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Diocese Represented at First Annual Sophia Institue Conference

New York, NY [MW Communications] - Union Theological Seminary, New York City was the site for the first annual Sophia Institute One Day Academic Conference held December 5, 2008. The conference title was “Women in the Orthodox Church: Past Roles—Future Paradigms.

Diocesan Seminarian Juliana Mecera—a student at St. Vladimir’s Seminary—as well as her mother Ann Marie Gidus-Mecera, Diocesan Council member, presented short papers that expressed their shared passion for utilizing women’s God-given gifts for the good of the Church and its people.

Keynote speakers included Orthodox scholars Prof. Valentina Izmirlieva, Fevronia Soumakis, Teva Regule, and Stamenka Antonova. Conference host and Director of the Sophia Institute is the V. Rev. Dr. John McGuckin, Nielsen Professor in Late Antique and Byzantine Christian History at Union Theological Seminary and Professor of Byzantine Christian Studies, Columbia University.

A common theme that recurred throughout the conference was evidence that women played a significant role in the early church, with the deaconess being ordained at the altar, serving in a liturgical capacity, and ministering to women and children.

Juliana presented a reflection of her experiences of growing up in the Orthodox Church and studying at St. Vladimir’s Seminary. She spoke enthusiastically of parish life in which she had been highly active and in which many women had served as mentors to her. “I have realized what effective ministers of the Gospel these many women are.” She acknowledged that seeking ways to continue serving the larger Orthodox Church in America seems to require great creativity as a woman. “Additionally, my interaction with ordained women and those on the path to ordination in other traditions has encouraged me to take my responsibility as a leader in the Church more seriously… and has encouraged me to be more faithful.” Juliana will continue further graduate studies in theology to pursue doctoral work in systematic theology.

Ann Marie presented a condensed version of a paper she originally presented at a University of Leeds conference in England entitled “Women as Lay Ministers in the Orthodox Church,” which explored numerous instances in which women could minister in an official capacity to women, children and converts in the contemporary church. “The Orthodox Church and its faithful sadly suffer in many ways by not utilizing the gifts and talents of women,” Mrs. Mecera points out. “We have graduated bright, dedicated women from our seminaries who disappear into a non-related vocation because their talents and gifts are not used in the Church. Imagine the pool of talent that could immediately be available!” Ann Marie sums up her observations by saying, “Without the role of the deaconess, Orthodox Christians fail to experience the fullness of the Faith as Christ intended.”

Reflecting on the first annual conference theme, the V. Rev. Dr John McGuckin commented, “The Conference initiating the work of the new International Orthodox Sophia Institute, revolving around the theme of women’s social and spiritual ministry in the Orthodox Church, was a great success, and demonstrated quite clearly the immense spiritual gifts that Orthodox women have to offer in the mission of the church today, not merely in the past.”

According to Fr. McGuckin, next year’s conference will be “a study of Orthodox Philanthropy past and present- our collective work continuing to ask the ‘connecting’ questions between the Church’s historical and theological tradition, and the lived-out praxis of its role in the contemporary world.”

The Sophia Institute is an Advanced Research Institute and Philanthropic Foundation that focuses on the historical culture and ethical outreach of Orthodox Christianity. It is an independent foundation that functions in association with a number of university partners and collaborators, notably: The Harriman Institute (Columbia University), The Center for Early Christian Studies (Catholic University of Australia), The School of Early Christian and Eastern-Christian Affairs (Louvain University), The Institute of Ecumenical Studies (Lviv University, Ukraine), and The School of Global Ethics, Leeds Metropolitan University. The primary goals of the Sophia Institute are to encourage the study of the Eastern Christian Tradition – its history, thought, liturgical and spiritual cultures, as well as issues concerned with its ecumenical and socio-ethical engagement with the contemporary world.

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Upcoming Feasts of the Church

Polyeleos-rank Jun 19 - The Holy Apostle Jude the Brother of the Lord
Polyeleos-rank Jun 23 - Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God
Great Feast Jun 24 - Nativity of the Holy Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist, John
Polyeleos-rank Jun 26 - Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God
Polyeleos-rank Jun 28 - Icon of the Mother of God, called The Three Hands; Polyeleos-rank Our Venerable Fathers Sergius and Herman, Wonder-workers of Valaam
Great Feast Jun 29 - The Holy Glorious and All-Praised Leaders of the Apostles, Peter and Paul
Polyeleos-rank Jul 2 - The Holy Hierarch John Maximovich, Archbishop of Shanghai and San Francisco;
Polyeleos-rank Jul 3 - The Holy Hieromartyr Philip, Metropolitan of Moscow
Polyeleos-rank Jul 5 - Our Venerable Father Sergius, Abbot and Wonderworker of Radonezh
Polyeleos-rank Jul 6 - Our Venerable Father Athanasius of Mount Athos
Vigil-rank Jul 8 - The Sitka (Kazan) Icon of the Mother of God
Polyeleos-rank Jul 10 - The Deposition of the Robe of our Savior; Polyeleos-rank Our Venerable Father Anthony of the Kiev Caves
Polyeleos-rank Jul 11 - The Holy Equal of the Apostles Blessed Princess Olga
Polyeleos-rank Jul 12 - Icon of the Mother of God, called The Three Hands
Polyeleos-rank Jul 14 - Our Venerable Father Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain
Vigil-rank Jul 15 - The Holy Equal of the Apostles Great Prince Vladimir
Polyeleos-rank Jul 17 - New Royal Passion-bearers Tsar Nicholas and his family
Vigil-rank Jul 19 - Our Venerable Father Seraphim, Wonder-worker of Sarov
Vigil-rank Jul 20 - Holy and Glorious Prophet Elijah
Polyeleos-rank Jul 23 - Pochaev Icon of the Mother of God
Polyeleos-rank Jul 24 - Right-believing Russian Princes Boris and Gleb
Polyeleos-rank Jul 26 - The Righteous Priest Jacob Netsvetov, Enlightener of the Native Peoples of Alaska
Polyeleos-rank Jul 28 - Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God
Polyeleos-rank Jul 30 - The Holy Martyr John the Warrior


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