St. Herman's Youth Conference '98
Nathan Williams

This year the St. Herman's Youth Conference was held in Cleveland, Ohio. It lasted five days, instead of the usual four, and there were about 180 participants. It was wonderful! Many of our clergy were present, including two of our bishops, Vladyka Alypy and Vladyka Gabriel. The lectures were very well delivered by members of the clergy and many important issues and topics were addressed, such as drugs, role models, dating and marriage, and the order of the divine services. There were panel discussions, in which those who wished could send up their questions on a piece of paper, and have them answered by one or more of the clergy assembled at the front of the room. There were also group discussions in which the conferees were separated by age, and many interesting and important points were brought up and discussed during both discussions.

This year St. Herman's day fell on a Friday, which meant that Divine services were held on four of the five conference days. This was truly a blessing, since we were able to sing not only the specially prepared music for St. Herman's day, but also had the chance to sing the music used routinely by the choir of the Cleveland parish, which in my opinion equaled in beauty the music sung Friday. Saturday night after services several conferees met in a room used for serving snacks, and we sang together. We sang both liturgical music and Russian folk songs, with Fr. Serge Lukianov directing. That was one of the most enjoyable activities I participated in during free time throughout the course of the conference.

This year, unlike in some previous years, there was no reported trouble concerning alcohol, damage to hotel property or noisy parties. This was a great blessing, as this kind of trouble gives the conferences and the Orthodox Church a very bad name. Very likely this absence of problems was due in part to the fact that the hotel was furnished with a "Holidome": a recreational facility with ping pong tables, mini golf, pool tables and a gym, where those whose energy had found less productive outlets in previous years could let off some steam, and young people could relax and get to know each other.

We had another blessing to be thankful for, this being that the Myrrh-streaming icon of St. Nicholas was present for almost the entire duration of the conference. During the vigil service Thursday night everyone was able to venerate the icon and to be anointed with myrrh from the icon. Everyone also received a piece of cotton holding some of the myrrh. This icon was present last year also, at the St. Herman's conference in Lakewood, NJ.

Overall, the conference was a huge success. Several people I talked to were of the opinion that this year's was the best one yet. Thanks to donations from various benefactors, the conference rates were incredibly low, covering four nights in the hotel, all the lectures and all the meals for $150. The same price is hoped for next year. This is one of the best opportunities of the year for Orthodox young people to get to know each other, listen to enlightening and enriching lectures, have their questions answered and attend the divine services together. I sincerely hope that all Orthodox Youth will make every effort to attend the conference next year.

Nathan Williams is a Reader from St. Alexander Nevsky Church (ROCOR) in Richmond, ME, the 17-year-old son of Fr. Chad and Matushka Cindy Williams.