WASHINGTON, D.C. - 20080722 – The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America concluded its 39th Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress in the Nation’s Capital on July 18th, where more than 1,400 faithful, clergy and laity, representing their parishes, their local Philoptochos and young adults from across the country gathered for five fruitful days of deliberations, worship, fellowship and education. The 39th Clergy-Laity was the most positive and productive Congress in recent years, organized and held in an exemplary manner.

The theme of the Congress “Gather my People to my Home” was explained by Archbishop Demetrios in his Keynote address as the focus of our Archdiocese, our Parishes and our Ministries in the coming years. The Archbishop prescribed specific methods and actions for parishes and faithful to follow and in concluding his address said:

Every time that we are in our churches, in our beautiful parishes, let us think of those other sheep, those other people who are outside, known and unknown, the ones described in the parable of the Great Banquet. Let us think of all others, the truly significant others, who wait to hear the voice of Christ.  The voice of Christ invites them to gather in His home, to become His flock.  But how can they hear the voice of Christ?  We are the voice of Christ!  My beloved people let such voice be heard outside of our Churches, calling the people of God to His home.  Let us be the voice of Christ. Everywhere for everyone.  At any time, at any place of the wide world of God.

(See full text at www.goarch.org/en/news/NewsDetail.asp?id=202)

This same theme was repeated and elaborated by the other hierarchs of the Holy Eparchial Synod in the special sessions that followed the opening ceremony. Metropolitans Iakovos of Chicago, Maximos of Pittsburgh, Methodios of Boston, Isaiah of Denver, Alexios of Atlanta, Nicholas of Detroit, Gerasimos of San Francisco and Evangelos of New Jersey, all presided at these separate breakout sessions where the main congress theme was discussed, a discussion which was carried through the many educational workshops and committee meetings that followed. This theme resonated among those present at the various sessions and became an uplifting message which the delegates took with them back to all the faithful in their local Metropolises and parishes.

All the reports of the various ministry committees were discussed and accepted during the two plenary sessions on July 16-17. Clear progress was evident in all Church matters especially the Archdiocese finances which showed improvements on all levels as the National Ministries revenues exceeded $24 Million resulting in a record revenue year for 2007. Another notable and positive indication of this healthy financial state was the reduction of the Archdiocese debt by $5.1 Million from $7.9 Million to approximately $2.7 Million at the close of 2007.

Before its conclusion, the 39th Congress adopted two resolutions: a) a Chaplaincy Resolution expressing support for Orthodox Chaplaincy in general and calling for the creation of a canonical pan-orthodox chaplaincy agency in the U.S. military and b) a resolution in support of the Ecumenical Patriarchate calling upon the Federal Government and state legislatures to support the religious freedoms and human rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Archbishop Demetrios, offering some closing thoughts, suggested that parishes of the Archdiocese prepare a progress report by 2010 on the effectiveness and growth of the Church as a result of the call of this Congress to “Gather my People to my Home.”

“This Congress was guided by the Holy Spirit,” said Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira and Great Britain in his closing remarks.  Praising the participants he added: “you are all members of an orchestra that plays God’s song.”  Archbishop Gregorios represented the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Congress.

The Congress concluded with its grand banquet where religious and government representatives gave greetings and messages which touched upon many issues relevant to church life as well as issues of persecution and religious freedom in Cyprus and at the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople (Istanbul).  Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte praised Archbishop Demetrios as a “man of faith, an inspiring leader and a great humanitarian.”  He also expressed his support for a just resolution to the Cyprus problem and the support of the religious freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarchate saying that “respect for the Patriarchate and the Patriarch are incumbent on a democracy like Turkey and we continue to urge the restoration of confiscated church properties and the re-opening of the Halki seminary at the highest levels with the Turkish government.”  Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Congressman Gus Bilirakis of Florida, Ambassador Andreas Kakouris of Cyprus and Ambassador Alexandros Mallias of Greece also expressed strong support for the issues in Cyprus and religious freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarch.

A special video tribute chronicling the life and accomplishments of Archbishop Michael of blessed memory, who served as the leader of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America from 1949 to 1958 was shown at the banquet.

At the conclusion of the evening, once again amplifying the Congress theme “Gather my People to my Home”, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios urged those in attendance “to hear the voices of the people who cry for a connection or a reconnection, to the Church and to Faith.”

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Teachings of Christ

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?" (Mark 8:34-37 ESV)

Seventh Ecumenical Council

O Christ our God, You are most glorious, * for You established our Fathers as lights upon the earth * and through them led us to the true faith. * O greatly Compassionate One, glory to You! (Troparion, Tone 8)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

The Son Who shone forth ineffably from the Father * was born two-fold in nature. * Beholding Him, we do not refuse the image of his form, * but piously depicting it, we honor it faithfully. * Therefore the Church, holding fast to the true faith, * kisses the icon of the incarnation of Christ. (Kontakion, Tone 6)

(Troparia of the Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council)

Random Proverb

"One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want." (Proverbs 11:24 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Even a pious person is not immune to spiritual sickness if he does not have a wise guide -- either a living person or a spiritual writer. This sickness is called _prelest_, or spiritual delusion, imagining oneself to be near to God and to the realm of the divine and supernatural. Even zealous ascetics in monasteries are sometimes subject to this delusion, but of course, laymen who are zealous in external struggles (podvigi) undergo it much more frequently. Surpassing their acquaintances in struggles of prayer and fasting, they imagine that they are seers of divine visions, or at least of dreams inspired by grace. In every event of their lives, they see special intentional directions from God or their guardian angel. And then they start imagining that they are God's elect, and often try to foretell the future. The Holy Fathers armed themselves against nothing so fiercely as against this sickness -- prelest.

Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky