In memory of Rose Koury, 1949–2014;
faithful, devoted supporter and attendee of this conference.

2015 Conference Theme

The Climacus Conference 2015 will seek to def­end bea­uty. Thus, we will first att­empt to def­ine bea­uty, parti­cularly on philo­sophical grounds. After all, we dis­cern bea­uty in phys­ical obj­ects and abstr­act ideas, in nat­ure and art, in ani­mals and things, and in people, quali­ties, and act­ions. What is this prop­erty of bea­uty pres­ent in all of these things? What is the status of bea­uty as an ult­imate value? Next we will con­sider the aesth­etics of some par­ticular beau­tiful things—such as church buil­dings, poems, icons, paint­ings, and music. Thirdly, we will con­sider some of the intel­lectual disci­plines—phi­lo­sophy, theo­logy, litera­ture, et al.—and their inter­action with aesth­etics. Finally, we will con­sider the pra­ctice of aesth­etics—the redem­ptive and salvific role of bea­uty in our lives.

Mark your calendar! Hook into Facebook or Twitter.

Past conferences, free audio: 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010.


Portrait of Edward Farley

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

Fr Jonathan Tobias (BA Malone University; MDiv Winebrenner Theological Seminary; MSEd Youngstown State University) is the Pastor of the St John the Baptist Orthodox Church in East Pittsburgh, PA (American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese), and is a Professor of Pastoral Theology at Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Johnstown, PA. A columnist for the diocesan monthly paper, he also blogs at the ten-year-old Second Terrace, writing most often on social criticism in the light of Orthodox tradition and classical values. He also writes at the Max's Progeny site, which focus moves variably from Staniloae to St Maximus, to Florovsky and David Bentley Hart (or intends to, at least). A convert from one of the oldest American revivalist denominations that grew out of the "second great awakening," Fr Jonathan has worked as an evangelical clergyman, then a psychotherapist on an adolescent psychiatric center, and finally as an Orthodox parish priest (where he hopes to remain for the duration). He and his wife, Marsha, have been married for over 33 years. He is the father of two daughters, and the grandfather of an energetic, inquisitive 2 year old little girl. This chain of events have caused no little wonder about the Trinity, the two natures of Christ and the healing call of beauty in everyday life -- whether in the psych ward, the neighborhood, the parish, or while watching PBS' Daniel Tiger beside a granddaughter who still sees angels.

Portrait of Nicholas Samaras

Nicholas Samaras

Nicholas Samaras is a poet and essayist, the son of Bishop Kallistos Samaras, a prominent Greek Orthodox Clergyman and theologian. He was born in Foxton, Cambridgeshire, England, living there and on the island of Patmos, Greece (the “Island of the Apocalypse”) and, at the time of the Greek Junta (“Coup of the Generals”) was brought in exile to be raised further in America. He has lived in Greece, England, Wales, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Germany, Yugoslavia, Jerusalem, thirteen states in America, and he writes from a place of permanent exile. His first book of poetry, Hands of the Saddlemaker received the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. His new book of poetry, American Psalm, World Psalm, is forthcoming in the Spring of 2014, with Ashland Poetry Press. He earned his MFA from Columbia University and his doctorate from the University of Denver. Currently, he lives in West Nyack, New York, where he has completed a new manuscript of poetry and has drafted a memoir of a childhood lived underground. He serves as the Poetry Editor for The Adirondack Review, and also serves as a long-distance mentor at The Glen Institute, an online program from Image magazine.

Portrait of Andrew Gould

Andrew Gould

Andrew Gould specializes in the design of Orthodox churches and liturgical art. His firm, New World Byzantine, is known for designs that marry medieval Orthodox architecture with sympathetic influences from American building traditions. He is also the founder of New World Byzantine Studios, an atelier for the production of church furnishings, and of the Orthodox Arts Journal. Andrew holds a B.A. in art history from Tufts University and a M.Arch from University of Pennsylvania. He resides with his family in Charleston, SC.

Portrait of Molly Sabourin

Molly Sabourin

Freelance writer focusing on issues of family, faith, and community. Molly has a regular podcast on Ancient Faith Radio and is the author of Close to Home: One Orthodox Mother's Quest for Patience, Peace, and Perseverance.

Portrait of Father Alexis Kouri

Fr. Alexis Kouri

B.S. from Boston College in 1984; M.Div from Holy Cross School of Theology in 1990; ThD in Pastoral Counseling from Emory University; Certified Pastoral Counselor through the American Association of Pastoral Counselors (2010).

Portrait of Erick Hedrick-Moser

Erick Hedrick-Moser

Erick Hedrick-Moser is a doctoral candidate in historical theology at Saint Louis University. He is a native of Louisville, Kentucky. Before doctoral studies, he graduated with a BA in religion and philosophy from Indiana Wesleyan University and an MA in historical theology from Saint Louis University. He recently spent time in France for dissertation research and a semester as a visiting scholar at Saint Louis University’s campus in Madrid, Spain. He has published in journals such as Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses, and is completing his dissertation on the formation of Jean Daniélou’s vision for Catholicism in secular France. More broadly, his interests lie in the intersection between mystical theology and secular society among patristic and modern theologians.

Portrait of Samuel Granger

Sam Granger

Sam Granger is an independent editor, researcher, and classical teacher in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He holds a Masters of Theological Studies from Boston College, and has also studied at Aquinas College, the Universität Tübingen, and Holy Cross Hellenic. Always an artist, poet, and musician, he began his studies in fine art, but transitioned to theology early on. His masters thesis focused on the "paschal nature" of beauty; other research interests include the theology of Thomas Aquinas and Hans Urs von Balthasar, the cognitive theory of Bernard Lonergan, and the aesthetics of Christopher Alexander. Additionally, the weekend of the Climacus Conference is the anniversary of his chrismation into the Orthodox Church, when he also happened to take the name "John Climacus."

Portrait of Meredith Trexler

Meredith Trexler

Meredith Trexler is a Ph.D. candidate at The University of Kansas. She is currently finishing her dissertation, titled “Aesthetic Experience and Becoming Good: An Examination of the Connection between Ethics and Aesthetics in Plato, Kant, and Iris Murdoch.” She received her Master’s Degree in 2009, when she defended her Master’s Thesis, “Sacrifice and the Imagination: The Symbolic Relationship between Aesthetic Experience and Morality in Kant’s Third Critique.” Her areas of specialization include aesthetics, ancient philosophy (particularly Plato), and Kant’s Critique of Judgment. Her interest in aesthetics has been ongoing since she was an undergraduate student, and she has been working on an independent project for over 10 years concerning the connection between Beauty and Goodness. Her project is strongly influenced by the philosophy of C.S. Lewis, and her studies at C.S. Lewis’ home, The Kilns, in Oxford England. Meredith has taught philosophy for six years at The University of Kansas, and she has also taught philosophy at Fort Hays State University, and Kansas Wesleyan University.

Register Now

Just $59 for the entire weekend. Registration includes dinner Friday, breakfast and lunch Saturday, good hot coffee and snacks alllll weekend.

Bring the fam! Couples and families are just $99. Kids are free. Complimentary childcare included.


* We actually have a pretty large room, but we're trying to get your attention.

Tentative Schedule


Hospitality — wine and cheese; sanwiches, pastries and coffee
Opening Remarks
Fr. Alexis KouriBeauty and Being
Nicholas SamarasPoetry as Spiritual Pilgrimage into Beauty
Erick Hedrick-MoserOn the Fitting and the Beautiful: Retrieving Augustine’s Lost Treatise on Theological Aesthetics
Andrew GouldAn Icon of the Kingdom of God, part 1 — The Proper Characteristics of Sacred Architecture
Dinner (provided)
Dessert, Wine & Poetry — A Reading by Nicholas Samaras, poet
Fr. Jonathan TobiasHell overcome by Beauty: the implications of the primacy of Divine Beauty over Violence


Light breakfast fare: Bagels, donuts, coffee
Molly SabourinThe Lost Art of Community: Rediscovering Hope through Living and Loving Local
Sam GrangerBeauty, Blessed Vision, and Orthodoxy with Thomas Aquinas
Meredith TrexlerAesthetic Experience and Becoming Good
Lunch (provided)
Andrew GouldAn Icon of the Kingdom of God, part 2 — Liturgical Art
Fr. Jonathan TobiasTheosis as Beautification: the profound human response to the memory and destiny of Divine Beauty
Dinner on your own
Vespers in St. George Chapel
After-conference fellowship with speakers and attendees

There will be snacks, a bookstore & gift shop

Your registration includes coffee, wine, and snacks all weekend. Plus dinner Friday, breakfast and lunch Saturday.

Elite-level, micro-roasted coffee provided by Brown Coffee Co. of San Antonio, TX. Featuring Brown Coffee’s Climacus Blend Coffee — Perhaps a bit mystical, but not a mystery. Two coffees. One from Guatemala. One from El Salvador. Perfectly blended for an ascent up the ladder of finer taste. Sweet and plush. Well-balanced. Notes of dried dates and plum with a cocoa finish. A coffee to slow down with and enjoy as you contemplate the Divine.

Eighth Day Books is bringing a four-table display of the greatest books on the planet: Classics in Philosophy, Theology, Church History, Literature, and the Great Books.

Location, Directions, Lodging

The conference is hosted by Saint Michael the Archangel Antiochian Orthodox Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Our parish has been witnessing to the truth of Orthodox Christianity in Louisville since the early 1930’s, but our Faith has been preached unchanged for 2,000 years.

Here's the address, mapped by Google: 3701 Saint Michael Church Drive, Louisville, KY 40220. Directions: Exit I-264 at Breckenridge South. Go about 1/3 mile to Hikes Lane. Turn right. Go 1/2 mile on Hikes Lane to church on left.

Recommended hotel — Breckinridge Inn: Less than 1 mile to conference, continental breakfast, heated indoor pool, whirlpool, exercise room, full service lounge. Call (502) 456-5050.

Contact Information

Portrait of David Wright

Conference Founder & Director
(502) 296-2095

Portrait of Ricky Irvine

Design & Assistant Director

Portrait of Carrie Sabourin

Marketing & Administration
(773) 678-0721

About Climacus Conference

The Climacus Conference is a clas­sical Chris­tian intel­lectual/spiri­tual event feat­uring scho­lars and voices across the fields of Theo­logy, Philo­sophy, Clas­sical Educa­tion, Litera­ture, and Hist­ory/Poli­tics. It is unique in that it prov­ides an oppor­tunity for atten­dees to be enriched by think­ing well across disci­plines. It seeks to deve­lop the life of the mind through scho­larly enga­gement with the clas­sic liberal arts, but approa­ches such an endea­vor through the nous, the mind of the heart, enab­ling our asce­nsion “of the lad­der” (κλίμακος/climacus), as insp­ired by St. John Clim­acus and his Lad­der of Div­ine Asc­ent. People from all back­grounds, perspec­tives, and tradi­tions are welcome.

Donations & Sponsorship

Covering conference expenses is a great challenge for us. Help us break even with a tax-deductible gift today!

Or better yet, sponsor a Plenary Lecture for $750: Your-Name-or-Organization Plenary Lecture