How to Use the OCF Blog for Your Chapter Meetings

How to Use the OCF Blog for Your Chapter Meetings

In case you didn’t know, OCF has a TON of great resources on the website you can use for your chapter. Here’s how to use the OCF blog.

Read an article and have a discussion.

Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 8.27.40 PM

 Create discussion questions.

You don’t need us to do all the work! After you read the article come up with some questions you can talk about during your meeting.

  • Pick a specific moment or statement that spoke to you and ask your group what it means to them.
  • Select a section you were confused by and ask your group what they think it’s trying to say.
  • Highlight a part that made you think of a personal experience and ask your group if they can think of a moment in their life where they saw a similar thing happening.
  • If you struggle with anything said in the article, ask your group for advice.
  • Ask your group if they see any practical applications.

Using this blog on the What-If Demon as an example, here are some sample discussion questions:

  • “It seems he especially likes to pester young Orthodox Christians with all sorts of what-if’s about dating, relationships, marriage, and monasticism.” What sort of what-if questions are you faced with? How do you handle them?
  • “The present moment is the place where time and eternity meet and where God enters into our lives.” Where have you seen God entered into your life?
  • “But the nasty What-If demon twists this necessary and spiritual undertaking into an anxiety-ridden, paralyzing question filling us with guilt, worry, and fear.” Sometimes I worry about what is going to happen for me after graduation. What if I don’t get a job or into law school? It fills me with fear for the future. Does that happen to anyone else? What do you do?
  • “We can’t confuse his what-if’s with repentance for the past or discernment about the future. Don’t let him convince you that his imaginary situations where he replays your past with anguishing regret are the same as contrition or the images he throws before you with terrorizing anxiety of futures that haven’t happened need to be addressed to find God’s will.” What do you think this section is trying to say?

Sometimes, the article even has questions built in for you!

  •  “Do you say “yes” to Christ in this moment with this breath? Are you listening for His call in your heart right now? Can you see Him in the person or situation that’s right in front of you?” These are perfectly easy questions to discuss with your chapter!

Have a Bible Study. 

How to Read the Bible and Where to Start

Never read the whole Bible? Confused by how it’s organized? Clueless as to where to begin? Never fear, OCF is here!

Resources for Bible Study

Help get your Bible Study going with the right texts and explanations from experts!

Here’s a great article from the OCF blog about the New Testament Canon to get you started!

Get advice on leading your chapter.

There’s also a whole section of posts on topics like getting more people to come to your meetings, managing chapter funds, working with other religious organizations, and more! Learn from others’ experience what works! Click on the tag Chapter Guide to access these articles!

Chapter Guides

 

Don’t see something you want or need?? Email us at blog@ocf.net with your questions and comments, and we’ll do our best to help you out!

5 Spiritual Books for Chapter Study

5 Spiritual Books for Chapter Study

The Way of the Pilgrim

Author: Anonymous

Length: 264 pages

What you can expect: An unnamed Russian pilgrim hears in church one day that he should, “pray without ceasing,” so he travels around on foot seeking wisdom on how to pray, specifically the Jesus Prayer

Why you should read it: The Way of the Pilgrim is a great introduction to the Jesus Prayer. It teaches you how to begin to pray not only in a monastic setting, but in many manners of living. Plus, it’s all told in an easy-to-read narrative style that feels like you’re reading a novel.

The Spiritual Life and How to Be Attuned to It

Author: St. Theophan the Recluse

Length: 320 pages

What you can expect: Short letters from St. Theophan to a young woman about how to cultivate her inner life and live virtuously amidst the worldliness and debauchery of the society around her

Why you should read it: St. Theophan is basically writing to a college student, and his advice is practical while challenging you to really take stock of who you are and why you do the things you do. It’s also great because the letters are super short–you could read one or two during a meeting, and even if you didn’t make it through the whole book, it would be worth it!

Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives

Author: Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

Length: 212 pages

What you can expect: The biography and teachings of Elder Thaddeus, a 20th century elder from Serbia who emphasizes how important our thoughts are to our entire spiritual life and outlook on others

Why you should read it: Elder Thaddeus has a great way of focusing our attention on how the demons misdirect us by influencing our thoughts and how we can reorient ourselves toward Christ through prayer. It’s great for a chapter book study because his teachings are organized by topic, so you could choose a particular one to focus on for a few weeks like “On Thoughts” or “On Love.”

Wounded by Love

Author: St. Porphyrios of Kafsokalivia

Length: 253 pages

What you can expect: The biography and teachings of one of the most recently canonized saints with tons of practical advice on prayer and dealing with difficult situations as well as lots of amazing miracle stories

Why you should read it: St. Porphyrios died in 1991, so the people he counsels throughout the book are not too different from you and me! His message of gentleness encompasses both our treatment of others and also our own spiritual lives. Like Elder Thaddeus, he covers a variety of topics in short sections so you can pick and choose what to read if you can’t cover the whole book in a semester.

Fr. Arseny: Priest, Prisoner, Spiritual Father

Author: Alexander (last name not given)

Length: 277 pages

What you can expect: An incredible biography of a priest living in a Soviet prison camp

Why you should read it: Few other books can describe the life of a saint perfected through suffering like this one. This book is packed with the miraculous and transformative work of an incredible spiritual father. His love and devotion to God and to others, no matter their station, personality, or sins all in the midst of his own great suffering will inspire you to follow in his footsteps.

Engaging Other Religious Student Organizations

Engaging Other Religious Student Organizations

We have been asked about how chapters can engage in interfaith and inter-Christian events and dialogue, and in honor of Orthodox Awareness Month and #TakeTheChallenge, we’d like to offer some suggestions.

Disclaimer: These cannot and should not serve as the only point of reference in planning events with other religious organizations. First and foremost, you should consult with your chapter’s Spiritual Advisor for guidance and discernment. Additionally, you can reference the document published by the Assembly of Bishops, Guidelines for Orthodox Christians in Ecumenical Relations

Fellowship

Fellowship events are a great way to get to know another religious group on campus. Hospitality is a great way to show love, and learning about other people is a great way to start a relationship! Here are a few tips!

If you are hosting:

  • Choose a “neutral” location like a coffee shop, a bowling alley, or an on-campus hangout.
  • If possible, show hospitality by providing food or a fun activity that your guests don’t have to pay for.
  • Listen more than you talk! Try to get to know the people you are hosting without letting your assumptions or preconceptions get in the way.
  • Remember you are trying to make friends not converts. Don’t tell another group you’d like to have dinner when you really intend to give them an exposition of why Orthodox Christianity is the one, true faith. While, of course, you’ll probably talk religion if you invite another religious group out to dinner, steer clear of debates, disparaging comments, and triumphalism.

If you are invited by another group:

  • Accept the invitation! Why not spend some time getting to know other people?
  • Rally a good showing. Do your best to have all or at least most of your group attend if you have all been invited.
  • Remember you are trying to make friends, not converts….see above. Be nice.

Service

Service projects are also a great way to work with other religious groups on campus, especially other Christian groups. We all share a common goal to serve others with love and to give without receiving in return. Here are a few pointers:

If you are hosting:

  • Invite the input of other leaders to figure out the best way to join forces on projects.
  • If possible, work through and with existing professional organizations (soup kitchens, nursing homes, shelters, etc.). These organizations and institutions know the best practices for their particular areas of service and can guide you in carrying out your work with compassion and love.
  • Invite your Spiritual Advisor or someone from the organization to debrief with your group at the end. It’s good to integrate your experiences into your everyday life, especially if you are working in an unfamiliar context.

If you are invited by another group:

  • Make sure that the service project doesn’t have any strings attached. Avoid situations where the services offered come with proselytizing.
  • Look into any organizations or institutions with which you are unfamiliar, and involve your Spiritual Advisor in the decision-making process.
  • Remember service is not about gaining recognition for your group. Again, avoid using service opportunities as a platform for debate.

Education

Taking time to learn about other faith groups and share the beauty of Orthodoxy can be a really exciting and fulfilling experience if done properly. The means for learning and sharing traditions can run the gamut, so here are a few ways to engage in dialogue productively and lovingly.

If you are hosting:

  • Remember that “come and see” is much more effective than “sit and listen to my lecture.” Think of ways to allow people to experience first-hand the spiritual beauty of Orthodoxy. For example, lead a tour of the local parish pointing out the various stories told in the icons, host Breaking Bread so that you can teach people about the Eucharist, or put on a chanting concert open to the public.
  • Find common ground as a starting place for discussion. Talk about the lives of the saints with Catholics, the centrality of the Scriptures with Protestants, the sacredness of God’s commandments with Jews, the need for self-denial with Buddhists…you get the idea. This means you’ll actually have to learn about your guests and their traditions if you want to have a meaningful discussion.
  • If you are setting up a discussion or a formal debate, make sure that there are ground rules set beforehand–first within your own chapter and then with the other group(s) participating–about speaking respectfully, what subjects/language is off-limits, how to make sure everyone gets a chance to be heard, etc. And then, follow the rules and guidelines you set up with the utmost care.
  • Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” If a question is raised to which you don’t know the answer, say so, and do your best to follow up. It’s much better to go and find out than to make something up or give a half-baked answer to save face.
  • Strive to love and understand, not to win or prove someone wrong. How you say or do something is just as important as what you say. Speak the truth in love, not with judgement, condemnation, or haughtiness. Remaining calm and speaking with love will provide a stronger witness of Christ’s grace working in you than reciting the canons of the Ecumenical Councils vociferously (I think St. Paul agrees).

If you are invited:

  • Accept invitations that allow simply for a better understanding of another faith group such as tours, concerts, and cultural fairs.
  • If you are invited to participate in a discussion, debate, or panel, make sure you know all the details: What is the end goal? Who else is invited? Who is funding or backing the forum? Will it be open to the public? Who is the moderator? What are the topics? Any of these things could be deciding factors as to whether or not you should participate. You’re going to need your Spiritual Advisor’s involvement on this one for sure.
  • Remember that if you choose to participate in a debate where you are the only Orthodox Christian, both your words and actions will, whether you like it or not, reflect on the Church and Christ. Tread carefully in these situations, and try to avoid putting yourself in a position where you do not feel prepared to speak on a particular topic.

Worship

Worship is the trickiest category when working with other religious groups. You should always involve your Spiritual Advisor when it comes to making decisions about inter-Christian or interfaith prayer and worship. This is when that guide from the Assembly of Bishops really comes in handy, too.

If you are hosting:

  • You can always invite people to visit Orthodox worship services. I suggest Vespers or Paraklesis as a good starting place if people are interested. If you host a Day of Light, you get a built in opportunity to pray for others and invite them to visit an Orthodox service.
  • Be prepared with books or printouts for people to follow the service, and make sure that you are available to guide people along if they look lost.
  • Make time to discuss the services before or after so that people have an opportunity to ask questions.
  • If you bring groups to Liturgy, respectfully let them know beforehand that only baptized and chrismated Orthodox Christians may receive Holy Communion.

If you are invited:

  • Generally speaking, Orthodox Christians can participate in non-liturgical prayer with other Christians and can observe the worship of others without participating, but get the blessing of your Spiritual Advisor to go.
  • Be kind and curious. Ask questions respectfully and do not use another’s hospitality as an opportunity to insult them.
  • If you feel uncomfortable, leave. And along the same lines, if someone in your group doesn’t feel comfortable attending at all, don’t pressure or force them to go.
  • Avoid participating in any sacramental or spiritual rituals including, but not limited to, receiving communion in a non-Orthodox church, altar calls, offerings to idols, or meditation.

Above all, seek the guidance of your Spiritual Advisor, be faithful to the Jesus Christ and His Church, and do your best to love others by giving them your respect and attention.

The Best Orthodox Media for College Students in 20 Minutes or Less

The Best Orthodox Media for College Students in 20 Minutes or Less

It’s often tempting to think that we are all so busy that we don’t have time to really engage in spiritual things. Well, thanks to the amazing work of Ancient Faith Ministries, Y2AM, and many others, there are now hundreds of blogs, podcasts, videos, and other media out there to help us grow. Here are seven podcasts and video series that run under 20 minutes that we think you should start following. Did we mention that many of these speakers will be at College Conference this year? Click on the images to start listening and watching today!

The Morning Offering

MorningOfferingAverage Length: 4 minutes

What you can expect: A short, daily reflection on the spiritual life, culture, and other bits of wisdom from the booming voice of Abbot Tryphon

Why you should listen: In four minutes, Abbot Tryphon can give you food for thought for a whole day, whether he is talking about loving our neighbor, humility, or current events.

Be the Bee

BeTheBeeAverage Length: 5 minutes

What you can expect: Orthodox theology, tradition, and practice in small, manageable bites always with the goal of searching out and acting on the good in God’s creation featuring the infamous Steve Christoforou

Why you should watch: Ever wonder why we do what we do in Orthodox worship and practice? Need a spiritual pick-me-up? Sometimes feel like there’s a lot of negativity in the world? Steve’s your guy. With humor, wisdom, and a real love for people, Steve shares how we can, like St. Basil and St. Paisios, “be the bee.”

The Trench

TheTrench

Average Length: 5 minutes

What you can expect: Relationships–why they matter, what they look like, how they form us, and how they save us with Christian Gonzalez, husband, father, and Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for the GOA

Why you should watch: This is Y2AM’s newest video series, but from what we can tell, it’s gonna be good. Whether you’re thinking about family, friends, dating, work, or school, your life is filled with relationships, and Christian wants to help you see whoever you encounter as an opportunity to meet Christ and to engage in the spiritual life. Plus, this guy is just downright hilarious.

The Path

ThePath

Average Length: 7 minutes

What you can expect: The daily Scripture readings according to the New Calendar with a brief reflection from Fr. Tom Soroka

Why you should listen: It’s hard to make up excuses for not reading Scripture daily when you can listen to Fr. Tom read it to you on your way to class!

 

Coffee with Sister Vassa

CoffeeWithSrVassaAverage Length: 10 minutes

What you can expect: Reflections on Scripture, saints, and liturgy presented with the hilarious and dry humor of Sister Vassa Larin

Why you should watch: Sister Vassa is a professor of liturgy in Vienna, Austria, so her reflections on the liturgical life of the Church, feast days, saints, and Scripture come with a professor’s authority and knowledge, and she also shares practical ways we can imitate the saints and follow the Word of God. Plus, you don’t want to miss her entertaining captions, sound effects, and photos of the “zillions” drinking coffee with her.

Praying in the Rain

PrayingInTheRain

Average Length: 15 minutes

What you can expect: Excellent and personable reflections from Fr. Michael Gillis on prayer, suffering, temptation, bad thoughts, and the whole of the inner life often drawing on the writings of contemporary saints like St. Porphyrios and classic works like the Philokalia

Why you should listen: Listening to Fr. Michael is like having a spiritual elder on your smartphone. As you are learning to pray, facing the inevitable temptations that arise, falling, and getting back up again to follow Christ, Fr. Michael can give you great, simple advice along the way.

Becoming a Healing Presence

BecomingAHealingPresenceAverage Length: 15-20 minutes

What you can expect: Dr. Albert Rossi from St. Vladimir’s speaks on a variety of topics that cover contemporary moral issues, Scripture, psychology, and relationships all in the context of Christ healing us so that we, too, can be a healing presence

Why you should listen: If you’ve never met or listened to Dr. Rossi, you’ll learn that no topic is off limits for him. You can browse or search the archives of his podcast and find episodes on things as diverse as pornography, schizophrenia, vocation, marriage, suicide, forgiveness, and time management.