Have you ever met someone and just felt at home? Yes? Well, have you ever met a group of people and felt the same way within 48 hours? Most people don’t. And yet, at all the OCF retreats that I’ve been to, I have found this to be a common theme.
These retreats are great because you get to learn more about your faith and, at the same time, connect with people who have the same core values as you. At the past Northeast Regional Retreat, which I attended from March 3rd-5th, I learned more about “Breathing Underwater: Yearning for Stillness and Communion.” Living as a college student on a college campus, it can definitely feel as if you are underwater. Many of the things that surround you do not revolve around Christ, or the Church, and much even defies the Church’s teachings. It can be hard to practice your faith while constantly being in this environment. Furthermore, it can be difficult to find other Orthodox students on campus who share your beliefs.
By being in an Orthodox setting, surrounded by Orthodox students my age for about three days straight, I was truly able to get to the surface. As I listened to Deacon Tishel’s talks and had amazing fellowship with the other students, I was finally able to gulp in the fresh air after having to hold my breath for so long. I cherish these retreats very much, as they are a way to re-energize my soul before having to re-enter the cold water.
When I go back to campus after the retreats and feel my head becoming enclosed by water again, I know that I will have the strength to breath underwater. I know that I can rely on my faith and the Church to help guide me through the currents, and the people that I’ve met at the retreats to lend me some oxygen when I think I am starting to run out.
I am very thankful for Orthodox Christian Fellowship and the retreats that they offer. A big thank you to Spyridoula Fotinis and Elias Pappas for organizing this last retreat. You guys did an amazing job! I can’t wait for the next one!
Bumper to bumper traffic!? It’s starting to drizzle and we were supposed to be there two hours ago. But, here we are, stuck in traffic and I have to open registration in five minutes.
To say the least, trying to plan a regional retreat can be stressful. You plan and plan, but when the day comes it’s out of your control. … It’s in God’s hands and without fail, everything always works out better than ever imagined.
When you spend time with people who are brimming with Christ’s love, words are never enough to describe the time spent together. The Northeast Regional Retreat was centered around the idea of “Looking Beyond Appearances” and in doing so, learning more about who we are, who God is, and who our neighbors are. Each of us–consciously or unconsciously–did just that.
From the moment everyone came in and started to get to know one another, all “masks” were put away and time was spent together in prayer, in laughter, and in deep conversation, questioning and struggling to grow together in our spiritual lives.
During the three short days we were with one another, we grew together because Christ was at the center: He was in our minds, on our lips, and in our hearts. I would even go as far to say that we became a little family, filled with unique and wonderful people who all clicked so well. We listened to each other, we teased each other, we prayed together, and we spent a couple of early morning hours snacking away in the kitchen looking at all the exotic animals we could purchase online. What more can you ask for in a weekend?
One of my favorite moments, out of the countless favorites, was when the large group of people playing cards all suddenly disappeared. We found them finishing up an Akathist in the chapel, about to begin a Paraklesis. As everyone joined in the chapel, time ceased to exist as we chanted with all our hearts, singing various hymns and songs in different languages from unique practices, the glow of the candlelight illuminating every person’s face.
Even though the time to depart always arrives too soon, it is a blessing to know that the Christ-filled people you spent the weekend with are still close to you through prayer and are just a phone call or message away if you need anything. What always amazes me is that each person is so willing to keep in touch and to help each other draw closer to Christ.
Ben’s post said it perfectly, register and go. God takes care of the rest.
Spyridoula Fotinis is a sophomore in International Studies at County College of Morris. She currently serves as the Northeast Student Leader on the 2016-2017 Student Leadership Board.