1st International Conference on Digital Media and Orthodox Pastoral Care

We welcome you to our broadcast “Sparks of Orthodoxy”. At the beginning of May, the 1st International Conference on Digital Media and Orthodox Pastoral Care was held in Athens, in which the Archimandrite Gabriel, abbot of the monastery Lepavina took part. Stay with us in our broadcast “Sparks of Orthodoxy”.

Under the auspices of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the 1st International Conference on Digital Media and Orthodox Pastoral Care was held in Athens. Among numerous speakers from more than 20 countries, representatives of Serbian Orthodox Church were: Archimandrite Gabriel, abbot of the monastery Lepavina and a professor of the Faculty of Orthodox Theology in Belgrade, Mr. Dragan Karan. We talked about this conference with Nenad Badinovac, webmaster of the monastery Lepavina’s site, who also provides technical support for Internet projects run by Archimandrite Gabriel in the monastery Lepavina and who was in Athens during the conference, too.


Radmila Karanovic: Mr. Badinovac, you recently participated with father Gabriel, abbot of the monastery Lepavina, in the 1st International Conference on Digital Media and Orthodox Pastoral Care. Tell us, what is the importance of this conference and your and father Gabriel’s participation in this conference?

Nenad Badinovac: God helps Mrs. Radmila, my greetings to you and to your listeners. I would like to say that the the 1st International Conference on Digital Media and Orthodox Pastoral Care, which was held between 7 and 9 May this year in Athens, was organized jointly by the web sites ‘Pemptousia’ from Greece, ‘OCN’, the Orthodox Christian Network, from the Unites States, and ‘Bogoslov’ from Russia. It was attended by 75 speakers from 21 countries, there were speakers from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, from the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, covering all the jurisdictions of the Orthodox Church. Most of the speakers were representatives of the Church of Greece. There were two representatives of our Serbian Orthodox Church, well known to all of us Archimandrite Gabriel, abbot of the monastery Lepavina and Mr. Dragan Karan, assistant professor of Faculty of Orthodox Theology in Belgrade. I had the honor to provide a technical support to father Gabriel, organizing his presentations and sessions. Father participated in two Conference sessions. At the beginning, one and only one session was planned, but when the Conference organizers saw father’s biography, they realized that they should invite him to join another session, a panel discussion held on the second day of the conference, where father had a very interesting topic about Facebook, considering that Conference was about the use of internet technologies in the Orthodox missionary service. So, father was called to say something about the use of Facebook, to explain the power of social networking in the Orthodox missionary service. On the third day of Conference father Gabriel prepared a 15 minute presentation on a theme of his own choice, like all others speakers. He gave the speech on the theme about the use of the Internet in his missionary service, presenting himself to the public. At the end of the third day, we had summarized our impressions and have realized that father Gabriel had much more important role than many other speakers. Apart from the metropolitans, bishops from all over the Orthodox world, from America, Hong Kong, there were also many scientists who presented their themes. Father had the opportunity to present two topics. It was unusual, because only a small number of 75 speakers gave two speeches.

Radmila Karanovic: Tell us what was the public’s reaction to the speech of Father Gabriel, when they had heard about the projects that he runs?

Nenad Badinovac: Those present were unanimous in their view that the launch into cyberspace is necessary for the Orthodox mission. But for that launching, an appropriate spiritual background is required. An elevated sense of pastoral responsibility is needed on the part of the person in charge of a web projects. All of them had in mind that the Internet is no more than a means and that therefore we ought not to use it indiscriminately, but rather in an ascetic manner. Before launching into cyberspace, an appropriate spiritual ability and pastoral responsibility are required on the part of the person in charge of a web site or other Internet projects. The person in charge of internet mission should be imbued with a spirit of mindfulness, restraint and responsibility. In short, it was said that one must be prepared, spiritually and ascetically, if he wants to be part of the internet mission. Only then we can emerge from the illusions of virtuality. All of them agreed that we should take precautions for the launching into cyberspace for internet Orthodox mission.

Regarding father Gabriel speeches, I participated in his both sessions. I was pleasantly surprised with his focusing on the topic, because I believe it is very difficult to speak in front of so many people. All sessions were transmitted live on the Internet, with simultaneous translation into Greek, English and Russian, so everyone was able to attend the conference. As father finished his speech, he gained very warm applause from the audience. You can speak in front of so many people, but in order to have a great speech, you must pick an interesting topic that will support you and your presentation. It was exactly what he had, an interesting topics for a 15 minute presentation. Finally, they asked him: “How do you manage keep up with all these projects?”, regarding father’s complete missionary work over the internet, for 15 years. The people were just admiring his great success, but father’s continual effort and care for his  spiritual children in virtual space encourage him to take even a more active part in internet missionary work. His effort made it possible for him to participate in this important conference.

Radmila Karanovic: I will briefly remind our listeners, what internet projects are run by father Gabriel. We know that there is Internet Radio Blagovesti in the monastery Lepavina, that father Gabriel communicates with lot of his spiritual children and people all over the world via Facebook, Skype and the other modern technologies. Concerning that you are the webmaster of the monastery Lepavina web site and that you provide the technical support for father Gabriel,  please remind us what are those projects and how father Gabriel began his missionary work, when he began to use the modern technology for spreading the Orthodox spirituality?

Nenad Badinovac: The best answer to your question is a part of a father Gabriel speech, where he gave the right answer to your question: “At the beginning, I felt hostility toward computer technology, I distrusted computers and internet technologies. In the monastery Lepavina, I had typical monastic life, filled with prayers and dedicated exclusively to liturgical life. With the blessing of Metropolitan, at the end of 1990s, I started learning more about the computers. After I had acquired more knowledge about the Internet, I have realized the opportunities for Internet missionary work. I noticed that the internet has many traps, but I have found ways to overcome them, no doubting even for a moment that Internet is a powerful tool to spread the word of God. At the beginning, I focused at active work on website of the monastery and the blog about Mount Athos”.

So, father has started to learn with the blessing of Metropolitan John, he learned about the Internet and computer technology. Later, he launched the web site and the blog “The Athonite  heritage”, dedicated to the Holy Mountain. After that he started a very interesting project that lasted for more than a half of the year. It was “The Spiritual Forum”, where participants discussed  spiritual topics, chosen by father Gabriel, they used to leave really good comments for each topic,  very spiritual comments. Every day a new topic was set to be discussed and the visitors of forum could express their opinion. In this way, they were gaining spiritual knowledge.

Later we created a Skype account, at first father created a Skype profile and later a Facebook profile, where he communicated with numerous people visitors and thus about 800 pages of text were written. So, two books of “Spiritual conversations” were published, which became favorite  orthodox literature, because the text has been written in a simple, clear and easily readable way, it was about the conversation of the spiritual father, athonite monk, with the belevers, mostly young people, who are beginners in faith or who already have advanced in faith. Most of them are young, I would say about 90% of them. After that, father started to use Facebook more than Skype, because he realized the great power of social networks. Today, some 145.000 people read father’s Facebook posts every day. Apart from Facebook, there is internet radio, where father Gabriel broadcasts spiritual music 24 hours a day, every day. In addition to music, father Gabriel selects the topics, plans the contest of radio program, there are interviews with metropolitans, various topics that relate to Christianity, all of these are the part of the father’s radio program, more than 500 listeners every day has the opportunity to hear it. Our radio is one of the most popular orthodox radio stations in Serbia, including radio stations “Svetigora” and “Slovoljublje”. With the exception that the Radio Blagovesti is one completely spiritual radio station and the most listened-to monastery radio station. With exclusively spiritual music, Christian and health topics. These are our main projects. Within these projects, father has made smaller missionary modules, for example: inside  Facebook, he works on connecting young people in communities  of like-minded people, who keep their profiles in a proper and spiritually useful way. Father seeks for such profiles and connects them. This is only one example of spreading of new ideas through web site, Facebook or radio Blagovesti. All available content is being compiled in one mobile Android application, we would like to extend it to all father’s projects. We believe that all that spiritual content will be more accessible to young people through mobile phones. Father Gabriel has expressed his ideas at the conference. He had only 15 minute, it wasn’t enough, but the essence of his work was presented. Both session were recorded, so we’re really satisfied with father Gabriel speeches at the conference.

Radmila Karanovic: Do you have some ideas, after participating in the conference about digital technologies in Athens, about future use of new technologies for spreading of the orthodox spirituality?

Nenad Badinovac: We have already been working on new ideas and we constantly search for  new possibilities. For a long time I kept telling that the mobile telephony and mobile communication of the belivers with father Gabriel is in development and that there is room for improvement of that communication. We want to organize in categories the great number of spiritual texts and other spiritual content published by father Gabriel, and to distribute it to the profiles of mobile phone users. So, users could have available at any time the article that they need and thus be reminded to think about spiritual things. Thus, we will attract more believers. This is an old idea, but at the conference we had the opportunity to support further development of our internet missionary.

Radmila Karanovic: Our thanks to Nenad Badovinac, webmaster of monastery Lepavina site, a man who provides a technical support for Internet projects run by Archimandrite Gabriel, abbot of the monastery Lepavina. Interview with Nenad Badinovac was performed on the occasion of father Gabriel participation at the 1st International Conference on Digital Media and Orthodox Pastoral Care, which was held at the beginning of May in Athens. Nenad, thank you for your participation in the broadcast “Sparks of Orthodoxy”, for all those nice and interesting topics that you have presented during our conversation.

Nenad Badinovac: Thank you, Radmila, thank you for the time you gave me to talk about what happened during the conference. I would like to conclude our conversation with  father Gabriel words about the conference: “It is certainly true that the Internet has evolved outside the Church, so it was to be expected that some sort of disconcertion would be expressed as regards how it is to be understood and its appropriate use. This, however, is no impediment at all to modern Orthodox thinking, which seeks to exploit the Internet’s potential, to enlist it successfully into the forces of its activities and to sanctify it, as far as this can be managed, for the glory of the Triune God. Three days of intense proceedings have proved this.” I agree with father Gabriel conclusion that the conference was a success. I want to thank the people who were with us and who helped us with their presence and work: Ms. Sanja Pavkov and prof. Dragan Karan who were the part of our participation at the conference in Athens.

You have heard our broadcast “Sparks of Orthodoxy”, production of RTRS (Radio Television of the Serb Republic). The broadcast was arranged by journalist Ljiljana Vucinic, music editor Igor Divljak, sound engineer Dejan Susic,

editor and host Radmila Karanovic.
Jun, 2015.

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