St Mary of Egypt Church Hosts the Annual Southern Orthodox Missions Conference of the Diocese of Eastern America and New York

Over 80 people attended the 2006 Southern Orthodox Missions Conference from October 27-29 in Atlanta, GA, hosted by St Mary of Egypt Orthodox Church. On Friday evening, an akathist hymn to the Righteous Anna was sung in honor of the Myrrh-streaming Icon of St Anna brought by Archimandrite Athanasy (Mastalski) from Our Lady the "Joy of All Who Sorrow" Parish in Philadelphia. We were blessed to have the icon with us the entire weekend and Orthodox from all around the Atlanta area were invited to come and venerate it.

On Saturday the Conference proper began, and this year's theme was "The Mission of the Church in the Modern World." Fr David Straut spoke to us about the Evangelical Mission, and the many ways for mission work to be carried out in Orthodoxy today. Elizabeth Szlek then gave a lively presentation about many of the ethical questions in our society that challenge Orthodox Christians. After a lunch break, the Dean of the Southern States in the Eastern Diocese, Fr Victor Potapov, spoke to us about the nature of the Church's political mission in the world, and how it affects all of us in profound ways that we may not have considered before. A panel discussion followed, featuring the three main speakers, plus His Grace Bishop Gabriel and Archimandrite Luke (Murianka), who had just returned from the final joint commission meeting of the ROCOR and Moscow Patriarchate in Germany. There were many questions about the progress of the discussions, and a lively forum ensued. All then adjourned for the evening vigil service.

The next morning a large crowd filed into the church for a celebration of the hierarchical Divine Liturgy, presided over by Vladyka Gabriel, who was assisted by 14 priests and 3 deacons. There were a number of clergy awards during the minor entrance, the highlight of which was the presentation of the mitre to Protopriest John Townsend, the Rector of St Mary's. The service was nearly entirely in English, and the augmented choir sang beautifully. Afterwards everyone enjoyed a lunch prepared by parishioners at St Mary's, and the conference ended, though many lingered on throughout the day.

Sunday evening saw a time of relaxation and fellowship among the clergy and those spouses that attended.


The next morning the clergy met formally as the Southern Deanery with Bishop Gabriel. The discussions mainly centered on the ongoing activities toward the signing of the "Act of Canonical Communion," with strong opinions voiced both pro and con concerning immediate union. While nearly all are in principle in favor of the current path being taken by our hierarchs, and a majority support their efforts for immediate reconciliation, but others expressed some reservations as to the timing of the proceedings and some of the outstanding issues that in their minds had not been resolved. But all of the talks were conducted in a very friendly, courteous, and fraternal manner, and everyone was pleased that such issues could be discussed openly with love and without rancor. Protopriest Victor Potapov, our Dean, made the comment that he hopes next year we can spend more time on the really pressing concerns of daily life in the parishes, without these current issues hanging over our heads. The meeting adjourned with all present expressing regret that there was not more time for conversation and fellowship.

Priest Steven Ritter
St Mary of Egypt Orthodox Church
Roswell, GA


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