Oriental Orthodox Youth Conference
Teaneck, NJ – “What is the best way to share our Faith with others?” “Do babies in the womb have a soul?” “How should Coptic and Ethiopian Christians feel about the Nile Dam project?” “How can I assert my independence while still honoring my mother and father?” “Can the Oriental Orthodox Churches combine their resources to establish a seminary in New Jersey?” “Is evil necessary in order for us to experience good?” “What books should I read to learn about the Faith?” “How do I deal with feelings of anger?” “What will my body be like in the Resurrection?” “How can our churches cooperate in evangelism?” “What is the Church’s position on theosis?” “How can I stand up for the rights of everyone while still adhering to the principles of Orthodoxy?”
These are just a few of the countless questions put to H.E. Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim (Syriac), H.E. Mor Titus Yeldho (Malankara-Syriac), and H.G. Bishop David (Coptic) by the youth of more than a dozen local Syriac, Armenian, Ethiopian, Malankara-Syriac, and Coptic Orthodox Churches last Saturday (June 22) at St. Mark’s Syriac Orthodox Cathedral. The bishops, however, had just one question for the youth: “How can the Church better serve you and meet your needs?”
The goal of the conference, entitled “Living Liturgically: The Church and You in North America”, was to provide the youth with the opportunity for real, one-to-one face time with their bishops and a chance to ask them any questions they saw fit. No subject was off the table. Operating without a safety net, the hierarchs fielded questions on topics ranging from comparative theology and social justice to human sexuality and atheism.
“It was our honor to host this youth conference,” declared Subdeacon Gabriel Bar-Sawme of the Syriac Orthodox Youth Association, who served on the SCOOCH sub-committee that made this conference possible, “The experience was encouraging and it is great how we can unite in the name of Christ as one Church and share our experiences with one another and thus help each other to grow into the likeness and image of Christ in the USA.”
Far from the stereotypical image of the aloof, distant prelate preoccupied with luncheons with world leaders and catching planes to distant lands, the Fathers of SCOOCH were described by some of the young participants in Saturday’s event as “approachable”, “easy to talk to”, “down to earth”, “a true father”, and “genuinely concerned”.
“You are not only the future of the Church,” H.E. Mor Cyril elucidated, addressing the assembled body, “you are the life of the Church!”
The feeling was more than mutual. At the end of the day, both the youth and the hierarchs of the Oriental Orthodox Church expressed their desire for more such events in the future.