Fr. Stephen Freeman – Keynote
Fr. Stephen Freeman is an archpriest in the Orthodox Church in America and serves as pastor of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, TN. He was educated at Furman University, Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, and Duke University. He is author of the popular blog, Glory to God for All Things, and of the weekly podcast, Glory to God, on Ancient Faith Radio, as well as the author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe. His work has been widely translated and published in Europe and Russia.
First Group of Talks: Uniting Ministries
Parish vs Camp – Fr. Panagiotis Sotiras
Maintaining the High: What Happens When Camp is Over
Fr. Panagiotis Sotiras has served in various Youth and Young Adult capacities over the years in the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco. His experience includes being a Camp Counselor at St. Nicholas Ranch Summer Camp from 2001-2004; Summer Camp Director from 2005-2008; Metropolis of San Francisco Youth and Young Adult Director from 2005-2008; coordinator and discussion leader for youth and young adult ministries at Holy Cross in Belmont from 2008-2012.
Since 2012, Fr. Panagiotis serves at St. Basil Greek Orthodox Church in Stockton, CA. He and his wife Presvytera Angie are blessed with 2 amazing children and one on the way.
Youth Ministry vs Adult Ministry – Jacob Saylor
Kids Come Second: Building Parish Ministry by Developing Young Adults
Jacob Saylor is presently the pastoral assistant/youth director at Assumption Greek Orthodox Church in Scottsdale, Arizona. Just getting started at this most recent assignment, Jacob has worked extensively in field of Orthodox youth and young adult ministry since 2007. An alumni of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School Of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts, Jacob received his Masters of Divinity in 2010, and has continued to work on his Masters Of Theology since then. Prior to this, his undergraduate degree was a B.A. (Double-Major) in Philosophy and Religious Studies, earned at the University of South Carolina.
Following his theological studies, Jacob worked as youth director of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in San Francisco from 2011-2015, during which time he also served- and continues to serve- as program director for the Metropolis of San Francisco Summer Camp. Invested in ministering to as many youth, families, and young adults as possible, Jacob has created, developed, and contributed to numerous programs and curriculums across our Orthodox Church in North America, and has been blessed indeed to be further allowed to lead, organize, and guest lecture at various regional, Metropolis, and national youth, young adult, and youth worker events, retreats, and workshops year round.
Home vs Parish – Elissa Bjeletich
Raising Saints: Finishing the Work of the Parish at Home (and Vice Versa)
Elissa Bjeletich is a wife and mother of five daughters, and works in the Sunday School at Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church in Austin, Texas. She is the co-author of Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home, a practical guide for creating Orthodox rhythms in a modern home, and the author of In God’s Hands: A mother’s journey through her infant’s critical illness, a testimony to Christ’s faithfulness in the midst of trials and uncertainty. Her next book is a series of Meditations for the family’s Nativity Fast. Elissa’s Ancient Faith podcast and blog, Raising Saints: Educating Our Youth in the Orthodox Faith, Both at Home and in the Parish encourages and equips us for the important conversations through which we pass on the faith to our young people.
Second Group of Talks: Uniting People
Head vs Heart – Matushka Jennifer Haddad Mosher
Catechizing Heads and Hearts: Towards a Holistic View of Orthodox Formation
Matushka Jennifer Haddad Mosher began teaching Church School as a college student, “because we need someone.” 20+ years later, she still teaches, now both children and adults, in church school, camp, workshop, retreat, and graduate school settings in diverse jurisdictions, because she loves helping make the Orthodox tradition accessible and religious education experiences more joyful and effective. Additionally, she researches and writes about the development of formal religious education in American Orthodoxy, and the challenges of Orthodox spiritual formation in our modern American context. She has a BA in Church History from Yale University, a MAR in Scripture from Yale Divinity School, and a ThM in Systematic Theology & Ethics from St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, where her thesis explored patristic teaching on the nature and significance of Jesus’ childhood. She is currently working on a doctorate in Religion & Education at Union Theological Seminary in NYC, writing her dissertation on the life and work of Sophie Koulomzin. She lives with her husband, Fr. Joshua, and three adolescent sons in Meriden, CT.
Leaders vs Community
United in Diversity: Bringing Together Church and Neighborhood – Father Aris P. Metrakos
Father Aris P. Metrakos has pastored San Francisco’s Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church since June 2008. Father Aris has led many youth and adult retreats, summer camps, and mission teams and has authored a variety of curricula, ranging from retreat and camp programs to small group guidebooks and stewardship material. Father’s many administrative responsibilities notwithstanding, evangelism and church growth and renewal are the governing values that shape his ministry.
Success vs Failure – Christian Gonzalez
Finding Success in Failure: Why Ministry is About More than Making “Good Kids”
Christian Gonzalez grew up in Orange County, California. After becoming Orthodox his senior year in high school, Christian attended Wheaton College in Illinois to study English Literature and developed a great love for stories and their power. This has led him to pursue further education in Clinical Psychology. Christian has worked in ministry in various capacities as a camp counselor, Sunday School teacher, Antiochian Southern California Deanery Youth Director, as well as a parish youth pastor. Christian also has experience working clinically as a child and adolescent therapist and is currently in the process of becoming a Licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapist in Arizona. Christian graduated from Luther Seminary in 2016 with his second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry. Christian serves the department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries as a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator.
Third Group of Talks: Uniting the World
Church vs Society – Emma Solak
Keeping the Faith: Why The World Isn’t That Scary After All
Emma Solak is a senior at the University of Pittsburgh double majoring in English Writing and Religious Studies. She is the Chairman of the Orthodox Christian Fellowship Student Leadership Board and served as the Publications Student Leader during the previous academic year. Emma is an active member and former president of the Pitt/CMU chapter of OCF. She also teaches church school at St. George Cathedral in Pittsburgh, interns for the OCA Youth Social Media department, sings in the Pitt Women’s Chorale Ensemble, and tutors at the Pitt Writing Center. Emma grew up in Stroudsburg, PA, where her mom and dad are the priest and matushka at Holy Trinity (OCA), with her two younger brothers and dog.
Tradition vs Tradition – Grammenos Karanos
Singing Together: Towards Unity in Worship
Grammenos Karanos joined the faculties of Hellenic College Holy Cross in 2007 and is currently Assistant Professor of Byzantine Liturgical Music. Since 1998 he has served as protopsaltis (chief cantor) of churches in the greater Boston area and is currently protopsaltis of the Holy Cross Chapel and director of the Holy Cross Byzantine Choir “Romanos the Melodist.” He studied Byzantine music under Photios Ketsetzis, Archon Protopsaltis of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and received a Certificate of Byzantine Music Studies with highest distinction in 2002. In 2011 he completed his studies under the guidance of world-renowned musicologist Gregorios Stathis and was awarded a Ph.D. in Byzantine Musicology and Psaltic Art at the University of Athens, Greece. In his doctoral dissertation, titled “The Kalophonic Heirmologion,” he examines a previously underinvestigated and misunderstood post-Byzantine para-liturgical genre with a double focus on its historical development and musical structure and content. His primary research interests include the morphology and evolution of Byzantine and post-Byzantine chant, the history and exegesis of neumatic notational systems, the dissemination of the psaltic tradition outside the Greek-speaking world, and the relationship between religious and secular musical traditions in the Balkans. At Hellenic College Holy Cross, Dr. Karanos teaches courses in Byzantine chant (beginner through advanced levels), service rubrics, and history of music.
Jurisdiction vs Jurisdiction – Steven Christoforou
From the Bottom Up: A Grassroots Approach to Orthodox Unity
Steven Christoforou is the Director of Y2AM (the Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries) and the Office of Camping Ministries of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Originally from Astoria, New York, Steve graduated from Yale University and Fordham University School of Law. He worked as a Corporate Attorney on Wall Street for two years before enrolling at Holy Cross School of Theology, where he received a Masters of Divinity in 2013. He has served as Lay Coordinator for the Harvard and MIT chapters of Orthodox Christian Fellowship, and has extensive parish experience as a former Parish Council member, Sunday School teacher, and youth volunteer. He also has extensive experience in youth and camping ministries, having led retreats around the country as a member of the Hellenic College/Holy Cross Ambassadors Program, and having served at the Direct Archdiocesan District’s Camp Saint Paul, both as a Counselor and Boys Director. Steve previously served as Y2AM’s Youth Protection/Parish Ministries Coordinator, and later as Interim Director, before His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios appointed him Director in May 2015