The 8th Teen Retreat of the Australian and New Zealand Diocese

The 2018 Teen Retreat saw almost 60 high school students, from parishes around Australia, travel to Stanwell Tops, south of Sydney, from 16-21 December – the eighth in a series of successful Teen Retreats hosted by different cities of our Diocese.

The highlight of the first day saw the Teen Retreat receiving the Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God as it travelled around the country. A moleben was served in its presence to open the retreat, followed by venerating the icon and a talk from Bishop George of Canberra on the history of the icon. This proved to be a wonderful beginning to the Retreat, followed by Icebreaker games run by Helen Alalikin. As always, it didn’t take long to feel as if the Retreaters had long known each other.

The second day saw the educational component begin in the morning. Fr Andrew Smith (Brisbane) delivering a talk entitled ‘A Guide to the Spiritual Life’ on 10 spiritual disciplines, followed by a groupwork activity where each group answered questions on applying a discipline to their life. After this, Fr Bill Konstantinidis led a workshop on prayer, and the different paradigms we can have in our mind as we approach our all-powerful God who loves us. In the afternoon, we flocked to a nearby beach, while the evening saw two young adults, George Vasilevsky and Serge Smirnoff talking on the importance of resisting the surrounding culture and retaining the Orthodox faith. They joined the panel for the evenings Question and Answer session (featuring the traditional Question Box).

Tuesday saw three workshops, which the teens rotated through: Mother Christina (Bungarby) delivered a workshop on the Passions and how we might struggle against them; Dr Nadia Crittenden on Boundaries and how they can affect our relationships with family and friends; and Fr George Lapardin on Confession so that the teens would be well prepared for the evening. After free time, the Prayers before Holy Communion were read, and Matins for St Nicholas was served – with Confession being heard by two priests through these services.

The next day featured celebrating the Divine Liturgy on the feastday of St Nicholas. Prior to the Liturgy, Fr Andrew especially invited the teens to the Proskomedia service, which prepares for the Liturgy, and gave explanations of each action in that service. Many took the opportunity to see and learn what happens before each Liturgy. Having confessed and prepared the previous evening, most took the opportunity to receive Communion. That afternoon saw a variety of activities – bubble soccer, basketball, table tennis, swimming – while the evening saw another Question and Answer session.

On Thursday, the morning again saw education – Fr George Lapardin gave a talk entitled ‘Secular pressure and the Orthodox response’, including reasons why it’s important to be in church, while Nektary Kotlaroff delivered a talk on challenges commonly faced in teenage years, featuring his own life experience and decision to dedicate himself to following Christ. Again a hot day, the weather held out long enough for an enjoyable swim at the beach before a rainy afternoon. That evening saw the Talent Quest, with 9 groups participating in a variety of acts.

The last day was Friday, and the organisers took the opportunity to ask questions of the participants, and to make some plans for the future – both for the next Teen Retreat and for the benefit of youth work around the Diocese.

Special thanks to the organising committee, and to the clergy and supervisors that gave their week for the benefit of the high school students of our Diocese. The feedback from the teens was overwhelmingly positive – looking forward to similar events in 2019!

Priest Andrew Smith


Photo credit: protod. A Kotlaroff