The Diocese of New York and New Jersey held its first annual Evangelism School from Monday, August 8 to Wednesday, August 10, 2022, at St. Gregory the Theologian Orthodox Church in Wappingers Falls, NY. The School is an initiative of the Diocesan Commission on Missions and Evangelism, fully funded by the Diocesan Council, as a way to foster a renewed thinking and excitement on sharing the Orthodox Faith in the parishes across the Diocese.
The School was open to ten students. The ten participants were comprised of both clergy and laypersons, representing all three Deaneries of the Diocese. “The School was specifically kept small, so as to foster greater interaction and discussion among the participants while ensuring that the information could be effectively discussed,” says Archpriest Eric G. Tosi, chairman of the Commission and organizer of the School. “We based the model on previous missions schools that had been done on a Church-wide level annually for a number of years. This Diocesan School was specifically designed to be an intense three days.”
Topics that were discussed included the theology and application of evangelism; leadership and management principles; communications; catechism; and education in the parish. The invited speakers were Archpriest Eric G. Tosi, Archpriest David Garretson and Archpriest Timothy Hojnicki. His Eminence, Archbishop Michael, was present for the School and offered invaluable insight from his own experiences, as well as giving archpastoral guidance on the topics discussed. The School also integrated roundtable conversations on various themes, as well as open discussions in which the participants shared their experience and were able to explore topics of concern.
“I left the three-day School feeling refreshed and reinvigorated! I came away with a whole bunch of ideas to bring back to my parish,” reflected Priest Theodore Gregory, rector of Holy Trinity Church in Rahway, NJ. Archbishop Michael shared with the participants at the conclusion how this School “enables parishes and missions to examine what they are doing in their parish life and how that is reflected in the surrounding community, in order to draw people into a deeper relationship with Christ.” His Eminence challenged the participants to take the information and experience back to their parishes and missions and share it with the parish leadership and community, reminding us that “this will only be effective if the information is shared and then implemented on a local level.”
The School was held in conjunction with the Feast of St. Herman of Alaska, the first missionary and saint in North America. Festal services were celebrated, presided over by His Eminence.
The School will be an annual event, fully funded and sponsored by the Diocese of New York and New Jersey. Different participants will be recruited each year, continuing to draw from the length and breadth of the Diocese.
Through the prayers of our holy father Herman of Alaska and the Saints of North America, may this missionary effort be blessed by Almighty God!