Jul 14, 2008
WASHINGTON, DC – The official opening of the 39th Biennial Clergy-Laity Conference of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America was held this morning at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel. The event began a full day of committee and organizational meetings and workshops. The highlight of the opening was the keynote address of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America who spoke on the progress of the Archdiocese over the past two years and on the needs, challenges and opportunities for ministry that are presented to Orthodox parishes and faithful.
Addressing the theme of the Congress, “Gather My People to My Home,” Archbishop Demetrios affirmed that the Greek Orthodox Church is called by God to “gather His people … to go out, to look for them, to start gathering the souls who are looking for a spiritual home, for a living community and ultimately for communion with God.” In applying the theme to the work of ministry in the parishes, Metropolises, and throughout the Archdiocese, the Archbishop stated, “People have the right to know what we know as the truth of God, to taste the joy of participating in our ecclesial community, and to experience the blessings we experience.” To encourage this work, the Archbishop directed the parishes to form and enhance ministries that will reach the unchurched and affirmed the commitment and plans of the Archdiocese to provide resources to do this. He concluded with reference to the words of Jesus Christ in John 10:16, where the Lord spoke of calling his sheep so that there might be one flock and one shepherd.
“Every time that we are in our churches, in our beautiful parishes, let us think of those other sheep, those other people who are outside, known and unknown…. Let us think of all others, the truly significant others, who wait to hear the voice of Christ. The voice of Christ invites them to gather in His home, to become His flock. But how can they hear the voice of Christ? We are the voice of Christ!”
The opening ceremonies also included the message of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the participants of the Clergy-Laity Congress, read by His Eminence Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira and Great Britain, the Patriarchal Representative to the Congress, who also offered his own greetings. The message expressed the love, support, and hopes of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for the ongoing work of the Church in America. In referencing the theme of the Congress the letter states, “Beloved, you are coming together in your national ‘home’ … to consider your broader and fuller gathering into your Spiritual House, the Church. That house is the ‘home’ of all people.” The letter also affirmed the uniqueness of the American context in accomplishing this work, “a free society in which to develop without hindrance your spiritual legacy and the values of your Tradition, not only for the benefit of you and your children, but for the benefit of your fellow citizens as well.”
Following the recognition of the members of the dais by Congress Chairman Andrew Manatos, the opening ceremony began with a prayer service led by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America with music provided by members of the National Forum of Greek Orthodox Church Musicians. In announcing the opening of the Congress, Mr. Michael Jaharis, Vice President of the Archdiocesan Council, stated that 1,468 participants had registered for the Congress, the National Philoptochos Convention, and the National Young Adult Convention which met over the weekend. Mr. Jaharis affirmed the importance of the Congress theme of gathering people into the Church stating that the important work of “preserving our faith, values, and legacy” complimented our calling to reach those “in need of spiritual enlightenment and guidance.” Master of ceremonies for the event was Mr. George Tenet, former Director of Central Intelligence, who introduced Mrs. Georgia Skeadas, President of the National Philoptochos Society, His Excellency Andreas Kakouris, Ambassador of Cyprus to the United States, The Honorable John Sarbanes, United States Congressman, and The Honorable Theodore Kassimis, Deputy Foreign Minister of Greece, who all offered their greetings and encouragement for the vital work of the Church in America.
The events of the Congress will continue throughout the week and will include the National Philoptochos Banquet this evening and the continuation of committee meetings and workshops on Tuesday. For texts of the Keynote Address and Patriarchal Message, photos, daily updates, and schedules, visit the Congress web site at www.clergylaity.org.
Contact: Stavros Papagermanos
Tel: (212) 570-3556; Fax: 212-774-0237