On Saturday, August 11, 2018, during the Post-Feast of the Great Feast of the Transfiguration, New Skete Monasteries hosted its annual pilgrimage.
The day began with the celebration of Matins followed by the Divine Liturgy. The beauty of the morning liturgy set the tone for the entire day in which pilgrims from as far as the west coast and the deep south participated. The spirit permeating the day was one of friendship and welcome as people renewed acquaintances from past years and met new friends. A food truck “Taste of Lebanon” serving Lebanese and near-Eastern cuisine provided delicious food for the attendees for the midday meal.
Several presentations took place throughout the day.
Brother Stavros, as in past years, offered a guided tour and explanation of Holy Wisdom Church that was particularly helpful for first-time visitors.
Brothers Luke and Gregory offered an interactive presentation called “Monastery in our Midst,” which spoke of the various ways New Skete reaches out and connects to the local community, all in the context of being a contemplative monastic community. It provided a unique insight into the monastic life and mission that surprised some who were under the impression that monasteries are insular institutions that have little contact with those beyond their borders.
Our guest speaker for this year’s event was Alexei Krindatch, the Research Coordinator for the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America. A native of Russia, Alexei has lived in the United States for over 20 years and during that time has studied developments in American Orthodoxy. He gave a very lively and challenging presentation titled “Singing an Old Song in a New World: How Orthodox Christian Churches Contribute to America’s Diverse Religious Landscape.” What was particularly interesting was how he applied statistical analysis to current trends in Orthodoxy, particularly as this relates and compares to other Christian traditions. These touched sociological characteristics of Orthodox parishes, as well as Orthodox attitudes towards ecumenism, worship, outreach, evangelism, and the role of monasteries, to name but a few. Some of his findings were surprising, some sobering, and some encouraging. His talk was followed by a question and answer session that reflected the audience’s strong interest in his subject.
Sister Cecelia gave a first-hand presentation on iconography, discussing the process an iconographer goes through in painting an icon, and then answered any number of questions about both iconography in general as well as what specific things mean in various icons.
Mike Bodnar, a local forest ranger and friend of the monastery, braved the late-day rain and took a group of about 20 pilgrims into the woods to explain all that we might see on an ordinary hike in the woods. Mike is a very knowledgeable expert in this, and everyone commented on how interesting and enjoyable they found the hike.
Finally, the day ended with the celebration of Vespers and the traditional healing service. All in all, it was a very full day, one that was uplifting and joyful. As always, both the monks and the nuns are very grateful to the large group of friends and companions who helped out in so many ways to make the day run smoothly! With such assistance and help, how could we not look forward to next year’s event?
New Skete was established in 1966 by a small group of Byzantine Rite Franciscan monks who were joined by seven Poor Clare nuns from Indiana three years later. The communities embraced Orthodox Christianity and were received into the Orthodox Church in America in 1979. In 1983, eight dedicated parish members expressed their desire to live in accordance with the monastic way of life and formed the Companions of New Skete.