It’s a question that has bothered me, over my time as a young adult making the effort. You all know that kid in your one discussion class? The one who has an opinion about, um, everything? Always dropping unnecessarily big words that they don’t even properly understand? Convinced they have great insight worthy of sharing at the drop of a hat?
Sometimes, that’s how I felt about reading the Scriptures at a personal level. I don’t think I’m nearly as good at reading and understanding the Scriptures as, say, the priest I see every Sunday who went to seminary and learned how to interpret the Bible. I mean, if understanding Scripture were easy, there wouldn’t be a big talk right after the Gospel reading to unpack what was just said. I didn’t want to become the “that guy” who reads through something incredibly complex and fools himself into thinking he understands it.
And, funnily enough, that fear has shaped a lot of my experience reading through the Scriptures so far. If you flip through my copy of the Bible, you’ll find way more question marks in the margins than anything else. Focused on my lack of understanding, I’ve had the experience of learning some while reading the Bible, but asking and wondering even more.
But it’s not a bad wondering. I’m not at the place where I feel I don’t understand my faith or that the Bible is saying things that surprise me and shock me. It’s a good wondering–it proves that my faith is dynamic, layered, and alive. Sure, there are question marks in the chapters and verses not read in the Sunday cycle of Bible readings, but there are plenty of question marks in the familiar parables as well.
Also–and this may shock you–reading something daily is better than reading something weekly. Honestly, it surprised me–my experience reading the Scriptures consistently has helped color in the gaps between the Gospel narrative provided by only a weekly dip. I promise you, I had no idea how often Jesus “got on a boat and went to the other side” until I started reading Matthew every single day of the week.
But that’s just a casual example: reading the full narrative elucidates the relationship between Jesus and the Pharisees, Jesus and his disciples, the people and Jesus Christ. You come better to understand how immediately Jesus starting challenging the law and foreshadowing the Crucifixion and Resurrection.
If you’re like me, you’re reading something for class every single day. If you’re reading something for Classic English Lit on the daily, and you’re not reading Scripture on the daily, which is important to you? Which will have a greater influence on your life? You’re getting to class every day (at least, you’re telling your mom you are)–but you can’t get to church every day, can you?
Me? I watch football literally every. single. day. If I’m not finding a way to actively, intentionally, hungrily engage with my faith on the daily, I’m losing spiritual ground to a game. That’s not good.
So I read the Scripture because I’m quite fearful of what might happen if I don’t. I’ll distance myself from my Lord, keeping Him at a distance and keeping my faith as a static, placid entity that I’ve fooled myself into believing I fully understand. That sounds lazy, irresponsible, and scary. And I want to avoid things like that.
I use MyBiblePlans.com to create my schedule (it’s fully customizable). It uploads directly to my Google Calendar, so I can get handy little notifications on my phone.
Sup team! My name is Benjamin Solak, and I’ll be your Publications Student Leader for OCF 2017-2018!
Wait…didn’t you do this job last year?
And they gave it to you again?!
I’m as surprised as you are, dear reader.
Okay, so what’s the plan for the blog this year?
A lot of super cool stuff. After our Blog Contributor program went super well last year, we look to be reviving that this year, starting in October, with a couple familiar faces, and some new ones too. If you’re interested in being a Blog Contributor, or if you’re unfamiliar with the program, you should email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’ll be looking to engage the community in an even bigger way this year. The loveliest part of the OCF Blog is that it is an ongoing, national effort of OCF. It allows OCFers from Nebraska and New York to connect with those in Nevada and North Carolina. Anytime there is a College Conference, Real Break trip, Regional Retreat, District Retreat, Day of Prayer activity, Day of Light activity, OAM challenge–anything–I want to hear about it! If your chapter has done something cool and you think the blog should know, you should email me at email@example.com.
Are you just thirsty for emails because they make you feel important?
Oh, most definitely.
Do you have anything else in the works for us to know about?
Okay, what else CAN you tell us?
I’m a third-year student at the University of Chicago (which is in Chicago. Sometimes people ask me that.) studying Comparative Human Development. I’m an unhealthy football fan, and I cover the Philadelphia Eagles for a site called Bleeding Green Nation, and college football and the NFL Draft with NDT Scouting. I run when my knee doesn’t hurt and complain when it does. Sometimes I pace myself, and eat the entire package of Chips Ahoy Chewy in two sittings.
I can also tell you that the mission of this blog is to magnify exposure. Whether it’s something done in the OCF that merits the eyes of the national body, or if it’s you, and how the OCF blog can assist your spiritual growth and enrich your college life. The four pillars of OCF are fellowship, education, worship, and service–and all four of those will be highlighted throughout the year, that the multiple and international efforts of OCF may always present to you a full body of the church.
I run the blog, but the blog isn’t about me, it’s about you–and, not unlike Horton the elephant, I mean what I say and say what I mean. As your OCF year enters full swing, I’m excited to be right there with you.
What a guy.
Oh stop, you.
Read on for a post about chapter meeting and activity ideas that incorporate the four pillars of OCF!
OCF College Conference East was a whirlwind of social and religious activities. The conference included church services, a lip sync battle, keynote sessions, workshops, and a banquet. As far as excitement goes, I definitely have to say the banquet won, hands down. What made the banquet so exciting was the dance that took place after a wonderful meal. This was not your normal dance, however, for ethnic melodies were the songs of choice. It was extremely interesting to see various cultures’ styles of music and dancing. It was really neat to see everyone embrace cultural differences as we participated in the Arab dances consisting of stomping and drum beating, the Greek line dances coupled with amazing tricks with a glass of water, and finally, the Carpatho-Rusyn spinning dances to polka music.
OCFers dancing during the Lip Sync Battle — be sure to check out all of our #CCEAST16 photos here!
Much social fun during the conference was also coupled with great spiritual jubilation. The conference was fortunate enough to be visited by the weeping icon called the Kardiotissa, or Tender Heart. The icon miraculously streams oil and countless miracles are attributed to it–from causing tumors to vanish to allowing people to regain the ability to walk. Feelings of awe and amazement fell among us as we witnessed the miracle of streaming oil in front of our very own eyes.
Aside from the icon and banquet, we had various educational lectures. At the conference, we were lucky enough to be told the secret of life by workshop speaker Jason Catanese. The secret of life is simply to breathe, because our breath has power. With it, we can say things to accomplish great things in the world. Jason also spoke about how we are all called to be priests. He called all of us not literally to be priests, but to be priests by giving back to God using our breath.
This concept is very similar to an amusing yet truthful story told by keynote speaker, Father Timothy Hojnicki. It went something like this. There was a car covered with a peace symbol and Christian bumper stickers such as the fish and a cross. After being cut off, the driver of the vehicle with the bumper stickers had a fit of rage, cursing, screaming, and flipping the bird. A little while down the road, the car with the bumper stickers was pulled over by a police officer. The officer got out of his vehicle and said, “I pulled you over because, after witnessing what just happened and taking note of your bumper stickers, this is clearly a stolen vehicle.”
The moral of the story is that, as Christians, we must set a good example for others as by loving one another and living holy lives as we are representing the church. This is similar to the idea of not just going to church, but actually being the church. We were called to question ourselves, how do others see Christ in me.
Jason Catanese speaks at #CCEAST16. All photos of College Conference East accredited to Victor Lutes.
Some other ideas talked about during the conference include the theme of “Come and See”. During the conference, we learned to invite others to our churches, and what to tell them when they come. This includes explaining how everything in the church, from the setup of the physical structure to the ceremonies we participate in, have meaning behind them.
For those college students that did not attend College Conference, I encourage you to come next year. The experience I had was truly amazing and eye-opening. In meeting other Orthodox Christians, I have built friendships that are stronger any others I have had previously, and I now have the support of other Orthodox Christians as I face the challenges of college. College students and future college students, I leave you with some parting thoughts from His Grace, Bishop Gregory of Nyssa. He said, “I don’t care what you study. Just be the best and be Orthodox, so then you are the best Orthodox doctor, best Orthodox whatever.”
Nick is a freshman accounting major at Seton Hall University and plans to help start a new OCF chapter at Seton Hall.
It’s been almost a month since the Summer Leadership Institute. That’s pretty nuts.
SLI was an opportunity for the entire Student Leadership Board to come together for a few days in fellowship, education, worship, and service. Our Media Student Leader, Dan Bein, actually just posted this video of your SLB members sharing what they’ve learned, and for what they’re excited. Check it out:
Now, a month removed from the retreat, embroiled in my new position in OCF, I wanted to ask myself the very same questions: what have I learned so far? And for what am I excited?
SLI was really one of my first ever OCF experiences. I don’t have an active chapter at my university (if you’re in Chicago, hit me up!), and I wasn’t able to attend my regional retreat last year. I attended College Conference East solely off of the insistence of my sister, and it was awesome, but that was really it for me and big OCF events. Coming in, I didn’t know what to expect.
I learned that taking that leap of faith, going and spending time with a bunch of collegiate Orthodox Christians, is worth the risk. And don’t get it twisted, it is a risk. Attending that first OCF meeting is a risk, going to that district/regional retreat is a risk, because there are a lot of unknowns. There are a lot of variables out of your control, and I’m not going to lie to you, it could get uncomfortable, and it could be kinda…meh.
But it’s worth the risk.
The potential value you can receive–in support from your peers, in education from their vast bases of experience and knowledge, in bonds of fellowship and worship–is invaluable. Every time you meet an Orthodox Christian college student, it gives you permission to be one as well. Every time you meet someone struggling in the same struggles you experience at college, it assures you that you’re not alone, and validates your struggle as one being undertaken by many. Every time you meet someone who has overcome the struggle with which you currently struggle, it proves to you that it’s possible.
One Christian is no Christian; there is no such thing as a Christian alone. The OCF is a fellowship, it is an Orthodox Christian fellowship, and strengthening that fellowship, adding another bond to the unbelievably expansive and interwoven web of Orthodox Christians across the globe, will always be worth the effort, the energy, and the risk.
One Christian is no Christian; there is no such thing as a Christian alone.
And I’m really excited to take that risk. I am totally stoked to spend the rest of the year putting myself out on a line for my brothers and sisters in Christ. Great things never came from comfort zones; nothing happens to the man who stays in place. I am so excited to get uncomfortable for every member of the OCF, friend or stranger, knowingly or unknowingly.
How much does a polar bear weigh? Enough to break the ice, and I’m gonna break as much ice as I possibly can, that everyone can experience the power of the Orthodox Christian relationships I grew over the span of two, three days.
SLI 2016 was electrifying. I can feel the energy buzzing in my veins every time I write a post, and I can still feel it after while I’m typing another stinkin’ e-mail. I can hear that same lightning crackling in my comrades from SLI, when I interact with them, when I ask them about their programs/regions–their zeal, their fervor, their love dances across their countenance and illumines the work they painstakingly do. SLI 2016 was electrifying, but don’t miss it: it wasn’t so galvanizing for our sakes. It was galvanizing for yours.
So take the risk, take the plunge. Take yourself out of your comfort zone for the young man on your left, the young woman on your right, and the Christ in all three of you. Go that extra mile, take that extra step–the value is there, I promise you, it’s there waiting for you. You just have to go out and get it.
Last year at College Conference, I had the opportunity to be a small group leader. When I asked my group what they wanted most out of the conference, my group members all told me a similar story: they felt lonely and disconnected at their respective schools and wanted a couple days to feel in communion with other Orthodox Christians their age that also regard their faith as the most important aspect of their existence.
CC West 2015
I was surprised by this “wish”. It was a relatively quaint request, to feel like you belong somewhere. Yet, it was also a vital need for not only young people, but humans in general. Even though I barely knew my group members, I was immensely proud of them. I was proud that they turned to the Orthodox community to fill this void. I also became excited because I knew I would be learning a lot from these individuals over the course of the conference.
Last March, my boyfriend passed away. I stared at the wall for months. I avoided friends. I avoided activities I normally loved. I avoided sleep. The only time I would leave the house would be to go to church with my mother. But at church, I never talked with anyone, I never engaged with the community till months later. I came to escape from the wretched loneliness and from the irrational guilt by being in the presence of the Lord; I did not see any gain by building relationships with the young people of my church in Castro Valley.
I am so thankful now that I turned my heart to God while entrenched with grief. These young people in my group were doing the same thing: they were trusting in God to provide for all their needs. But my group members had realized something that I had failed to, that engaging with other young adults had value and was an essential part of our faith.
I am so thankful now that I turned to my heart to God while entrenched with grief.
All these years I never fully believed that I needed the community of the church for personal issues, triumphs, and failures. Thankfully, College Conference showed me a different reality: my student brothers and sisters in Christ are essential for my healing, whether it be mental, spiritual, emotional, or physical. How else would one be able to experience and appreciate all the beautiful layers of our services, biblical material, and hymns without discussion with other perceptive and hungry-for-spiritual-fruit young people? I made so many wonderful friends that quickly proved to be some of the most reliable, sweet and wholesome people in my life.
Go to College Conference, because like me, I am sure you do not realize how much you need it.
Andriana Malhi is a Senior at UC Davis and is majoring in Psychology and Religious studies. She hopes to get her Psy.D in Clinical Psychology after Davis. Fun Facts: Andriana is also is a bonafide cat lady and her favorite saint is Ayia Thekla.