On Wednesday the 11th and Thursday the 12th of July, for the feast of the Holy Supreme Leaders of the Apostles Peter & Paul, His Eminence Hilarion, Metropolitan of Eastern America & New York, paid an archpastoral visit to the Orthodox Youth Camp of the Association of Russian Explorers Outside of Russia in the Catskill Mountains, Woodbourne, NY. Over 100 youth (campers and youth leadership) and an additional 40 staffers and instructors (volunteering their time and efforts) gathered for three weeks for the summer camp. Camp NORR has been operating in New York since 1967, when the joint efforts of Archpriest Seraphim Slobodskoy and Vasilli Feodorovich Joukov continued the tradition of training and educating children and youth in a Russian Orthodox environment. This summer, NORR ran its 52nd camp in the Catskills.
Metropolitan Hilarion led All-Night Vigil and Divine Liturgy in the camp chapel, consecrated in honor of the Holy Apostles Peter & Paul. His Eminence was co-served by Archpriest Constantine Semyanko (camp spiritual leader and rector of the Presentation Parish in Stratford, CT), Archpriest Alexandre Antchoutine (dean of Long Island & the Hudson Valley), Hieromonk Tikhon (Gayfudinov; abbot of Holy Protection Skete in Buena, NJ), Priest George Temidis (deputy rector of Nativity of Mother of God Church at the New Kursk Hermitage in Mahopac, NY), Protodeacons Dimitri Temidis (cleric of Holy Virgin Protection Church in Nyack, NY), Serge Arlievsky (cleric of Holy Dormition Convent "Novo-Diveevo" in Nanuet, NY), and Deacons Serge Ohotin (cleric of Holy Trinity Church in Vineland, NJ, – at liturgy only) and Alexey Pnev (cleric of the New Kursk Hermitage – at Vigil only).
At the Little Entrance, His Eminence awarded Fr. George the right to wear the kamilavka and elevated Fr. Serge Ohotin to the rank of protodeacon for their fervent service to the Church. Almost all of the campers confessed and communed of Christ’s Holy Mysteries. The youth choir sang magnificently under the direction of Tamara Miloradovna Joukov. In his sermon, Vladyka Hilarion spoke about the lives of the Holy Apostles Peter & Paul.
After a festal breakfast, the entire camp was photographed with Vladyka. A beautiful sunny day added to the festive mood and many people lingered at the dining hall to spend some additional time with His Eminence, just to talk, get a blessing, or just to enjoy the festive atmosphere. The Camp Program Director, Vasili Schafranek, thanked His Eminence for finding the time in his busy schedule to come to NORR and spend two days in a rough camp environment. It brought great joy to the campers when it was announced that the Metropolitan was treating everyone to dessert.
On Saturday, July 14th, His Eminence Gabriel, Archbishop of Montreal & Canada, arrived at camp for two days. For Vigil and Liturgy, His Eminence was co-served by Frs. Constantine, Alexandre, and George, along with Protodeacons Dimitri Temidis, Serge Arlievsky, Eugene Kallaur (cleric of the St. Seraphim Memorial Church in Sea Cliff, NY), and Victor Ganson (cleric of Holy Epiphany Church in Roslindale (Boston), MA). The youth choir sang prayerfully under the direction of Irene Stepanoff. After Vigil, the traditional annual memorial "roll call" was held. Due to thunderstorms, the nevertheless solemn ceremony was held at the chapel, rather than on the field in front of the flag pole. At Liturgy, almost all of the campers, parents, and guests communed of Christ’s Holy Mysteries.
After breakfast, the annual parade was held during which the youth passing the exams for the first step "third class" gave their "solemn promise" in front of the entire camp family, followed by kissing the historical camp banner with icon on one side. Fr. George presented Archbishop Gabriel with the 50th anniversary medal of the organization. The concluding phase of the parade was especially heartwarming, as each section marched across the field, acknowledging the leadership and Vladyka and leaving the field and heading down the camp road in song. His Eminence was joined by the camp leadership for a group photo.
After the festal luncheon and a short rest period, the parents and guests gathered in the dining hall for the annual camp performance. The campers came in traditional Russian dress. They prepared for the first two weeks, learning dance steps, words, and songs and were ready for their concert. The choirs – senior, boys, girls, and the entire camp performed a variety of songs. The senior and junior sections performed Russian dances. The audience responded to a dance with a clumsy "bear," hunted by the junior boys, but defended by the junior girls. By the end of the dance, the "bear" was dressed in a traditional Russian-style shirt and was taught to dance a Russian prisiadka. The audience greeted the performances with loud applause. After the performances, everyone was treated to the pirozhki pastries that the campers made with meat and to pirogi with fruit preserves. The day passed joyfully, even though it was quite busy with activity. After dinner, Archbishop Gabriel treated everyone to ice cream.
During the night from Monday the 16th to Tuesday the 17th of July, in remembrance of the fateful night 100 years ago, when the Russian royal family was executed, Fr. Constantine Semyanko served Matins and Liturgy, co-served by Fr. George Temidis and Fr. Serge Arlievsky. Prayers to the Holy Royal Martyrs were especially heartfelt in the brightly lit chapel, in the middle of the quiet wooded area, under the star-filled sky. The choir sang profoundly under the direction of Subdeacon Nicholas Ganson. The magnification was sung by the entire camp. Most campers, instructors, and guests received Holy Communion. Many campers celebrated their namesday.
A few days before camp closing, a cupola was removed and lowered to the ground for re-gilding. The chapel, constructed in 1973, is in need of major repairs. For 45 years, it has withstood hot summers and harsh winters, but they have taken their toll. Camp hopes to raise $20,000 for major chapel repairs, which in part include repair and replacement of the roof, re-gilding of the cupola and crosses, repair of the siding and trim, refurbishment of the iconostas, among others. A repair fund has been established in memory of camp’s past spiritual counselors – Archpriests Seraphim Slobodskoy and Alexey Ohotin. Camp will be very grateful to anybody who would like to contribute to the Fund and can do so by sending donations to the address:
80 Wagon Road
Westwood, MA 02090
or by visiting the camp’s website here.
After three weeks of active camp life, the 52nd camp was declared closed on Saturday, July 21, at the final Flag Ceremony. "We are Russian! God is with us!" rolled through the camp fields and forest for the last time in 2018. A large group photo was organized under the flagpole and everyone said their goodbyes, until next summer, already talking about starting the prep work for camp in the summer of 2019.