: Lenten Pastoral Retreat and Conference 2014

pastconf_2014_6On Tuesday 24 March and Wednesday 25 March 2014 the clergy of the Australian and New Zealand Diocese gathered in Sydney, NSW, for the customary Lenten Pastoral Retreat and Conference.

On Tuesday evening at the Archbishop’s Chapel of All Saints of Russia in Croydon, an inner suburb of Sydney, the Rule of Preparation for Holy Communion was read and Lenten Matins was served.  The clergy formed the choir for both services.  Hieromonk Dorofei (Urusau) read the akathist during the Rule of Preparation for Holy Communion and Mitred Archpriest Michael Li presided during Matins.

On Wednesday morning the clergy gathered at the Diocesan Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in Strathfield for the reading of the Hours and the concelebration of the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.  Diocesan Vicar-General and Dean of Victoria, SA, WA and Tasmania, Mitred Archpriest Michael Protopopov, presided at Divine Liturgy, assisted by 12 priests and 2 deacons.  Of the remaining clergy most formed a choir, singing under the direction of Archpriest Nikita Chemodakov, the Dean of NSW, while others prayed in the sanctuary and vested to receive Holy Communion.  A complete list of participating clergy is attached here.

Despite it being a working day, a number of lay people attended Divine Liturgy and received the Holy Mysteries.  Present during Divine Liturgy was a beautiful icon of Saint Sergius of Radonezh, the seven-hundredth anniversary of whose birth the Russian Orthodox Church is celebrating during 2014. The icon was brought to our Diocese by Abbot Anthony of the Holy Trinity-Saint Sergius Lavra.

After Divine Liturgy, the clergy gathered in the church hall for a Lenten lunch prepared by the Cathedral Ladies’ Auxiliary.  Over lunch, Abbot Anthony spoke of the seven-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Saint Sergius of Radonezh and of the continuing relevance of the saint, touching as his did so on contemporary events in Russia and Ukraine.

After lunch, Father Michael Protopopov opened the Pastoral Conference, the theme of which was “Pastoral Service in the Australian and New Zealand Diocese: Yesterday, today and tomorrow”.  He said that such gatherings were important in providing the clergy of the Diocese with an opportunity to pray together and to strengthen fraternal bonds and friendships. He emphasised the need to attract to such gatherings as many of the clergy of the Diocese as possible.

Concern was expressed with regard to those who were not present.  It was acknowledged that even amongst the clergy a sense of isolation could develop, and those present resolved to take a number of practical steps to overcome this, better supporting each other in serving the Church.  As a first step it was agreed to develop a semi-formal process of peer support.

Discussion then turned to the ever-memorable priests who served our Diocese in its formative years – those who were here before the Second World War, and those who came after the war from Volhynia, and later from China.  The senior priests at the Pastoral Conference recalled that there had been a time of difficulty in the early 1970s when many of the pioneering clergy of our Diocese were aging and departing this life, it seeming at the time that there were few to come forward to replace them.  The need to once again nurture and develop candidates for the diaconate and the priesthood was emphasised.

The need for greater pastoral care of our matushki – the wives of our priests and deacons – was also discussed.  It was agreed that more should be done to prepare the wives of prospective clergymen for their unique service to the Church, and that more should be done to support our matushki now.  The clergymen present were very much aware of the burden that their service to the Church places on their wives and children, and expressed a desire to ease this burden in every way possible.

A number of liturgical practices were discussed, with particular attention given to the role of altar servers in assisting the ordained clergy within the sanctuary.  Noting that there were different practices within the Russian Orthodox Church and throughout the Orthodox world, the importance of encouraging boys and young men to serve in the sanctuary, and of the need to foster in them a love of service to the Church, was affirmed.

Attention was given to a wide range of Diocesan youth activities planned for 2014: the Teen Retreat to be held in Melbourne, the 50-year Jubilee Diocesan Youth Conference to be held in Sydney, and a Kids’ Camp being organised by the Cabramatta parish.  The importance of clergy participation in such events was emphasised, it being beneficial to both the youth and to the clergy.

International youth activities were also discussed, with clergymen being advised that some assistance would be available to those youth wishing to attend the Thirteenth All-Diaspora Youth Conference in San Francisco in July 2014. This conference, the theme of which is “In the footsteps of Saint John – Social welfare and volunteer services”, will coincide with the celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the glorification of Saint John and San Francisco.

Mention was also made of the possibility of two additional international youth events: a youth pilgrimage to Indonesia and a “Concord of Orthodox Youth” («Содружество Православной Молодежи») pilgrimage to Russia, the responsible priests being Abbot Joachim (Ross) and Archpriest George Lapardin respectively.  An undertaking was given to provide the clergy with further information as it becomes available.

It was agreed that a Diocesan celebration of the 700-year anniversary of the birth of Saint Sergius of Radonezh would be held on 7-8 October 2014 at the Intercession of the Holy Virgin Church in Cabramatta, adjoining which is the aged care facility operating under the auspices of the Russian Relief Association of Saint Sergius of Radonezh.

The pastoral response to the present troubles in Ukraine was discussed.  The importance of prayer was emphasised, and clergymen were reminded that links to petitions and a prayer approved by Metropolitan Hilarion for use at the Divine Liturgy had been posted on the Diocesan website.