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2009 Diocese of Los Angeles and the West Parish Life Conference

“Be mindful, O Lord, of those who bear fruit and do good works in thy holy Churches, and who remember the poor.”

This passage from the Anaphoras of St. Basil the Great and St. John Chrysostom served as the theme for the Parish Life Conferences of the Archdiocese this year. This theme resonated throughout the 2009 Parish Life Conference for the Diocese of Los Angeles and the West, powerfully sounded out by the words of keynote speaker Father Thomas Hopko.

At the gathering in Santa Clara, CA, hosted by St. Stephen in nearby Campbell, Father Hopko described how the Scriptures, the Church Fathers, and the history of the Church teach us the importance of ministering to the poor. He began his opening talk making the striking observation that the phrase “with God all things are possible” is only used in context with three things in the Gospels: (1) the incarnation, (2) the resurrection and (3) Jesus saying, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” In his second talk, Father Hopko noted that in the book of Acts the three thousand people converted after Pentecost divided all they had with those in need and were united. He closed the session pointing out how, in Christianity today, helping the poor is the exception and not the rule, and that the Orthodox Christians in America are not united because we are not poor. In the closing question and answer session, Father Hopko acknowledged we must care for those in our lives who we are responsible for, but that we must also question what all of us really need, always bearing in mind that everything we have is from God.

With these sobering teachings as the backbone of the Conference, all of those assembled were called to be unified in our Orthodox Christian beliefs. The children participating in the delightful Kids’ Club program learned about the role of God as our Creator and that He created us for good works. Each session ended with a presentation to the children from mission workers, introducing them to IOCC, OCMC, Project Mexico and more. The members of Teen S.O.Y.O. served at Sacred Heart, a local community service organization that distributes clothes and food to the poor. The participants in the Oratorical Festival spoke eloquently and with wisdom beyond their years on the conference theme, with Joel Schaefer of St. John the Baptist Church in Post Falls, ID winning the senior division and Michael Veizades of Church of the Redeemer in Los Altos Hills, CA winning the junior division. Additionally, the teens and adults participating in the Bible Bowl showcased their study of the Gospel of St. John, with the senior team from St. John the Baptist Church, the junior team from St. George Church in San Diego, CA, and the adult team from Church of the Redeemer, each earning first place in their divisions.

The efforts of the host parish were bolstered by outstanding volunteer support from sister parishes Ss. Peter and Paul in Ben Lomond and Church of the Redeemer. The members of the Fellowship of St. John the Divine, the Antiochian Women, the Order of St. Ignatius and Teen S.O.Y.O. held meetings to plan the works of their respective organizations. His grace Bishop JOSEPH met with the attending clergy and presided over the Divine Liturgy, at which all ages worshipped our Lord Jesus Christ with a tangible sense of unity that, without a doubt, was a gift from God.