Believed to be the first gathering of its kind, the summit enabled clergy and laity to explore the role of the urban parish in the 21st century. The program included presentations from Orthodox and non-Orthodox contributors, roundtable sessions, case studies, relevant workshops, and fellowship.
Mr. Joseph Kormos facilitated the summit.
On the first day of the summit, the Rev. Justin Mathews of FOCUS North America offered insights into opportunities for urban ministry and introduced the work of FOCUS — a new Orthodox charitable ministry aimed at serving those in need. [A detailed article on FOCUS appears in the Spring/Summer 2009 issue of “The Orthodox Church” magazine, available on-line at http://www.oca.org/PDF/DOC-PUB/TOC/2009/toc-spring-summer.pdf.]
Charles Robbins, outreach coordinator at Saint Gregory of Nyssa Church, Columbus, OH, offered personal insights into the amazing outreach ministry in full swing in his parish. The day closed with a cross-parish workshop designed to help parishes develop practical approaches for new ministry opportunities.
The second day of the summit was devoted to the issue of fostering change and growth in the established parish. Through a combination of speakers and workshops the participants were encouraged get “unstuck” and think in creative ways about urban parish life. A concrete principle that emerged was the importance of parishes not doing things alone. The importance of partnering with existing institutions, other Orthodox parishes, and non-Orthodox faith communities was actively explored.
Participants received valuable insights, content for further exploration, and possible solutions to share with their parish councils and communities. In the words of one participant, “We found ourselves dreaming new dreams of what are some distinctly Orthodox ways we can put our holy faith into sustainable, concrete action for the sake of witness, service, and radical hospitality, rooted in our existing commitment to a full liturgical life as a faith community.”