MID-WESTERN DIOCESE: 19 December 2012
A Conference for Russian Orthodox Families is Held in the Mid-Western Diocese
Between November 30-December 2, 2012, with the blessing of His Grace Bishop Peter of Cleveland, Administrator of the Mid-Western Diocese, the Second Winter Family Conference was held at the New Gracanica Serbian Monastery. Thirty-seven adults and twenty-two children participated n the conference, which was organized by the cathedral's Brotherhood of St Nicodemus.
A single desire gathers together and unites everyone within such events—salvation within the family. Many of us try to attend church, to pray and to participate in the Mysteries of the Holy Orthodox Church—we do not wish the grace received in church to dissipate in the turbulent sea of our life. Thus, we are posed the question: How are we to preserve it? We can preserve it in the family—since we spend a great deal of time in the family. Providing that the entire family is trying to preserve this grace, salvation is possible. But for this we in the family ourselves must build mutual relations is such a way that the family is transformed into a little Church. We rely on the experience of our Church, on holy people, contemporary ecclesiastical writers and specialists in the area of psychology. Let us always remember that it is necessary to strive and labor for our own salvation, for the salvation of the members of our family, and for our families to be nurtured and to grow into future members of the Church. For it is precisely within families that the great and holy teachers of the Church grew and were nourished. Likewise, many honored and great men who have contributed to national and universal culture and science were raised, for the most part, within families.
The conference was held under the principal theme: "The Orthodox Family in Our Days." Invited to the conference were: Protopriest Serafim Gan, Rector of the Church of St Seraphim of Sarov, in Sea Cliff, NY; Dr Ari Christophidis, an Orthodox psychologist; Archimandrite Thomas (Kazin) and Hieromonk Seraphim (Baltich), of the Church of Serbia.
On the evening of Friday, November 30, the conference organizers opened registration for the families that had come to spend time at the monastery. After supper, Fr Serafim held the first discussion with the men. At the same time, Archimandrite Thomas had a discussion with the children on what the candle symbolizes, the source of warmth and light. The discussion took the form of questions and answers; and one may say that the children actively took part and happily answered the questions. After the discussion, the children and Fr Thomas made beeswax candles.
Saturday began with the celebration of Divine Liturgy, after which there was the customary breakfast. Later, Deacon Leonty and Olga Naidzions opened the conference with a welcoming address. The conference was continued by an absorbing speech by Fr Serafim, based on explanation of the Orthodox Mystery of Marriage and the prayers read during that rite.
The next lecture and discussion were conducted by Dr Christophidis, who spoke about how spouses and children must fulfill their responsibilities within the family and must look upon their responsibilities as service to Christ. He also spoke about the necessity of finding time for prayer, fasting, confession and the forgiveness of others. The psychologist shared with the audience his own practice, which is grounded in the experience and teaching of the holy fathers of the Orthodox Church. This was an unusual revelation, especially as there are so few practicing Orthodox psychologists in our times.
The time for lunch arrived, the most pleasing aspect of which was not only the awareness that one could enjoy a meal after a fruitfully spent first half of the day, but also the possibility of mingling with the conference participants and the lecturers themselves. After a delicious Serbian lunch, there was a short break. Then, Hieromonk Seraphim conducted a discussion on the theme of prayer: how to pray and how to teach children to pray in our complicated times. Protopriest Seraphim rounded out the second day of the conference with a discussion held separately with the women. While the mothers and wives were listening to Fr Serafim, the children, under the oversight of Maria Alexeevna Furmanova, cut out paper components and pasted them together to make church buildings, while their fathers actively assisted them in this task.
And then again it was time for supper, during which all shared their impressions of the day with one another. After supper, the children prepared for everyone a brief entertainment, in which, having been assigned roles, they put on the skit, "Zolushka". The spectators were filled with delight by the little actors. Thank God we are still able to rejoice over the successes and talents of our children! The evening concluded with the prayers before sleep; each read, one after another, a single prayer, and in this we sensed our fraternal unity in Christ.
Sunday morning began with morning prayers, after which we went to the Divine Liturgy. The Liturgy was served with solemnity in the monastery's catholicon, and was presided over by Bishop Longin of New Gracanica. After the conclusion of the Liturgy, the bishop delivered an inspiring sermon on the theme of the Nativity Fast. Then the participants went to the conference hall for lunch, after which Deacon Leonty concluded the third day of the conference with a short lecture on the theme, "Distinguishing Psychological Characteristics of Men and Women." It is essential to be aware of these traits if one is to resolve conflicts within the family more easily.
We express our sincere gratitude to our lecturers: Protopriest Serafim, Dr Christophidis, Archimandrite Thomas and Hieromonk Seraphim. And we also thank Maria Alexeevna Furmanova, for organizing and working with our smallest parishioners. While the parents were occupied with the lectures, Maria took care of the children. And finally, we thank the monastery's abbot, Bishop Longin, and the dear Serbian staff at the monastery, for their help and for enabling us to hold the conference. May the Lord bless all!