Holy Week Message to Orthodox Youth Workers

JOHNSTOWN, PA -- [Diocesan Chancery]  The Orthodox Youth Directors in North America,  a blessed working committee of individuals who serve as the departmental heads of the youth, college and young adult ministry departments of the different Orthodox churches represented in the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States,  has issued a letter of encouragement, today, to all Orthodox Youth Workers in America.  The text of the message is as follows:

Dear Fellow Youth Workers in Christ,

While we are trying to profit our Youth in a time of challenge to our ministry, while we are working hard to keep them connected to Christ and His Church when their faith is threatened in a new way, we are all, like the Apostles, following our Lord in amazement as He makes His way to Jerusalem and through His Passion.  We know what is to come.  The Apostles did not. The apostles were clearly told by our Lord what was to come!  They may have chosen to not fully accept – but our Lord told them clearly. But now we engage our ministry in the conditions in which the Apostles found themselves.

The Apostles faced uncertainty, worry, and fear on their way to and in Jerusalem.  They were overwhelmed by what was taking place and when Jesus was crucified their very reality and all they believed seemed to be taken away.  At that point they went INSIDE and LOCKED their doors.  Their Life had been crucified and they were terrified.

As the Orthodox Youth Directors of North America we are writing again to encourage all of us to first maintain our faith and then our ministries to our youth at a time of uncertainty, worry and fear.

What the Apostles went through sounds familiar to us right now.  Uncertainty and fear surround us.  Worry threatens to overwhelm us.  We are working BEHIND closed and locked doors, afraid of the very world God came to save.  Our reality and belief is threatened.  The unthinkable happened to the Apostles…Christ was taken away to be Crucified and closed in a tomb.  To us the unthinkable has happened…not just a total disruption of life, but the Churches are taken away from us; they are closed and their doors are locked.  All of that threatens our faith.  It threatens our stability.  All of that threatens our SANITY in a very real and very powerful way.  How many of us and our youth literally feel like we are going INSANE?

As your Youth Directors we encourage you in this time RIGHT NOW to remember the purpose of the Church, and its life.  The Church is HERE, is given to us by God, to ensure we literally DON’T lose our minds and hearts to uncertainty, to fear, to worry, to doubt, to sorrow, to grief, to depression, to Hell; to ensure that we literally don’t lose what God has given us in and through His Son.  Every Service, every Gospel Reading, every Sacrament, every private prayer, every person, every icon, every Church building, every altar, every Saint, every guardian angel, every hymn, EVERYTHING of the Church has been given to us to ensure we DON’T lose what God has done for us; that we DON’T lose HIM, that we DON’T lose sight of Him, or faith in Him, because He is Life for us, eternal life for us.

This is the message we are encouraging you to bring to our Youth RIGHT NOW:  we will not lose what God has done for us; we will not lose sight of Him; we will not lose faith in Him.  Not in the circumstance of the Apostles, not in the circumstance that confronts us now.  Not because of fear or worry or doubt.  Not because of sorrow or grief or temptation. 

Encourage your Youth to stand firm in their faith in the midst of sorrow over no graduations, in the midst of grief over seasons ended, in the midst of uncertainty over jobs, in the midst of worry over schoolwork, in the struggle of doubt about the future, in the anxiety of their world turned upside down and seemingly taken away from them.

How can we?

By the same POWER that brought about the Resurrection through the Cross and Life through Death.  By the POWER of God expressed in an unwavering faith, an unqualified love, and an imperishable hope.  By a prayer.  By a call.  By a card.  By a message.  By a video.  By a post.  By a conference.  By a hangout.  By a candle.  By a tear.  By a word.  A word of hope.  A word of encouragement.  A word of love.  A word of comfort.  By a word in prayer.

As the Orthodox Youth Directors of North America we offer you first our prayers, second a word of encouragement, and third our own work on behalf of the Youth entrusted to all of us.

Persevere in faith and in your own Youth Ministry on behalf of Christ and His Church.

To aid you in your ministry this week, we are producing a series of videos featuring the bishops of the Committee for Youth of the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops in the USA.  Each day a hierarch will offer a reflection.  We encourage you to share these reflections and discuss them with your youth.  They may be found on our Youtube channel and on social media.

Join us for our second webinar entitled “What We’ve Learned So Far” in the series “Do Not be Afraid:  Youth Ministry Now” which will take place on Wednesday April 29th at 7pm EST.  The link to join this webinar is available on our website at orthodoxyouth.net.

Finally, remember that the Risen Christ appeared to the Apostles behind those closed and locked doors and entrusted them to bring the message of the Resurrection, the message of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, to the world.  Our ministry will not to be stopped by closed and locked doors. 

With love in Christ,

The Orthodox Youth Directors of North America

www.orthodoxyouth.net

 


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