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On July 22, 2022 during the fifth Plenary Session of the 20th All-American Council, in Baltimore, MD the youth of the AAC made a special presentation to the Holy Synod of Bishops and council delegates.
The presentation began with the youth processing to the front of the council area while singing the Troparion of the Cross, “O Lord, save Thy people”. Father Benjamin Tucci, the youth program director for the AAC, thanked the Holy Synod and wider Orthodox Church in America for its support of the youth and being attentive to their needs. He further thanked all the many staff helping with the youth program this year “for being vessels of grace”, the theme of this year’s Council. He emphasized the great responsibility that youth ministry carries and which often presents challenges.
Following Father Benjamin’s presentation, two youth representatives, Daniel Rentel and Elizabeth Vallena, delivered five points which they wished to bring to the Council:
- That the Orthodox faith is a beautiful and mystical faith yet still rational.
- The disconnect which they think exists between the wider, secular society and the Orthodox Church. They elaborated that life’s answers can be found within the Church and we need to do our best to communicate them and since we don’t fit the world’s stereotypes, we should not be ashamed or embarrassed to do so.
- The question: “What does it mean to be Orthodox?” This question, they affirmed, must be answered with an invitation to others to come and see for themselves since the spiritual experience is deep and the true way to communicate this is to show it by our actions.
- A recognition that the youth enjoy shared community and have strong bonds with each other, bonds which they want to strengthen on the local level.
- A point of gratitude, thanking Father Benjamin Tucci, Matushka Elizabeth Wyslutsky, and all the teachers and chaperones on behalf of all youth participants.
Following the youth representatives, a video slideshow was shown presenting the youth events of the week accompanied to audio of the youth choir singing during the Council’s Thursday hierarchical Divine Liturgy. Among the photos and video clips were highlights from the time His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon spent with the youth, His Grace Bishop Andrei of Cleveland visiting with the youth at the National Aquarium, a brunch with His Grace Bishop Gerasim of Fort Worth and His Grace Bishop Andrei, excursions to the National Aquarium, Six Flags amusement park, and the Science Center, amongst others.
The youth presentation concluded with the gathered youth singing several repetitions of the Jesus Prayer, “O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”, the Trisagion, and finally “The Angel Cried”. During the final hymn, the assembled delegates were invited to stand and join singing with the choir.
Father Alexander Rentel, OCA Chancellor, spoke and thanked Father Benjamin Tucci, Father David Subu, and all the volunteers. Father Alexander asked His Beatitude to recognize Father Michael Anderson who first put the youth program together several decades ago. Father Alexander then asked the youth participants to think how they might in turn become leaders in their own right, to go to seminary, and become vessels of grace.
The youth ended their presentation by singing the Troparion of the Cross again as a recessional as they exited the Ballroom where the Council was being held.
View a photo gallery of the Youth Program’s activities and events at the Council