Archdiocese of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania
Orthodox Church in America
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Topics and Sessions: 2020 Parish Development Forum Online

2020 Parish Development Forum Online -- Schedule of Sessions

10:30 AM

(All times EDT)

Opening Prayer

Keynote Address: Orthodox Christian Communities in 2020  Metropolitan TIKHON

Introduction Lessons Learned from the Messy Middle Joseph Kormos

Forum Participation Ground Rules Archpriest Stephen Frase

11:30 Break 15 min

Re-establishing Community and Fellowship

Archpriest Andrew Jarmus

What’s Next? Using Our Gifts to Expand Our Ministries

Archpriest Thomas Soroka

What Good Practices Should Continue? What Have We Learned?

Archpriests Nicholas Wyslutksy,

Justin Patterson and Kirill Sokolov

12:45 Lunch (or Brunch) Break 30 min

AM Review

The Lived Experience: Fear-based Isolation and Anxiety-driven Change

Priest, Sean Levine; Pastoral Counseling Chaplain, Fort Belvoir MD

2:15 Break 15 min

Top 10 Practical Tips for Leading Parish Online Classes

Archpriest, Stephen Frase

Talking to America:

When the Gospel  is Needed Most

Archpriests Peter Baktis & Paul Jannakos

Adventures in Streaming

       If We’re Going to Stream -- Do it Well!

Steve Adams, Phil Tesar &

Archpriest Nicholas Wyslutsky

3:30 Break 10 min

Coming Back to Church:

What are Your Concerns?

Catherine Vrugitz & Elaine Rentel

Healthy Pastors in Challenging Times

Archpriests Marc Vranes & Nicholas Solak

The Ministry of Liturgical Music -- Thinking Ahead

Archpriest Lawrence Margitich; Vladimir Morosan, Tracey Edson


Room Change 5 min

4:45 Wrap up; Q/A
All Attendee General Sessions
Forum Keynote: Orthodox Christian Communities in 2020


Speaker: His Beatitude Metropolitan TIKHON, Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan of America and Canada

Time: ~ 10:40 AM


Reflecting on the Coronavirus pandemic and social divisions of 2020, Orthodox Christian communities will chart a course toward much-needed unity through actively engaging in humility, sanctity, and love, in imitation of Christ and the Saints.  

Forum Introduction


Speakers: Archpriest Stephen Frase and Joseph Kormos


This session will provide an introduction to the 2020 Parish Development Forum including an explanation of our theme, a review of some key lessons, feedback from the attendee survey and an overview of the agenda.

It will also include a brief definition of attendee ground rules good practice for participating in various sessions.

The Lived Experience": An Existential Phenomenology of Fear-based Isolation and Anxiety-driven Change


Speaker: Priest, Chaplain Sean Levine


This session will focus on the personal aspects of recovery from and movement beyond the present crisis of life that has so profoundly impacted our experience of communal life and Church. In particular, we will emphasize the fact that each person has a uniquely subjective experience, unrepeatable and irreducible. The pastoral challenge aims a balancing a grip on the “two horns” of a dilemma: maintaining the communal life of the parish without reductively ignoring the supremely specific and individual “situatedness” of each person within the context of this crisis such that the categories of “right” and/or “wrong” personal responses give way to a more compassionate appreciation of each person’s context.

Breakout/Town Hall/ Dialogue Sessions

Breakout sessions are approximately 60 minutes and designed to explore various topics in conjunction with attendees.

Each session will have a leader and possibly additional panelists to offer viewpoints. Some are skill building sessions while others will take on a 'town hall'/dialogue flavor.

We hope at least half the session will allow interaction among attendees in smaller sub- rooms.

There are three breakout session periods during the Forum -- each with three topic choices.

Start times for sessions are subject to change.

Re-establishing Community and Fellowship


Session Leader: Priest Andrew Jarmus


Among the collateral damage of the COVID-19 outbreak is our understanding of the importance of community. What was once generally accepted as an essential part of human life is now assessed according to levels of threat. Because of the high value that Orthodox Christianity places on the gathering of the faithful "in one place," we face significant challenges moving forward. This session will discuss some of the ways that parishes can nurture community as we slowly, and often reluctantly, come together again.

Discussion Questions

  1. What is something from your "Pre-Coronavirus" parish community that you are looking forward to getting back to when you get the "all-clear?"
  2. How has the COVID-19 outbreak magnified the strengths and/or weaknesses of your parish community?

  3. How can your parish community engage the wider community in which it is located to foster healing and renewal in the wake of the COIVD-19 outbreak?

What's Next? Using our Gifts to Expand our Ministries


Session Leader: Archpriest Tom Soroka 


This session will present practical information about how to assess the need for ministries within the parish community and outreach beyond the community and how parishioners can create an inventory of their own gifts to find avenues of service.


  1. What areas of your parish life became a greater challenge during the pandemic, how prepared were you for them, and how did you eventually address them?
  2. What opportunities for outreach does your parish have that you are not addressing yet because of either a lack of acceptance from within the community or simply a lack of inertia?
  3. What ways do you have for parishioners and clergy to assess their gifts and find their own avenues of service?

Top 10 Practical Tips for Leading Parish Online Classes


Session Leader: Archpriest Stephen Frase  Contributor: TBD


To be an educator in any context requires flexibility, creativity, and willingness to continually improve.  Many venues and formats we use to educate the parish faithful were canceled or required drastic modification with little to no time to prepare.  In this session, participants will have the opportunity to learn different ways to engage learners of various ages as we prepare for an unknown future.  Will our classes be in person, online / virtual, or even some sort of hybrid approach?  Tools being shared can potentially be used with in-person as well as online groups.  Along with identifying online tools, discussion will include how best to use various tools with groups.  Participants may also have online tools and resources they have used with success so please come ready to share ideas, ask questions, and test out some tools!

Discussion Questions


What Good Practices Should Continue? What Have We Learned?


Session Host: Fr. Justin Patterson Contributors:  Fr. Nicholas Wyslutsky, Fr Kirill Sokolov


Orthodox parishes have covered a lot of territory and learned a lot in a short period of time.

Some ideas, practices and tools hold the possibility to rejuvenate parish life for years to come. Others - not so much. Which are worth keeping using and enhancing and why? Hear thoughts from our panel and contribute your own insights to this highly relevant conversation.

Discussion Questions

  1. What new technology based and non-technology based practices has your parish tried or have you heard about from other parishes?  What are the advantages?
  2. Which of these practices seem to have "sticking power" --deserve, in your opinion, to live on as parishes re-open?
  3. What would we be missing by limiting ourselves to what we’ve done before? And since versions of these challenges are likely to come again how can we be prepared for this?

Healthy Pastors in Changing Times


Session Leaders: Archpriests Marc Vranes and Nicholas Solak

Clergy Only Session


Healthy Pastors in Changing Times will offer an introspective look at the changing role of pastoral care during this time of disorder in church life and to be aware of impending turbulence to be avoided in order to remain healthy in spirit, body, and soul. We will unpack and name/list both pre-existing and new stressors that impact priestly ministry, and their impact on our health. We were granted the great gift of time the past few months, but most clergy agree they’ve never worked harder. A recent Monmouth University study found that 55% of people reported their stress level has increased since the pandemic struck. Suggestions on how priests can remain healthy, focusing on awareness, improving health while maintaining an active life style, in spite of the daily grind. For the clergyman who has lived a balanced and healthy life prior to the pandemic, the challenges ahead will not seem so daunting; it will be more difficult for the person who has not yet addressing a healthy life style. Healthy priests lead healthy churches. This hour-long session will include 20 minutes of presentation; the remaining 40 minutes will include dialogue, along with time for Q & A.

Discussion Questions

To be provided

Coming Back to Church What are Your Concerns?


Session Leader: Cathy Vrugitz  Contributor Elaine Rentel



Coming Back to Church, What are Your Concerns will offer the opportunity for the laity to speak among laity only and discuss their concerns, their uncertainties and their worries going forward.  Knowing that the key to thriving in this season of uncertainty is to be involved in open communication and feedback, this session will provide opportunity for the laity to express themselves.

Adventures in Streaming: If We’re Going to Stream -- Let's Do it Well!


Session Leader: Phil Tesar Contributors Fr. Nicholas Wyslutsky; Steve Adams


Many parishes have begun streaming at least some services. Most streaming efforts are relatively simple, using a single camera aimed at the iconostasis, and a built in microphone. As we push data over a weak internet connection onto a variety of streaming platforms, our naves are crowded with cables, tripods, and power strips.

Many parishes streamed services before the quarantine changed parish schedules. Some will continue well after churches return to regular schedules.

If streaming will continue, does it make sense to do it well? Join our panel of streaming veterans to learn the options, advantages, costs, methodologies, and tactics for improving the steaming experience from the standpoint of those producing the live stream. And… get your questions answered!

Discussion Questions

  1. What is currently the weakest aspect of your parish's streaming effort?
  2. What was the biggest lesson learned in your parish's foray into streaming?
  3. What are some of the benefits of improving the quality of liturgical service streaming.

Talking to America: When the Gospel is Needed Most


Session Leader: Fr. Peter Baktis  Contributor Fr. Paul Jannakos


Orthodoxy has existed in America for over 225 years and has witnessed the many cultural and geographic changes in the landscape of the United States of America. With each generation comes new challenges and ours has been the pandemic and the sin of racism. How do we present a narrative that speaks to the time? The Orthodox Church’s missiological principles of expressing the faith by employing local culture and language, developing local leaders to govern and lead, and Liturgical worship as an expression of a witnessing community in worship will be explored in this breakout session.

Discussion Questions


The Ministry of Liturgical Music -- Thinking Ahead


Session Leader: Fr. Lawrence Margitich  Contributors: Vladimir Morosan and Tracey Edson

This session will explore the various ways in which choirs and singers were affected by the covid-virus, including technical challenges associated with live streaming, repertoire and choir size.