By: Caden Coutz
I did not know that Orthodox Christianity existed until I came to Eastern University. I visited an Orthodox liturgy and immediately fell in love with it. The beauty of the service and the kindness of the people stayed with me, and it is now the church I attend regularly. I was also thrilled to hear that there is an Orthodox Christian Fellowship on campus that allows non-Orthodox members to participate.
According to their website, “Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) is the official collegiate campus ministry program under the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America.” The mission statement says, “OCF transforms the lives of college students by guiding them along the path to Jesus Christ through His Church, cultivating a campus community of worship, witness, service, fellowship and education.”
Orthodoxy in general is one of the three main Christian groups, along with Catholicism and Protestantism. Despite their long history, the Orthodox are a very small minority in the U.S., comprising about 0.5% of the population. They have a far larger presence in Central and Eastern Europe, and, to a lesser extent, the Middle East and Africa.
I asked Simon Kwilinski, vice president of OCF, to describe Orthodoxy. He replied, “Eastern Orthodoxy is a collective term for the Christian denominations descending from the ancient churches in Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria. It is the historic Christian church, maintained through a line of apostolic succession beginning with the apostles.” The Orthodox Church claims to be the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church” referred to in the Nicene Creed.
The Orthodox Church that OCF attends is St. Philip’s in Souderton, about a 40-minute drive away from Eastern’s campus. It is one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever been in. The room where liturgy is held has walls covered in icons (paintings of Christ and saints, as well as Biblical stories). The service is almost entirely chanted by the exceptional choir, and many of the chants remain playing in my head for hours at a time. After liturgy, there is a coffee hour where parishioners mingle, share a meal and hold a conversation.
Fr. Noah, a priest at St. Philip’s, says, “St. Philip’s is an English language parish of the ancient church of Antioch (where the disciples were first called Christians – Acts 11:26) about 40 minutes north of Eastern University. We are blessed with a beautiful church facility, vibrant icons, a strong choir, robust educational programs, warm hospitality, active ministries, many growing families and lively fellowship.”
OCF meets Wednesdays nights at 7:00 for service in the chapel, often led by one of the priests from St. Philip’s. They also provide rides to St. Philip’s for Vespers on Saturday night and Liturgy on Sunday morning. First-year, Abigail Laird says that OCF is “The highlight of my week.” Kwilinski says, “OCF provides a community for Orthodox Christians on Eastern’s campus, while also creating opportunities for others to learn about Orthodoxy. We host speakers who give talks on theology and the Faith. We seek to bring students on pilgrimages to churches and monasteries.”
Kwilinski finished by saying, “Anyone is welcome to OCF, especially if they are interested in learning more about Orthodoxy. Feel free to contact me or come to our services.”
Sources: Pew Research, OCF