With the blessing of His Grace Bishop George, the 51st annual Orthodox Youth Conference – Syezd 2015 – was successfully held from 26-31 December 2015, at Camp Manyung, Mt Eliza, south-east of Melbourne, Victoria. As in previous years, Syezd 2015 provided attendees with the opportunity to learn more about their Orthodox faith as well as meeting many other Orthodox youth from all over Australia and overseas.

The first day being a Saturday, evening vespers were held at Camp Manyung on the first night of Syezd, after registration and a welcome dinner. Early the following morning on Sunday, a bus took everyone to Liturgy at the Holy Protection Cathedral in Brunswick, Victoria. Syezd  2015 attendees were also fortunate to witness the extremely rare event of the consecration of a new altar table at the Cathedral and were invited by the Sisterhood to lunch after Liturgy with the Bishop in the church hall.

During Syezd, many interesting talks were given by clergy as well as lay people. Talks such as “The Apocalypse” by Bishop George, “Unseen Warfare” by Very Rev. Fr Nicholas Dalinkiewicz, “The Destruction of Morals” by Very Rev. Dr Michael Protopopov and “The Orthodox Family – An Ark of Salvation” by Very Rev. Fr Gabriel Makarov were very popular amongst the youth. Other speakers included Very Rev. Fr Nicholas Karipoff, Deacon Fr Mark Woloszyn, Valeria Zoteyeva (psychologist) and Elena Metlenko. 

Many interesting and thought provoking questions during question and answer time were asked by the youth. For those that were too shy to ask, a Question Box was provided where they could write down their questions and then the clergy would publicly answer each question during specially allocated Q&A sessions between lectures.

All meals were prepared by the camp’s on-site chefs who valiantly met the challenge of feeding so many Russians with hearty Lenten appetites three times a day. With spectacular warm, sunny weather, attendees socialised, catching up with old friends and making many new friends, swam at the nearby beach, played basketball and tennis and joined in other outdoor activities. Some enjoyed peaceful walks in the landscaped gardens or relaxed under shady trees as they spent time getting to know each other

On the last night of the Syezd, a talent show was held where each team, consisting of both clergy and youth, had to showcase their talents. Everyone enjoyed themselves immensely amidst laughter and amazement at themselves and each other’s skills, incredible creativity and imagination. Afterwards, about 20 young people joined the clergy in singing Russian folk songs  and sharing their backgrounds, and discussing their thoughts & ideas about the future of Orthodox youth in Australia. Many memorable moments were captured on film and will be reminisced for many years to come.

All in all, Syezd Melbourne 2015 was deemed a great success and everyone is now all excited about the next Syezd which will be held on the Gold Coast next December, 2016.