Over the weekend of March 31, 2023, St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Houston, Texas hosted the first OYM 3ETreat.
3ETreats are a Pan-Orthodox weekend events that gather Orthodox Christians across metropolitan areas to grow closer to Christ and other brothers and sisters in Christ who may not otherwise meet. More than 50 youth and adults participated in various activities and retreat sessions that facilitated conversations and connection around encountering Christ, embodying His Church, and engaging the world in His Name.
Friday night drew everyone together for a meal and discussions about one another’s experience in the Orthodox Church and particularly how their experiences impacted their lives.
Saturday was a day-long retreat consisting of two concurrent tracks, one for adults (parents, clergy, youth workers, and young adults) and one for youth (grades 6-12). Each track consisted of four sessions, all tied around the question of how Orthodox Christian faith informs and transforms the way we live our lives.
In the morning portion of the adult track, OYM Director of Ministry Christian Gonzalez led participants to reflect on the current state of one’s faith as well as where one hoped to grow and be shaped by longing for God. In the afternoon, adults were invited to spend time with brothers and sisters in Christ in prayer, as well as by considering what it might look like to go into the world as light-bearers in Christ’s Name.
The youth track, led by seminarian Jack Corbin, took young people through elements of the Divine Liturgy, looking for how Christ is present and revealed in each of them. Jack also helped the youth begin to see that Christ is also present in the world around them, revealed in nature and in the face of our neighbors, whom we are called to serve through acts of love.
On Saturday night, young adults gathered at St. George for a conversation about their faith, describing both the joys and struggles that come with being an Orthodox Christian in 21st Century America.
Fr. James Shadid, pastor of St. George, attended every session of the adult track and said, “Our parish was honored to have OYM present. We were enlivened by the presentations and challenged by the great task that lies before us. In focusing on youth, OYM realizes the need to encompass all the factors influencing their lives, especially parents. While the mission may seem daunting, OYM has successfully begun engaging, equipping, and encouraging us to properly serve our youth.”
Parish youth director, Chris Al-Dehneh particularly appreciated OYM’s holistic approach to ministry, saying, “I left the weekend having a reshaped mindset about ‘ministering on behalf of youth and young adults,’” adding that “teens were allowed to speak their mind about challenging situations and were given the opportunity to get out of their comfort zones and dissect aspects of the church they are never usually asked about.” For Chris, the new perspective the Adult Track offered was also an essential component of what he called “a wonderful weekend.”
Many participants had extremely positive feedback about the 3ETreat, including one who said, “I’m heartened to think that this message will be shared across the Orthodox church and look forward to amazing results!” And yet another said, “The content was excellent, as were the breakout activities. Lots of very restful, life-giving time!”
OYM’s next 3ETreat will be hosted by St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church in Irvine, California the weekend of April 28-30, 2023. If you’re able, we hope you will join us for a weekend that is sure to help adults and young people grow in Christ and with each other.