The Holy Virgin Protection Cathedral hosted this year's Pastoral Conference on the 4th week of the Great Fast (March 8-9, 2010). Clergy from parishes throughout the diocese arrived late in the evening on the Sunday of the Cross and gathered at a reception that was hosted at His Grace, Bishop Peter's residence. The conference officially began on the next day with a molieben service. Following a light breakfast prepared by the cathedral Sisterhood, Bishop Peter greeted the gathered clergy and presented a report on Diocesan Activities since the prior Fall Pastoral Retreat.
Following His Grace’s report, the Diocesan Secretary, Priest Gregory Joyce, presented reports on various administrative processes and requirements within the diocese. Archpriest Andre Papkov then gave a tour of the Diocesan Center and provided an update on ongoing construction and fund raising initiatives. Priest John Whiteford presented a report on the convent project in DeQueen, Arkansas. A retreat for women of the diocese interested in the monastic life will be held after Pascha in DeQueen. Priest Ilia Marzev then presented a report on the Youth activities of the diocese. Reports were also presented from the auditing committee, the military chaplains of the diocese, the music committee, and the diocesan treasurer, Reader Andrei Urtiew.
Lenten vespers and mattins was served early Monday evening for the feast of the First and Second Finding of the Head of St. John the Baptist. Following a brief dinner, the service of Holy Unction was then performed led by Bishop Peter and six other priests. This is a sacrament of the church in which the faithful are annointed with oil for the forgiveness of sins which we have inadvertently forgotten to confess and for the healing of infirmities both physical and spiritual. It is with great joy that we saw a completely full church with many Serbian, Greek and Georgian Orthodox faithful also in attendance.
On the following morning, the Liturgy of the Presantified Gifts was served. At this service, Bishop Peter concelebrated with Bishop Longin of New Gracanica along with all of the visiting diocesan clergy. This very beautiful service is very different from a typical Sunday liturgy and contain hymns that are unique; instead of the usual Cherubic Hymn, "Now Let the Powers of Heaven" is instead chanted. At the great entrance, "Let My Prayer Arise" was beautifully and prayerfully sung by a female trio.
During the liturgy, Vladika Peter made several awards: Fr. Paul Bassett from St. George's Church in Cincinatti was given a jeweled cross; Fr. Martin Swanson from St. Basil's in St. Louis and Fr. Anthony Nelson from St. Benedict's in Oklahoma City were awarded the palitsa; Fr. Vasily Kuzmich from Holy Trinity Church in Milwaukee was made an archpriest; Fr. Ilya Marzev from St. Sergius Cathedral in Cleveland and Fr. Thomas Kulp from Nativity of St. John the Baptist Mission in Blue River, Wisconsin were awarded a gold cross; and Fr. Seraphim Holland from St. Nicholas Church in Dallas was given a kamilavka.