“Two days have gone so fast at Harmony 2010, where deliberations and activities have made us totally immerse into the family conference. In our American Society, where we lead a life full of tensions, such conferences help us untie the burden of heaviness and stress we carry upon us. That was the success of Harmony 2010, if said about in a nutshell”, said Thomas Philip (Tomsy) and Sophy Sarah Thomas, a couple attended the conference from St. Thomas Orthodox Church, Atlanta. Their words reflected the general opinion of participants on the success of the conference.
Metropolitan of the Diocese of South West America Alexios Mar Eusebius was the leader of the conference. Fr. Geevarghese John Vallikkattil from Sukhada Retreat Center, Kolenchery, Kerala was the main speaker and resource person. Dn. Geevarghese Koshy, New York was the youth speaker, representing the young generation growing in the US. Fr. P.M. Zachariah, Fr. George John, Fr. Dr. Joy Pyngolil, Fr. George Paulose, Fr. George Daniel, Fr. Dr. Mathew Koshy, and Fr. Dr. Jacob Mathew and a cross section of parishioners from all parishes of the region were present to make the conference a memorable experience for all.
‘He is our peace’ Ephesians 2:14 was the main theme of the conference. Families are the fundamental entities that constitute a parish and the bonding between families in a parish is love of Christ, the culmination of which we see on the cross and resurrection. When the love between families flows beyond the boundaries of parishes and spreads out family conferences have their relevance. Seen in that line as well Harmony 2010 was an accomplishment.
On Friday, July 9 at 6.30 pm the Metropolitan, Alexios Mar Eusebius lighted the candle on the Holy Altar to formally inaugurate the conference. After evening prayers, inaugural session set in and Fr. Dr. Jacob Mathew, the conference coordinator welcomed the Metropolitan, speakers, priests and all participants into the conference. Fr. George Daniel, the Diocesan Director for Family Conferences presided over the meeting. The Metropolitan introduced the theme of the conference thereafter, which was followed by Fr. Geevarghese Vallikkattil and Dn. Geevarghese Koshy.
“Peace is an all encompassing entity that prevails even at death”, emphasized Mar Eusebius in his speech. Abraham, the Patriarch was said unto by the Lord that he would join with his forefathers in peace (cf. Genesis 15:15). Similarly, a peace that can overcome even the fear of death is the peace that the risen Lord promises to us, avowed the Metropolitan, Mar Eusebius.
Fr. Geevarghese Vallikkattil carried on from where the Metropolitan stopped. He opened up a totally new approach towards the concept ‘peace’ to the participants. “Does God change His words”, he asked the participants and affirmed that He does. First we see in the Gospel of Mathew 10:16-39, where Jesus categorically says that He came not to establish peace, but sword. The same Jesus, after resurrection says that He gives His peace to the disciples to spread among the followers of Christ. Can we interpret this as changing of words by the Lord, Fr. Geevarghese asked. The problem was to understand the difference in understanding on peace that God envisages and what humans envisage. Humans evaluate peace in terms of worldly success, convenience, recognition, monitory stability and absence of problems or stress. When we look into the life of Jesus on earth, such a thing never existed. When Jesus was in the womb of Mary, she had to undergo the stress to prove the legitimacy of her pregnancy. It all began there and ended in the death on cross. Jesus and everyone, who associated with Him, never experienced peace in terms of worldly success, convenience, recognition, monitory stability and absence of problems or stress. Being Christians we also can not expect such peace, in the worldly sense, acclaimed Fr. Geevarghese. The peace that a Christian can enjoy is a peace that prevails amidst of all kinds of crosses that one has to carry in his life. It was this very line of thought that Fr. Geevarghese was trying to elucidate all through his deliberations.
Dn. Geevarghese Koshy wanted to see peace as absence of war, troubles and turmoil. Only when a human gets rid of all the above three negatives one gets peace. Our prayers shall address to God to save us there from, he said. To support his thoughts, he took refuge into the weekly prayer books, especially the Soothoro Prayer on Tuesday, where one prays to God to save one like David was saved from Saul. Such a salvation is peace that one needs to expect in the sojourn towards the Kingdom of God.
Friday evening after dinner was set apart for cultural presentations and all parishes in the region participated in it.
Saturday was the most productive day of the conference set aside the Holy Qurbana on Sunday. Attendees were thirsty to hear Fr. Geevarghese talk, wherefore, they were even demanding in one accord to quit one session of group discussion.
Presentation of outcomes of the group discussions in the plenary session brought the reaction of participants on deliberations with a very personal touch. All findings affirmed that satisfaction of worldly blessings will never quench the thirst for more worldly blessings and a totally different approach will only plug the spill of human desire. All four groups appreciated the speeches in the conference with paramount happiness.
After the tea, there was a session of games for all the participants. Christian songs anthakshari caught everyone’s attention, for men and women were competing as two separate groups. There were games for children, youth, men, and women. Arm wrestling between two participating Achens added more flavor into the session and made the whole participants cheer to the maximum.
After evening prayers on Saturday, Fr. Geevarghese Vallikkattil prepared the gathering for confession. Many have found the confession at Harmony 2010 as an experience of relief and revamp.
The Metropolitan Alexios Mar Eusebius celebrated Holy Qurbana on Sunday, July 11. After the Holy Qurbana, all those, who celebrated their birthdays and wedding anniversaries during the month, were congratulated.
Business session thereafter decided to hold the next conference under the auspices of St. Thomas Orthodox Church, Atlanta. Evaluations on the conference were really positive from the speakers and participants. It was, however, also observed by one of the participants that involvement of youth needs to be enhanced.
MGOCSM members were instrumental for registration, and coordinating the cultural evening. They deserve special applause for the commendable job, which goes into record hereby.
Carolyn Mannil and Rachael Pyngolil attended to the little children during the conference time. The children were engaged all the time through songs and stories and activities. The kids even presented their achievement in the business session, which caught everyone’s attention. Carolyn and Rachael did an admirable job.
There was photo session with the Metropolitan and auction of a HP Notebook on Sunday after the Holy Qurbana. These two initiatives literally pulled out the conference from serious financial difficulties and all those cooperated therewith deserve special appreciation.
Another aspect that needs special mention on Harmony 2010 was the food that was served. Delicious food was served under the leadership of Fr. George Daniel and with cooperation from St. Thomas Malankara Orthodox Church, Fort Lauderdale. They did an admirable job.
AsiaNet USA recorded the whole conference and the souvenir of Harmony 2010 will come out as a half hour DVD Documentary. AsiaNet USA will telecast this video souvenir all over the world and thus the Eastern Family Conference, Harmony 2010 will be made known to all Malayalees.
Blesson Mannil, the secretary of the conference 2010 moved vote of thanks.
All, while retreating after Harmony 2010 from the Holy Cross Catholic Church Parish Hall, St. Petersburg, were encouraging each other to bring at least one more family to the next family conference at Atlanta. Participants from Atlanta welcomed everyone with warmth into their midst too.
It won’t be wrong to hear from some of the participants of the conference:
“Harmony 2010 was very well organized. One could feel a very energetic and positive vibration that made the conference much different from those of yester years. Location was good and distance between the conference facility and the hotel was also favorable. One thing that I feel, which needs correction, is the hesitation of youth to participate in activities. We need to find out ways to attract more youth into the forefront though,” said Sajimon Varghese from St. Gregorios Orthodox Church, Fort Lauderdale.
“Vallikattial Achen’s presence and classes were of excellent stature. Fundraising initiatives, especially the auction was very much exciting and was a very good idea. Thirumeni’s presence through out the program was also a great blessing”, reflected Saramma Elias from St. Thomas Indian Orthodox Church, Hollywood, South Florida.
“I feel very much happy about Thrimeni’s presence through out the program and it was a great blessing that His Grace was leading the team undoubtedly as the father of the group. A general talk from among the participants was that Vallikattil achan’s expertise was utilized to the maximum. Location wise this year’s choice was very good; specifically a very good auditorium, and there was sufficient parking facility as well. Another important aspect was that all achens were together through out the event”, said Mathewkutty, a member of St. Thomas Malankara Orthodox Church, Oakland Park.
Let us add a concluding remark on the conference from one of the priestly participants, Fr. Dr. Mathew Koshy, Vicar, St. Thomas Orthodox Church, Atlanta. “Fr. Jacob Mathew, Blesson Mannil and George Varghese (Shaji, Atlanta) have worked as one team to the success of the conference. It was their devotion and team spirit that pulled out a wonderful family conference against all kinds of odds. They deserve a special round of applause too. And finally, welcome to all to Atlanta next year!”