On May 3–5, the Telos Project hosted its first annual consultation at the Boston Marriott in Newton. The Telos Project is a five-year project dedicated to discovering new ways of engaging young adults ages 23–29 in Orthodox parishes. Made possible by a $1.5 million grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc. to Hellenic College Holy Cross’ Office of Vocation & Ministry, the Telos Project is supporting the development of young adult ministry at 14 pilot parishes across the country, in an effort to share learning from their experiences with the wider Church. After months of initial team-building and exploratory exercises designed to help them get to know and acquire empathy for the young adults in their communities, representatives from Telos pilot parish teams gathered to network with one another and equip themselves with new tools to engage young adults in their parishes.
The consultation began Thursday evening with a working dinner session where participants were welcomed by Dr. Ann Mitsakos Bezzerides, Director of the Office of Vocation & Ministry. In her keynote address, Telos Project Director Jenny Haddad Mosher led an exploration of truths from the Orthodox tradition that have fed the vision for the Telos Project. She invited participants to identify and share the Orthodox truths that motivate them to give serious attention to young adults in their parishes. Attendees moved on to consideration of the realities of young adult life that have emerged most strongly in their initial engagement of young adults through community mapping and conversations. There was an announcement of the new grant opportunity available for pilot parishes—$24,000 over three years with a matching component in the second and third years. The evening was closed by praying compline together.
On Friday, participants began the day with prayer and were guided through a ministry design process by Mark Moraitakis, Senior Director, Customer and Market Insights, Chick-fil-A, and Sophia Linebaugh, industrial designer and 2010 CrossRoad alumna. Participants were asked to consider a sample set of young adult experiences and move through the steps Understand, Imagine, Prototype, Validate, and Launch, to design outreach to young adults that would meet observed real needs. In the afternoon, teams reconvened to use the design process in conjunction with their own parish’s context and begin discerning how to use the new funding. A long day of hard work was celebrated by a festive dinner in the hotel’s pavilion alongside the Charles River.
On Saturday, team representatives were asked to establish their first steps in teaching the rest of their teams back home the design process and beginning the grant application process. Everyone shared their key take-away from the consultation. Andrew Torres, a young adult member of their pilot parish team from Resurrection in Castro Valley, CA, said: “We’re feeling really energized. It was awesome to synchronize the lens through which our team views ministry in this project.”
Fr. John Touloumes, proistameno at Holy Trinity in Pittsburgh, shared: “I’m really thankful and enthusiastic to see excellence in ministry embraced, promoted, and put into practice in this very synergistic combination of clergy and dedicated young adults. [Y]ou have really set the bar high on the one hand and on the other hand you have really instilled in us the confidence that, in Christ, when we go out, we can do this.”
Anne Castrodale, a team member from St. John in Memphis, expressed: “I’m grateful for us to have had this opportunity for us to come together to get the tools, contacts, and confidence to build something exciting for our young adults and for our parishes—ultimately, our parishes, because, if we succeed this is going to help everybody. This is going to help Orthodoxy in America. And that’s very encouraging and exciting to me.”