Learning to Be an Orthodox Leader

Learning to Be an Orthodox Leader

Hello, my name is Danielle Hines! I’m from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (the Johnstown area to be specific). I’m here to talk to you all about SLI, and my experience there this past August!

How did you hear about SLI, and how you decide to come?

I heard about SLI from college conference 2017 and further from Caroline Mellekas (SLB Chairman). I was interested in going, but when summer came around I went to camp at the Antiochian Village for PLC, I was still on the fence about it. I was nervous that I wouldn’t know anyone there. Luckily, I met Peter Karos (College Confrence Midwest Leader), and he and Caroline, convinced me to attend saying I would love it and I would have an amazing time.

What did you want to get out of SLI, did you end up getting that?

I wanted to learn to be a better Orthodox leader and to learn more about my faith in a different way then I have before. Yes, I did get these things out of SLI and even more. I learned that working alone is sometimes the most difficult thing to do, and it’s ok to ask for help. I learned so much about praying and got a different perspective on generosity in the church.

What was your favorite session, what did you learn, and why did you like it?

My favorite session from SLI was Fr Stephen Vernak’s (SLI Spiritual Advisor) on Beginning to Pray by Anthony Bloom. I learned a new perspective on being still and prayer isn’t a big gesture we need to do all the time, and praying can be as simple as just crossing ourselves or saying morning prayers. One of his quotes that stuck with me and was, “We should try live in such a way that if the Gospels were lost, they could rewritten by looking us.” Another point from the book he focused on was our relationship with the Lord starts with each other. He also gave us two Bible verses on stillness. Those were Exodus 14:13 and Psalm 45:11. The biggest thing I took from this talk was to find your stillness and keep calm with prayers. The reason I liked this session was it help me in an area I was really struggling as a Orthodox Christian.

Describe your favorite moment from the institute.

My favorite moment of the institute was sitting at night and talking to everyone. At one point after dinner I noticed we were all sitting, talking to each other scattered all around the retreat center, some people upstairs some people down stairs and some cooking marshmallows by the fire that was outside. And at one point, we all looked at each other and said, “Let’s go up stairs and dance!” So we danced to Arabic music, Greek music, and even learned some Russian dances as well. We all had come together, and no matter what jurisdiction we were, we all came together that night.

My second favorite moment is from the first night, when all the participants had arrived we all went into the the chapel and chanted Paraklesis after evening prayers in celebration of the Dormition of the Theotokos. It was the most beautiful thing I had heard and seen in a long time. All the students and jurisdictions worshiping together, singing the service.

What are the things that you are going to take with you as an Orthodox Leader?

The things i’m going to take with me as an Orthodox Leader is to show others the teachings of the Church through my actions, guided by my love for God. Every person is different, and might not understand them one way or the other. I’m also going to take with me being a better listener and listening to people’s thoughts and problems making sure I listen before I react.

This is my reflection on SLI I hope this gives your a perspective of what SLI is and about I hope many of you come and participate. I will definitely be coming back next year to SLI and I hope you’ll join me!

+In Christ,

Danielle Hines


Read this if you feel like the world is yelling at you

Read this if you feel like the world is yelling at you

Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping! Your phone is always buzzing and ringing. So many notifications, commercials, emails, deadlines, phone calls, and responsibilities that can make the world feel like its constantly yelling at you. We Orthodox Christians have a high regard for silence and stillness, but one of the best antidotes for this loudness is in fact, listening.

In iconography, the Saints are written with small mouths and bigger ears. This shows us how they spent less time talking and more time listening. How many times have you been in a conversation, and someone is talking to you but all you hear are the roaring thoughts inside your head? The person is talking to you but you heard none of it, so you’re best response is a “huh” a “what?” or a nervous laugh accompanied with a disinterested head nod.

Listening requires attention. You can’t just ‘skim’ a conversation like how you would read af facebook article. You can’t just ‘skip’ the boring parts of a conversation like you could for a podcast. When you are in a conversation you are not just getting words you’re getting emotion, subtilties of expression, and the opportunity to ask questions. When you’re talking with someone and really listening you get connection. That connection is life’s ‘volume button’ where in that moment, the rest of the world quiets down and you can truly listen, allowing you to see through the eyes of another human being.

What do you need to be a good listener?

  • Eye contact. The eyes are the window to the soul, and true listening is an act of love, and therefore a labor of the spirt.
  • An open heart. Sometimes you are going to hear things that are difficult to accept or hear. If you are armed with an open heart full of love,
  • Prayer. When we don’t know what to say, the Holy Spirit will take care of it. Ask for help, and you shall receive, but sometimes just listening to someone’s problems will go a lot further than you’d think.
  • Time. Give people your time, and therefore your attention when you want to listen. It is our most valuable resource and giving it to people is definitely worth it.
  • Your questions. Questions are how you let others know they are being heard, and can help make conversations dig deeper and deeper.

God listens to us all the time. Prayer is our time to talk, and know that God is the greatest listener of all time, because He knows what is in your heart, not just what you say. Pray to Him, and really open up because He is there with open arms and an even more open heart.

Listening is a human experience that draws us closer together. Find the times in your day where you can listen to the people around you, whether it be a sibling, a friend a roommate or a classmate. All the distractions that are in our lives can make us feel disconnected. Opening our ears and our hearts will open the world up to us.