elaborated upon my speech with certain clarifications, stressing that the statistics I offered do not diminish the significance of one Church and do not overstate the significance of another Church, drawing attention to the fact that relations between the two Churches are being restored.
The representatives of the older generation expressed many concerns. I also have such concerns. We were reared with the thought of fighting against godlessness. But I also remember my trip to Russia as a teenager (of which I also spoke during my lecture) in the 1970's. I was fortunate enough to meet real podvizhniki [spiritual heroes].
In order to overcome doubt, one must read, not simply take at face value certain internet publications, but read and make sense of things with a healthy mind. I feel that canonical communion is the correct step to take. I reminded the listeners of what happened with St John of Shanghai and San Francisco, who was also uncertain when he was faced with the option of returning to Russia. Many bishops decided to resume contact and returned to Russia. But at the time, the opening of churches and monasteries did not signal genuine rebirth or emancipation. We know well the fate of those clergymen who returned to Russia. Now, of course, the situation is different. There is a different government, and the Church in Russia is free.
The highlight of the Conference was the talent show. Performers played the guitar, accordion, they sang and danced, and told jokes. I was impressed by a guitar duet, which, along with a dance troupe, won the event. A singer and a group of Greeks performing different genres also proved talented. Prekrasnye mysli ["wonderful thoughts"] by Terenty Polorotov filled the hall with smiles.
I think that everyone will remember the trip to St Nicholas Church in Adelaide, the luncheon in the Russian House, the speeches read by the representatives of the establishment, the address read by the Secretary of the Russian Consul, Artem Kozhin. The divine services were beautiful and austere. The Consul's Secretary noted that it we must invite youth from Russia to next year's Youth Conference.
All the members of the Conference were pleasantly surprised by the appearance of the icon of St Spyridon of Tremithus and St Herman of Alaska, brought by Priest Simeon Kichakov, the rector of the Djeelong parish. After the closing of the 42 nd Youth Conference, the icon of the Mother of God "Joy of All Who Sorrow" returned to the Djeelong church. A special frame was prepared for this icon, and the parishioners of Djeelong will bring it to the next Youth Conference as well. The icon will be taken to the city hosting the next event in order to encourage those preparing the Conference. Fr Simeon also brought the booklets "Lives of St Spyridon of Tremithus and St Herman of Alaska" for all the participants of the Conference. Everyone was so inspired by the appearance and the blessing of the icon of these two saints that they immediately began donating money for a new frame.
We will begin organizing the next Conference, scheduled to be held in Sydney, a few months in advance, after a theme is decided upon. The lecture I delivered at the 42 nd Annual Youth Conference was directly tied to its theme, that is, that we must first cleanse our hearts in order that our spiritual "vision" become clear.
Protopriest Michael Boikov
Secretary of the Diocesan Administration