Congratulations to our young Orthodox preachers who participated in the 2011 Festival of Young Preachers. The experience of being in the midst of over 100 zealous Christian preachers under 30, and many still teenagers, was wonderful.
A collection of genuine Christians, believers from a variety of traditions and backgrounds, discerning a call to preach the Gospel – similar to our Oratorical festivals, but less about public speaking (even on a significant Christian topic) and more about preaching Christ.
Now, for those of you who may not be aware, Preachers Institute and the Academy of Preaching are national partners. This was the second year of what will, without a doubt, become an annual and quickly growing event.
Our own Orthodox preachers, all undergrads, did very well, and were well received, and their sermons well acclaimed – something which I particularly appreciated as a mentor because I know for a fact that some of them preached here ‘live’ for the first time. What an audience to begin your vocation of preaching with!
This three day event brought young preachers, young pastors, college and divinity school students from across many ‘denominational’ lines, giving all a chance to get to know fellow believers outside their own theological tradition. Two of the participants even remarked on meeting Orthodox preachers in short articles on the Academy website. The purpose of the festival is to encourage and empower young preachers and aspiring young preachers of all denominations who feel the call to preach – and give them an opportunity to do so. Particularly fun was the “Moonlight Madness” session, which began very late (10 pm+) and going until after midnight. This was the best overall session of preaching I observed.
It was a delight to meet not only the young preachers, but their mentors. Let’s face it, mentoring is what provides formation, and preaching is a formative discipline. Mentoring is very necessary for a young preacher to find their own ‘voice’ and sharpen their own skills. We had a luncheon with other Mentors and this was a wonderful – though too short – time for us to share thoughts on mentoring. I hope that next year, there will be opportunities for us to gather together and discuss this important function as we raise up new preachers to present the Gospel to another generation yearning for Christ.
The Festival was referred to as ‘ecumenical’ several times, and their seemed to be among some a not-so-hidden hope that it would become another organ of ecumenism in the future. Given the great disappointment with ‘ecumenical’ gatherings I’ve experienced in my life, and what they never accomplish, I’m hopeful that this will remain focused on preaching the Gospel, and less on the ‘ecumenical’ nature of the gathering. (please no more ecumenism!)
I was prepared for, and disappointed with, the usual whoops and shouts from Ivy League divinity students over mention of “Mother God.” (Sigh. Will the 60’s never end?) Luckily, this was absolutely at a minimum, and modernism has not captured this event. Continued Orthodox participation by intelligent, accomplished young preachers will assure that it will not retreat from historic, Incarnational Christianity. Indeed, the Orthodox presence here was very welcome, and a necessary one, I think. I want to congratulate our young preachers and I hope you will, too. They have started down a path of obedience to Christ that few are willing to, and they did so with integrity and excellence!
We’ll get the young preachers themselves to give you more information shortly. In the meantime, my thanks to Fr. Dcn. Gabriel Alemayehu, Raymond Krajci, and Benjamin Peck for boldly going where no Orthodox undergrads have gone before! Axios!