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Antiochian Unity, the Assembly of Bishops and World Orthodoxy

From the October 2014 edition of The Word

The Conference on Antiochian Unity held at Balamand University, June 25–29, was a source of great joy and pride for the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America. Our Metropolitan Joseph was asked to moderate the wrap-up session, Fr. Michel Najm offered a key paper, and members of our delegation were placed on every workshop of the Conference. In this way, we could dialogue and share with representatives of each of the Antiochian archdioceses throughout the world. It was obvious from the way the conference was structured that the underlying goal was to promote and develop lay and clergy cooperation and leadership at every level of the church. God has blessed His Church with great resources. He has called clergy and lay workers alike to develop skills in every kind of social, medical, educational and ecclesiastical ministry.

While every archdiocese of the Patriarchate has made progress in developing structures for these varied ministries, the North American Archdiocese has been the most deliberate and successful in this area. We were able to share practical experiences to help others reach their goals. We were not there, however, just to give. The American delegation had much to learn about the obstacles and challenges of the other archdioceses as well, and gathered information about global trends that have affected Europe and the Middle East. No doubt, many of these challenges are coming our way, too. In any case, because of global communications, everyone will share the best and the worst of all situations. The collaboration of the Conference on Unity was surely beneficial to all.

The Conference on Antiochian Unity

A PERSONAL REFLECTION

Overlooking the beautiful Mediterranean Sea is the Balamand Abbey, built by Cistercian Monks in 1157 A.D., on the Hill of Balamand in al-Kurah, Lebanon. The monks left the Abbey before the capture of Tripoli and the Crusaders departed.

Three hundred years later, Greek Orthodox monks took over the Abbey, naming it the Balamand Monastery. Initially, ten monks occupied it, but this number increased to twenty-five in a very short period. Their lives were filled with prayer, tending crops, writing and copying manuscripts, as well as hosting visitors. The buildings were built around a square courtyard, representing the four evangelists, which is the center of their monastic life.

From the moment we arrived at the Balamand, our North American delegation, consisting of Fr. Thomas Zain, Vicar General, Fr. Timothy Ferguson, Protosyngelos, Fawaz El-Khoury, Dan Braun, Dan Abraham, Khalil Samara, Jordan Khurzum, Douglas Cramer and myself, were welcomed and made to feel very much at home. Metropolitans, bishops, priests and delegates from Antiochian archdioceses all over the world convened at this historical conference. They came from Brazil, France, England, Mexico, Syria, Lebanon, Europe, and Saudi Arabia, to name a few, and, of course, North America. We prayed together, ate together, and attended the presentations and workshops together. We were equally blessed to have Archbishop Joseph, soon to be Metropolitan Joseph, Bishop Alexander, Bishop John and Bishop Nicholas with us.

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