By Archpriest Eric G. Tosi
The Diocese of New York and New Jersey held the second Annual annual Evangelism School from August 7 to August 9, 2023 at St. Gregory the Theologian Orthodox Church in Wappingers Falls, NY. In an initiative blessed by His Eminence, Archbishop Michael, fully funded by the Diocesan Council and in conjunction with the Commission on Mission and Evangelism, the participants gathered to spend three intensive days of learning and reflecting on the necessary apostolic work to strengthen the parishes and missions of the diocese. Speakers and presenters were brought in to share their experiences with the participants who were gathered from every deanery in the Diocese, in addition to rising third year seminarians from St. Tikhon’s Seminary who will be assigned to the Diocese after graduation.
The course work covered the theology and application of evangelization in a parish setting, leadership techniques and advice, and the application of communications and education techniques to heighten the awareness of the importance of evangelism. Among the instructors were Archpriest Eric G. Tosi, Director of the Commission on Mission and Evangelism, Archpriest David Garretson, Rector of Ss. Peter & Paul Church in South River, NJ, and Archpriest Timothy Hojnicki, Rector of Holy Apostles Church in Mechanicsburg, PA. His Eminence Archbishop Michael participated in the School and offered invaluable reflections and direction to the clergy and laypersons. As one lay participant reflected, “This was an incredible three days where I was able to actually learn from seasoned clergy as well as spend time sharing with one another on the importance of what we need to do in our parishes. I will be bringing this information back to my parish to share and begin to implement.”
Each day began with prayer, held to two sessions, a roundtable discussion on various issues facing parishes and mission and concluded with an open discussion period. The School coincided with the Feast of St. Herman of Alaska, the Wonderworker of North America and one the greatest inspirations for the apostolic work in the Orthodox Church in America. His Eminence Archbishop Michael presided at the services for the Feast and spoke of the need to follow the example of St. Herman and never be discouraged in doing the necessary work in building up the local Orthodox Church.
The Diocese will hold the next Evangelism School in August of 2024 at St. Gregory as it continues to rotate clergy and laypersons from each deanery through these sessions.