The Diocesan Children's Camp Hosts a Pastoral Conference of the Eastern Canadian Diocese

The clergymen of the Eastern Canadian Diocese gathered at "Ruskoka," the Diocesan children's camp, on October 16-17, 2005.

This meeting was somewhat unusual: this was a professional pastoral conference, if one could express it that way. By virtue of circumstances, over the course of several years, until the spring of 2002, pastoral gatherings of the Montreal and Canadian Diocese were few and far between. But over the last four years, during Great Lent, obligatory pastoral retreats were held concurrently with meetings of the Diocesan Council and the Brotherhood of St Job of Pochaev. Such assemblies, headed by His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, or by His Grace Bishop Gabriel of Manhattan, Administrator of the Eastern Canadian Diocese, have traditionally lasted for no more than 2-3 days. Their schedules were filled to capacity: divine services, discussions of general ecclesiastical matters, detailed discussions on diocesan matters and issues on the parish level can hardly be covered in just two days. Neither our archpastors nor our pastors, because of their overly-busy schedules, could extend their participation in such gatherings even for an extra day: often, even a three-day schedule would prove impossible. That is why this summer, at the request of the clergymen, Vladyka Gabriel gave his blessing for a pastoral gathering, with permission granted for the participation of subdeacons and readers, to be completely devoted to pastoral practice—both in matters of performing divine services and of the spiritual nourishment of the flock in the contemporary world. In particular, topics include the relationship between pastors and their flocks, the difficulties faced during confession, work with youth, etc.

The site chosen for this meeting was "Rus on the Muskoka"; from which the name of the children's camp of the Canadian Diocese is derived. Last summer, a wooden, northern-Russian style chapel dedicated to the Royal Martyr Alexis Nikolaevich was consecrated here.

The cool, quiet and partly-sunny autumn day in the woods, where the color green remained only on the pines and fir trees, everything else turning into lemon yellow and crimson and gold, the gurgling and splashing of wooded streams which accompanied the morning moleben in the chapel, the genuine brotherly, conciliar atmosphere of the discussions all imparted a special, grace-filled tone to the pastoral gathering in Ruskoka.

In fact, the pastoral meeting, with the presence of Bishop Gabriel (who had arrived to Ruskoka from Hamilton, Ontario, where he served for the feast day of Protection Church, attended by a large gathering of visitors throughout the Eastern Canadian Diocese and the US), began on Sunday evening at the traditional Ruskoka campfire, and continued almost until midnight.

The morning session began with Vladyka Gabriel telling of his recent short pilgrimage to Russia. Of course, events important for our entire Church were also discussed, including the IV All-Diaspora Council. However, most of the time was devoted to questions of pastoral ministry.

Delicious trapeza meals, prepared by the zealous and tireless hostesses, the Ruskoka sisterhood, added to the success of the gathering. The food offered was also unusual; marinated mushrooms gathered in the woods only a few hours earlier, and ukha, soup prepared from fish caught that morning in the rapids of Muskoka literally a few paces from the kitchen. Archpastoral and pastoral thanks were then expressed to the sisterhood and the volunteers of Ruskoka (represented at the gathering by Reader George A Skok).

It is expected that such meetings will continue to be held on the shores of the Muskoka.