Clergy-Laity Conference Informed, Inspired 325 Reps from 52 NE Parishes

More than 325 individuals representing 52 Parishes gathered at the St. Demetrios Parish in Weston, MA on October 3 for the 2009 Metropolis of Boston Clergy-Laity Conference.  The day before, 100 parish representatives and priests participated at a Stewardship Seminar held at the Dormition Church in Somerville, MA.


The theme of the Conference was Come and See: Gather My People to My Home, “an invitation and an imperative command by the Lord to approach our ministry with a missionary focus of embracing all into the bosom of the Church,” said Metropolitan Methodios.  The Conference featured workshops which addressed a variety of ministries, offering ideas, encouragement, support and tools with which to strengthen an advance the outreach programs of the parishes.  Presenters traveled from far and near, offered inspiring presentations and engaged in meaningful dialogue with the participants.  The Conference also included a session attended by 50 teachers of the parish afternoon Greek schools, which was presented by Dr. Ioannis Efthymiopoulos, National Director of Greek Education, one for the Choir Federation attended by 27 church musicians, and a session for the Philoptochos Women which addressed the importance of the philanthropic outreach in the local communities.


Fr. Sebastian Skordallos, the Chief Secretary of the Holy Eparchial Synod of the Archdiocese of America, and Anthony Sefanis of Atlanta, GA, a member of the Archdiocesan Council Executive Committee presented sessions on the Ministry of the Parish Council.  Fr. Sebastian shared resources and practical suggestions to enhance and grow the ministries of the Church.  Mr. Stefanis, who has 40 years experience in the information technology and health care industries, offered an overview of the new Parish Council Training Seminar and presented practical suggestions for the parish to operate in an atmosphere of peace, love and unity. 


Fr. Charles Joanides, currently the director of the Archdiocesan ministry to intermarried couples and their families, presented information related to this pastoral challenge and offered strategies and tools that clergy and lay leaders can utilize in their efforts to reach out and minister more effectively to this growing population.  Dr. Philip Mamalakis, assistant professor of Pastoral Care at Holy Cross who also has a private practice working with individuals, couples and families, offered a workshop which explored common strategies couples face in daily married life and strategies to support them.  Fr. James Kordaris, the Director of the Archdiocesan Stewardship, Outreach & Evangelism Department, George Vourvoulias from Chicago, a member of the national Stewardship Commission and George Matthews of Marietta, GA, who co-chairs the Archdiocesan Finance Committee, shared thoughts on successful stewardship, offering footing for a strong base that provides a healthy Parish Stewardship Ministry at all levels of Development.  Alexei Krindatch, the Director for Research at the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute in Berkeley, CA spoke on what it takes to be a vibrant and attractive Orthodox community in the 21t century America and offered characteristics of “successful” parishes.  An information technology workshop was presented by Andrew Constantinou and Jamil Samara who formally unveiled the first major update to Bulletin Builder, which allows a parish to instantly create its weekly bulletin in print, via email, and online in a matter of minutes.  Fr. Frank Marangos, the Dean of the Archdiocese Cathedral of the Holy Trinity offered a workshop designed to offer practical suggestions in organizing young professionals and inspiring them to grow closer to Christ while building strong relationships and community.


Workshops on Parish Nursing and Special Needs Ministry were presented by Marion Avtges, RN and Mary Lynn Pergantis respectively, both stewards at the Taxiarchae Parish in Watertown, MA and experts in these fields.  Mrs. Avtges explained that the Parish Nurse Ministry provides a link between the needs of the whole person---body, mind and soul---together with the resources of the church and community.  Mrs. Pergantis discussed the unique needs of parishioners with disabilities, and explored the reasons why these stewards of the Church often go unseen and unheard.  Fr. Constantine Sitaras, the Director of St. Basil Academy in Garrison, NY and Melissa Tsongranis, Associate Director for the Archdiocesan Center for Family Care offered a session which explored how parishes can minister to their families, offering practical suggestions and reviewing available resources. 


How to turn around a declining parish was addressed in a workshop presented by Fr. Luke Veronis, the Pastor of Sts. Constantine & Helen Parish in Webster, MA.  This workshop addressed the problems and challenges facing communities with declining membership and offered practical suggestions on how to turn this situation around and inspire renewal and growth.  Anton C. Vrame, Ph.D. addressed the question “Will Our Children Have Faith?” in his workshop which discussed the role of parents and parish religious education programs in the faith development process of children.  Dr. Vrame is the Director of the Department of Religious Education.


Members of the Finance Committee, Nick E. Avtges and Angelo Stamoulis reviewed the financial means of all levels of administration, offering finance reports, addressing the question ‘Why We Support the Archdiocese” and comparing results from membership (dues) and stewardship methods of financing the Church.  Said Metropolitan Methodios, “Stewardship is the only means by which we will grow the Church, as well as meet our financial obligations.


Michael Sintros who has directed the St. Methodios Faith & Heritage Center for the past 9 years and has been involved in the Metropolis of Boston camp since 1995, and Dino Pappas, the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries of the Metropolis of Boston spoke on this vital aspect of outreach to the children and young adults.  This presentation amid glowing impressions only a week after a milestone and historic achievement for the Metropolis of Boston, the Door Opening of a Retreat House on the grounds of the beacon of Orthodox and Hellenism in New England, the St. Methodios Faith & Heritage Center. 


Those who attended the Stewardship gathering on October 2 and the Clergy Laity Conference on October 3, offered glowing evaluations of the sessions they attended, praising both the content of the workshops and quality of the presentations and discussions.  “I thank the dedicated individuals from across the Archdiocese who traveled great distances to be with us, as well as the workshop presenters, for their presence and faithful diakonia to the Church,” said Metropolitan Methodios.