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Fifty-five individuals representing 23 parishes from multiple dioceses of the Orthodox Church in America,  as well as the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, participated in the Small Parish Forum at Saint George Cathedral here July 12-14, 2018.

Jointly sponsored by the Orthodox Church in America’s Archdiocese of Western Pennsylvania, the Diocese of the Midwest, and the Bulgarian Diocese, the Forum—the fifth in a series initiated in 2014—had as its theme ““Equipping Parish Leaders for Discipleship and Change”. The program was facilitated by Joseph Kormos, Parish Development Ministry Leader for the Archdiocese of Western Pennsylvania.

His Eminence, Archbishop Melchisedek of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania and His Grace, Bishop Paul of Chicago and the Midwest welcomed the participants and offered their insights throughout the three-day gathering.

Individual sessions explored the foundations of discipleship, key roles for parish councils, approaches for leading change, key ministry efforts for parish leaders and case studies of small parish life in which attendees define action strategies for parish renewal .  Nine speakers offered remarks of various length along with video contributions and open discussion and small group breakout sessions. Among the presenters were

  • Archpriest Thomas Soroka, Rector Saint Nicholas Church, McKees Rocks, PA, who explored an understanding of Orthodox Discipleship.
  • Priest Stephen Frase, Priest-in-Charge at Saint Ephraim the Syrian Chapel, Athens, OH, who equipped attendees with tools for dialogue and decision making in meetings.
  • Archpriest Peter Baktis, Rector of the Mother of God, Joy of All Who Sorrow Mission, Princeton, NJ, who helped attendees to focus on “Engaging with the Future: Mission Vision and Values.”
  • Paul Finley, Director of FOCUS North America’s Saint Herman House of Hospitality, Cleveland, OH, who inspired and exhorted attendees to stimulate ministry and outreach beyond the walls of the parish.
  • Matushka Michelle Jannakos, who offered perspectives on effectively collaborating with parish rectors and their families.
  • Priest Jonathan Bannon, Rector of Christ the Savior Church, Rockford, IL [ACROD] and a frequent Forum contributor, who joined the session remotely and offered an update on initiatives within his parish.
  • Archpriest Steven Belonick and Ralph Sidway, who contributed video presentations.

“One important product of the Forum was the development of a set of Principles of Orthodox Leadership,” said Mr. Kormos, who facilitated a number of workshops on related themes. “During the session attendees worked to cull a list of proposed principles listing leadership attitudes and abilities. In addition, as follow up and encouragement for attendees to engage their parishes in productive new efforts, attendees will be eligible to apply for a cash Small Parish Development Grant to be offered later this year.”

Forum materials and photos are available online.