FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
OCF Hosts First Annual Pilgrimage for Justice
Fishers, IN – June 10, 2009
On Pentecost weekend (June 5 – 8, 2009), Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) hosted the first annual Pilgrimage for Justice at its North American headquarters in Fishers, IN. The event was attended by a small group of students who spent the weekend reflecting about poverty and injustice throughout the world and what our response should be as Orthodox Christians.
Unconventional by design, the Pilgrimage incorporated simulated activities, reflective exercises, and prayer into the weekend that was described by several student participants as “life-changing”.
Students arrived on Friday, June 5 not knowing what to expect from the weekend. The promotional video launched at the OCF College Conference had instructed the students not to attend unless they were ready to be taken out of their comfort zones. Students did not receive a schedule for the weekend, and so were kept on their toes throughout the weekend as they waited for what would come next.
As they arrived on Friday, the Pilgrimage seemed conventional enough as the students were treated to pizza and a concert by the Small Town Heroes, an Orthodox band from Indiana.
However, on Saturday, the students were continually taken out of their comfort zones as they found themselves in one poverty simulation after another. This began at 7am on Saturday as the students were abruptly awakened in their tents to a simulated refugee camp. They then had to cook their breakfast over a fire and take cold showers outdoors. As they did so, they were told to “keep in mind the many people made in God’s image who spent last night in tents like these, but who are not at a retreat or a pilgrimage.”
They later found themselves placed in a similar simulation dealing with American homelessness. Following lunch, they returned to their campsite to found their tents gone and all their belongings in a pile on the sidewalk. They were instructed to find materials on the property such as cardboard and plywood to construct a “shanty town” in which to sleep that night.
As they constructed their shelter, they were reminded, “Millions of Americans sleep night after night in such shelters on American streets. As you gather the materials, think about those men, women, and children. Think about how Christ calls each of us who are not in that condition to respond to them.”
Another simulated activity followed on Sunday afternoon dealing with human trafficking. Throughout the activity, the harsh realities of sweatshops, child soldiers, and the sex trade were brought home to the students.
The poverty simulations were interspersed with reflective readings, group discussions, and a series of talks by OCF Executive Director Fr. Kevin Scherer.
The weekend culminated on Sunday afternoon as the students celebrated Pentecost Vespers. Afterwards, they were presented with information about several different non-profits with which they could become involved to address poverty and injustice, while at the same time being reminded that social justice begins with simply loving the neighbor they come across each day of their lives.
“As a new program,” says OCF Service Learning Director Jordan Henderson, “we were very pleased with the first Pilgrimage for Justice. We look forward to developing and growing the program next year.”
Jun 16, 2009 2:50 PM