Valerie Blomberg writes: “As Orthodox young people gather, personal isolation ceases to influence the development of their Orthodox identity.”
These are the words Archimandrite Gerasim, dean of St. Seraphim’s Cathedral in Dallas and our keynote speaker, gave us before the start of the Orthodox Young Professionals Retreat held in Santa Fe, New Mexico from October 16-18, 2015. We felt his words to be true as a community of Orthodox young adults formed over the course of the three day retreat. Most of us were strangers to one another at the start, but soon became fast friends. Personal isolation fell away as we discovered a community of like-minded young adults who would support us in answering the call to “sanctify time and space” and to bring Christ into the midst of our everyday lives.
Fr. Gerasim’s keynote presentation explored a number of passages from the Old Testament prophets about keeping the law close to our hearts and present in our actions. Matushka Constantina Palmer, author of The Scent of Holiness, and a young professional herself (she is a social worker) shared practical ways we can employ prayer in our daily lives. A breakout session led by Joshua Sturgill, a parishioner at Holy Trinity Antiochian Orthodox Church in Santa Fe, tackled questions close to the hearts of young adults, including “How do I tell someone who is not Orthodox about my faith?” Ashley Veronika-Zappe, author of the blog Eco Theology, led a second breakout session on the way our ancient fasting tradition speaks to modern ecology which featured in-depth statistics on our current ecological crisis and how choosing to fast and to avoid meat products actually helps to alleviate poverty around the world. All of the talks, including the panel discussion, are available on Ancient Faith Radio.
At the heart of the retreat was the community that formed. 52 participants came from nine different states and Antiochian, Coptic, Greek, and OCA jurisdictions. 10 participants received scholarships through the generosity of the OCA St. Peter the Aleut fund and through private donations. Together, we explored the beautiful autumn landscape surrounding Santa Fe, our nation’s oldest capital city. A hike to Bandelier National Monument showed us the dwelling places of Native Americans who used to live there, and the main events took place at the St. Francis Hotel in the heart of downtown Santa Fe.
This volunteer-run retreat couldn’t have happened without the support of many individuals. Please check out our website,www.youngprofessionalsretreat.com for a full list. The time we shared will be treasured forever. We hope that we will meet again soon whether on earth or in the Kingdom.