Priests and deacons from across the farthermost reaches of the diocese -- downstate NJ (Brick) to upstate NY (Buffalo) -- gathered with Bishop Michael on 3-4 September 2014 in Clifton NJ, at Assumption of the Holy Virgin Church, for the 2014 Diocesan Clergy Conference. Nine accredited hours of Clergy Continuing Education [CCE] were available to meet the annual requirement of twenty CCE credits established by the Orthodox Church in America for all clergy. In addition, priests and deacons enjoyed and benefited from fellowship in prayer, unity in study, spiritual renewal, and a strengthening of brotherly affection among pastoral ministers.
Three sessions, each representing three CCE credit-hours, were presented:
1) “Things Priests Ought Not Do!” was presented by Archpriest Joseph Lickwar (Diocesan Chancellor). Sharing thoughtful insights and penetrating observations arising from his many years of faithful priestly service in parish life, Father Joseph offered wise and well-tested recommendations for pastoral health and success in ministry to the glory of God and the good-estate of His Holy Church. “It was basic information, in the best of ways” said one priest. “The kind of things young priests must hear and know, and wisdom we older priests need to be reminded of from time to time.”
2) “Sound Financial Practices for Parishes” was presented by Matushka Mary Buletza Breton (CPA, Diocesan Treasurer). Specific topics included church budgeting, non-profit corporate documents, bookkeeping/accounting procedures, clergy compensation, implications of tax law/regulations, the spiritual dimension of financial stewardship, and more ... “Our parish council members, especially parish treasurers, should be here to hear this,” was a common sentiment among participants. As a result, it was agreed that a similar presentation by Matushka Mary will be incorporated in the 2015 Annual Parish Council Conference.
3) “Questions of Canon Law” was presented by Archpriest Alexander Rentel (PhD, Assistant Professor of Canon Law, Orthodox Church in America Consultant for Canonical Affairs). In suggesting a methodology for the study and application of the Church’s canonical tradition, Father Alexander offered specific examples and thought-provoking examinations of consistencies and “gray areas” of canonical understanding and practice, all focusing on the essential integrity and ultimate unity of faith represented in the fullness of the Body of Christ (the synthesis of Holy Scripture, liturgical texts, worship, ascetic writings, lives of saints, prayer life, sacraments, the canonical tradition, etc.) ... all of which are “of the Church” and witness to the love of Christ and His abiding presence in the grace of the Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father.
Those present expressed gratitude to Father Stephen Evanina (host rector) and the faithful of Assumption of the Holy Virgin Church for their great hospitality in hosting the conference.
Of course, special thanks are due to Bishop Michael who, as diocesan hierarch and spiritual shepherd, has created and offered these vital and invigorating gatherings of clergy.