On Tuesday, December 14th, nearly 60 clergy from across the United States and Canada gathered together on Zoom for the winter Clergy Peer Learning Synaxis.
The Synaxis is organized by the Office of Pastoral Life, and hosted by His Grace Bishop Alexis. Promoting clergy health and well-being is a dynamic goal for the Office of Pastoral Life. The Metropolitan Council has approved funding to sponsor and expand the Synaxis program. This includes using trained clergymen to serve as facilitators for small group breakout rooms.
The Synaxis “Zoom Room” opened at 1:30pm for informal fellowship and a chance for participants to greet one another. His Grace, Bishop Alexis, the chair of the Office of Pastoral Life, opened the Synaxis with prayer, and then introduced the keynote speaker. His Grace, Bishop Gerasim was the invited speaker for this Synaxis. Bishop Gerasim spoke on the difference between happiness and deep spiritual joy.
Bishop Gerasim is the Bishop of Fort Worth and Auxiliary to the Diocese of the South. Having been a monk and abbot for many years before graduating Saint Vladimir’s Seminary in 2012, His Grace spoke about how he finds joy in the liturgical life of the Church. He spoke about the lamp lighting prayers at Vespers, in which the priest asks God to “gladden our hearts.” He also quoted prayers of vesting: “My soul shall rejoice in the Lord.” Bishop Gerasim also spoke about finding joy with other people as they encounter the Sacraments. Walking with someone through Confession, or watching how a single Baptism can lead to the conversion of an entire family, are points of great joy in his ministry.
After the bishop’s address, the attending priests and deacons entered breakout rooms. Every small group brought together priests or deacons with a variety of backgrounds and length of ordination, and was led by a trained facilitator. Small groups were given an just over an hour to discuss the bishop’s talk, joyful situations that have lead to personal growth, as well as their own health as priests.
The Synaxis closed with a return to the large group. One of the facilitators, Father Raymond Browne, was invited to present his group’s thoughts to the bishop. Father Raymond asked how to find joy in changing situations, particularly when faced with unexpected challenges. His Grace responded that every priest finds himself in a variety of circumstances, but that it is necessary to have help. He encouraged priests to involve talented parishioners in non-priestly tasks, such as technology or finance. He reminded the assembled clergy that “the darker the night, the brighter the stars.”
The meeting was closed by Bishop Gerasim with prayer. Thank you to our bishops, facilitators, and participants for attending the event; it is the camaraderie and brotherhood of the participants that makes Synaxis events a success.
The next quarterly Synaxis will be held via Zoom in March, 2022. More details will be forthcoming.
For more information about clergy peer learning, please visit thrivinginministry.org/.