This last December marks my third year attending College Conference West, and I would have to say it was my best OCF experience yet. As an OCF student leader and co-facilitator of this year’s College Conference West, I was intentionally more active than in previous years, trying to reach out and ensure this year’s attendees felt welcomed, but also observing the general atmosphere of the gathering.
From the first hour, one could feel the joy and excitement of what this conference had in store—meeting new faces, old friends reunited—but perhaps that is to be expected when everyone first gathers into the mess hall for registration. And yet, it seemed that this feeling never faded. You could see it in everyone’s faces on the last day, a radiant joy and love for one another! No, the anticipation that comes with arriving at College Conference did not wither. Rather, it developed into the warmth and fervor of a new-found community. We became brothers and sisters, mentors and confidants, comrades and close friends. We were joined and knit together, belonging to one another.
In the days following the conference I’ve asked myself the question of whether or not the unity cultivated in Orthodox Christian Fellowship’s various ministries is anything special or unique. We certainly don’t have the market cornered on fostering faith-centered community (though in this day and age when our technology and limited social interaction is leading us further into isolation, it certainly is becoming a rarity). Even amongst the various religious and social groups of people still coming together in community, I believe that, yes, there is something special and unique about the unity found in the OCF community.
That uniqueness comes from what we gather around—what defines us when we come together. It is this: that we are a Eucharistic community. We come together and are united in the body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians in admonishment, saying that
“…we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love.” – Ephesians 4:15-16
As Orthodox Christians, we understand that this unification is brought forth by more than just our outward attempt to follow St. Paul’s words, that it is ultimately “joined and knit together” mystically through the sacramental life of the Church, especially the Holy Eucharist itself. This is our unique quality, that we are mystically united to Christ and one another through the Holy Spirit. This is not only our understanding of true Christian community, it is our understanding of salvation itself: to be in total communion with God and one another.
And this is truly what I witnessed at College Conference this year. We really did experience the mystical unity that manifests itself when we gather as the Body of Christ. It was a glorious and uncontainable joy, a taste of His Kingdom that is to come.
In my concluding thoughts, it is my hope that Orthodox Christian Fellowship continues to grow this community everywhere. We have something so precious, so beautiful, and there is a hungry and lonely world out there that is so desperately looking for what we have. We must first make this unity a reality amongst ourselves—and then we must share it with others. I look forward to the day when people come into the Church not because they read history and theology books about Orthodoxy, but because they saw a true community, knit and joined together in love, the Body of Christ.
About The Author
Pat Lynch is the Southwest Regional Student Leader on this year’s Student Advisory Board. He currently resides, works, and attends school in Pasadena, CA.