Protopriest Andrei Sommer Speaks at the Nativity Readings: “Perspectives and Opportunities in Developing a Church-wide Orthodox Youth Movement.”
Honorable Fathers, Dear Participants in this Prestigious Forum:
Russians who found themselves scattered outside of the borders of Russia after the 1917 Revolution and World War II face a special challenge—the preserve their Orthodox faith and Russian culture despite the daily influence of the Western spirit.
Having come to terms with the fact of living in the diaspora, struggling for survival on a daily basis, preserving their individuality, faith in God, the essence of the Russian person, emigres united in their battle against self-destruction. ?
Fear of the possibility of losing their legacy, their centuries-old roots, sparked the emigrants to gather the strength to build churches and the uniting link of a long chain for Russians living abroad.
?In Europe, Africa, Morocco, distant Australia, China, South and North America, in all points of the globe, you will find cupolas, the ringing of bells, processions of the cross, all of which bear witness to Orthodox Christianity.
?But today it is important for us to realize that we must not only build physical temples, but construct our internal temples, gathering our most important resource—human souls. We must unite in this task together, help each other, to build what is good, instead of destroying and dividing, as the Ecumenical Patriarch is now doing as he departs from the norms of Orthodox Christianity. This affects us, to, who live abroad, and especially in America.
?Sociologists call today’s youth living abroad, in this post-Christian age, Generation Z, in other words, “nobody.”
Most members of Generation Z continued to believe in the existence of god, but, as the first post-Christian generation, do not believe in the need to participate in divine services and the Mysteries that the Holy Church offers. By nature they are spiritual, but not religious. These are whom we call “unchurched youth.”
?Today you have gathered here at the Nativity Readings, burning with the desire to participate in the life of the Church. You have the potential, by your very example, to preserve the traditions of our faith, and by employing various social and volunteer programs, attract those who have not yet done so to enter into the confines of the Church.
The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia has 50 years of tradition in organizing all-diaspora youth conferences, drawing young people from throughout the world, who come to know each other, support each other and live in a churchly atmosphere.
These events, especially the last two in Paris and San Francisco, with the participation of youth from Russia, revealed new forms and methods of ministry, imparting the desire among the participants to become “fishers of men” in their own parishes. ?
We must ponder this question and go beyond the oft-repeated words “youth is our future.” No, you must realize that it is specifically the Church that is the future of our young people. With this attitude, we can jointly work on a common goal “to bear one another’s burdens.”
It is a great joy for me to be here together with you all at this prestigious forum. I am genuinely grateful to Fr Kyrill for his invitation, and to you all for your kind attention.
Protopriest Andrei Sommer
?Vice President of the Synodal Youth Department of the
Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.