On October 4, the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America voted overwhelmingly to create a new official agency of the Assembly, Orthodox Volunteer Corps (OVC). OVC addresses a critical need in American Orthodoxy - an immersive, year-round, life shaping ministry exclusively focused on young adults, 21-29 years old.
OVC began two years ago, when the Assembly of Bishops established a working group--including a broad coalition of Orthodox leaders and organizations--to explore and then develop the idea. Since then, OVC has become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, raised funds, hired its first staff member, and now in 2021 (declared the “Year of the Youth,” by the Assembly of Bishops) has become an official agency of the Assembly of Bishops.
In their presentation to the Bishops, OVC CEO Michael Sider-Rose and volunteer chair of the OVC Working Group (established by the Assembly) Kyra Limberakis stressed that the need is urgent. Youth and young adults are less connected to the Church than any other demographic. The twenties are a pivotal time of development, what researchers call emerging adulthood, during which long-lasting decisions are made about career, family, and faith. And there are relatively few formative opportunities that are specifically targeted at Orthodox young adults today.
At the same time, Sider-Rose and Limberakis emphasized the tremendous opportunity that the Church has to engage Orthodox young adults. Research shows that young adults are hungry to serve and live with purpose. The Church is the perfect home and vehicle for purposeful service.
OVC, Sider-Rose and Limberakis shared, aims to inspire and equip young adults for service to Church and world. OVC will do so first through a 10-month, full-time program rooted in four transformative encounters: service, formation, community, and Church. First, OVC will match each participant with an existing nonprofit for a 10-month placement, four days per week, providing hands-on service and unique professional experience. Second, OVC will provide a curriculum of leadership development and faith formation in Orthodoxy through a once-per-week, all-day, interactive, experiential seminar. Third, OVC will provide housing for participants to live together in community. Finally, OVC will facilitate close connection to local parishes, providing mentorship and grounding the program in the Church.
The program will begin in Pittsburgh and expand to other cities. OVC is currently recruiting for an inaugural cohort of full-time volunteers to begin in Fall 2022. The following year, in 2023, OVC will add a part-time version of the program so that young adults who are working or in school can participate as well. And in 2024, OVC plans to rollout in a second city. OVC will connect full and part-time OVC members within and across cities to spark a national movement of Orthodox young adults who can lead a new era of service for the Church and the world.
OVC will host a virtual public launch on November 9, at 8pm EST. All are welcome to attend and can register at this link: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_M4wTlaikRy22XF6WY6Tz1g.