Monday, February 27, 2012

Climacus Conference

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the 2012 Climacus Conference held at Saint Michael the Archangel Orthodox Church, just across the (Ohio) river from us in Louisville, Kentucky. 

The Climacus Conference takes it name from St. John Climacus, a 7th Century Christian monk.  This year's theme was "Byzantium You Are Not Forgotten."  -  The link, above, on the conference provides the information about the various speakers and their individual topics.

I found the conference to be very informative.  Most of the presentations were on par with the kind of scholarly presentations one would find in academic societies.  But equally interesting, for me, was simply being at an Orthodox Church and around Orthodox clergy and laity, since this was my first exposure to an Orthodox Church.  (A number of the speakers took it for granted that we were all "Orthodox.")
First, the people at St. Michael's were quite hospitable.  Fr. Alexis approached me soon after I sat down.  Perhaps it was because he did not recognize me.  Perhaps it was because I was wearing an Anglican style collar and a Canterbury cross.  In any case, he not only sat down and talked with me, but introduced himself in a manner that indicated more of a collegial situation, rather than one where he viewed himself in a superior fashion (i.e., the Orthodox Church is the Church, and thus, not only are your orders invalid, but you am not even a part of the Church.).  Other clergy were also quite hospitable.

Then there was the church building, itself.  Since there were people
at the conference from around the country, and since they represented various (ethnic) jurisdictions of Orthodoxy, Fr. Alexis took us on a tour of both the church and the chapel.  -  If you go to the churches website (following the link above), you will be able to see a bit of what I saw.  The icons and artistic design were quite amazing!  We even had folks from other (ethnic) jurisdictions take time to chant a couple of songs while we were in the chapel.  They, along with Fr. Alexis, had amazing voices.

I would say that being around folks from the Orthodox Church revealed the kind of (perhaps insignificant?) things that we all seem to take so seriously.  Let me explain that a bit.  First, while the examples I will use came from the Orthodox perspective, I am confessing that we in the Wesleyan tradition probably have our own (insignificant?) things that we take too seriously.  Now, an example:  I had to smile to myself when listening to one person become visibly and vocally . . . animated . . . as he talked about how the Roman Catholic priests no longer face liturgical East while presiding over the Eucharist.  -  Most Wesleyans would be of the opinion that one ought to be facing the congregation. -  Or, when he became even more agitated when talking about how Roman Catholics actually have women serve as Eucharistic Ministers who actually touch the Body of Christ.  - Wesleyan denominations actually ordain women as elders (i.e., presbyters/priests), and they can serve in episcopal positions in the church.  Again, I'm quite sure that there are things that I get animated and agitated about that others would think are just as insignificant as I found my new Orthodox friend's concerns.

All in all, this was a good experience, and I would recommend other Wesleyan/Methodist clergy in the area take advantage of this conference in the future.  (It is an annual event that takes place right at the beginning of Lent.)

One thing that I am hoping may come out of this in the future is a possible public discussion or presentation between myself and Fr. Alexis concerning Orthodox spirituality, especially the concepts of theosis/deification/holiness, on his side, and Wesleyan spirituality, especially the concepts of Christian Perfection/Entire Sanctification, on my side.  -  Fr. Alexis seemed like he might be interested in such an event.  Time will tell how and when we can work it out.

I am thankful for this experience and for the new sisters and brothers in Christ that I had the opportunity to meet.  -  May God's blessings be upon them and upon us, as we each seek to love and serve the Lord!

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