New Diocesan Youth Ministry Established

September 4, 2005

BINGHAMTON, NY - His Eminence, Metropolitan Nicholas announced at the 61st National ACRY Convention his plans to inaugurate a comprehensive Diocesan-wide Youth Ministry. In his address at the final business session of the convention, His Eminence called upon the members of the ACRY to support his effort to more effectively reach out to the spiritual needs of our diocesan youth. His Eminence stated that the new diocesan-wide youth ministry initiative would be deemed a "New Apostolate" of the diocese and would be pursued with an apostolic zeal, for in our present day and age, our children are in need of being rescued from the stormy seas of life. It was announced that a Diocesan Youth Commission would be appointed in the near future which would be headed by a senior priest of the diocese, and would include the Administrator of Camp Nazareth, the Junior ACRY spiritual advisor and other clergy who are gifted with ministering to the youth.

The following is the complete text of His Eminence's address to the ACRY Convention:

The news about Hurricane Katrina is unavoidable. It is on every television and on every newspaper. And how could it be otherwise? Already, this Hurricane has become the worst natural disaster that has hit the United States.

I am not going to speak directly about this catastrophe right now. The time for speaking about the Hurricane will come later. But I do want to reflect on how this tragedy makes us look at life as the precious, fragile gift from God that it really is.

While listening to the news makes us all feel weary, it challenges us to cling ever more closely to God and His Holy Orthodox Church. It makes us appreciate the gift of salvation, and the healing power of all the sacraments. And it makes us all the more concerned about the salvation of those around us, and those who are coming after us.

It is our young people - our children and youth - who are the ones coming after us. You might think it odd that I think of these when I hear the news of Hurricane Katrina - but you parents certainly understand. When you hear of a crisis or a tragedy, your first thought is to reach for your children, to make sure that they're safe.

Today, I am thinking of the children and the youth of this Diocese, and I want to make them safe. I want them safe and secure, of course, from disasters like the hurricane, but more than this, I want them safe and secure from even worse storms.

These are the storms of doubt and coldheartedness, the tempests of self-centeredness and soft living. These are the storms that pull youth away from churches and their parents. These are the tempests that pull family members away from each other.

I am not here to impress upon you how dangerous this situation is. You already know this, so I do not have to convince you. What is more important right now is to respond to the storm, and to provide for our children in the challenging future ahead. As bad and dreary as are these challenges, none of them are impossible. Every single challenge, and every single storm can be overcome.

I think, in particular, of the nearly four hundred children of our Diocese who attended Camp Nazareth this summer. This was a great success, and as the Camping program continues to develop, that number will grow.

But even four hundred children and youth are only a small part of the young people of our Diocese. It is many hundreds more than four hundred.

When I think of them, and the storm of unbelief that presses down upon them from every side of this modern age, I know that we must involve them all in the spiritual life of the Diocese. I want all of them to receive the teaching, pastoral and sacramental ministry of the Diocese - not just the ones in large or active parishes, but also the youth from our small parishes, and those parishes who participate less.

The need here is urgent. There is a storm of emptiness and chaos looming on the horizon, and our children must be given shelter in our Diocesan fellowship. In my conversations with many parents, I hear, over and over again, the fervent desire for a greater, apostolic ministry to our children and youth.

I have heard these voices, and I accept this burden. I do not lay it upon you. You will help, of course, as you always have. But this desire for a greater ministry goes beyond the capacity of any organization. It is a burden that must be shouldered by the Bishop, and by the entire Diocese under his spiritual care.

Today, I am sharing with you a new initiative of the Diocese to respond to this need. From this time on, we are looking upon our children and our young people as a group to whom we must especially minister, not as a group who will manage their organization on their own.

In other words, we will think, plan and work along the lines of "youth ministry." For too long, we assumed that it was sufficient, for the needs of the youth, for a parish to have an active Jr. ACRY. But now we realize that the task of "youth ministry" goes beyond the role of the Senior or Junior ACRY.

"Youth ministry" goes beyond just having a business meeting. It is goes beyond running bake sales and fund drives. It is goes beyond rehearsing for adult participation in the Senior ACRY.

"Youth ministry" requires the initiative and active involvement of the Diocese to provide teaching, training in prayer, fellowship, friendship, charitable work and opportunities for mission work. It requires Diocesan leadership to educate our young people in Bible knowledge, Church doctrine and tradition, Orthodox morality and ethics.

"Youth ministry" requires more than what we are doing now in the Diocese. It requires much, much more than what the ACRY can do in its own program.

I call upon you, the membership and leadership of the Senior and Junior ACRY, to commit yourself as a body to participate in this initiative.

While there is much to plan and much to change, and while you can expect much information to come your way in the near future, I will announce this particular development:

By the authority vested in me by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople, I am announcing the formulation of a new Diocesan Commission - the Diocesan Apostolate for Youth Ministry. I will appoint a senior priest to act as the Director of this new Apostolate, and I will appoint additional members as well, among them will be the Spiritual Advisor of the Jr. ACRY and the Administrator of Camp Nazareth.

This new initiative is called an "Apostolate" to underscore the seriousness and urgency of its mission. The very word "Apostolate" expresses "the continuation and extension of the Orthodox ministry of the Apostles, and their successors, the Bishops of the Orthodox Church."

The Apostolate for Diocesan Youth Ministry will be charged with planning and coordinating the Diocesan ministry to our children and youth. What will this involve?

  • It will report directly to me and the Diocesan Consistory.

• It will work to nurture Orthodox spirituality in the life of our youth.

• It will work to educate our youth in the Orthodox response to modern concerns and ethical issues.

• It will work to strengthen the commitment of our youth to their families.

• It will seek to overturn the current problem of older youth leaving Church life at 18, and returning back to Church only when their babies need baptized and catechized. It will seek to strengthen the commitment of our youth to their local parish and to the Diocese.

• It will seek to prepare our youth for the vocations of Orthodox marriage and family in the modern age.

• And speaking of vocations, it will seek to prepare young men and women for tonsure to the monastic vocation, and young men for entry into the vocation of the priesthood.

This new Apostolate will formulate a plan of action as quickly as possible. One of the new programs that I will direct the Apostolate to plan is a new Annual Youth Weekend. Our youth need to get together from across the Diocese, to enjoy fellowship and to worship together as youth, and to become excited about being Orthodox.

The first of these Annual Youth Events will be held in conjunction next Summer with the 30th Anniversary of the Groundbreaking at Camp Nazareth. During the two days before the Commemoration of the Groundbreaking, our youth will gather at Camp Nazareth from across the Diocese to experience Orthodox challenge, inspiration and fellowship.

I, too, am excited about being Orthodox. But, truth be told, we are all getting old. This is a simple fact that many deny, but is true all the same. The wisdom of Holy Tradition tells us, however, that we are not to deny our age, but should be motivated by our oldness to think about the next generation of the Church.

The Righteous David, the great Poet and Shepherd King, wrote this in the Seventieth Psalm:

O God, You have taught me from my youth,And to this day I have always declared Your wondrous works.Now that I am old and grayheaded,O God, do not forsake me! Do not forsake me until I declare Your strength To the next generation,Until I declare Your power to all those who are to come.(Psalm 70.17-18)

This is my prayer, my beloved friends - that God will preserve me and not forsake me until I - and all of us together - declare the power, love and grace of God our Saviour to the next generation. These are the children that God gave us to teach, to love, to lead, and to save out of the storm.