OCA hosts 14th annual Pan-Orthodox Youth and Camp Workers’ Conference

Youth Conference
Over 80 clergy and lay ministers attended the annual conference.

Over 80 clergy and lay youth and camp workers gathered at Saint Seraphim Cathedral here January 21-23, 2016 for this year’s Pan-Orthodox Youth and Camp Workers’ Conference.

“This annual conference is sponsored by the Orthodox Christian Camp Association and the leaders of all the different jurisdictions’ youth departments,” said Andrew Boyd, OCA Youth Director.  “This year’s gathering was hosted by the Orthodox Church in America—and it was especially joyous to see so many come together to work to do better for our youth.”

Youth Conference
Fr. Steven Voytovich leads a discussion on burnout and self-care.

The theme of the conference—“Feed My Sheep: Crisis, Trauma, and Everyday Life”—was explored in two keynote addresses by Archpriest Dr. Steven Voytovich, Dean of Saint Tikhon’s Seminary, South Canaan, PA, and numerous workshops.  Father Steven focused on mental health and development in youth and young adults, as well as burnout and self-care for pastors and youth workers.  Workshops focused on ministering to young veterans, responding to crises at camp, building effective young adult ministries, developing youth ministry programs in smaller parishes, and planting and expanding campus ministry efforts.

Youth Conference
Participants enjoy fellowship and exchange ideas and best practices.

“This year saw a record number of both clergy and lay attendees from the OCA,” Mr. Boyd added.  “Representatives from the Bulgarian Diocese, the Diocese of the Midwest, the Diocese of New England, the Diocese of New York and New Jersey, the Diocese of the South, and the Romanian Episcopate participated.”

“I came away from the conference energized and ready to continue working with my parish’s lay leaders to deepen our youth ministry,” said Priest Justin Patterson.  “I was also excited that the workshop I led on youth ministry in a small parish garnered so much interest and feedback.  Coming home, I feel energized by what is happening in so many parishes across Orthodox America.”

Youth Conference
Attendees listen attentively before offering feedback and questions.

His Grace, Bishop Thomas the Diocese of Oakland, Charleston, and the Mid-Atlantic of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, who chairs the Youth Committee for the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the USA, presided at a meeting of that committee’s consultants, focusing on youth formation and opportunities for more Pan-Orthodox cooperation among the youth.

Next year’s conference will be hosted by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America from January 26-28, 2017 at a location yet to be determined.