With the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Basilios, the parish of the Holy Apostle Paul in Dandenong, Victoria, hosted the first ever Parish Leadership Development Program in Australia (Melbourne) in collaboration with the Orthodox Christian Leadership Initiative (OCLI) based in America. The event took place on Saturday the 8th of July 2023 at the Parish in Dandenong. It was curated by executive director Hollie Benton and had in attendance over 100 participants from across different parishes in Melbourne.

With three special online guest speakers to hear from, the overarching theme of parish leadership was discussed with great clarity to the benefit of all who participated. The first speaker, Fr Marc Boulos, emphasised the need for Christians to be studying Scripture consistently in order to encounter God and emulate Him for the sake of others. Tending pastorally to the needs of others was significantly prioritised over the building of decadent monuments, which add little value to fundamental Christianity.

The second speaker, Mr Steven Christoforou (well known for his ‘Be the Bee’ video series), elaborated on the need to emulate Christ’s examples and teaching through a lesser practised avenue in Church life, almsgiving. He shared that often we give as though we were Christ, ‘the benevolent ones’, when in reality it is Christ who is the poor, naked and hungry with whom He identifies in Matthew 25 and to whom we are to encounter Christ in.

The final talk delivered by Dr Philip Mamalakis was centred on ‘nurturing the Church in the home’ and gave practical advice from the experience of the speaker on how the difficulties of raising Orthodox children can manifest. A beautiful perspective given by Dr Mamalakis was how we must bear in mind that children are learning to be good, patient, kind and forgiving, and should not be treated as though they are perfect Christians. It is crucial, according to Dr Mamalakis, that this is to be modelled, not lectured.

The event concluded in prayer and thanksgiving to God, after which lunch and fellowship were had, well after the conclusion of the talks. We pray that God will multiply the efforts of all those who were involved and participated, that we share the message of His Gospel and be true examples of Christian leaders in the community through practice, as well as preaching. God willing, this will be the first of many opportunities to develop good Christian leadership for our communities for generations to come.