Boston, MA - The annual Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) College Conferences are accustomed to large turnouts. Over the past 10 years, the College Conferences have attracted thousands of college students, high school graduates, and young adults to the five-day winter event. Yet, this year's conferences , held December 27-31, 2005 , were different. Since records are indeed made to be broken, then this year's college conferences will long be remembered. Young adults turned out in record numbers, and in the process set the bar very high for future OCF College Conferences.
The combined East Coast Conference at Antiochian Village in Bolivar, PA, and the West Coast Conference at Saint Nicholas Ranch in Dunlap, CA, drew more than 330 young adults. They actively participated in workshops, listened to Keynote Addresses from V. Rev. Thomas Hopko and Rev. Hieromonk Jonah Paffhausen, attended worship services, were involved in service projects, and enjoyed the fellowship of Orthodox Christian brothers and sisters from throughout North America.
"This was one of the most uplifting experiences of my life," one participant enthusiastically offered.
The College Conferences are sponsored by the OCF, the official campus ministry program of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA). College students and young adults from all but one of the nine SCOBA jurisdictions were represented at either of the two College Conferences last month.
The theme of this year's conference was "Abide in Me, and I in You" (John 15:4-5). Fr Hopko, Dean Emeritus of Saint Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, NY, and Fr Jonah, Abbot of the Monastery of St John of Shanghai and San Francisco, CA, and himself a St Vladimir's Seminary graduate, spoke dynamically during their Keynote Addresses. Their words, and the entire five days for that matter, made a profound impact on Tara Powley, who was attending her fourth OCF College Conference.
"The conference is always a wonderful time of renewal for me," said Powley, a senior at Colorado State University-Pueblo. "Everything about the conference - the workshops, keynotes, worship services, projects and fellowship - provides the type of refueling I need in order to face another semester of college. The week I spend at the college conference is almost surreal. I find myself leaving the conference every year, for four years now, on such an amazing spiritual high!"
East Coast Workshop leaders included Fr Luke Veronis, Mother Magdelena, and Mr Daniel Abraham. Fr Christopher Salamy, Mr Michael Kallas, and Ms Katrina Bitar led the West Coast Workshops. Bitar has been to several College Conferences, but admitted as well, this one was special.
"Every gathering in the name of Christ should be as this one was, each person uplifting and serving the other," Bitar said. "I was truly blessed to talk with such an exceptional group of young adults. They truly inspired me in ways that no group of people has before. When it was time to be serious, it was automatic for them. When it was time to be silly and laugh at themselves, it was just as automatic. I feel blessed by God to have experienced the great peace and comfort that can be produced when personal agendas disappear, and only God's agenda is on the table."
No College Conference would be complete without service to others. This year's Service Project was a bit more high tech than usual, according to East Coast Conference Service Project Coordinator Alexey Petrides, a sophomore at Penn State University.
"We recorded Hierarchical Vespers on an mp3 recorder, burned it onto CD's and sent them, along with our prayers and a short handwritten note, to our service men and women abroad," Alexey said. "We also held an outstanding blood drive, organized by a local American Red Cross chapter. Our goal was 20 pints of blood, but we far exceeded that number. We surprised the Red Cross by our large response. They were very encouraged and asked us to set up another blood drive next year."
The College Conferences are scheduled each December after the Feast of the Nativity and prior to the beginning of the New Year. The conferences continue to grow annually in terms of young adult participation. New friendships are established, still others are renewed, yet the spirit of Orthodox unity and the spiritual development which takes hold, indicates the importance of the OCF College Conferences on the Orthodox Christian landscape. Many of the same students which attend College Conference often participate in Real Break Trips, also sponsored by the OCF.
"Overall, it was an excellent conference," another participant said. "The workshops, the keynote addresses, and worship services were the highlight for me. Additionally, the unplanned social interaction between the participants was quite special."
The Orthodox Christian Fellowship is committed to the continued development of its College Conferences. Their impact is powerful, and long lasting. Additional information on future conferences, as well as all OCF programs, can be obtained by contacting the OCF office at 800-919-1OCF, or logging on to www.ocf.net.
Orthodox Christian Fellowship