From Wednesday, October 2nd through Sunday, October 6th the Metropolis of Chicago Clergy and Laity Representatives met in Sioux City, Iowa for the biennial Clergy Laity Conference & Philoptochos Assembly. Hosted at the Marina Inn & Conference Center, the parishioners of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Sioux City greeted the attendees with smiles and plates of fresh homemade koulourakia. Many attendees, while registering, also stopped by the Book Store and purchased, among other ecclesiastical items one would expect to find at a church books store, homemade soap with fragrances such as Baklava and Greek Salad.
In addition to finishing normal business in their Clergy Syndesmos Meeting, the Clergy adopted a statement on the inappropriate use of mass media throughout the Archdiocese by individuals hoping to harm either the Church or individuals. This proclamation decried using media in this manner to harm anyone and the proclamation itself can be found on the Metropolis of Chicago website.
Thursday morning, after a moving dedication by Metropolitan Iakovos of Chicago, saw the spiritual funny bones of the attendees tickled by the very dynamic Rev. Fr. James Mackoul. Through the use of imagery, witticisms, Holy Scripture, and Patristic references, Fr. James not only made the audience laugh, but moved them to care about the message of the Cross and the real medicine that the Church has to offer for the maladies that ail us all.
After the morning business meetings, the attendees joined together for a luncheon presentation by the Rev. Fr. Chris Metropulos of the O.C.N. (Orthodox Christian Network) in which he spoke of the powerful teaching potential of the internet and the thirst that is evident by the faithful for this powerful ministry, a ministry visited by every continent and funded on a fraction of the budget of most faith-based comparable services. For 17 years the OCN has provided Orthodox radio with chanting, Christian inspired youth music, and theological discourse.
Rev. Fr. Chris Metropulos continued this discussion in one of three breakout sessions. His sessions was entitled, “Missionary Media: Using Media to fulfill our purpose.” The other sessions were “Protecting God’s Gift- The Enviroment,” by Dr. George Nassos and “Strategic Planning for the Orthodox Parish” by Mr. George Matthews.
Following the breakout sessions, busses catered the attendees to Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church for Vespers. Metropolitan Iakovos presided while, assisted by Rev. Fr. Jim Grenias of St. Iakovos Church, Valparaiso, IN, Clergy Syndesmos President; Rev. Fr. John Ketchum of Kimissis Church, Racine, WI,Clergy Syndesmos Executive Board; and the clergy of Iowa, Rev. Fr. Basil Hickman of St. George Church, Des Moines, IA; Rev. Fr. Peter Andronache of St. John the Baptist Church, Cedar Rapids, IA; Rev. Fr. Joseph Mirowski of both Holy Transfiguration Church, Mason City, IA & St. Demetrios Church, Waterloo, IA; Rev. Fr. Dustin Lyon of St. Elias the Prophet Church, Dubuque, IA; and Rev. Fr. Dimitri Tobias of Holy Trinity Church, Sioux City, IA.
Following Vespers was the Grand Banquet. Among the entertainment were the Dancers of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church and Dancers from the Winnebago Tribe of Native Americans in Nebraska. Along with the elegant meal, the host Parish Council President, Mrs. Maria Schultz, received a surprise as she was gifted with the Metropolitan Iakovos Service Award for her years of dedication not only to her community of Sioux City, but for her life of service to the entire Metropolis of Chicago. The evening continued with dancing and music by DJ Dino, lasting well into night as slowly the attendees retired for rest.
The next morning three presenters offered extremely moving orations. The first, Rev. Fr. Mark Muñoz of the Holy Anargoroi Church in Rochester, MN spoke in depth about his personal experience of faith in relating the passionate story of his daughter Nina and her battle with Cancer, but more to the point of the presentation, how he experience God, not in some ambiguous form in his private prayer, but in the interaction of other people who brought Christ to him and his family. His missionary call to action for us to be incarnations in other people’s lives moved and inspired all the attendees. Following Fr. Mark, Mr. Frank Dancer and Rev. Fr. Dustin Lyons each shared their personal story in a segment called, “How I Came to Orthodoxy, and Why I Stayed.” Each spoke of their personal journey and how the Church changed him and called him to action.
For the Lunch presentation of Friday, Mrs. Jenny Henrick taught the attendees the healing power of laughter and how it can provide us with not only healthy benefits to our body, but free our minds and allow us to work more diligently.
That evening, during the Paraklisis service, a terrible storm rocked this area of the country, but miraculously spared the citizens of Sioux City. Despite ten tornadoes touching down, not a single casualty was reported.
The Conference closed with an Iowa Pig roast attended by the youth of the parish and those able to stay.
The theme of the conference was “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” –Matthew 11:28. Through moving presentations, fellowship, genuine worship, miraculous events, and many other signs, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ provided this rest and reinvigorated those working in His Vineyard.