Have you ever done something just to see if it would be fun or enjoyable? I went into College Conference (CC) East 2014 not having the slightest idea of what it was going to be like, but just wanting to experience it. I had heard about the Conference while I was working this past summer at Camp Nazareth. The Camp staff who attended the previous year (College Conference East 2013) told me a number of times to go and see what it was about, but I never put too much thought into it. That is until the time came to register and I had an opportunity to go. I asked Emili Malatesta, a close friend who also worked at Camp, and an attendee of CC East the previous year, countless questions trying to prepare myself for the Conference. In the end, I still only had the information she gave me and an outlined schedule from on the CC website. What I experienced and learned at the Conference went far beyond the information I received and any of my expectations. The workshops that they offered gave me a closer look into my faith and also how to experience that theme, “Our Royal Priesthood” in my everyday life.
The theme of CC this year was “Our Royal Priesthood” referring to the teaching of the Scriptures and the Fathers, and it has really struck into the heart of me. At first I did not understand how I could be part of the Royal Priesthood, but learned that as believers we are ALL (females included) part of the Royal Priesthood – that is those set apart to continue the work of Jesus Christ our Lord in and to the world. Everyone, not just males, are a part of this priesthood and are called to be its active members.
The Conference’s Keynote speaker, Bishop John, brought this idea of our own royal priesthood to our attention on multiple occasions during our time with him. He wanted us to see that we, Orthodox Christians, are all part of this royal priesthood through Christ. This is something alive and thriving in us by our priest-like actions in our day-to-day lives and through our Baptisms. I am very aware that I do not know the Bible well enough, but I do remember hearing about a Royal Priesthood sometime before. I was curious about where the phrase came from, so I looked it up with handy-dandy Google and found 1 Peter 2:9. It is the Scriptural basis of Bishop John’s talks and embodies our call to live like priests in the world – that is those who offer everything back to God in gratitude. We are all baptized in Christ and since Christ is The One Priest we are given the grace to conduct ourselves in a Christ-like manner in our daily ministries. I never really thought I could live like a priest, without being a priest, but Bishop John helped me see how my actions can be priestly.
The other workshops also left strong impressions on me. I am a Biology major at Eastern Connecticut State University, so when I saw that they offered a workshop involving science and religion I knew I had to go. The priest who gave the presentation drew correlations between the start of the universe and our religion which I found extremely enjoyable, considering the fact that I believe God had caused the Big Bang. After all, how can things bang together without God being behind it!
A woman named Mary gave the next workshop I attended. The whole idea behind her presentation is what I like to call, “Let go and let God”. She talked about stress management in our busy college lives. Between work, school, sports, family, and my studies it is very hard for me personally to save time for God and not worry about the past or what the future holds for me after I graduate. Mary got my attention when she drew a graph on the board. This graph showed our past, present, and future. She explained that by living in the past or future we are not living in our present. By not living in our present we are not experiencing eternity. I was stunned when she said this, simply because the thought never occurred to me to think about the stress in my life in this way. It all made sense to me and it finally “clicked” that I am only living in the present so I should not worry about my past or what lies ahead on the road that is my life.
College Conference was an amazing experience and I will advertise it to as many college students as I can. It truly brought together young Orthodox college students that share a common Faith and gave us opportunities to fellowship together. I hope to attend next year, grow even further in my faith, and develop a deeper relationship with God and with those around me who are going through the same college experience in their lives!
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