As delegates were occupied with plenary sessions, forums, and other aspects of the 19th All-American Council [AAC] of the Orthodox Church in America, well over 100 children and teens enjoyed a week of “faith and fellowship” during the AAC’s youth program.
The impact made on—and by—the youth was especially evident after the presentation offered by Dimitrios Rentel and Miriam Sheehan at the closing plenary session on Friday, July 27, 2018 as a spontaneous drive to raise funds to engage a full-time Youth Director netted $87,000.00. [See related story.]
“Throughout the week, youth from across the United States and Canada gathered to discuss the AAC theme, “For the Life of the World,” while participating in fellowship and worship and pursue educational and service opportunities,” said Priest Benjamin Tucci, who coordinated the program. ” At the final plenary session, they gave a presentation to the Council body, during which they thanked the Church for giving them this special week together and expressed their desire for more opportunities to be together. The audio of Dimitrios’ and Miriam’s presentation ‘says it all’ as they asked the Church to help them achieve this goal.”
Youth program participants also enjoyed a variety of other activities throughout the week. They engaged in a stewardship project in conjunction with FOCUS North America’s Saint Louis site, enjoyed a brunch with members of the Holy Synod of Bishops, and attended their own youth banquet at Saint Louis’ Holy Trinity Serbian Hall. On the “lighter side,” the youth cruised the Mississippi and visited Saint Louis’ iconic Gateway Arch; enjoyed the Forest Park Zoo, Science Center and Imax Theater; and braved thrill rides at Six Flags amusement park.
But what will long be remembered above all else is the vitality the youth brought to the AAC, with the assurance that the youth are not the “future” of the Church, but a vital reality in the Church’s “present” life and witness.
“It is hard to put into words the power and life this opportunity brought for our youth,” Father Benjamin said. “The Union Station hotel was often alive with their joyful singing as they would walk back from their events or had free time to bust into song. Georgian Paschal hymns, songs in honor of the Theotokos, and many of our liturgical hymns were sung on the buses—and even in the amusement park!—as the week passed. Group hugs, joyful laughter, and a feeling ‘being the Church’ permeated the youth and helped to firm up what it means to be an Orthodox Christian ‘for the life of the world.”
Parishes and individuals who would like to make a donation toward funding a full-time Youth Director may do so online.