From 20-24 Dec, the Diocesan Teen Retreat was held on the Sunshine Coast in southeast Queensland, with the blessing of Metropolitan Hilarion and in the presence of Bishop George.
The organising committee, headed by Priest Gabriel Lapardin, had selected Luther Heights as the place for almost 60 teens, travelling from near and far, to draw closer to God and develop connections that will last a lifetime.
In planning the retreat, an effort was made to balance the spiritual with the social, framing exciting activities in a broad routine: the mornings had talks & discussions from invited guests, the afternoons had organised outdoor activities (flying fox, team-building, ropes course, surfing & beach), and the evenings had enjoyable indoor activities and free time for socialising.
On the first day, we made our way to Luther Heights – reconnecting with old friends from previous retreats. That night, after the opening moleben, we played ice breaker activities, allowing a safe and inclusive atmosphere to develop.
On the Monday, we heard from Archpriest Seraphim Gan (from St Seraphim’s Parish, Sea Cliff, USA) and Priest Eugene Kulanov (from New Zealand). Fr Seraphim spoke on the topic of marriage and the symbolism found in the wedding service, while Fr Eugene spoke on the topic of what love is, then guiding our teens’ interaction with St Paul’s description of love (in 1 Cor 13).
On the Tuesday, we heard from Archpriest Gabriel Makarov and Priest Andrew Smith (both from Brisbane). Fr Gabriel talked about the importance of prayer and fasting in the life and personal development of an Orthodox Christian, while Fr Andrew shared his story about how he came to belief in God and becoming an Orthodox Christian as a teenager.
In the evenings, Alecia & Kristina ran group activities – on Monday night, a trivia night across many different subjects; and on Tuesday night, a talent show, where a variety of different talents were on display.
On the Wednesday, we heard from Archpriest George Lapardin (from Sydney), who spoke on Confession and why this is such an important sacrament for our spiritual development. This was followed by a panel Q&A session, where Bp George and other clergy were joined by some of the conference attendees in answering questions. That night, the prayers before Communion were read, followed by Matins. Confessions were held during both of these times, and most attendees were able to confess and to prepare for receiving Communion.
On the final day, Bp George celebrated the Divine Liturgy, which was concelebrated with Priest Eugene Kulanov & Priest Andrew Smith and Deacon Bill Konstantinidis. This was followed by brunch, after which the attendees had time to say goodbye before returning home.
The 2015 Teen Retreat (TR15) was a rewarding experience for all involved, and we look forward to next year’s retreat!
Priest Andrew Smith