DES PLAINES, IL – On Friday and Saturday, August 11 and 12, St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church and Guardian Angel Orthodox Day School, both of Des Plaines, hosted the 4th Annual National Conference on Orthodox Christian Schools.
Over 100 participants from 27 schools located in 11 U.S. states and the nations of Albania and Estonia gathered at the conference to share practical knowledge and skills, as well as new energy to continue the challenging but blessed work of building up Orthodox Christian schools.
The title of the conference, First Things First: The Priority of Orthodox Christian Education, was inspired by the recommendation of the Chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago, Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, using the following quote from St. John Chrysostom to guide their efforts:
“With us everything should be secondary compared to our concern with children and their upbringing in the instruction and teaching of the Lord.”
After Divine Liturgy on Friday, the conference began with an Opening Prayer by His Eminence Metropolitan Nicolae of the Americas of the Romanian Orthodox Church and His Grace Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos. Parish Priest Father John Rallis of the host St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church gave a welcoming statement followed by the Keynote Address “The Orthodox Faith Incarnate in Schools” by Bryan Smith of Texas.
In his opening statement, Smith introduced himself as having “been in education now for about 30 years, originally as a teacher, then in a variety of administrative roles, and then as a headmaster. Most of my career has been in private Christian schools- until most recently when I joined the group I'm now with which operates charter schools in two states.”
Smith said, “We wish to see multiple Orthodox schools in every major city of this nation that will support the life of Orthodox Christians, bring the faith to new generations, and engage our culture in all its most profound assumptions. Orthodox schools working together from their own theological roots and according to best practices will assume a prominent position in the field of education—as the best schools academically and culturally for students of any background.”
He continued, “We have an opportunity to become the new school option for Americans seeking solid academics, character formation, and traditional Christianity. From such a position we have the real potential to transform our society by sending countless thousands into the professions and vocations of our society who have been nurtured for years in the rich soil of the Orthodox faith.”
Smith proclaimed, “We hold something precious to pass on to another generation of American Christians. We have something true, unchanging, and life-giving to impart to a nation rich with goodwill but impoverished by materialism and narcissism. Schools are one of the ways that we can leaven the lump of our society. We all hope to incline our students toward Christ, to prepare them to live well in this world, and to share our faith with a generation looking for stability in the shifting sands of the American cultural landscape.”
Smith concluded his address with “Let us find our way- together- to preserve the treasures God has placed in our hands- the treasures of truth, and the treasures of those darling persons- our children.”
The Metropolis of Chicago oversees all Greek Orthodox Parishes within Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, and large portions of Missouri and Indiana. More information on the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago is available online at www.chicago.goarch.org.