24 November 2012 • Off–Campus • Virginia Nieuwsma
On the Saturday over Thanksgiving weekend, The Very Rev. Dr. John Behr, dean and professor of patristics at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary (SVOTS), headlined as the featured guest speaker at the second annual ONE Conference. The conference, held at St. Peter's College in Jersey City, NJ, brings together youth from the Oriental Orthodox traditions (Coptic, Malankara, Syrian, Armenian, and Ethiopian) for fellowship and teaching, with the overarching goal of fostering unity.
Father John's topic, "Becoming Human," echoed the themes present in his upcoming SVS Press book of the same title. "It's an amazing event," explained Fr. John, "filled with the energy and zeal of youth."
The ONE Conference began when a core committee of young adults brainstormed around a kitchen table and came up with the idea for a gathering that would inspire and connect the youth of their faith communities. This group included SVOTS alumni John Malek ('00), Fr. Vijay Thomas ('09), and his former classmate Dn. Ryan Tellalian ('09), the Seminary's systems support specialist. In its first year, 2010, the conference was only open to people within the organizing committee, but subsequently, the founding group decided to open up the conference to include all young people ages 16 and older from Oriental Orthodox churches. As a result, in its second year, 1,400 youth from all over the East Coast attended. In 2012, the conference was further expanded to include youth from all Eastern Christian traditions, whether they hail from an Oriental, Byzantine Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox background.
Taking advantage of the holiday break, the ONE Conference is always held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. This year, nearly 1,000 Youth from 10 churches (6 Oriental and 4 Eastern) gathered. The Coptic hierarch, His Grace David,  general bishop and patriarchal exarch of the Coptic Orthodox Patriachate of the Archdiocese of North America, in Cedar Grove, New Jersey, presided and also spoke in the afternoon session.
Deacon Gregory Hatrak, marketing and operations manager for SVS Press and Bookstore , also attended, in order to bring the traveling bookstore to conference attendees. "This gathering was a huge success," he enthused. "Where, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, can you find nearly 1,000 Christian youth gathered?" Additionally, Dn. Gregory noted that "SVS Press was well received. It is our hope to cooperate more in the future with the Coptic and Indian churches."