NEW YORK: January 10, 2013
New Report on the Hartford, CT, St Hermans Youth Conference

With the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion, each December a group of over one hundred youth, ages ranging from sixteen to twenty-eight, gather to participate in the East Coast St Hermans Youth Conference. This past December, St Panteleimon Church in Hartford, CT, hosted what was dubbed by many of the attendees as the most successful conference they had ever attended. For those who have never attended, allow me to shed some light on what participating in a St Hermans Youth Conference entails.

Quite literally the morning after Conference concludes, planning for the next year begins. The question lies in perfecting a schedule that will stimulate the participants both spiritually and intellectually, as well as in providing the time and activities to encourage new friendships among the Orthodox youth. This years conference attempted to even further elicit participation on behalf of the youth by changing the schedule slightly from years past.

In contrast to previous years, there was only one main lecturer. Andrey Desnitsky, a well-known Biblical historian and translator, flew in from Russia to present the key-note lecture. In a compelling and informative fashion, Desnitsky discussed the afterlife according to the Bible. The lecture was followed by an opportunity to ask questions and comment on the content he presented. Andrey Destnitsky remained for the duration of the conference to share his knowledge in other learning formats as well, such as the workshops and discussion groups.

This year, we incorporated workshops into the schedule for the first time. The focus of these workshops is to create an environment that is more intimate than the large lecture setting. Additionally, they provide the youth with an opportunity to be self-driven in choosing workshop topics that interest them. The workshop groups are limited to thirty participants to encourage youth to ask questions and actively participate. The small group size and shorter time work together to create a more memorable experience. Topics ranged from discussions on leadership within the Orthodox community, to understanding and comparing approaches to Confession. Particularly memorable was Very Reverend Father Anastassy Yatrelis workshop on Proskomedia. Fr Anastassy created an interactive experience by asking the youth to volunteer to read and maintained interest by peppering his discussion with pleasant humor and an amiable southern drawl. The discussion groups served a similar purpose but were held at a micro level.

The most significant parts of the conference, vigil and Divine Liturgy, occurred on the second and third days to commemorate the day of St Herman. All conference participants were given the opportunity to go to Confession and receive Holy Communion the following morning. A youth choir of conference participants conducted by Protodeacon Serge Arlievsky sang at vigil. At Liturgy the choir was youth-driven, directed by Alexander Cooley, Anastasia Serdsev and Christina Burbelo.

Scattered throughout the conference were activities such as Christmas caroling, ice-skating, time spent by the pool, and much needed time to relax following the eventful days. The final night brought the conference to a close with a talent show including singing, dancing, whistling, and a variety of other hilarities. The morning after the conclusion of the conference was no different than any of the previous years; planning for the December 2013 conference on Long Island and Manhattan has already commenced. It is our hope to see many new faces at the upcoming St Hermans Conference.

A.P. Wolkow


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