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Bishop Joseph Helps Lead Pan-Orthodox Retreat for over 100 West Coast Clergy reports:

At the initiative of the canonical Orthodox Bishops of the West, 106 priests and deacons gathered at Saint Nicholas Ranch and Retreat Center in Dunlap, California, December 1-3, 2009 for a retreat.

His Eminence, Metropolitan Gerasimos [Greek Archdiocese]; His Grace, Bishop Joseph [Antiochian Archdiocese]; His Grace, Bishop Benjamin [OCA]; and His Grace, Bishop Maxim [Serbian Patriarchate] encouraged their clergy to participate in this historic gathering. Each hierarch addressed a reflection to the group during one of the services.

The retreat master, His Grace, Bishop Illia [Katre] of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and long-time pastor of Saint John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church, Las Vegas, led everyone through the two-day discussion on the topic of "The Spiritual Father." He gave three keynote talks, after which the assembled clergy broke into discussion groups for deeper and more intimate discussion of each aspect of the topic.

In addition to the talks and discussion, there were daily services offered at the women's Monastery of the Theotokos of the Life-Giving Spring, located on the campgrounds. Worshipping and communing together at Matins, Vespers and Liturgy was the true focal point of the retreat. Fellowship between old classmates, colleagues and brand new friends was shared at meals, in dorms and in "down time" between sessions.

A pan-Orthodox gathering of clergy of this magnitude is perhaps unprecedented. The spirit of cooperation, friendship and fellowship was a breath of the Holy Spirit. It is hoped that this type of gathering will occur annually as part of the Nativity Fast. All those who could not attend missed a grace-filled, moving experience of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church gathered around the one thing needful.