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Report On The 14th All American Council
By Philip Neznanov, Lay Delegate and Caye Caswick, Observer

I, Caye, arrived in Toronto on Saturday evening, July 16, 2005. I attended Divine Liturgy Sunday morning at 9:45am, followed by a Continental Breakfast. There were approximately 1,000 people (maybe more) at Divine Liturgy that morning. The choir was simply beautiful - I hope they recorded that. I also attended Vespers that evening followed by a Welcome Reception for all Council Participants on Sunday evening.

The theme of the Council was "Our Church and the Future" - which makes the Youth Activities Schedule a great complement - the Youth & Young Adult Council theme was "Become What You Are." Many, many couples brought their children to the Council - and their Activity Schedule was just as full as the regular Council Agenda. The Holy Synod approved the theme in the prayerful hope that the time spent preparing for the Council, our work this week and by our work again after the Council, should help us better appreciate where we have come from as The Orthodox Church in America, where we are today, and most importantly, where we are going in the future. The Council focused on five pillars, or areas: Vision and Identity, Clergy Formation, Evangelization, Parish Health and Orthodox Relations.

I bumped into Fr. Andrew and Philip following Divine Liturgy on Monday morning. Plenary I - the first session of the Council began at 10:30 a.m. The topics were "Preconciliar Commission Report, Council Organization "Getting the Most Out of the Council," and Address of the Primate," (His Grace, the Right Reverend Seraphim, Bishop of Ottawa and Canada). Phil and I both attended "A Pan-Orthodox Singles Group, its Success in the DC Area." The underlying idea was that a Singles Ministry must not be confused with a matchmaking service. Furthermore, outreach to the singles must be Pan-Orthodox, and age divisions should not exist, as the singles group is not just a youth group. The DC Area singles group was particularly successful as long as it performed strictly social functions, not service projects. Plenary II - "Nomination Procedures and Vision and Identity" were the topics for Monday afternoon's Council session, followed by Vespers.

On Tuesday, the Exhibit Arena opened, containing many booths with products and services on display. Lee Kopulos attended as an Exhibitor and representative of the Orthodox Christian Laity. His attendance resulted in a planned meeting at Dormition Monastery in August with His Beatitude Herman and Bishop Nathaniel about Orthodox Unity. Matins began at 7:30 am. Plenary III - "Summary Team Update and Report of the Chancellor" was Tuesday Morning's session. I attended "The Place of Technology in the Church" Luncheon Workshop, which was quite informative. It stressed keeping the parish website simple and easy to navigate - and to be sure to post a map and directions as well as listing dates and times of services. Phil attended the workshop on involving the young adults in the church. Two main ideas emerged as a result of this session. First, the youth should become involved in the operations of the church before they go to college. For instance, they should act as greeters, ushers, work in the kitchen, and fellowship hall. The parish should reach out to its youth while they are in college by sending them letters, greeting cards, and small care packages for their birthdays, name days, and major holidays. To ensure the involvement of young adults in church life, the older parishioners must recognize the young adults' skills and talents and employ them in the church's ministries. Plenary IV - "Nominations, Parish Health and Diocesan Spotlights" were the topics of Tuesday afternoon's session. An Akathist to the North American Saints was another awesome service - I particularly found the lyrics to be beautiful, akin to the lyrics of America the Beautiful.

Wednesday began with Matins at 7:30 am followed by Plenary V - "Summary Team Update, Evangelization, Workshops on Parish Health and Evangelizing" followed by the Diocese of the Midwest Assembly, which we all attended. The agenda for the Midwest Diocese Assembly was two-fold: to entertain a motion affirming that all elected positions of the Diocese will have one extended year of term; and to entertain a motion that empowers the Diocesan Council to pass the 2006 budget with a COLA increase in Diocesan Assessments. We learned that there are currently 76 parishes in the Diocese, 11 seminarians and a budget of $65,000.00 for missions. The Diocese has 16 full-time and 11 part-time employees. Also, Archbishop Job will not be filling his assistant position, and will travel alone. We are proud of our Autocephaly - Fr. Andrew proposed a resolution about celebrating Autocephaly Day each May 18th - which was passed. Information was shared on the SCOBA topics of bilateral talks with the Antiochians and the resistance of the Greek Archdiocese. It was announced that in the Fall of 2005 The Icon of Our Lady of Sitka would visit 60 parishes nationwide.

Thursday began with Divine Liturgy at 7:30 am followed by a Continental Breakfast. Plenary VI - "Summary Team Update, Elections and Orthodox Relations" were the topics of Thursday morning's session. I attended the "Conflict Management, How to Deal with Challenging People" Workshop - which I found exactly as I suspected it would be ... a room full of 'challenging people' - very funny and also informative. Phil attended the session on ministering to immigrants headed by Father John Matusiak and Father Thomas Muller. The main idea of this session was that the parish must reach out to the immigrant community only if there is a sizable immigrant population in the area. Outreach can take place in many forms: social services, English lessons, use of the church hall for community functions. Father John also recommended that the parish priest directly contact the newcomers or ask to bless their home in order to build closer ties with them. Above all, the parish must treat the immigrants with patience and understanding. Plenary VII - "Report of the Treasurer/Fairshare and Election Results" were the topics of Thursday afternoon's session, followed by Vespers and then a Pre-Banquet Reception, followed by the Grand Banquet - which was attended by approximately 2,000 people. At our table were: Fr. Lenoid Palceski (who Fr. Andrew went to Seminary with) and his family and Fr. Theodore Heckman. One of Canada's top Opera Stars sang the three National Anthems, Canada, The United States and Mexico. During dinner, we heard from the following dignitaries: His Beatitude, the Most Blessed Herman, Archbishop of Washington and New York, Metropolitan of All America and Canada; His Grace, the Right Reverend Seraphim, Bishop of Ottawa and Canada; Protopresbyter Robert S. Kondratick, Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America; Archpriest Lawrence Reinheimer, Rector, Saint Peter the Aleut Church, Calgary, Alberta; Archpriest Dennis Pihach, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Canada; and His Eminence, The Most Reverend Kyrill, Archbishop of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania and the Bulgarian Diocese of Toledo.

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