ATLANTA – The planning sessions, the forums, the meetings of the committees, the workshops, the receptions and the social events of fellowship of the Biennial 40th Clergy-Laity Congress all culminated in the Plenary session of today which concluded the official work agenda of this milestone Congress.
The Plenary Session began at 9 am and ran to almost 5 pm, with a break for lunch at about noon. It was conducted in a fast-paced and efficient manner and was packed with information and inspiration arising from the work of the ministries of the Archdiocese, the Metropolises, parishes, and the various committees and forums which had worked the preceding days and months. As a result of the presentations, meetings, and Ministry Strategic Planning Sessions, which occurred the previous days, 17 reports were presented and discussed during the plenary. These reports in order of presentation were: Archon’s report, Administration, Finance, Stewardship, Outreach and Evangelism, Family/Marriage and Interfaith Marriage, Youth and Young Adults, Religious Education, Greek Education, Communications/Internet, Social/Special Ministries, Hellenic College/Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Leadership 100, Faith Endowment, National Philoptochos report and a Resolutions report.
“This is the nicest and warmest congress experience I can remember in the last 25 years,” said Michael Jaharis, the vice-chairman of the Archdiocesan Council reflecting on the progress of the last three decades. He suggested that the participation and the positive attitude of the delegates constitute a welcomed evolution in the matters of the Church.
Archbishop Demetrios of America, in his closing remarks urged the delegates “to convey in detail and in essence” all that transpired in this Clergy-Laity Congress back to their parishes and their fellow brothers and sisters. He said that the ideas and the proposals initiated and cultivated in this Congress should be the subject of discussion and ministry in the parishes so that the message of the theme Gather My people to My Home – Come and See can be realized. The Archbishop also asked the congress participants and all the faithful to support the priests in parishes and communities that cannot afford them, so every Greek Orthodox Church in America has an uninterrupted liturgical life and ministry.
Several resolutions were presented and approved by the delegates of the Plenary Session. These were 1) a resolution regarding the oil spill and the ecological catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico calling upon the faithful “to do their utmost to preserve our planet and to take all possible care to avoid future man-made calamity,” 2) a resolution calling for peace in the world, 3) a resolution in support of the work of the recent Episcopal Assembly of Canonical Bishops in North and Central America, 4) a resolution recognizing the heroic sacrifices of uniformed men and women in the armed forces and in support and commendation of Orthodox Chaplains around the country, and 5) a resolution of “Thanks” which recognizes that the 40th Clergy-Laity Congress has provided us with a unique opportunity to strengthen the witness of faith and love, to facilitate the work of our Holy Archdiocese, Metropolises and parishes and to offer to the world an invitation to “Come and See.”
The day concluded with a Grand Banquet attended by an estimated 1,200 people. Nicholas Moraitakis, Congress co-chairman was the presenter of the dais and William Marianes the other Congress co-chairman was the master of Ceremonies. Dr. Constantine Kokenes and Eliana Marianes sang the national anthems of Greece and the United States respectively. Aphrodite Skeadas, National Philoptochos president offered a greeting and said that the National Philoptochos had enthusiastically approved a proposal by Archbishop Demetrios and will buy a building in Manhattan and create a Philoptochos Center for Philanthropy.
The Ambassador of Greece to the U.S. Vasilios Kaskarelis, sent a written message to the participants read by the Consul General of Greece in Atlanta Vassilios Gouloussis and Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus to the U.S. Andreas Kakouris offered a greeting. Rev. Protopresbyter William Bartz offered an inspiring introduction to a special tribute, a video presentation on the 40th Anniversary of the Ionian Village camp entitled “A Legacy of Lives Transformed.”
Finally, remarks were offered by Michael Jaharis, Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta, Archbishop Irenaios of Crete and Archbishop Demetrios of America.
Archbishop Demetrios presented the two co-chairmen of the 40th Congress, Nicholas Moraitakis and William Marianes with the Medal of Saint Paul, the highest honor of the Archdiocese.