Many of you are familiar with St Stephen’s Summer Camp, our Diakonia Retreat Center, and the traditions that surround this important ministry within our Metropolis. Some of you may have attended St Stephen’s as a camper, some of you sent your children to us this summer, some of you may have been counselors or volunteers…no matter what your involvement or level of knowledge, I challenge you that the work is not yet done.
The experience of St Stephen’s is not something that we should check off our list of summer activities; it is the experience of a life in Christ, which we are called to live on a daily basis. As parents (or godparents and grandparents) we have a responsibility to teach the youth of today how to live in this world as Orthodox Christians.
How often do you pray? Do you pray as a family, even before meals? Is frequent church attendance a priority for your family? Are your children active in their parish youth groups? Do you know the basic hymns of the church, especially in English? Do you follow the prescribed fasting periods? Do you encourage your teens to “unplug” at least 30 minutes each day? Do your children know about their patron saint? Is there anything you do that would cause anyone to think that you are an Orthodox Christian?
The experience of St Stephen’s Summer Camp is one, which allows teens from throughout the Metropolis to have a small taste of living a life in Christ – “taste and see that the Lord is good!” This constant repetition of daily worship services, personal & meaningful dialog with others, an opportunity for confession, actively singing and participating in church, and living with others who share the faith of the apostles cannot be underestimated.
While not all parishes can recreate the camp experience, it is our responsibility to ensure that our youth continue to grow in faith. Why not host a “Camp Reunion Celebration” at your home? Why not ask your parish priest to allow the teens to chant the Megalynarion during Orthros one Sunday a month – believe me, they know it!
Quite simply, why not stop making excuses and begin living your life as an Orthodox Christian? And while initially you may feel some “growing pains”, just like the teens who attend St Stephen’s, once our faith becomes a way of life for you, the joy of Christ will nourish and sustain you all the days of your life.