During the weekend of October 8-10, 2010, the deacons of the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland and the Mid-Atlantic gathered with His Grace Bishop Thomas for the diocese's second annual deacons’ retreat. The deacons were hosted this year by Fr. Noah Bushelli, Fr. Deacon Herman Acker, and the parishioners of St. Philip Church  in Souderton, Pennsylvania. The deacons gathered with Sayedna and Fr. Noah and Fr. Dn. Herman to pray the Supplication Service to St. Raphael Saturday morning before beginning their retreat sessions.
The Reverend Deacon Nicholas Belcher, Dean of Students and Hellenic College and Holy Cross Seminary served as the retreat master. Fr. Dn. Nicholas spoke from his own years of experience in youth work as a former high school teacher, at the Antiochian Village, in the Cross Roads Program at Hellenic College and the Seminary, and in his current duties as dean. His reflections on “Perfectly One: A Model for Youth and Young Adult Ministry in the Age of Relativism” sparked a lively and lengthy discussion among the deacons. In preparing to do catechesis and teaching of teens and young adults, Fr. Dn. Nicholas offered the deacons both personal insight and the results of major studies that summarize the challenges posed by a vague “religion” in American culture to a genuinely Orthodox understanding of the intimate connection between truth and love—about God and our fellow humans.
Following the morning session the deacons enjoyed the hospitality of the parish, which provided lunch for Sayedna and them at The Oasis restaurant in Lansdale. During the luncheon the deacons took the opportunity to ask their bishop’s advice on various challenges and questions that arise in the course of serving in diaconal ministry. The deacons then met in the afternoon with Sayedna to plan next year’s retreat and to participate with Fr. Dn. Nicholas in his presentation to St. Philip’s parish. Following Great Vespers, the deacons were the guests at an evening meal with the parish. Sayedna Thomas celebrated Matins and Hierarchical Divine Liturgy  Sunday morning with Fr. Noah, Fr. Dn. Herman and the rest of the deacons, who also enjoyed a brunch with St. Philip’s parishioners before departing for home. The kind hospitality of the parish and the spectacular autumn weather contributed to a retreat that combined prayer and fellowship with the strengthening of ties among the deacons and with their bishop. The deacons look forward to next year’s retreat and hope that many deacons from both the Diocese of Charleston and the Diocese of New York and Washington, D.C. will be able to participate.