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Orthodox Institute Features Noted Speakers

The premier weekend for Orthodox Christian educators, the Orthodox Institute, took place at Antiochian Village from October 30 to November 1, 2014. Roberta Sardell, a Sunday School administrator and teacher from St. Stephen Antiochian Orthodox Church in Campbell, CA, submitted the following recap. (Eight of the presentations are available on Ancient Faith Radio.)

When asked why we attended this year's Orthodox Institute, I answered, "Star Power!" This year's conference featured some of the finest speakers and writers of today's Orthodox world. I also relish meeting other Orthodox; those attending represented various jurisdictions, some participating in the Christian Education strand, others seeking adult education, personal inspiration. Two young ladies were so inspired as to begin organizing a network of Orthodox women, intergenerational, for mutual support and spiritual growth.

The Thursday keynote speech was a lengthy introduction by Dan Christopulos on the conference theme, "Theosis: Your Life with God." His address covered part of the newest of Fr. Anthony Coniaris' books (Tools for Theosis) so brilliantly that, while these tools are well known in Orthodoxy, they appeared clean and fresh. Then Fr. Coniaris skyped in to wrap up with questions and answers. The love that the attendees feel for Fr. Coniaris seemed palpable as with warmth and humor he conversed with us.

Dr. Kyriacos Markides' Friday keynote address outlined his life. While his books are fascinating, hearing his life story in his Greek accent and casual style charmed us. His life exemplifies that of a seeker; in this case, the pilgrim found in Orthodoxy what was missing in other Eastern religions, which, among other things, includes theosis.

Other stars included seminary professors and authors. Each night we participated in book signings and social gatherings. There were opportunities for three two-hour workshops each day, but still one could not attend every speaker. For me, each was unique, from the brilliant lectures of Dr. Harry Boosalis, Fr. David Hester, and Fr. Michael Gillis to the more participatory sessions with Mother Christophora and Elizabeth White. Fr. John Oliver, speaking on the Holy Spirit, did not summarize his latest book (Giver of Life: The Holy Spirit in Orthodox Tradition); rather he offered several perspectives on who the Holy Spirit is and what He does that so exceeds our modern psychology. 

Surrounded by saints in the serene and intimate chapel, the vespers and liturgies unified and inspired us. Since the first Saturday of November marks the feast day of St. Raphael of Brooklyn, we bundled up and made our way to a memorial service at his gravesite. While there, the priests among us also led in a Trisagion for Metropolitan Philip.

I should add that the organization of the conference was excellent, the program well ordered and run on time...and the food was copious and delicious! All in all, while the skies over Pennsylvania were cloudy, there was much Holy Spirit-given light from the participants as well the "stars" at this Orthodox Institute.