2021 Virtual Youth and Camp Workers Conference

The Youth and Camp Workers Conference (YCC) was held Thursday, January 28th and Friday, January 29th virtually due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with 147 participants in attendance! Our theme, The Ministry of Forming Beautiful Youth, drew ministry workers from across the United States and Canada, representing 9 different jurisdictions. In addition to our incredible line-up of speakers, we were blessed to have His Eminence, Metropolitan Gregory (American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the USA) and His Grace, Bishop Andrei (Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America) from The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops' Committee for Youth with us for the entire event. Although it wasn't the same not being together in-person as in years past, we were grateful to come together after such a difficult year, and we had many newcomers join us. May God give us the strength to endure whatever is thrown our way in 2021, and we look forward to seeing everyone again in January 2022.

2021 Conference Speakers

Thursday, January 28th

Welcome, Opening Prayer, Introductions & Icebreakers -- 6:30-7:30pm EST
Session 1: Youth Panel Presentation and Discussion - 7:30-9pm EST

Youth & Teenagers from across our jurisdictions were interviewed concerning their faith and how youth ministry has positively effected their journey in formation. A video presentation of these interviews will take place followed by breakout groups for discussion.

Friday, January 29th

The Beauty in Youth Formation Speakers
  • Opening Reflection by Fr. Stephen Loposky, 11-11:45am EST
  • Speaker Sessions, 12-1pm EST

Creation of Beauty: Using Our Talents to Create God-Pleasing Art

Dr. Peter Bouteneff teaches courses in ancient and modern theology and spirituality at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary (SVOTS), where he is professor of Systematic Theology. After taking a degree in music in 1983, he lived and worked in Japan and traveled widely in Asia and Greece. He has an M.Div. from St Vladimir’s Seminary and a doctorate from Oxford University, where he studied under Bishop Kallistos Ware​. He has broad interests in theology and is committed to exploring the connections between theology and culture. He is director of the Arvo Pärt Project at St. Vladimir's Seminary, an in-depth endeavor involving concerts, lectures, and publications. As of 2016 he also directs the Seminary's Sacred Arts Initiative. His most recent book, How to Be a Sinner, is an SVS Press bestseller, and Dr. Bouteneff has given dozens of talks and parish retreats on the subject.


True Beauty: Image of Christ or Self-Image?

Khouriyee Erin Kimmett is a graduate of Wichita State University, where she earned a Bachelor's of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. She worked for ten years as Director of Publications at WSU, and has illustrated, designed and produced various books and curriculum materials for the Orthodox Christian Education Commission (OCEC), the Antiochian Archdiocese, and her own business, The Annunciation Press. A trained Byzantine iconographer, Kh. Erin paints and installs icons in Orthodox churches across the country. More recently, Kh. Erin had the great joy of publishing her own book, Hospitality & Joy, which is a collection of her favorite hostess recipes along with a series of short stories about growing up in her grandmother's kitchen. She was a member of the Theophany (Orthodox) School board for more than a decade. Kh. Erin lives is married to the Very Reverend Joseph Kimmett, pastor of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Norwood, Massachusetts where they have lived and served for more than 25 years. She is the mother of two sons, Nicholas (20) and Zachary (17).


Consecration of the Senses: Experiencing Beauty

The Very Rev. Dr. Sergius Halvorsen is Assistant Professor of Homiletics and Rhetoric at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary and director of the Doctor of Ministry Program. He received his MDiv from St. Vladimir’s Seminary 1996 and his doctorate in liturgical studies and homiletics from Drew University in 2002. From 2000 to 2011 he taught at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell Connecticut.  Since 2011 he has taught at St. Vladimir's and his courses include Homiletics, Rhetoric, Christian Education, Orthodox Christian Apologetics and Faith and Science. He is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America and is attached at Christ the Savior Church in Southbury CT. Fr. Sergius is an accomplished liturgical musician, and has contributed to a number of "Archangel Voices" recordings.  He currently lives in New Haven CT with his family.


Seeing Yourself Through the Eyes of the Liturgy 

The Rev. Jonathan Bannon grew up in Connecticut where he obtained an Associates degree in Fine Art with a focus in painting and a Bachelors Degree in Art Education K through 12 graduating from Central Connecticut State University. Continuing on to Seminary at Christ the Savior in Johnstown Pennsylvania he received a degree in Theology writing a thesis on Iconography. Father continued to study iconography in the Greek and Russian Russian styles with Marek Czanecki and Theodore Papadopoulos in the Egg Tempera medium and in acrylic at the Liturgical Arts Academy in Atlanta with Fr. Anthony Salzman. He has illustrated a children's book for a Serbian Orthodox publishing company and continues to explore how faith and art can be used to share the Gospel message. Serving a Belarusian founded Orthodox parish in Rockford, IL in the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church he has been asked to give lectures on iconography to Presbyterians, Lutherans, and Orthodox groups. Married to high school physics teacher Marianna Ruggerio they have two boys, a 5-year-old and a 1-year-old.

Practical Youth Formation Speakers
Preserving Mental Health

Dr. Roxanne Louh is a licensed clinical psychologist in Jacksonville, Florida, where she uses her extensive training in private practice and as a speaker with expertise in a variety of concerns, including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, marriage and parenting issues, and eating disorders, body image awareness and women’s issues. She regularly presents to national groups, universities, area high schools, and church organizations across the country. Dr. Louh is a highly regarded and respected figure in her profession through both her educational achievements and her training. She continues to dedicate much of her time to community-wide presentations, reaching the public through various news media, social media, radio, educational talks, lectures and blogs, as she strongly believes in the prevention of mental health issues through education and awareness. She is an established member of the American Psychological Association. Together, Dr. Louh and her husband co-host a bi-weekly radio show on Ancient Faith Radio, “Healthy Minds, Healthy Souls.” They have also just co-authored a book, released by the publisher in October of 2020, entitled “Renewing You, A Priest, A Psychologist, and a Plan.” They also co-host a live radio call in program on WABC radio in New York City, entitled, “Live with the Louhs.”  Dr. Louh lives in Jacksonville with her husband Nicholas and their two children, George and Gabriella.


Online Ministry that Works

Jennifer Morris and Kathryn Ashbahian, working together since October 2015, have grown in their ministry as a camp-planning, grammar-slamming, retreat-crafting, resource-developing team. Jennifer double-majored in Psychology and Elementary Education, and then earned her Master of Arts in Curriculum and Teaching from Michigan State University. She was an elementary school teacher before beginning her service to the Armenian Diocese in 2005. Kathryn double-majored in English and Women & Gender Studies from The College of New Jersey, and then earned her Master of Arts in Theology from St. Nersess Armenian Seminary. Though one works from Michigan and the other from New York, they collaborate daily through the technological wonder of Skype and Google Drive. Kathryn focuses her energies on St. Vartan Camp and the Armenian Church Youth Organization of America (ACYOA) Juniors, while Jennifer focuses her attention on Hye Camp and ACYOA Seniors.


Ministering to Youth with Special Needs 

Presvytera Melanie DiStefano graduated from Youngstown State University (BChemE), and from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology (MDiv). Married to Father Joseph DiStefano for 16 years, they have one son, Michael Seraphim. Michael has special needs that greatly impact his health and his level of independence. One of her goals is to reach out to other families who are facing similar parenting challenges in order to provide faith-based perspectives, resources, and overall encouragement in their unique walk with Christ.


Best Practices for Difficult Conversations 

Fr. Martin Johnson converted to Orthodoxy from the General Church of the New Jerusalem (Swedenborgian) following 22 years of service in the U.S. Navy Chaplain Corps, and was ordained to the Holy Priesthood in June 2020 after completing the St. Stephen's Program while on active military duty in 2010. In addition to his pastoral duties as Rector of St. Anthony Antiochian Orthodox Church in Butler, PA, Fr. Martin is the Chief Operating Officer of the Neighborhood Resilience Projects located in Pittsburgh, Senior Consultant for Federal Occupational Health in the Department of Health and Human Services, and works as an Executive Coach for the Department of Homeland Security. He has extensive experience in public speaking, coaching, pastoral care, crisis counseling, and community outreach. Fr. Martin also serves on the Board of Trustees of St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary (OCA), and is the Dean of Formation for the Antiochian House of studies. He lives in Western Pennsylvania with his wife, prolific Orthodox author and editor Melinda Johnson, with whom he is the proud father of their daughter, Majesta.


Change, Opportunity and Growth 

Fr. Chris Shadid was appointed Camp Director at Antiochian Village Camp in May 2020 after spending the past thirteen years serving the Camp in a variety of positions, including the last seven as Assistant Camp Director. He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology and a Master of Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh. Outside of his Camp Director responsibilities, Fr. Chris works as a Licensed Social Worker providing counseling to individuals, couples, and families of all ages and backgrounds who struggle with a variety of mental health issues.


5 Best Practices for Effective Camp Ministry 

Fr. Anthony Yazge has had an amazing career in Youth Ministry for the last four decades. The last 14 years he was the Camp Director of the Antiochian Village, he served the Antiochian Archdiocese as the Chairman of the Department of Camping, was the Chairman of the Department of Young Adult Ministry and the Antiochian Archdiocese representative on the OCF Board of Directors. He also served 21 years as the Spiritual Advisor of Teen SOYO and has overseen the Teen SOYO Special Olympics Camp. Fr. Anthony has been a priest for 32 years of which he spent 18 as the pastor of St. George Church in Terre Haute, IN and is currently the pastor of St. George Orthodox Church in Fishers, Indiana (just outside of Indianapolis). Fr. Anthony is widowed and a father of three: Matthew 31, Mark 30, and Alexis 26.

Resource Hub

We have created a Google Folder which will house any needed documents or resources, such as Speaker Bios or the Akathist for Youth.
You can access it here.