Chairman’s Speech from the Grand Banquet of YAL Conference in Long Beach

Chairman’s Speech from the Grand Banquet of the Greek Orthodox of San Francisco Metropolis’ YAL Conference

By George Anagnostopoulos (Chairman of the 2019 YAL Conference; Labor Day Weekend, 2019)

YAL Conference Chairman George Anagnostopoulos receives a gift from Archbishop Elpidophoros (Photo Credit: Allen Altchech).

Your Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros, Your Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos, Reverend Clergy & Presvyteras, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, distinguished guests and fellow young adults.

Good evening, and hello YAL 2019! Thank you all for being here. I’m George Anagnostopoulos, Chairman of this year’s 2019 YAL conference.

It’s surreal being with you tonight, having been 17 years since the Metropolis of San Francisco last hosted a YAL Conference. This is an evening not only to celebrate the revitalization of this ministry in our Metropolis but to celebrate all of you who are the future of our church. There is no ministry like this that brings the youth together on a mass scale for a long weekend faith, fellowship, worship, and service.

I am also honored to welcome again His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America. Your Eminence, we are extremely blessed to have had you with us this weekend. Your presence is greatly appreciated and also symbolic of your focus of the youth and the importance of this ministry. When I heard your enthronement message a few short weeks ago, I was struck by your words about the youth emphasizing the need for us to meet them, where they live, where they learn and not wasting any time to do so. Your Eminence, we are proud to say we have answered your call and thank you for your loving commitment to the youth by being with us this weekend. You are bringing hope to our young adults, that we too have a place in the church.

Photo Credit: Allen Altchech

This weekend we have 357 attendees, not only from across our Metropolis, but across the entire Archdiocese. We have registrants hailing from 33 states, with 123 parishes represented from Alaska and Hawaii, to Texas all the way to Chicago, Illinois, North Carolina and New York spanning all 8 Metropolises. The sheer number of solely young adults gathered in one place in this magnitude is unprecedented and something our church has not seen during this current generation: wherever you came from, thank you all for joining us. We are so thrilled to have you.

Photo Credit: Allen Altchech

“Proclaim” is the theme of this year’s Conference, which embodies our desire for this generation to come together to proclaim their faith as one. We hope through participating in the services and convos that you can see that our faith should not be something we shy away or be afraid to stand up for. There is no one who epitomizes our theme more than our special guest for the weekend Jonathan Jackson – who despite his success and high-profile career has used his public platform to proclaim the Lord and his works. Jonathan and Eliza, thank you for being with us this weekend and sharing your remarkable story. You both are a beautiful example of what it means to truly proclaim our faith.  For us to have the church as the center of our lives, we have to embrace our faith, proclaim it, and demonstrate it fully in everything we do.

The theme “Proclaim” also serves as a statement that we assert the need for this vital ministry to be restored for our generation. And I am proud to say, the YAL Ministry is back and better than ever!

Although this is a ministry by and for young adults – it has been touched by everyone in the Metropolis of San Francisco, from his Eminence, the Metropolis staff, the FDF Board, Archons, Clergy, local parishes, and lay-people – all of you have come together and given your time and talents to make this event a success: I thank you, and a whole generation of young adults thanks you.

Photo Credit: Allen Altchech

In addition to building faith and community, this Conference has been focused on a commitment to service and helping the less fortunate. This year we launched two Diakonia projects to support charitable causes that serve as a reminder of Christ’s calling for us to serve our fellow neighbor. Today, we had our first YAL Diakonia project with Rise Against Hunger – and successfully packaged over 10,125 meals for those affected by the natural disasters in Southeast Asia.

In addition, prior to the Conference, young adults hosted a fundraiser to support IOCC (International Orthodox Christian Charities). These young adults organized ways to raise money at their home parishes – such as passing a tray, hosting a coffee hour and most popular: selling frappes. Representing IOCC is our own Father Gary Kyriacou, who was trained as a frontliner for IOCC- a group of highly credentialed and experienced Orthodox Clergy and Laity who respond to man-made and natural disasters in the United States. Father, on behalf of the 2019 YAL Conference, we are excited to contribute a donation in the amount of $3,000 to IOCC, and hope this helps to advance and continue the amazing work you do worldwide!

Photo Credit: Allen Altchech

This evening is the culmination of thousands of hours of planning and building this Conference from the ground up. It would not have been possible without the dedication and commitment of this year’s steering committee. This committee is one of the most dynamic, talented and faithful group of people I have ever met. They are future doctors, lawyers, journalists, politicians, ambassadors, entrepreneurs, educators, nurses, executives, and priests who are making meaningful contributions to society while following their God given vocation and serving the Lord. Your Eminence, these are the future leaders of our church.

This steering committee is my extended family – whether we’ve known each other since grade school or we met this year, thank you for stepping up to join me on this journey even though you might have not known much about this Conference and some of you had never attended one. But you did it anyway for the sake of our friendship and your love and support of the church. I am forever grateful to each of every one of you. When we look back on our lives, it is memories like this that will stay with us; the relationships we’ve made, the faith we fostered, the community we’ve brought together.

Photo Credit: Allen Altchech

Famous basketball coach John Wooden once said the key to fulfillment in this life is sacrifice – and this success of this conference has relied on the sacrifice of everyone involved to forego other items in their lives to make this Conference possible.

And there is no one who has truly sacrificed themselves for the revitalization and success of the ministry than that of our Advisory Board Co-Chairs Honorable Steven and Stacia Counelis. Serving as co-chairs of YAL conferences throughout their young adult lives and now returning to bring back this ministry for today’s generation, Judge Steven and Stacia have truly acted as servant leaders who have given fully of themselves to ensure the youth of today have the same Conference experience that brought them and thousands of young adults together.

In addition to maintaining their professional careers and their family life, the Counelises have committed themselves 110% to this conference, and have mentored and guided me every step of the way.  Thank you for all you have done to support the Metropolis and Archdiocesan YAL Conferences throughout the years – thank you for passing the mantle of YAL unto us. Now it is our obligation and our duty to carry the YAL Conference for this generation and to ensure that it never ceases again.

This Conference would not have been possible without the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos, who took a leap of faith and believed in the vision of this ministry to bring this back for the youth.  Your Eminence thank you for all you do and for your steadfast love and support. Thank you for believing in this conference, this ministry, and most importantly, thank you for believing in me. It has been the utmost honor of my life to be your chairman.

Photo Credit: Allen Altchech

And to all the young adults – I hope this weekend is everything you envisioned and more; that you leave here feeling spiritually fulfilled and socially connected. I want you to never forget there is always a place for you in the church, that you are not alone and that you now have this YAL Family, lifelong and nationwide to guide you, stand with you and be with you as we journey through life together. YOU ARE A PART OF A MOVEMENT in which the resurgence of this ministry is strong and growing rapidly. With that said – I am excited to formally announce to you all that the Metropolis of Chicago will be hosting their YAL Conference President’s Day Weekend 2020! And you can mark your calendars right now – because we will see you next year for our Metropolis of San Francisco YAL Conference Labor Day Weekend 2020!

Thank you and now I would like to welcome to the stage our spiritual father, who has been a dynamic leader and beloved supporter of the YAL Conference – His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos.

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