What is Life Like for Youth in Parishes Abroad?


On November 8, 2012, the Orthodox St Tikhon Humanitarian University hosted a presentation of the book From West to East. Experience of Youth Service in the Russian Church Abroad (New York, 2012), by Protopriest Andrei Sommer, Vice President of the Synodal Youth Department of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

The evening was part of a jubilee event dedicated to the 20th anniversary of St Tikhon University. It was hosted by the Vice Chancellor of the OSTHU on International Affairs, Professor of Church History, Priest Georgy Orekhanov; Protopriest Vladimir Vorobiev, Editor-in-Chief of the Zhurnal Moskovskoj Patriarkhii [Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate], Protopriest Sergei Chapnin, Editor of Tserkovny vestnik [Church Herald], and Docent Priest Filipp Ilyashenko, Vice Dean of the History Department and member of the Diocesan Committee of the City of Moscow on Youth Ministry.

The presentation was attended by students and teachers of the Theological, Missionary, Pedagogical, Philological and other departments of the University, representatives of academic institutions and Moscow society.

Fr Andreis book is dedicated to the fifth anniversary of the reestablishment of unity within the Russian Orthodox Church, published in Russian in an edition of 10,000, of which 8,000 were sent to Russia by the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

Fr Georgy opened the event by introducing the author from America, and noting that the event lies against the backdrop of two anniversaries: the fifth anniversary of the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion and the twentieth anniversary of the founding of the OSTHU. Fr Vladimir then addressed the participants.

With bated breath, the audience heard his heartfelt tale of how long before the signing in 2007 of the historic Act, the OSTHU worked on maintaining unofficial fraternal contacts with fathers of the Church Abroad, about informing its hierarchy and clergymen about the enormous research the university carried out, publishing documentary materials on St Tikhon, the work of the Patriarchal Locum Tenens, Holy Hieromartyr Metropolitan Peter (Polyansky), the canonized and uncanonized New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia during the time of the godless regime in Russia.

Fr Andrei then gave a detailed account of the contents, structure and form of his book. The scope of the book is especially broad and reveals the history of the youth missionary movement in the Orthodox diaspora since the early 20th century through today on five continents, where Russians found themselves following the October Revolution, united under the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

The books contents are based on exhaustive study of published as well as archival materials from various collections of the Russia Church Abroad, including those of the Synod of Bishops, Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY, private archives of several ROCOR bishops and personal accounts collected by the author. Also in the book is a great multitude of photographs which eloquently illustrate the authors observations and conclusions.

Especially valuable in Fr Andreis book is that it represents not only a profound and important excursion into the history of the Church in the last century, but is an actual methodological textbook revealing, on the basis of the experience of the Russian Church Abroad, the various forms and methods of youth ministry: youth groups, high schools, youth camps, scout organizations and other entities which brought young people together for decades on end.

Fr Andrei gave Fr Vladimir a signed copy of his book, and in turn the latter gave Fr Andrei a recently-published book, Patriarchal Locum Tenens Holy Hieromartyr Peter, Metropolitan of Krutitsa, from the OSTHUs series Materials on the Recent History of the Russian Orthodox Church.

After the presentation, Fr Filipp shared his impressions and thoughts on the book, turning to his personal experience as an adolescent in the summer camp of OSTHU, which now comprises a part of his service as a pastor.
Fr Andrei spent a long time answering numerous questions. These, along with various responses, evoked great interest among the audience members to the book itself, the great experience of its author and all the problems connected with the development of youth ministry in general. Among the clergymen who participated in the discussion was Protopriest Lev Semenov.The next event in the anniversary celebrations will be held on November 14 at OSTHU and will be devoted to the forthcoming publication of the multi-tome works of St Ambrosius of Milan. This series is being prepared by OSTHU together with Ambrosius Library in the Milan Catholic University.

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