The Importance of Gathering

In just over a month, we will host our clergy and faithful from throughout North America for the 2019 Archdiocesan Convention. In last week’s blog entry, we heard from Amy Amash who reflected on the importance of this gathering from her perspective, which many found very useful in understanding something that is so close to us that we may not fully “get it” because we’re stuck in the middle of the countless details of planning and preparing.

To help us understand this importance from another perspective, today we’ll hear from Alan Abraham, one of our Co-Chairs of the Convention, who has been working on this project for almost five years.


The Importance of Gathering, by Alan Abraham


As I prepared to write today’s Archdiocese Convention update, I checked out the website, The countdown states we are 30 days, 20 hours, 11 minutes, and 10 seconds from the opening events of the convention. Based on the reports at last week’s convention planning meeting, I believe we are ready. ARE YOU?

Fr. Michael, Kathy and I want to take this opportunity to thank you, the parishioners of St. Nicholas, for entrusting us with leading the charge of hosting the convention. We appreciate the many hours many of you have put into the planning and organizing of AC 2019. Most of the parish has contributed to supporting the convention through financial contributions or stepping forward to chair, be a committee member, or volunteer to assist during convention week. Hosting the convention is an effort of the entire parish, and we appreciate all you have done to ensure we have a successful event. There is still time to volunteer; please see Kathy Abraham, Alan Abraham, Fr. Michael, any of the Leadership Team or Committee Chairs, or sign-up at [volunteer] to give your support.

Thanks to all of you and our friends and parishes throughout the Archdiocese, AC 2019 has met its fundraising goals. We are sincerely grateful.

The Orthodox Church from its earliest beginnings has used the conciliar model to address common issues. Bishops gathered together in synods to make decisions on behalf of the Church. We practice a similar model within the Antiochian Archdiocese. Our church family gathers together biennially with our Metropolitan JOSEPH, six auxiliary Bishops, 200 clergy and hundreds of us, the faithful. The laity are just as involved in the growth and development and governance of the Church as are the clergy. We chair or sit on committees or departments and participate in the General Assembly of the Church. We have a voice in the working of the Archdiocese. Mind you, not theology, but rather the governance of the Church in North America.

We gather to pray and worship, to stimulate our minds through enlightening homilies on the convention theme, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. Our keynote speaker at Vespers on Wednesday through Friday is a very successful businessman and Orthodox Christian who is legally blind. What better person could we have to speak on this topic!

We join in fellowship as we eat together, socialize together and just “hang out” together. Evenings are time to relax at AC 2019. The committee has assembled entertainment to appeal to everyone: a teen dance, an adult mixer overlooking the river, a family street fair, a musical production, a Hafli (Arabic music and dance) and a gala dinner dance.

We learn from one another in a series of 20 different presentations, led by clergy and laity. Topics include marriage, parenting, relationships, loving yourself, camping, facing death, sacred music, and others. We have an opportunity to have late night chats with our hierarchs, a different one each evening. We celebrate our youth during the Bible Bowl and Oratorical Presentations. The seven diocesan winners in both events compete to determine the North American Bible Bowl Champion and the Judges Choice in the Oratorical Festival. The Amway convention level foyer will be filled with 28 vendors selling books, icons, vestments, and liturgical items.

As lay men and women, young adults and teens, we are allowed the opportunity to participate with the bishops and the clergy in the work of the Archdiocese during the General Assembly. Each priest is a delegate to the convention and each parish is allowed one delegate per 100 church members. We hear reports from The Order of St. Ignatius, Antiochian Women, Young Adult Ministry, SOYO, Antiochian Village, the Department of Finance, hear from the Metropolitan on the state of the Archdiocese and his vision, we vote on resolutions, a budget, Board of Trustees nominees, and which parish will have the privilege of serving as host to the 2023 Convention. (The 2021 Convention will be hosted by St. George Church in Pittsburgh). And the beauty of the week comes to its pinnacle with the celebration of the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, presided by His Eminence, Metropolitan JOSEPH, Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of all North America and six Auxiliary Diocesan Bishops, a choir consisting of musicians from throughout the USA and Canada, and a host of priests and deacons.

Please join us and participate in all the events the convention is offering. Most of us will not have another opportunity to pray and commune with our Orthodox brothers and sisters in our home city. Do not miss this opportunity.

And yes, there is a cost to participate, but I guarantee, there is no better place to invest $50. (Additional costs to attend social events.) Grand Rapids, you love it here! I know you do. And now it is time to put forth our Grand Rapids and St. Nicholas hospitality to show why.