Youth conference bigger than ever

first_img Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagram It might be seven years since the last National Youth Conference was held, but the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia is dusting off the lectern once again, hoping to engage its youth. Around 329 delegates have made the trip up north to Brisbane’s Dormition of the Theotokos parish and community. The Archdiocese says the demand has exceeded expectations. “We expected to get 250, and we ended up with over 300, so the feedback has been good, lots of people are wanting to go, and it’s been so long since the last one was held,” the church’s Brisbane organising officer, Zoe Stephanos told Neos Kosmos. The conference has seen a slight rise in demand from the last conference, showing that young parishioners between the ages of 15 to 35 still exist, even if the number is only slowly increasing over the decade. The conference started last Sunday and will go until October 1, with a program packed with lectures, prayer and social events. His Eminence Archbishop Stylianos will be opening the conference tomorrow and will be blessing the delegation, while on Monday he will deliver the keynote speech. Guest speaker Presvytera Dr Thekla Kokkinos will also give her take on the future of the Church. The decision to hold another conference was thanks to the Clergy Laity Conference earlier this year, when the biggest figures in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia convened to discuss the future of the church. “Due to the many youth issues brought up at the Clergy Laity Conference that was held in January in Sydney this year, His Eminence Archbishop Stylianos decided that it was important to quickly address these issues,” Father Nicholas Brown of the Brisbane church Dormition of the Theotokos told Neos Kosmos. Some might consider this too little too late, with youth numbers dwindling for many churches around the country. The conference will at least utilise the Archdiocese’s Bribie Island camp and retreat, a project the church has been working towards for years. The delegates will be some of the first to use the secluded camp that is part of the St Andrew’s Theological College. The Brisbane Greek community is also taking part in the conference, with the Greek Orthodox Parish-Community of St George holding a dinner dance on the Monday for the young delegates. On Tuesday the delegates will participate in a divine liturgy at Bribie Island’s small chapel, Our Lady Theotokos. The church has struggled to connect with its younger audience, under-utilising its youth followers and pushing the issue aside for decades. Father Nicholas Brown, a young priest himself, has noticed many young parishioners leave the church thanks to its lack of foresight and inability to change. “We’re finding that we have to try and bring them back into the church, I mean that’s still an ongoing issue, that’s an issue everywhere, all over Greek Orthodox communities, throughout the world, even in Greece,” he tells Neos Kosmos. “I think with the new generation of priests, we’re getting out there, which is something that was missing in previous generations.” As part of the conference, young members will be given a chance to voice their concerns directly to the bishops. But with the bishops already preaching to the converted (quite literally) the exercise might not be as useful as they expect. At least the church is taking the initiative to work out new methods to engage its younger members. “Due to the church’s use of things like media, internet, websites, even facebook, even the basic parish priests are reaching out to the youth and their community, addressing their concerns and informing them of what it has to offer,” Father Nicholas says. Tickets, not including accommodation, are $130. For more information on the conference, visit http://goaa10nyc.wordpress.com/last_img

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