HistoryOrthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) has a rich history in North America that spans over 50 years. Following World War II, an Orthodox college student movement emerged. Individual campus groups formed at various universities, including Columbia, McGill, and Penn State, and—for the first time—Orthodoxy was being celebrated and shared on college campuses.
In recognition of this, the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the America (SCOBA) formalized the Church’s campus work in the spring of 1965 by creating the Campus Commission to oversee and coordinate these developing local fellowships. James Couchell (now Bishop Dimitrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese) was named OCF’s first Executive Director. Visiting colleges coast-to-coast, he established hundreds of campus chapters, launched the very popular quarterly magazine Concern and held annual retreats at St. Vladimir’s and Holy Cross seminaries (predecessors of our present-day College Conferences).In 1971, when James Couchell was re-assigned, Orthodox campus ministry unfortunately struggled and eventually closed. Despite this, the spirit and mission of OCF was kept alive by individual chapters across the country. Chapters continued to form and grow. In 2001, three seminarian classmates—Fr. Michael Nasser of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese, Fr. Mark Leondis of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, and Fr. Michael Andersen of the Orthodox Church in America—recognized this natural growth and pledged to work together towards the resurgence of a pan-Orthodox campus ministry. With SCOBA’s blessing and Metropolitan Isaiah of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Denver as OCF’s overseer, OCF was reconstituted and structured as a collaborative Orthodox effort with jurisdictional representatives on the Board of Directors. This allowed the Church to maximize limited resources and be present on a greater number of colleges with relatively few Orthodox students on campus.
With this blessing & direction, OCF was first housed at the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute based on the campus of the University of California – Berkeley. This is where the process of building a chapter structure began. The North American Office then moved to the campus of Hellenic College/Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, MA and hired a full-time executive director. At this time, OCF received a portion of a Lilly Endowment grant awarded to Hellenic College for the Theological Exploration of Vocation. This five-year scaling grant enabled OCF to build an infrastructure, hire staff, and expand its programs.
During the past 12 years, OCF has provided thousands of students with a home away from home, opportunities to learn about our Orthodox Faith, and skills to be effective Orthodox leaders. Specifically, OCF has provided:
Chapter chartering and support, where the number of OCF chapters on universities across the continent has exploded from 50 to over 200;
Real Break trips to multiple locations, domestic and international;
College Conference, the premier annual event for college students, which continues to grow;
Praxis Program that unite all students together in prayer (Day of Prayer) and outreach (Orthodox Awareness Month);
The annual Summer Leadership Institute, which develops Orthodox servant leaders ready for campus and beyond;
And the First Forty Days Initiative, designed to contact Orthodox students before they go to college and connect them to their new OCF chapter and local parish.
These are only some of the many achievements OCF has been blessed to realize in such a short time.