Several days before the beginning of the conference, a great deal of preparatory work was being done at St John the Baptist Cathedral in Washington, DC: the parish was rushing to finish construction in the expanded parish hall and clean up, folders with conference materials for each participant were being assembled, and groceries were being gathered and prepared for preparation at meals.
On Wednesday, March 23, 2011, registration for participants began at 8:00 am. In total, 96 clergymen and spouses signed up for the conference. Among the visitors was Priest George Pavlovich from Diveevo (Russia).
At 11:00 am, the diocesan vicars, Their Graces Bishop George of Mayfield and Bishop Jerome of Manhattan, and all the conference participants gathered in St John the Baptist Cathedral. Rector Archpriest Victor Potapov carried in the Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God to the singing of the troparion. A moleben before the beginning of every good work was served before the Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos. The service was led by diocesan secretary Archpriest Serge Lukianov, co-served by Protodeacon Leonid Mickle (Cathedral cleric). Upon completion of the moleben, Fr Serge read aloud from the ambo a greeting and blessing from His Eminence Hilarion, Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, to all the conference participants.
Bishop George then addressed those gathered. He called upon everyone to pray for the victims of the earthquake, flooding, and nuclear disasters in Japan. The catastrophe there was so intense that it led to widespread destruction and a large number of casualties. Bishop George also noted that, at the All-Diocesan Conference in 1992, there were ten bishops and approximately thirty priests in attendance, while 2 bishops and 96 priests, deacons, and matushkas were taking part in this diocesan conference. This is viewed as progress; there is now an opportunity to discuss many important questions regarding parish life and life in the diocese as a whole.
After this, Bishop Jerome pronounced a short greeting, in which he noted three important and positive aspects of regular diocesan conferences. First, the conferences allow the clergy and faithful to become better acquainted with the history and status of ROCOR, which helps facilitate the return of the faithful from schisms, entered into after the reunification with Moscow in 2007. Second, such conferences allow for greater interaction among the clergy, which in turn leads to greater mutual understanding and strengthened unity within the diocese. Third, it is not unheard of for priests to make grievous liturgical mistakes when serving, as a result of extended service in the absence of fellow clergy.
Fr Victor addressed those gathered, as well. He thanked those present and expressed his certainty that the conference would be spiritually beneficial for all.
That same day, after lunch, the conference continued its work in the parish hall.
Bishop George and Bishop Jerome then delivered a report on the activities of the Holy Sobor of Bishops in Moscow.
Fr Victor then delivered a report on the work of the Fund for Assistance to ROCOR. Their work goes to provide support for clergy and parishioners in need. Financial aid has been provided to victims of disasters in Haiti and elsewhere.
Archpriest Daniel McKenzie (Rector of St Vladimir Church in Miami, FL) spoke on the situation in Haiti. Thanks to our support, the situation of the clergy has improved. A piece of land for a new church has been bought and blessed. The faithful hope to build a church in the Russian style. Fr Daniel distributed an appeal for aid for those Haitian families in need.
Archpriest Andrei Sommer, Vice President of the Synodal Youth Department, delivered a report on events recently organized by the Synodal Youth Department. Youth groups took part in pilgrimage trips, visiting the holy places in Egypt, Palestine, and Russia. Among the particularly significant aspects of visiting Palestine were not only the visits to the holy sites for prayer, but also participation in archaeological digs. Participation in the digs also evoked great interest among the youth. Trips to Russia included a variety of events, as well. Trip itineraries included participation in church services, in social and cultural events, in social services programs, and in educational forums. Diaspora youth attended divine services and went to Holy Communion at St Tikhon’s University. The church, full of worshipers, made a significant impression on the youth. They will remember for a long time their visit with His Holiness Patriarch Kyrill, who made time in his busy schedule to meet with our young people and bestow his fatherly attentiveness on them. They visited the holy places of St Petersburg, and visited the Solovetsky Monastery to volunteer and perform various needed tasks there. They also visited the main convent in Kursk. They met with His Grace Bishop Panteleimon of Smolensk and Vyazma, who is very active in various social services. He instructed the youth, saying that material assistance was far from sufficient help, and that the warmth of a loving heart is absolutely necessary as well. There was a meeting with Moscow University students, and the first joint conference in Parish since the reunification is being planned. The conference will be held in three languages – Russian, English, and French.
Father Serge Lukianov spoke on last year’s major events and undertakings relating to helping establish and support weaker parishes. Fr Serge also spoke about the travels of the wonderworking Kursk Root Icon throughout the diocese. He presented various statistics on the composition of the diocese, after which a photomontage dedicated to diocesan life in 2010 was shown. Included in the montage were photographs of various hierarchal services, parish feast days and anniversaries, conferences, and summer camps.
After dinner, a photomontage dedicated to Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky), the third First Hierarch of ROCOR, and the 25th anniversary of his blessed repose, was shown. The montage was composed by the diocesan media office and was accompanied by high-quality audio recordings of the Metropolitan’s sermons. A moleben and akathist to the Mother of God were then served in the Cathedral. Bishop Jerome led the service, and all those in attendance sang.
Thursday, March 24. During the first half of the day, a tour was offered of Washington and the Hillwood Museum, which contains many works of Russian art.
Everyone then heard a presentation by Priest George Pavlovich from Diveevo (Russia). In addition to his labors at the divine services, Fr George works in the archives, seeking out and studying manuscripts from the time period in which St Seraphim of Sarov lived. Manuscripts were found containing deeper information concerning the life of the venerable saint and his pastoral work. In the early years of his life, he read a great deal of Holy Scripture, the lives of the saints, and the teachings of the Holy Fathers. He read through the entire library of Sarov and the private libraries of the local landlords. He read not only religious texts, but texts on the various sciences. After dinner, a litany for the departed was served for the Archpastors and pastors of our diocese who had departed in peace. Matins were then served, during which all confessed.
Friday, March 25. Services were held during the first half of the day: hours and the Liturgy of the Pre-sanctified Gifts. Bishop George and Bishop Jerome led the service.
After lunch, a thanksgiving moleben was served in the cathedral, the polychronion was intoned for all those who had labored and served the conference participants, and thanks were expressed to everyone. Thus ended the conference.
Archpriest Oleg Oreshkin