19th AAC Youth Program registration now open

Youth from across the Orthodox Church in America are encouraged to attend the 19th All-American Council [AAC] in Saint Louis, MO July 23-27, 2018.

Registration for the Youth Program is now available online.

During the week-long program for youth ages 5-18, participants will explore their faith, meet Orthodox Christian youth from across North America, and experience the sights and sounds of Saint Louis.

“The All-American Council provides a unique experience for our youth,” said His Grace, Bishop David of Alaska, Episcopal Liaison for the OCA Department of Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministry in giving his blessing for the AAC youth program. “It provides them with an opportunity to combine their talents with many other Orthodox young people to make a stronger Church in North America.”

Each day, education programs and workshop activities will explore the lives of saints and the Council’s theme, “For the Life of the World,” with lessons in age appropriate groups. This Council’s youth program will also feature a teaching liturgy.

“We’re going to help young people understand the meaning behind the beauty of the Divine Liturgy, from the Proskemedia to the final Amen,” said Priest Benjamin Tucci, who is overseeing the program. “We want to equip the youth with knowledge and experiences they can share with their friends when they return home.”

As at past All-American Councils, youth participants will also share a brief presentation of their activities with AAC delegates and observers during a plenary session.

A draft of the youth program also is available online.

Cast Your Vote. A survey has been set-up for young people to vote before Wednesday, February 7, 2018 on their preferred daily outings in and around St. Louis.

Registration. Youth interested in attending the AAC Youth Program must register in advance. An early-bird discounted registration rate of $200.00 is available through Friday, March 2, 2018. After March 1, the registration rate will be $250.00, with the final deadline for registration Friday, May 4, 2018.

Scholarships. For those youth who need financial assistance to attend the program at the 19th AAC, scholarships are available in the following categories.

  • Youth in Kindergarten through grade two: Scholarship applicants should submit an original drawing showing how they live as Orthodox Christians.
  • Youth in grades three through five: Scholarship applicants should submit an original 200-word statement and a drawing showing how they live as Orthodox Christians.
  • Youth in grades six through twelve: Scholarship applicants should submit a 500-word essay on the theme, “I Am Orthodox, because…,” shraring their thoughts and beliefs as to why being an Orthodox Christian is important in their lives.

All scholarship entries (.jpg images of drawings and/or essays), along with the applicant’s full name, age, city, state and parish name should be emailed to aacyouth@oca.org no later than Friday, March 2, 2018. Youth who have been selected to receive scholarships will be notified in April. Winning essays and drawings will be published on the OCA’s Youth and Young Adult website.

Getting to St. Louis. Transportation to and from Saint Louis, including hotel fees, and meals outside of the Youth Program are the responsibility of participants. Travel arrangements can be organized for individuals, families or youth groups from parishes or deaneries.

Chaperones. Youth participants need to be chaperoned when not participating in scheduled program events.

Fundraising. Ideas for raising funds to offset AAC participation fees may be found online.

Questions? More information? Additional details about the Youth Program will be posted to the 19th AAC website as it becomes available. For specific questions, please contact Father Benjamin Tucci at aacyouth@oca.org.

St. Louis, MO site of FOCA’s 92nd Convention July 20-23

Metropolitan Tikhon blesses faithful at conclusion of 2016 FOCA Convention Divine Liturgy.
The 92nd Annual Convention of the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America [FOCA] will be held at the historic Union Station Hotel in St. Louis, MO July 20-23, 2018. Once again, the Convention will be held in conjunction with the 19th All-American Council of the Orthodox Church in America July 23 – 27.

According to Deacon Peter Ilchuk, this year’s Convention will be hosted by the FOCA’s National Executive Board. All Orthodox Christians, including current and former FOCA members as well as those interested in sharing fellowship with other Orthodox Christians are invited to participate in the weekend of activities for all ages!

In addition to Convention sessions, the gathering will include a golf outing, a St. Louis-themed welcome reception featuring local musical and culinary favorites, and a Saturday night dinner “under the stars” at the James S. McDonnell Planetarium. Following the Sunday Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, a banquet and dance will be held. Ample time will be available to visit some of the nearby attractions, including the Gateway Arch, Ballpark Village, and the City Museum. In addition, there will be a fun-filled program for youth, coordinated this year with the OCA’s Department of Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministry in partnership with the FOCA.

The deadline for hotel reservations is Friday, June 29th 2018. Reservations may be made by calling 314-231-1234 or online. In both instances, please mention “Orthodox Church In America” to obtain the special Convention/AAC rate.

As announced earlier, ads and listings for the commemorative book slated to be published in conjunction with the AAC and Convention are now being accepted online. Several options, ranging in price from $150.00 for a full page ad to $20.00 for a one-line patron listing, are being offered. Ads should be submitted as PDF or Word files to focabook2018@gmail.com. Checks made payable to the OCA should be mailed to Donna Tesar, 5068 West Sixth Street, Brooklyn Heights, OH 44131. Deadline for all ads and listings is June 1, 2018.

Questions and requests for additional information about the Convention may be directed or texted to Deacon Peter Ilchuk at 516-815-8890.

Online registration for 19th AAC delegates begins

Online registration for clergy and lay delegates and observers to the 19th All-American Council [AAC] of the Orthodox Church in America is now available on the AAC web site.

As widely announced, the Council will be held in St. Louis, MO July 23-27, 2018. Hotel registration at the St. Louis Union Station Hotel must be completed separately.

Registration packets will not be mailed to parishes, as in years past, according to Archpriest Eric G. Tosi, OCA Secretary, who released a number of important AAC-related announcements during the first week of January 2018.

Selection and registration of delegates. Please review the procedures for selecting clergy and lay delegates according to Article III, Section 2 and 7 of the Statute of the Orthodox Church in America. The assessment process has changed this year, in that parishes will not be directly assessed by the OCA. Rather, it is the responsibility of each diocese to collect and submit AAC assessments according to their own established procedures. [Please see related article.]

According to Father Eric, the assessment covers AAC-related expenses for parish clergy and lay delegates, excluding travel, hotel and food costs. The cost of the AAC’s Thursday evening formal dinner is included in each parish’s assessment payment. If approved by the rector of each parish, observers also may register, but they are responsible for their own expenses to attend the AAC. The online registration process will indicate the different options with regard to daily and weekly costs, as well as the option for observers to attend the AAC formal dinner.

Delegates and observers are responsible for the cost of their meals, other than the formal dinner, and transportation costs to and from the AAC. Travel arrangements may be made through FOS Tours and Travel.

Registration of delegates. In order to register for the AAC, a valid email address is required. It is through this address that the system will identify and communicate with delegates. Registrants are urged to save their assigned registration numbers in order to log on to edit any information should the need arise.

Parishes are permitted to send their assigned clergy and an equal equal number of lay delegates. Deacons may register as lay delegates unless specifically assigned and financially supported by the parish in a manner approved by their respective diocesan hierarch. For example, if there is one priest assigned to the parish, then one lay delegate is permitted; if there are two priests assigned to the parish, then two lay delegates are permitted. Attached and retired clergy do not qualify as “assigned,” as this term refers to clergy who have been assigned to the parish by the diocesan hierarch and are financially supported by the parish in a manner approved by him.

The online registration program will guide prospective delegates through a series of options and questions required for registration. Options from which delegates may choose include selecting which of the six AAC forums each delegate would like to attend and the formal dinner meal selection. [AAC forums will count as Continuing Education credit for clergy.] All choices and questions must be completed before the system will finalize the registration process. A confirmation will be sent via email to the address provided.

The registration process will be completed when confirmed by two critical steps. The AAC team first will ensure that the registration is legitimate. Once this has been confirmed, the names of the delegates from each parish will be sent to their respective diocesan hierarchs for approval. Once these two steps have been confirmed for each delegate, emails will be sent indicating that the registration has been approved. Additional instructions for checking in at the AAC itself will be sent at that time.

Registration of observers. Father Eric explained that there are plenty of opportunities for observers to participate in the AAC. [Please keep in mind that the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America will hold its 92nd annual National Convention in conjunction with the AAC. [See related story.] Each observer must be approved by his or her parish priest and diocesan hierarch. Observers will be seated in a special section, but they do not have the right to speak or vote. Observers may register for the entire week, for a single day, or for a series of days. Costs for observers may be paid online through the registration program or by check sent to the OCA Treasurer. Daily observers also may pay to attend Thursday evening’s formal dinner. The fee for weekly observers, as well as retired clergy, includes the cost of the formal dinner. Retired clergy may sit with the delegates during AAC sessions. While they have a voice, they are not permitted to vote. Observers also are responsible for their own travel, hotel and food costs.

Registering for the AAC as an observer is similar to registering as a delegate. Simply follow the instructions and register in one of the several observer categories and answer the series of questions. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address provided. Registration will not be completed until confirmed by two critical steps. The AAC team will ensure that the observer fee has been paid by the observer, either online or by check to the OCA Treasurer. Once this has been confirmed, the observer’s name will be forwarded to the diocesan hierarch for approval. Once these have been confirmed by the AAC team, an email will be sent confirming that the registration has been approved. Additional instructions for checking in at the AAC itself will be sent at that time.

Six AAC Forums. There will be six forums held on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons during the AAC. These forums will be based on the document authored by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, titled “Of What Life Do We Speak? Four Pillars for the Fulfillment of the Apostolic Work of the Church.” This document will serve as the study guide for the 19th AAC and will be sent to all parishes and institutions well in advance of the AAC. Parishes and institutions may utilize this in preparation for the forums. The forums will be open to all delegates and observers. Delegates are asked to select one forum for Tuesday and a different one for Wednesday.

Each forum will be led by at least two bishops and a panel selected by them to examine in-depth the topics and to present recommendations and initiatives to be considered by the AAC and the Holy Synod. The titles of the forums have been announced, with in depth descriptions, on the OCA web site. They include

  • Forum 1: Spiritual Life – How Can We Improve Our Personal Relationship With Christ?
  • Forum 2: Spiritual Life: – How Can We Better Care for Our Clergy?
  • Forum 3: Stewardship – How Do We Properly Steward What God Has Entrusted to Us?
  • Forum 4: Relation With Others – How Can We More Effectively Communicate And Interact With The World, North America, Non-Orthodox Groups and the Community?
  • Forum 5: Evangelization – How Can We More Effectively Establish Missions And Revitalize Our Churches?
  • Forum 6: Evangelization – How Can We More Effectively Reach Our Parishioners?

Finally, additional information with regard to registration for the AAC youth program will be forthcoming.

Questions may be directed to the AAC team at 19aac@oca.org or 516-922-0550.

Mission Parishes in the Kansas City Deanery

One may be tempted to think that because of the sprawling landscape and midwestern culture Orthodoxy would not be very attractive, but with four growing missions in a single deanery of the Diocese of the Midwest this is obviously not the case. In the Kansas City Deanery, Father Joshua Lollar, Father Basil Ferguson, Father Michael Kuzara, and Father Joel Wilson are the priests at these missions, and each have offered some background on the establishment and growth of each:

Saint Nicholas of Myra Mission
Lawrence, KS

Saint Nicholas in Lawrence, KS, was originally established as Saint Sophia Orthodox Church in the Bulgarian Diocese of the OCA in 2002. It was later transferred to the Midwest Diocese. The parish met for services for a number of years in a store-front near downtown Lawrence and the University of Kansas (KU). In 2011, the community moved to the Ecumenical Campus Ministries building on KU’s campus and had services there for a year and a half. The parish greatly benefitted from the OCA’s Mission Planting Grant program from 2012 – 2014. In 2013 the parish acquired property in the center of town with a small house that was remodeled for liturgical use. There is enough land on the property to build a temple in the future.

In addition to the regular cycle of services and a weekly adult study group, the parish is involved in a soup kitchen ministry in Lawrence and sponsors the KU chapter of OCF. The priest in charge, Father Joshua Lollar, also teaches regularly in the Religious Studies department at KU.

Saint Raphael of Brooklyn Mission
Quincy, IL

Saint Raphael Orthodox Mission has its beginning in the late 90’s when a few Orthodox in Quincy, Illinois asked for a blessing to begin holding reader services as there was no Orthodox parish or presence for 100 miles in any direction. By 2004 the group had grown and was granted Mission status under the patronage of Saint Raphael of Brooklyn. Being served at first by visiting clergy, in late 2005 Father Thaddeus Nielsen was assigned priest-in-charge of the Mission until his retirement eight years later. During that time the Mission knew both growth and struggle, while offering the surrounding Quincy area its first Orthodox witness in a consistent and faithful way.

After Father Thaddeus’ retirement in 2013 the Mission saw some decline in membership. A few years later Saint Raphael’s saw another setback in the loss of its storefront rental space. Under these circumstances the Mission returned to primarily reader services with occasional visits by available clergy in temporary spaces. Through all of this the Faithful of the Mission greatly persevered in the life of the Mission as much as was possible, maintaining regular prayer in Quincy while being able to receive the Sacraments of the Church only as often as such were available. The end of 2017 has seen a change in circumstances, yet again: Father Basil Ferguson with his family has been assigned to the Mission, which is presently in the process of preparing a rented space for regular worship once again. By God’s grace, through the prayers of Saint Raphael, Orthodoxy in Quincy is regathering momentum and looks with hope at the labor in this small part of the Lord’s vineyard in the years to come.

Joy of All Who Sorrow Mission
Joplin, MO

In late 2011, about six months after the great tornado of Joplin we celebrated our first liturgy in Galena, Kansas. We spent nearly a year and a half in Galena and then moved to our present address here in Joplin. Over the course of six months we renovated our over-sized garage into a chapel space. Since that time we have been celebrating Vespers and Divine Liturgy. Over the course of the last several years we have been maintaining an average of 15 to 20 people for Sunday Divine Liturgy. Within the last few months we had our first adult baptism and will have four catechumens being Chrismated on the Nativity of our Lord. God is good!

Annunciation of the Virgin Mary Mission
St. James, MO

In the early months of 2012, His Grace, Bishop Matthias gave (then) Deacon Joel Wilson a blessing to pursue the planting of a new mission in the area of Rolla, MO in cooperation with the parish of Saint Thomas the Apostle in Springfield, MO. After launching the effort, Deacon Joel and Matushka Tessi learned of several existing Orthodox families in Rolla, and spent most Saturdays during their year and a half at Saint Thomas driving to Rolla from Springfield to hold Reader services. The first Liturgy was celebrated on February 9, 2013, and the following August His Grace, Bishop Alexander named the new mission community “Annunciation of the Virgin Mary”. In December 2013, His Grace ordained Father Joel to the Holy Priesthood and assigned him as “Priest-in-Charge” of the new mission. Father Joel and family moved to Rolla and purchased a home in the first half of 2014, and by February of 2015 renovated a large outbuilding to use as a temporary temple, all the while holding Vespers and Liturgy every weekend.

After moving into the new temple space, the mission grew exponentially and in January 2017 the mission received the OCA’s Mission Planting Grant. Thanks to the grant, the generosity of the mission’s supporters, and the dedication of the faithful at Annunciation, as of December 2017 the average attendance is at 40 people on Sunday morning – usually more kids than adults! A fairly full cycle of services is able to be celebrated each week, a proper iconostasis is being built, and the community is now praying for a new space that is large enough to hold everyone for Liturgy and Social Hour on Sundays.

Glory to God!