Archpriest John Hopko, Outgoing Youth Rally Director, in his letter about cancellation of the Youth Rally this year says:
Dear Fathers, Mothers, Brothers, and Sisters—all those concerned about Youth Rally: Christ is risen!
I am writing today to announce that the Diocese of New England’s Youth Rally 2019, scheduled to take place this coming August in New Hampshire, has been cancelled.
Youth Rally 2019 has been cancelled because we have failed to put together a staff of adult volunteers sufficient to the task of appropriately preparing for, convening, and safely operating Youth Rally. This decision was made by me, in my capacity as Rally Director and Rector, and this decision has been approved by His Eminence, Archbishop NIKON, our Diocesan Hierarch, and by Archpriest John Kreta, our Diocesan Chancellor.
Our first and highest concern and priority at Youth Rally is to ensure the safety of the Youth Participants (“the Rallyers”). Over the years, we have developed a set of standards for Youth Rally staff, with the intention of ensuring the safety of the Rallyers. This year we were unable to meet those standards. Thus, necessarily, Rally could not take place, and, therefore, has been cancelled.
Our standards for Youth Rally staff include (among other specifications) the following:
· That we secure the services of a Director equal to the task of appropriately leading the Diocesan Youth Rally, whose responsibilities will include the identification, recruitment, training, maintenance, guidance, supervision, and discipline of an appropriate adult staff for the purposes of safely and productively operating our week-long, residential, Orthodox Christian, youth camp program for children between the ages of 10 and 17, which we call “Youth Rally.”
· That we secure the services of a total of two or three Orthodox Christian priests with a proven aptitude for youth ministry to serve as “the Rally priests.” One of these priests will be the Rally Rector, and may, also, concurrently serve as Rally Director.
· That we secure the volunteer services of a licensed healthcare provider (in actual practice most often a registered nurse who maintains current and valid licensure in the legal jurisdiction where Rally takes place) who meets the full legal and licensing requirements set by the host legal jurisdiction (state, county, city, town, etc.) to serve in the capacity of Healthcare Provider at Youth Rally.
· That we secure the volunteer services of ten to twelve spiritually, physically, mentally, and morally healthy and mature Orthodox Christian adult laypersons to serve as counselors at Youth Rally. These counselors will be the persons actually providing and exercising constant, around-the-clock, supervision of and care for the Youth Rallyers. They will share accommodations and facilities with the Rallyers while resident at the Rally campsite. Experience has taught us that it is best if these persons are neither the parents, nor legal guardians, nor older siblings of those for whom they will be directly caring at Rally. Experience has, also, taught us that it is best if these persons are not recent youth participants at Rally. All these persons must have the unreserved endorsement (“blessing”) of their Orthodox Christian pastor, and, concurrent with the time of Rally, must be in full, unfettered, sacramental communion and fellowship with the local Orthodox Christian community where they are members, While, as regards age, the majority of these persons may be young adults in their late teens and early twenties, it is all but absolutely necessary that several of them be older and more experienced and proven persons, who bring to the role of adult staff at Youth Rally a clear history and record of faithful and steadfast Christian responsibility, manner of living, and habit of being.
· All these persons, including the clergy, must be available to be present and to serve the entirety of the week, from beginning to end, at Youth Rally. They must, also, willingly undergo and participate in specific orientation and training for the purposes of serving as adult staff at Youth Rally. They must, also, meet all the stringent requirements and standards set by the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) and the Diocese of New England of the OCA for persons who will be serving as adult staff at a week-long, residential, religious, youth camp program for minor children. This includes clearing a background investigation (“check,” “screen”).
These are our standards. We failed to meet them this year, and, thus, Rally was cancelled.
In the Diocese of New England, we will now begin the process of examining our youth ministry programs and initiatives. Part of that examination will be to consider carefully the future of what we have called “Youth Rally.” Youth Rally, in one form or another, took place annually for the last 32 years in the Diocese of New England, since 1987 through to 2018.
I, myself, participated as an adult leader at Youth Rally for the last 16 consecutive years, including 15 summers in a row as Rector and Director. Going forward, I do not anticipate further service as Youth Rally Director or Rector, but I am committed to helping figure out how Rally might best be revivified and reconstituted. I have strong opinions, based on my lived experience of Youth Rally, and all that pertains to it, about how that might, or might not, occur.
I apologize for my failures, especially as connected to the issue of this summer’s Youth Rally and its unfortunate, but necessary, cancellation.
With prayerful best regards, I remain Your unworthy servant in Christ,