“No one can have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother,” writes Saint Cyprian of Carthage in the early centuries of Christianity. Growing up in the Orthodox Church, I have always lived by this sentiment. The Church has played a vital role in my relationship with Christ and was (and still is) intrinsically part of who I am. This was certainly something on my mind when looking at universities to attend.
While Orthodoxy is the second largest sect of Christianity worldwide, there are only a million or so members in the United States. I thought this would be an obstacle when searching for Orthodoxy in higher education.
Then I discovered Eastern. Unique to our campus is the Center for Orthodox Thought and Culture. The more I learned about the program, the more I discovered how the riches of my Church were alive and well in Wayne, Pennsylvania. An organization that works closely with the Center is Eastern’s local chapter of the Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF). OCF is a nation-wide college ministry that seeks to foster the Church body on campuses through local chapters.
Though Eastern’s chapter of OCF is only a few years old, I learned very quickly that it has a healthy pulse. I am currently serving my first term as president, and I couldn’t be more blessed to be in this position. When we get together, each meeting typically follows one of four themes: fellowship, worship, education, and service to others. We do anything from inviting guest speakers for wonderful presentations to going out for dinner and playing games together. OCF for me has fostered friendships between people with very diverse backgrounds, yet the same fundamental building blocks that unite us in Christ. It has been such an amazing experience because before college, I only had a few Orthodox friends my age. Now I have a community of friends my age who share the same beliefs. As I grow closer and closer to the Church, I am finding that it is very different from other denominations in Christianity. The more I discover this, the more I see the importance of a community that keeps me grounded in my Church. We are all fully united in our faith, and to me, that is incredibly liberating. College has been a whirlwind of new experiences that I have been so blessed to try, but at the end of the day, it is important to remember your roots. While I can grow, change, and try new things, I know that I have a constant reminder of who I am in Christ through the OCF community.
OCF has also been a wonderful outlet to share the ancient faith with those that have never been exposed to it. We are constantly having new faces come to meetings to see what we are about. The more I share my knowledge and passion for the Church with others, the deeper I fall in love with it myself. Whether we grow closer through fellowship, worship, learning together, service, or sharing our love with others, I am incredibly grateful for the impact OCF has left on my college experience thus far. It has provided me with a means of growing closer to Christ and His Church, and for that–I thank God.