We have a long way to go on this front. I once tried to coordinate a YES trip and hit a wall of jurisdictional reluctance far beyond what I had expected. I've seen different jurisdictional youth groups try to get together for events only to be torn apart by difference in fasting rigor - As one priest said, "If you don't want to eat pizza on Friday you Russians can go do something else." A family might live just a few miles away from another jurisdiction's camp and not qualify for a scholarship for their children because they don't attend one of that jurisdiction's parishes. We continue to have towns with multiple small youth groups doing much of the same work, but operating divided upon ethnic identifiers. My list could go on and is well documented on this blog. Hopefully there is sufficient desire and will to enact meaningful coordination and integration across jurisdictional lines.
(AOB) - New relationships and unity among Orthodox Christian youth workers are the result of diligent efforts by the Committee for Youth, one of the very active committees of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America.
The committee’s members are Bishop Thomas (Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese), Metropolitan Alexios (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese) and Bishop Irineu (Orthodox Church in America). As with all of the Assembly’s committees, clergy and lay consultants support the work of the committee. The Committee for Youth has more than sixty consultants with extensive experience and knowledge of Orthodox youth and youth programs.
One of the fruits of the committee’s efforts has been new relationships and increased collaboration among jurisdictional youth directors. “Prior to the committee’s formation, a handful of jurisdictional youth directors would meet occasionally,” says His Grace Bishop Thomas, the chairman of the committee. “Now there are 17 who meet in person and by phone, representing every jurisdiction in the Assembly. An additional fifty-three youth workers work alongside them, as consultants to the committee. They’ve become a family of Orthodox youth workers, sharing information and resources.”
The youth directors and youth workers held their most recent meeting in Austin TX in January, just before the Committee for Youth’s annual face-to-face meeting.
The increased collaboration is leading to a better understanding of available Orthodox youth programs, better coordination between the jurisdictions, and a deeper understanding of the challenges our youth face in living an Orthodox Christian life.
The committee has also created a database of Orthodox youth programs, the first of its kind. Previously, there was no central repository of such information. I wonder when we will be able to see it?
“We’ve learned that there are a whole lot of people doing fantastic Orthodox youth work,” says Fr. Joseph Purpura, Chair of the Department of Youth and Parish Ministries for the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese and facilitator for the committee. “You might expect that we would find redundancy across jurisdictions, but in fact it’s just the opposite – we’ve discovered that between us we have a wealth of programming, material and resources. It means more opportunities for all our youth.” Every bishop and youth director has received an electronic version of the database, which will be updated annually.
The Committee for Youth is encouraging jurisdictions to publicize one another’s events and promote the idea that youth can participate in any Orthodox program, regardless of jurisdiction. The committee hopes that its efforts will result in more opportunities for youth to grow in the faith and more opportunities for youth to form relationships with one another.
“There’s a real desire on the part of all involved to share our programs and to bring our kids together. The younger we reach them, the better,” says Bishop Thomas.