November Regional Feature: Northwest Region

Happy November everybody! As you all very well know by now, we feature an OCF region every month–this month, the Northwest Region wears the crown. But instead of doing our usually Regional all-star format, we decided to shake things up a bit, because the Northwest Region recently did something so psychedelic that we just had to share. With that, I turn things over to the Northwest Regional Student Leader, David Munkres:

This year, OCF history was made! You’re probably wondering what hadn’t been done in OCF yet: an annual Northwest Regional Retreat! Shocking, I know. It was the first one in recent memory and a great success. It nrr3left everyone speechless and renewed, ready to go back to the spiritual trenches of a college campus.

We went to St. John the Forerunner Greek Orthodox Monastery in Goldendale, Wa. It was about five hours away from Seattle, four hours from Portland, four hours from Spokane and seven hours from Boise. A great location to equally inconvenience everyone who traveled. The theme was “Incarnating Christ in the Midst of the Modern World,” and the keynote speaker was THE Abbot Tryphon. Fr. Tryphon is the Abbot of All Merciful Savior Monastery on Vashon Island in Washington. He bought with him Bishop Athanasios from Kenya. The two of them gave a series of talks on Friday night and Saturday morning that left everyone in awe. It was like watching two theological giants waging war and we benefited. Look for the talks to be uploaded to the OCF podcast series (shameless plug for Dan).

We arrived at the Monastery on Friday and got to know one another for a few hours. The bookstore at the Monastery got a lot of money as we bought icons, prayer ropes and books. The Sisters were gracious and let us tour the Monastery and see everything it had to offer. After Vespers, we got to hear His Grace talk about Orthodoxy in Kenya and how he feels inspired by seeing young people engaged in their faith. After hearing his hour long talk, Fr. Tryphon dismissed the adults and Bishop and gave us a small talk about the importance of fellowship. He talked about his 15134387_10205763160478151_101058869_nexperience setting up an OCF at a college in Seattle and how he loved seeing us get along. He lead some icebreakers and left us to play games and get to know one another/look for an Orthodox spouse.

Saturday was amazing! We got to witness a Bishop celebrating Liturgy at a Monastery. His singing voice gave everyone chills as it echoed throughout the walls of the Church. It was a blessing to see such an amazing service.  After coffee hour, we got to hear from Fr. Tryphon again. His nearly two-hour talk left everyone inspired. It was so quiet you could hear a prayer rope drop. Everyone spent the next few hours just walking around the Monastery and talking as we digested the Abbot’s words. Everyone felt as if they had received a second wind and could be a vessel of Christ’s love to others.

It is as St. Seraphim of Sarov said, “Acquire the spirit of peace, and a thousandnrr1
souls around you will be saved.” This really became clear after hearing this talk, which will be available on AFR in the near future. Later, we did a service project by helping to renovate the area where the goats lived. We moved heavy food containers and dug trenches to re-direct water.  After Vespers, a Sister came by the guest houses and read stories of miracles worked by the Theotokos.  This is a hand-written book that is only at the Monastery.  Everyone left with a sense of awe and a desire to know the Mother of God better.  We then socialized more and went to bed very late. We departed after coffee hour on Sunday.

You can find out more about retreats going on in your region–or, even closer to you, in your district–right here!

A Firsthand Encounter | CC West Reflection

A Firsthand Encounter | CC West Reflection

Secondhand faith doesn’t get you anywhere.  –Fr. Apostolos Hill, College Conference West 2015

If there was one thing Fr. Apostolos drove home in his keynote addresses at this year’s College Conference West, it was that to witness to Christ, we have to have experienced His presence through the Holy Spirit in our own lives. We can’t merely be witnesses to something we’ve heard about but, like Thomas, must see for ourselves and believe of our own accord. There are no substitutes for knowing Christ ourselves. We will remain mute or, worse, be false witnesses without first encountering the Word to Whom we witness.

CCWest15 Participants with the beloved Abbot Tryphon

CCWest15 participants with the beloved Abbot Tryphon

But this is what amazes me and inspires me about College Conference West every year. While yes, the students come to learn more about the Orthodox Church, to visit the monastery, and to make new friends while reconnecting with old friends, it seems to me the real reason young people come to College Conference West is to meet Christ. In spite of the challenges the world presents–the denunciations of Christ, the pressure to conform, the temptations of the flesh–every year, a beautiful group of young men and women leave behind this empty and dissatisfying existence to encounter firsthand the One Who Is, the one who is Life Himself.

You can see this in the way the student leaders plan and lead the conference and attend with love and care to the needs of each participant–they are seeking Christ who washes the feet of His disciples.

You can see it in the way students eagerly line up for confession and counsel–they are seeking Christ the Healer of our infirmities.

You can see it in the way they pour out their souls in song in the Nativity Hymn at every meal, the Akathist Glory to God for All Things, and Paraklesis–they are seeking Christ who alone is worthy of our praise.

CCWest15 Paraklesis Service in the new chapel at St. Nicholas Ranch

CCWest15 Paraklesis Service in the new chapel at St. Nicholas Ranch

You can see it in the way they get to know each other, building friendships upon a common foundation, the Church–they are seeking Christ who calls us into His fellowship.

You can see it as they listen attentively to the speakers and ask brilliant questions–they are seeking Christ who is the Wisdom of God.

You can see it as they spontaneously decide to hold a service of forgiveness amongst the whole conference–they are seeking Christ who forgives us all our iniquities.

And most of all, you can see it in the way they strive to love one another even as we reveal our brokenness to one another–they are seeking Christ who is found in our neighbor, the wounded Samaritan.

And they may not know it, but as they seek to encounter Christ in all these beautiful ways, they witness to Him as well. The striving achieves the goal. I thank God every year, and this year perhaps more than others, that I am blessed to be a part of College Conference West. The witness to Christ’s love borne by the students there deeply inspires and humbles me, and for that, proclaim,

Glory to Thee for the unforgettable moments of life…Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age.  -Akathist “Glory to God for All Things”