On the second weekend of October, from the 6th to the 9th of the month, the inaugural Uncut Mountain Press conference took place at the Antiochian Village, Pennsylvania. More than 250 people were in attendance and nearly thirty were clergy, with broad pan-Orthodox representation. His Grace, bishop Luke of Syracuse, was the honorary chairman and a speaker at the conference, which was dedicated to the ethos of the Orthodox Church.
From all around the country the most qualified and traditional of speakers graced this event: Bishop Luke, Fr. Dimitri Carrellas, Fr. Josiah Trenham, Fr. Joseph Copeland, Hieromonk Felipe Balingit, Fr. Zachariah Lynch, Constantine Zalalas, G.M. Davis, Robert Spencer and the host of the conference, Fr. Peter Heers. Each spoke about the Orthodox ethos from a different perspective and some through the life of a saint. Several of the speakers had first-hand experiences with holy ones of our day. At the conference all the titles newly released by Uncut Mountain Press were available. It was a special joy to have one of the authors, G.M. Davis, there to present his work, Antichrist: the Fulfilment of Globalisation. (As Fr. Zechariah Lynch remarked regarding the spirit of Antichrist, “Keep the outward rite: change the heart.”) Important books such as On the Dogma of the Church by St. Hilarion Troitsky and Apodeictic Treatises on the Procession of the Holy Spirit by St. Gregory Palamas were also presented.
What distinguished this conference from others, however, was the intense schedule of services around which it revolved. In the early mornings, orthros and liturgy were served before dawn, in the evening vespers was served and compline at the end of the day. At the end of the conference a nearly 7-hour-long vigil took place in honour of the Apostle and Evangelist John on the Church Calendar, beginning at 8pm on Saturday night and finishing at 2:30am on Sunday morning. Seven priests served the liturgy with a deacon, while the Byzantine chanting was almost exclusively in English and by candlelight. Many shared that they felt overwhelming grace during this Athonite-style vigil, When it was over many of those who had attended said they were homesick for the life they lived during those three days. “Thank you so much for organizing and putting together the conference this past weekend! I can't say enough good things about the conference. I still feel the grace of it in my bones and in my heart,” says Nicholas D. “It was all joy and blessedness together. A small taste of the Heavenly Kingdom,” wrote George W. From Timothy H. we hear, “Tears of joy, weak knees from the 6.5-hour vigil, and a full heart from meeting many fathers, brothers and sisters and hearing grace-filled teaching.”
Orthodox.medicine says about the retreat: “We are blessed to have courageous clergy standing up for the faith.” In earnest, at this conference the faith was confessed and the dogma and ethos were preached. Topics such as ecumenism, the baptism of converts and covidism were addressed and clarified for the faithful. Quoting Fr. George Metallinos, Fr. Felipe said: “All heresy has a moral heresy within.” “We must believe in Christ as the Church,” said Fr. Peter.
Another important topic discussed by the speakers was that of catechism and becoming formed in the faith. On the issue of catechism, Fr. Josiah Trenham stated, “Catechism is for all Orthodox Christians for the entirety of their lives.” On the acquisition of piety Fr. Felipe remarked, “Piety is not something we learn by ourselves. It is something given to us.” “Our Faith is not about information: our Faith is about transformation,” said Fr. Joseph Copeland.
From another attendee of the conference we hear: “I cannot even begin to describe this experience! It was beyond anything and everything that I expected. It was a life-changing event that will always follow me in my life. We were not just told what the Orthodox ethos is. We were shown what it is and we were made to experience it. I have been to many conferences, many talks and many vigils in my life but never have I experienced such a complete and total immersion into the true ethos of the Church as in this.” Truly, what we experienced was more than just attending another one of the usual conferences. We experienced a way of life. We participated in the Mysteries of the Church and attended the grace-filled services, which are the center of our life in the Church. As Fr. Joseph Copeland beautifully put it, “The Orthodox Christian does not live in the world and go to church: he lives in the Church and goes out to the world.” In this conference we lived for a short time what our whole life in the church should be like: attending the services, partaking of Christ’s most precious Body and Blood, and hearing the word of God.
Glory to God for giving us this blessing!
Written by Anastasia Heers and edited at Holy Trinity Monastery