(A) What is the St. John Chrysostom Oratorical Festival?
An annual competition program in which Orthodox Christian youth prepare and deliver short speeches on a variety of compelling religious topics as a way to explore their faith, inspire others, and develop important leadership skills.
(B) 2023 HAGOC Oratorical Festival Timeline
• January 8th: This is the deadline by which Junior division (grade 7-9) and Senior division (grade 10-12) participants must submit the official participation form for 2023. Instructions for submitting the form are provided below. Note: submitting the form requires that the participant select a topic from the official list of speech topics for 2023, which are listed below.
• January 8th: This is the deadline by which Elementary division (grade 4-6) participants must email Ashley with their speech topic, which are listed below. Please note: the Elementary division is NOT judged and is for the local level ONLY. Elementary division participants do NOT need to submit the official participation form for 2023 – an email to Ashley will suffice.
• Once a week in the month leading up to the festival, Greg & Ashley will hold “Virtual Office Hours” for Junior & Senior division participants. Information about the Virtual Office Hours is below.
• February 3rd: This is the deadline by which you must email your final speech to Ashley. She'll forward all speeches to Father for his review. Junior and Senior speeches must be formatted as follows: Double-spaced; Speech topic included at the top of the first page; Participant’s name, address, parish name/location and division (junior or senior) in the top right corner of the first page.
• February 12th: HAGOC Oratorical Festival (local level) held in person at church.
• April 1st: District Oratorical Festival for qualifiers (a.k.a., HAGOC’s Junior Division participants who score 1st and 2nd place + HAGOC’s Senior Division participants who score 1st and 2nd place). This festival will be held at Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Frederick, MD.
• May 13th: Metropolis Oratorical Festival for qualifiers. This festival will be held at Sts. Sophia, Faith, Hope and Agape Church in Jeffersonville, PA.
• June 9th-11th: National Oratorical Festival for qualifiers. This festival will be held at St. George Church in Clifton, NJ.
(C) Instructions for Filling Out the Official Participation Form for 2023
By January 8th, grades 7-12 participants must submit the official participation form for 2023 at https://religioused.formstack.com/forms/sjcof_participant. In addition to information about the participant (e.g., name, grade, school), the form requires the following information.
o Parish Name: Holy Apostles Greek Orthodox Church
o Parish Address: 21580 Atlantic Blvd. #160, Sterling, VA, 20166
o Parish Priest: Father Matthew Streett
o Parish Chairperson: Ashley Joiner
o E-mail of Parish Chairperson: email@example.com
o Metropolis in which your Parish is located: New Jersey Metropolis
o Division: choose Junior if in Grades 7-9; choose Senior if in Grades 10-12
o Topic Number: choose number that corresponds with your speech topic - must choose from official list of speech topics for 2023
(D) Official List of Speech Topics for 2023
Grades 7-9 (Junior division): note that the speech must be between 3-4min. All speeches must start with this greeting: "Father, Honorable Judges, Ladies and Gentlemen and Fellow Speakers – Good Morning." The timer starts *after* you finish this greeting. Visit https://www.goarch.org/oratorical for tips & resources on the Junior topics.
Junior topic 1: Orthodox tradition teaches that the saints remain spiritually active beyond their earthly life. Discuss how we ask the Saints to intercede and pray for us and why.
Junior topic 2: Orthodox Christians honor the Virgin Mary, the Most Holy Theotokos. What does the Orthodox Church believe about her and her role in our salvation?
Junior topic 3: The sacraments are the mysteries of the Church through which God gives us His grace by actions, words, and material objects (for example, oil, wine, and bread). Pick one sacrament and explain its meaning.
Junior topic 4: Jesus models and teaches humility throughout His life and ministry. Discuss the challenges of living according to Jesus’ teachings in a society that does not necessarily emphasize humility.
Junior topic 5: Consider and discuss why and how icons are central to our faith and Orthodox practice.
Grades 10-12 (Senior division): note that the speech must be between 4-5min. All speeches must start with this greeting: "Father, Honorable Judges, Ladies and Gentlemen and Fellow Speakers – Good Morning." The timer starts *after* you finish this greeting. Visit https://www.goarch.org/oratorical for tips & resources on the Senior topics.
Senior topic 1: The Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople is the highest seat and the Mother Church of Orthodox Christians. The Ecumenical Patriarch is the spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide. Discuss how the Patriarchate has been a symbol of unity, a source of missionary growth, an advocate of dialogue among Christians, and a defender of the historical Orthodox Faith.
Senior topic 2: During times of crisis, our faith is tested. How are Orthodox Christians taught to understand and manage pain and suffering?
Senior topic 3: The Christian message in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has influenced many believers of Christ. How has another work of fiction inspired people to seek Jesus Christ?
Senior topic 4: We have lived through a pandemic and emerged with deep societal divides. How can our faith in Christ heal us and take us forward together?
Senior topic 5: The Resurrection of Jesus Christ both transforms the relationship between God and humanity and alters the course of history. How would you explain its significance to someone who has not heard about it or is unsure if God exists?
(E) Elementary Division (Grade 4-6) Speech Topics
-My Patron Saint Is...
-My Favorite Icon/Bible Story/Feastday/etc. Is...
-Making the Sign of the Cross/Lighting a Candle/Celebrating My Nameday/etc. Is Important to Me Because…
*These are sample speech topics. If you wish to speak on a different topic that has good alignment with the values of the St. John Chrysostom Oratorical Festival, please let Ashley know what topic that is! Elementary Division speeches are generally ~1 minute long.
(F) Virtual Office Hours
Participants in grades 7-12: Once a week in the month leading up to the festival, Greg and Ashley will hold a drop-in “office hour” (45min in length) over Zoom. You are welcome to attend all or just some of the office hours; please attend at least one so we can hear you rehearse your speech. (If you need to attend an office hour, but the date & time doesn't fit your schedule, let Ashley know and we'll work to schedule something separate.) Note that each office hour has a theme: the first office hour is about Research; the second Writing; the third Editing; and the fourth Presentation. (Although if you call in needing answers or advice not relating to that week's theme, that's OK.) Contact Ashley for Zoom details.
Contact the co-chairs for the 2023 HAGOC Oratorical Festival, Ashley & Greg Joiner, at firstname.lastname@example.org.