DIOCESE OF AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND: December 31, 2013
Australia’s 49 th Russian Orthodox Youth Conference Comes to a Close
One year ago, at the previous event held in Brisbane, it was decided to organize the 49 th Russian Orthodox Youth Conference at Holy Protection Cathedral in Melbourne, Australia.
In early 2013, the search began for a site to host the event, and they found a YMCA camp near the town of Mount Eliza, on the shore of Port Phillip Bay. Youth began to gather on Thursday, December 19, on the eve of the event opening. His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York arrived late at night on the last flight from Brisbane, accompanied by a group of young people. Vladyka Hilarion had conducted feast-day services in the oldes parish of the diocese, having been founded 90 years ago.
At 8:00 am, the conference members were awoken for prayer and breakfast. At 10:00, the customary moleben before a good deed was served. His Eminence addressed the youth with a sermon in which he stressed the importance of holding these annual events for the life of the diocese, and invoked God’s blessing upon the conferees. Protopriest Nicholas Karipoff, Rector of Protection Parish, thanked the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia for his attention to the youth despite his great workload, and then briefly shared the organizers’ ideas with the clergymen and youth, outlined the schedule, services, discussions and free-time activities. One of the organizers, Dima Metlenko, added a few details, and introduced Fr Nicholas as the first speaker, who led a discussion about Christian marriage and the family, which included Holy Scripture and theology; the need for effort and podvig to achieve chaste, pure mutual spousal love, the differences between male and female neurology and psychology, the view of the family as a part of the Church organizsm and practical principles in child-rearing. Every few minutes the speaker took questions.
After lunch and a short break, a young parishioner of the cathedral, Fiona Polorotova, continued to speak on the topic. Fiona touched upon many practical aspects of the rearing of children, describing her experiences with three small children. Fiona put a great deal of work into her presentation, which also included the many aspects of the relationship between parents, especially mothers and children. Fiona also noted the fullness of life that Christian marriage and family bring to spouses, parents, and especially for a young woman. Fiona spoke from the heart, and led to an interesting discussion.
Reader Simon Bobko of the cathedral then delivered a serious lecture about atheism and faith, in the modern world. Like Fiona, Sima, who just earned his law license, devoted a good deal of time to preparing his lecture. He noted the historic roots and contemporary social reasons for the spread of godlessness in the West. Sima drew attention to the ideological atheism developed by Western thinkers, politicians, and atheism from science. He clarified the reasons for godlessness in daily life, which stem from apathy and indifference of modern man to the needs of the soul. Speaking confidently, one sensed that he has great concern for spiritual survival in today’s world. A series of questions followed, which Sima sometimes asked priests to answer. Discussions continued after dinner, and priests answered notes with questions.
On Thursday and Friday , summer weather reigned and many young people went swimming in the ocean. After evening prayers there were campfires and the youth sang.
On Saturday, December 21, the day began as usual with prayer and breakfast, and at 10:00 the first lecture was read followed by a film presented by Gennady Baksheev a doctor of psychology. Gena, who is a subdeacon at the cathedral, offered material on neurology and psychology in the context of the theme “Conscience and Morality.” He showed a 2008 film made in Perth of a lecture read by a British neurologist of world renown, Baroness Susan Greenfield. She reported on the influence of too much time before a screen, especially on children but on all contemporary mankind, on the development of the mind and psyche. She showed the results of scientific studies that drew a direct correlation between excessive TV and computer-screen watching and stunted development and even the deterioration of the frontal lobe of the brain, which has a great effect on mature thought. During the lecture and discussion, the role of neurology in our psyches became clear, which is an important part of the human being: the spirit, soul and body, as Christian anthropology teach us, founded on Holy Scripture and the teachings of the Holy Fathers.
After lunch, Gena shared the results of his doctoral thesis, written on the topic of the study of criminals in temporary prison facilities. The lecture revealed the importance of family life in childhood and the harmonious development of an adult who is able to face life’s challenges without descending into alcoholism, drugs and other useless “supports” for the psyche. Gennady offered a great deal of important and necessary material to our youth, which appreciated his efforts.
Between the second lecture and dinner, Kolya Morozov led a choir rehearsal with some youth members for the evening service. Hegumen Christopher (Vakhabov) meanwhile, led a discussion with other young people from recent immigration on the challenges of modern life for the Orthodox Christian. He illustrated illustrated some of his concepts with examples from his missionary discussions with those of other religions.
The evening services, conducted in the lecture hall, were inspiring . Those who wished to partake of the Holy Gifts made confession to Fr Nikolai Dalinkevich, Fr Vladimir Boikov, Fr Boris Ignatievsky, Fr Nicholas Karipoff, and Fr Christopher. Vladyka Hilarion read an akathist as the choir sang, after which they sang the canon and read the prayers before Communion. The youth then retired to their cabins, and the evening ended quietly before Sunday Liturgy.
On Sunday , the conferees rose earlier, and at 8:00 am a large bus took the youth to the cathedral for a hierarchal service. At 9:30 , they greeted Metropolitan Hilarion, who was joined in the service by Fr Nicholas, Fr Nikolai, Fr Peter Scheko, Fr Vladimir, Fr Boris, Fr Christopher, Priest Simeon Kichakov and Hieromonk Kiril (Garvas), along with Protodeacon Vasily Kozulin, Protodeacon Alexander Abramov and Deacon Emil Mishriki. During the minor entrance, Vladyka Hilarion elevated Fr Simeon to the rank of Protopriest, and Protodeacon Alexander was awarded the right to wear a kamilavka. Fr Christopher was given blessing to read the sermon. The cathedral choir was joined by a large group of young singers.
After Liturgy, attended by over 400 people, the sisterhood offered a luncheon for 200 for the clergymen, youth and preregistered parishioners. Some of the youth, including eight people from New Zealand, were seeing the great church and parish center for the first time. During the banquet, the Kievan singer Valery Malyshev sang several of his religious songs. The youth then went on a tour of Melbourne, then Dormition Church in Dandenong, where Protopriest Michael Protopopoff, its rector and Dean of Victoria, who told them about the frescoes, icons, etc.
Because of the full schedule, dinner and following discussion were late by an hour and a half back at camp. Fr Michael spoke on the lessons of history within the diocese and the importance of resisting temptation in this world. Many questions followed. A small group of youth asked Fr Michael to stay to answer more questions.
The final full day of the service, December 23, began with morning prayer. After breakfast, Fr Nikolai Dalinkevich delivered a lecture, “Barriers to Salvation in the 21 st Century.” He aimed to answer the question: why do many people think that there are contradictions between science and religion? In conclusion, he said that today’s “scientific atheism” is dishonest in interpreting scientific facts. For the contemporary Christian, one must not only be a believer, but educated, knowing the true place science must occupy in the context of the human legacy.
After lunch , Fr Nikolai read a second lecture : “ Why God Permits Suffering .” Using the language of modern science in microphysics, he persuasively illustrated the fact well known to theologians that human thought influences nature and can also cause disorder, leading to catastrophe. The talk sparked many questions. Fr Nikolai added a short description of the Christian concept of theodicy (defending God in the face of evil and suffering), based on the Book of Job.
The day ended with a talent show, in which youth gave theatrical and musical performances. Metropolitan Hilarion and two of the clergymen were invited to be judges. The First Hierarch attended the entire conference, beginning to end, and inspired the lecturers and audience.
One hundred and five participants came from Victoria, New Zealand, Queensland and South Australia. Sadly, there were few participants from Sydney. It was decided to celebrate the “golden anniversary” of these conferences next year in Kentlyn, where they began in 1964.
Fundraising and organizing the conference were five members of the Metlenko family, Kolya Kotsyan, Andrei Pai and youth from Melbourne and Dandenong.
Protopriest Nicholas Karipoff