Crestwood, New York – This year’s Fall Board meeting, held at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, was an opportunity for the Board of Directors of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) to discuss the many developments that have arisen since the Board’s last meeting in May in St. Augustine, Florida at the Dedication of the Archbishop Anastasios and Archbishop Demetrios Missionary Training and Administration Building. Being on the Seminary campus allowed Board members to interact with faculty and students and dialogue about Orthodox Missions in general and service possibilities in particular.
Of note were the acceptance of three new long-term missionary candidates, the growth of the Support a Mission Priest (SAMP) program, which now supports 400 indigenous clergy in 19 Mission countries worldwide, the continued expansion of the Ambassador program, and the hiring of OCMC’s new Major Gifts Officer, Amy Pierce – all indications that the intent of North American Orthodox Christians to make disciples of all nations remains strong. Over 200 individuals have expressed interest and are in some stage of being considered for Missionary service.
Positive news, however, was also met with a certain level of sobriety as the organization, along with most non-profit groups, is feeling the effects of the economic recession from which, some economists say, the world is only now just beginning to emerge. The year 2009 saw the lowest number of Mission Team member participants in years and donations in support of the work of OCMC were down. As a result, the Board discussed measures the OCMC would need to take in order to weather the lingering storm while expanding its mission ministries to meet the growing need for Orthodox Christian witness around the world. These efforts included detailed scrutiny of the 2010 budget and increased emphasis on enrolling individuals in the Friends of Missions program and other fundraising appeals. Also planned in the next few months are dinners and other events sponsored by local Mission committees in Chicago, St. Louis, Washington, DC, and South Florida. A dinner was held in Denver in November.
Graciously hosted by Seminary Chancellor the Very Rev. Dr. Chad Hatfield, OCMC Board Vice President, meetings began on Monday, November 16th, with sessions involving the Board’s Executive Committee and the Strategic Planning Committee. The current Strategic Plan is midway through its five-year term and will be reviewed and updated.
On Tuesday, November 17th, between Matins and Vespers in the Seminary’s Three Hierarch Chapel, the Board gathered for a full report on the ministries of OCMC in 2009 and to discuss the organization’s goals for 2010 including individual departmental operational plans. OCMC Executive Director Fr. Martin Ritsi also shared his recent trip to Pakistan and Africa where he, on behalf of the OCMC, received the St. Mark award from His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa. He also talked about the Church’s efforts to reach the Turkana people of Northern Kenya and the emerging Church in Pakistan.
Later that evening a banquet benefiting the OCMC was held at nearby Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in New Rochelle, New York where former OCMC Board member Fr. Nicholas Anctil is the priest. The guest speaker was His Grace Seraphim, Retired Bishop of Sendai, Japan. His Grace shared his own missionary experiences in Japan and how he was inspired by St. Nikolai who was able to effectively make disciples of the Japanese people. He entreated those in attendance to continue the work of St. Nikolai among different cultures, but also among those we encounter in our daily lives. His Grace Bishop Savas of Troas, the Director of the Office of Church and Society of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America also attended.
Following Matins on Wednesday, November 18th, the Board concluded the Fall meeting with reports from various committees. The Nominations Sub-Committee, chaired by President Emeritus Fr. Alexander Veronis, opened nominations for new Board officers starting three-year terms in the Spring of 2010 including President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. In the report from the Teams Task Force, Chair George Conopeotis shared with the Board new strategies for helping more of the faithful answer the call to missions by participating on short-term teams. Other committee discussions included Governance, Development, Health Care and wrap-ups on the new Building Construction and Dedication events. Though the future may hold continued challenges, it is a testament to God’s will that He desires salvation for all people and indicative of the deep faith of Orthodox Christians in North America that the work of missions carries on. In this hour, prayer, is needed for the staff, board, and missionaries of the OCMC, and all those called to serve as Christ’s witnesses to the ends of the earth.
The Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) is the official mission agency of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA) dedicated to making disciples of all nations by incorporating them into the vibrant Eucharistic life of the Church.