On Friday, Nov. 15, 2013, the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. held its first clergy retreat at St. Matthew Orthodox Church in Columbia, MD. We were delighted by the turn out – some 20 priest and deacons, nearly all of our clergy, were able to attend. This full day retreat had two major goals: providing the required 5 hours of annual training on sexual misconduct and providing time for informal fellowship amongst the clergy brotherhood. Fr. Ian Pac-Urar, the head of the newly created OCA Department of Continuing Education, led the sexual misconduct training. Drawing on his background as both a professional educator and a long-time priest, Fr. Ian was able to address this important subject area in a way tailored to that resonated with our pastoral calling. Using the image of church as hospital, he spoke of the need to care for those who came for healing and also the need to establish healthy boundaries. His open style, the use of several scenarios and the opportunities to discuss this amongst our individual tables – all kept the brotherhood engaged.
In the middle of the day, we took a break for lunch and for informal discussions. Unfortunately, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon was unable to join us as he was still recovering from pneumonia. But he did send in several items for us to discuss. These items reflected his sincere interest in the health of his clergy and of his parishes. For the next hour and a half, the clergy discussed a possible written survey on all aspects of clergy health (spiritual, physical, financial, familial, …) and then focused discussions on two broad questions: what could we do as an archdiocese to further improve the health of our clergy and what can we do as an archdiocese to further improve the health of our parishes. A number of interesting areas were identified (e.g. further developing clergy brotherhood interactions, mission/parish development) and will be pursued further in future clergy meetings.