Symposium “Prayer in the Church Fathers”
Large crowds attend the Institute’s San Francisco Symposium
The Institute’s second regional symposium in San Francisco took place over the weekend of 16th-17th February at the Old Cathedral of the Holy Virgin, led by Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia, joined by Archimandrite Irenei (Steenberg) and Fr. Serge Sveshnikov (click here for a program of the symposium’s events and talks). Some 200 participants took part in two full days of talks, panel discussions and Divine Services, focusing on the common theme of Prayer in the Church Fathers and in the life of Orthodox Christians today.
Following the pattern established by the Institute’s first San Francisco Symposium last year (entitled Living Icon: Symbolism in the Divine Liturgy), this year’s event brought together a collection of speakers to address a common theme from various viewpoints — historical, theological, practical and personal. With paper titles ranging from ‘Prayer and Creation,’ ‘The Fathers on the Beginnings of Prayer,’ ‘The Jesus Prayer in Daily Life,’ ‘Prayer: A Conversation with God?’ to ‘Prayer in Liturgical Worship and With the Holy Icons’ and others, participants were able to hear reflections on the life of prayer in Orthodoxy that aimed not only to expand their understanding of history and theology, but ultimately (and above all) to increase their love for prayer and preparation for growth in its practice.
This was exemplified by the central feature of the two-day symposium: the celebration of the Divine Services in common, at which symposium participants were joined by faithful from the parish community for the services, presided over by Metropolitan Kallistos and concelebrated by many participant clergy from the symposium. It was a joy for many to see the Old Cathedral packed to the rafters with faithful, eager to pray in common and receive the divine life of the heavenly Mysteries.
True to the mission of the Institute, the Symposium drew an authentically pan-Orthodox audience, with participants representing every Orthodox jurisdiction present in North America, together with several non-Orthodox participants. The combination of so many Orthodox cultures allowed for fruitful opportunities to explore differing traditions, discuss differences in practice and approach, etc. — but all within the deeply unifying experience of a common drive towards growth in the Orthodox life of prayer.
Following the conclusion of the two-day symposium proper, a special dinner event with Metropolitan Kallistos took place at the nearby New Cathedral of the Holy Virgin, at which the Metropolitan spoke on the engaging and unusual topic, The Place of Humour in Orthodoxy, reflecting on the nature of humour and laughter, and their relationship to the seriousness of Orthodox life.
Throughout, participants were able to experience expert talks, interactive discussions and question-and-answer sessions, short outings and pilgrimages, common meals, personal time with the speakers, and much more; and with letters already received at the Institute office via e-mail with comments such as ‘This event changed my life,’ and ‘never did I know that an educational conference could so profoundly affect my desire to pray with more depth and grow closer to God,’ we are hopeful that the Institute’s aim of fostering life in the Church through its educational activities will find itself well met by this weekend’s activities. Our sincere thanks to all our speakers, participants, and the generous and wonderful, self-sacrificing hosts at the Old Cathedral of the Holy Virgin.
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