I was invited to attend as a young adult volunteer the Eleventh Annual Saint Herman's West Youth Conference, held in Seattle, Washington, December 26-28, 2017. It was hosted by the St. Nicholas Cathedral Parish. I was joined by seventeen other volunteers whose backgrounds ranged from being cradle Orthodox to recent converts. Our ages spanned from the early twenties to the mid-thirties. The common denominator for all of us was not only to grow our own spiritual lives, but to help grow the spiritual lives of the Orthodox youth.
During the conference, our duties included everything from leading a workshop and panel discussion to kitchen clean-up and bed checks. The workshops focused on vocation, church ministry, stewardship, and outreach. They sought to guide the young attendees into becoming Orthodox adults despite the difficulties found in their coming-of-age in this modern world. In doing so, we relayed our own experiences while offering a platform upon which the youth attendees could reflect on their place in this world as Orthodox Christians.
As volunteers, we had the opportunity to partake in many of the conference activities, including beautiful services, lectures, and a service project. Father David Moser of St. Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church in Boise, Idaho gave an excellent lecture on “The Nature of the Soul.” Father David described the soul as the vehicle to our salvation and relying only on the “map” given to us by the Orthodox Church, we could achieve our goal of becoming God-like. As part of our service project, the attendees and volunteers visited an assisted living facility where the youth choir sang several hymns for the residents prior to socializing with them. It was a unique experience to have many different generations sharing in one conversation.
This year, we welcomed His Grace Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan who was present throughout the conference. He brought the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God from the Synod and the relics of St. Anna, grandmother of Our Lord, from Mt. Athos. Venerating these holy items was a very special and powerful experience for me. I also enjoyed getting acquainted with other young Orthodox adults. We spoke about our experiences in Orthodoxy and how the Church has helped shape our world view, our professions, and our decisions in life. If given the opportunity, I would volunteer for the 2018 youth conference in a heartbeat.
Reprinted with permission from the March/April, 2018, issue of the Church of All Russian Saints Newsletter.