Just back from Washington where I attended the 39th Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. This was my first Clergy-Laity and I am glad I went. His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America, in his keynote address, went beyond the theoretical to actual application when he developed the theme of the Congress: “Gather My People to My Home.”
Any effort for a serious application of our theme must begin with a changing of mentality and attitude. We must change from an exclusive and all absorbing focusing on our parish to an awareness of the existence of people outside of our Parishes, Metropolises and Archdiocese. People who have the right to know what we know as the truth of God, to taste the joy of participating in our ecclesial community, and to experience the blessings we experience to be with God as we are by being Greek Orthodox Christians. The area of our focused action should gradually be enlarged by including those who are outside, by being concerned with those who are waiting for the brother or the sister who will bring them home. Offering the shelter of God to the homeless souls should be part of the care and action of our parishes, should be indispensable part of our mentality, attitude and vision, and also should definitely be a central item of the basic education cultivated by the Church.
The Archbishop also appealed for a greater outreach to the unchurched and Orthodox Christians who have drifted away from the Church, including “non-connected” interfaith couples. He said it was time to offer youth “a real role in the life of the community” and pointed to the Orthodox Christian Fellowship which now has 270 groups in an equal number of Colleges and Universities. And, refreshingly, the Archbishop called for “proper and adequate resources, in the forms of books, DVDs, CDs and printed material.”
He closed his address by asking Congress attendees to think about those outside the fold:
Jesus Christ speaks about other sheep that are not of this fold, but He has to bring them also. And they will hear His voice. Who are these other sheep that are not of this fold? And how are they going to hear Christ’s voice?