Orthodox Christian Fellowship Opens North American Office and Launches Just Love Program
October 17, 2008 - Over 150 people gathered for the Grand Opening of the Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) North American Office in Fishers, IN on the night of October 17, 2008. The event marks a new stage in the growth and development of OCF's mission to keep Orthodox college students connected to the Church.
The evening began with welcoming remarks from OCF's Executive Director Fr. Kevin Scherer, followed by remarks from Dn. Paul Zaharas, Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors, Mr. Jamil Malone, Chairman of the Student Advisory Board, and His Grace Bishop DIMITRIOS of Xanthos, the first Director of OCF. One of the highlights of the evening was listening to Bishop Dimitrios' account of the early days of OCF in the 1960's.
"This is a dream come true for me tonight," said His Grace, "to see the first permanent office of OCF finally opened."
This was followed by the blessing of the offices by His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver, the SCOBA Overseer of OCF. In addition to Metropolitan Isaiah and Bishop Dimitrios, we were blessed to have in attendance His Grace Bishop Mark of Toledo and the Midwest and His Grace Bishop Tikhon of Philadelphia.
After the blessing service, everyone enjoyed a reception and toured the offices. Students also enjoyed a bonfire and music.
The following day, OCF launched the new Just Love program in Indianapolis. Many of the college students who attended the Grand Opening the night before spent their Saturday at the Just Love event. The day began at the City Market in downtown Indianapolis where the students split up into small groups to find homeless people to take out to lunch. Even His Grace Bishop Tikhon joined the event.
The rest of the day was spent working at the Brookside Community Church, which provides meals and after-school programs for the poor and homeless of Indianapolis. The students ended the day with a debriefing in the park, in which they discussed the people they had met, what they had learned, and how they could apply it to their everyday lives. One of the student participants, Elizabeth Brown, writes the following about her Just Love experience:
Our discussion with Jordan and Father Kevin at the end challenged me in ways that I didn't expect. After my lunch with Louis, I couldn't wait to go home and try the same thing on the streets of Lansing. But then Father Kevin turned the attention away from the homeless people. He asked us whether we give our friends and family the same sincerity and respect that we had just demonstrated to the homeless people. I realized that the answer was "no." I couldn't remember the last time I had listened carefully and considerately to anything that my roommate or my mother or my classmate had said to me. This task of loving my neighbor suddenly became more difficult.
When I got home Sunday evening, I couldn't wait to tell my family about the adventures I just had! But my brother didn't seem interested in my stories. I could tell his weekend had not gone well. So instead of telling him about my amazing weekend and my plan for us to go out next weekend and find a homeless person, I just let him talk. He was taken aback at my sudden interest in his life. He said, "Wow, Elizabeth, you need to get a life. Why do you keep wanting to hang out with me?" I just laughed, but at the same time a chill went through me, and I thought "I don't want to get a life. You are my life."
With the opening of the North American Office and the launching of Just Love, OCF continues to grow and see the fruits of its efforts to empower Orthodox college students with the Gospel of Christ.
Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) is the official campus ministry program of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA). OCF is working with Orthodox Christian college students to inspire and cultivate a deep love for God and neighbor through life-transformative programming and by connecting them to a growing network of Orthodox Christian students and campus chaplains. OCF supports over 270 local chapters throughout North America and involves thousands of college students through its programs, including College Conference, Real Break, and Just Love. Additional information on OCF programs can be found online at www.ocf.net, or by calling toll-free, 800-919-1623.
|"Whaddyamean Fasting? It's the Holidays!" |
by Marek Simon
Christmas parties, good ole' St. Nick, & shop, shop, shop! Our Christmas list is prepared well in advance and -look out! - lights and trees up in November! These are a few things that begin to consume many of our minds as the holiday season approaches. We can't wait until Christmas and the array of fashionable clothes, iPhones, and decisions, decisions! LCD or Plasma? Mac or Windows? And who knows what else! It's a time to eat, drink and be merry, right? But wait a minute. Did I hear someone say that we are supposed to be fasting???
For us Orthodox Christians, November 15 marks the beginning of a 40-day fast that concludes on the Feast of our Lord's Nativity (a.k.a., Christmas). The Nativity Fast is a time of preparation for the birth of our Lord. We are taught to fast from meat, dairy products and fish. Let's be honest. Many of us go to schools and live in homes where we do not observe any sort of fast during this time, and for those of us who do, it's pretty difficult to say the least! How can we possibly go to a Christmas party and not eat meat or cheese or drink eggnog?
Why would someone choose to fast during this time when it seems like everyone else is doing the opposite? In reality, the answer is pretty simple: Jesus Christ. We are taught to fast during this time, not as a punishment or because the Church doesn't want us to have fun, but because the Church is concerned with one thing and one thing only, our salvation.
Think about it. The world we live in today teaches us to continually seek to do one thing- love ourselves. Jesus Christ, through the Church, teaches us to continually seek to do another thing- love our neighbor. Society teaches us to order the best-tasting, most expensive steak. Christ teaches us to forget about the steak, eat a plate of spaghetti or some lentil soup, and use the money to buy a meal for someone who hasn't eaten in days. Society teaches us to spend time and money on Christmas trees, Christmas lights, and expensive gifts. Christ teaches us to be a tree that bears fruit, to be a light in the darkness, and to put on the gifts of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, & self-control (Gal 5.22-23).
There are no easy answers to the situations we may face this holiday season if we choose to follow the narrow way of the Gospel. One thing that must be said is that we cannot do it alone. We need each other! Our friends, families and our churches should be fasting together as best we can. We also need prayer. Fasting is of no value unless we pray also. Encourage your family and friends to pray together at meals and even ask your priest if he will have extra services during the fasting period. Perhaps most importantly, talk with your priest or spiritual father about how to approach the Fast. He will be your guide and source of wisdom to help during this time.
Each day is an opportunity for us to choose to live as a Christian and accept the responsibility that goes along with it. Rather than just spending hours at the mall looking for the perfect gift, we could spend a couple of hours serving at a soup kitchen and a few dollars on clothes for people who cannot afford to clothe themselves. What a wonderful project this would be for your OCF group this fasting season.
We are all quite capable of fasting beginning November 15. As stated above, talk to your priest about how to start, especially if you've never done it before. Approach the days ahead not as the 'holiday season', but as preparation for a 'Holy Day', the day of the birth our Lord. May Christ strengthen and guide you in the upcoming months!
|College Conference 2008: A Revolution of Love|
If you have not yet registered for College Conference 2008, then today is the day! This year's theme is "A Revolution of Love," which will take on issues of social justice.
Spaces are still available at all three locations: the Antiochian Village, St. Nicholas Ranch, and the newest location at the Diakonia Center in South Carolina. The fee is $300 with a $100 deposit required at registration. Scholarships are available for up to $175 (deadline to apply is December 1, 2008). The remaining available spaces are filling up quickly, so register today at www.ocf.net.
|"Thanks for the Blessings" by Rebecca Phillips
At my school, there is a community service project called
Operation Christmas Child, which is sponsored by the Chaplain's office each
year around this time. The gist of the program is to collect wrapped Christmas
gifts for children in need. Those who participate choose to make a box for
either a boy or a girl, buy the things to go in the box, and then wrap it and
turn it in at the appropriate location. This year, some of my friends and I are
planning on participating.
glance, participating in Operation Christmas Child didn't seem like that big of
a deal to me. I love volunteering and helping during the holidays, and this was
just another way to do that. It wasn't until I found out what was supposed to
go in the boxes that my perspective changed. The suggestions included personal
hygiene items like a toothbrush and some toothpaste, school supplies, candy,
small toys like stuffed animals, etc. I was overwhelmed by these suggestions because
they are typical, everyday items that I regularly have on hand. Never in my
entire life would I have wanted a toothbrush for Christmas. To be honest, I can
hardly remember what I got for Christmas in years past with the exception of my
cell phone or my TV, which are luxuries by comparison.
is just around the corner, and we will all be giving thanks at some point. This
year, remember that being thankful is more than just appreciating the food you
eat or the clothes you wear. It is recognizing that everything in your life
comes from God. In the words of the Apostle Paul, "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the
Father through Him" (Colossians 3:17).
is only one day, but God's blessings are continually flowing throughout our
lifetimes. As you live each day, live to glorify God. Live to give thanks. And
live to share with others. We are all blessed in individual ways, and everything
God gives us in our lives -good or bad - is for our benefit. So whether you
find yourself in the midst of a trial or a triumph, let every day be
Thanksgiving Day. Rejoice and be glad, laying up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
and know that God is good.
|Regional Events, Happenings & Important Dates|
Quotes from the Fathers
"Live in gratitude, and you will never be disappointed. See that your afflictions are not there to punish you, but to purify you and cleanse you of the delusions of this world. You all are being prepared each day for great things. Be wise, and prepare for the future, but do not be worried about it. Be prudent, but not obsessed. The man who constantly worries achieves nothing but stress and anxiety. Instead, pray and draw close to God. Believe that He will help you, and suddenly, you will see how He has already."
November 8: Feast of the Angels
November 13: Feast of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople
November 14: Feast of St. Philip the Apostle
November 21: Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple
November 25: Feast of St. Catherine
November 30: Feast of St. Andrew, the First-Called Apostle
Nov: 7-9: 3rd Annual Young Adult Conference (Long Beach, CA) hosted by the Fellowship of St. John the Divine and the Greek Dept. of Youth & Young Adult Ministries.
Nov. 6: A Taste of the "Burgh" at Primanti Bros.
Contact Number: 412-278-3333
Contact: Kyra Pelachik (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Nov. 21: Resurrection Coffeehouse at Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church (Boston, MA)
Contact: Stephanie Kon(email@example.com)
PROGRAM DATES & REGISTRATION
COLLEGE CONFERENCE: A Revolution of Love
December 27 - December 31
Registration now open
Scholarship Application Deadline: December 1
|Save the Date! - Pilgrimage for Justice
OCF will be launching a radically unconventional conference in 2009 called Pilgrimage for Justice. This conference will take place over Pentecost weekend, and will be like no other event OCF has ever hosted. We will officially begin advertising for this event at this year's College Conferences, but mark your calendars now - June 5 - 7, 2009 at the Antiochian Village will be a weekend you won't want to miss!
Stay Tuned...Other OCF Service Learning Opportunities on the Horizon!
With our hiring of Jordan Henderson as Service Learning Director, we will continue to greatly expand the service learning opportunities offered by OCF. Continue to check our website for information on Internships, Leadership Training, and a Just Love program of study to be used in local OCF chapters.
|REAL BREAK UPDATE
Thanks for the overwhelming postive response to Real Break 2009! Several trips have filled up, so OCF is working on opening another Real Break trip for March 7-14, 2009. More information will be posted on the website (www.ocf.net) in the next 2-3 weeks.