The XIII Annual Saint Herman’s West Youth Conference was held at Holy Transfiguration Cathedral in Los Angeles, CA, from December 26th to 30th, 2019.
Under the grace-filled protection of Most Holy Theotokos through Her miraculous myrrh-streaming “Hawaiian-Iveron” Icon and in the spiritual care of His Grace James Bishop of Sonora and diocesan clergy, approximately 50 youth and counselors, gathered together from the far reaches of the Western American Diocese – Colorado, Idaho, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, and Washington -- being joined by more centrally located participants from the San Francisco Bay area, Sacramento and Los Angeles itself. Among the attendees participants even came from Vancouver, BC and Russia.
The previous 12 Saint Herman’s West Youth Conferences have been held in such places as Seattle, WA, Corvallis and Medford, OR, Placerville, Sacramento, Santa Rosa and Sunnyvale, CA, and West Jordan, UT. At last the much-anticipated aim to hold the conference in Los Angeles, CA, came to fruition this year.
The conference was fashioned on the standard template of Divine Services and daily prayer, lectures, roundtable discussions (Q & A with the clergy), liturgical workshops (reading, choir practice, acolyte service), excursions, social time and a talent show. A consistency in the use of this pattern provides stability and security. At the same time, each occasion with its specific venue has its own particular features, which afford variety for the participants.
Archpriest James Baglien gave an informative, lecture on career choices for Orthodox Christians, in which he addressed down-to-earth matters like striking the balance between work, family and the spiritual life, of managing a household budget and of other practical concerns that affect the spiritual wellbeing and progress of an Orthodox Christian. Priest Matthew Harrington gave an engaging lecture on the life of Saint Silouan the Athonite and his profound theology, inspiring listeners to be witnesses of an exalted life in Christ and His Church.
One of the Q & A sessions was led by the youth counselors so that they could field questions from their younger peers about how maintain one’s faith and spiritual equilibrium during life at a college or university, and/or entering the work force as a young adult.
His Grace Bishop James presided over the Sunday Liturgy in the presence of the “Hawaiian-Iveron” myrrh-streaming Icon and a multitude of clergy and faithful. The talented choir conductors came from the youth conference attendees, Stefan Sveshnikov and Junia Baglien.
Many thanks to the sponsors, benefactors and organizers of the XIII Annual Saint Herman’s West Youth Conference. In particular thanks goes to Archpriest Michael van Opstall and the youth counselors for tackling the practical questions associated with the conference and to Protopresbyter Alexander Lebedeff and the Sisterhood and community of Holy Transfiguration Cathedral for so graciously hosting the conference and feeding its participants.