During my fall semester of school, I received a call from Fr. Stephen Loposky asking if I wanted to go to the OCF College Conference at the Antiochian Village. At first I was hesitant about going. I wasn’t sure who was going to be there and what we would be doing. Also, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to give up time over my winter break to travel somewhere for a couple days. After I found out who was going, I decided to give it a shot. As the days were approaching, I talked to some of my friends and fellow Camp co-workers who were also going and began to become really excited! I was ready to experience a fun weekend with friends and fellow OCF students.
As I pulled into the Antiochian Village, I was very surprised at what I saw. I was expecting us to be staying in cabins like we do at Camp Nazareth, but it looked exactly like a hotel and conference center. I checked in, got settled and waited for my friends to arrive. Once they arrived, the fun really began! We met some new people at “meet and greets” and began to really enjoy ourselves. Bishop Gregory was the keynote speaker for this Conference so that was also a great thing! During his first keynote speech, he made all his Diocesan college students stand up so that he could show off his people. There were only 10 of us that were there so we really stuck out among 300 or so other college students. From there on out, we were known as the Russians.
Throughout the weekend, we went to workshops that were all centered on a common theme, “Unity in the Community”. Basically throughout the weekend, we learned how to stay connected to and through our Orthodox Faith while being able to embrace our different cultures and traditions. In one workshop I attended, the speaker talked about how every culture in the Orthodox Faith is different, but we all share that common Faith whether we are Greek, Russian or Antiochian. We all need to embrace where our ancestors came from and not be afraid of how far we have come in our shared Orthodox Faith! Another workshop that I went to was how family, friends and significant others fit into your life with Christ. Everything that we learned in these workshops was very helpful and beneficial. It related to every one’s life in some aspect and really made me understand more about myself and my Faith.
Overall this weekend was an amazing experience for me! I got to spend a entire weekend with my fellow OCF students, friends and most importantly our Bishop! I didn’t just learn about my faith, I learned about how other people practice in their churches, what ethnic music they listen to and the kinds of dances they dance. Even though I was not like everyone else who was there, I learned about how they live in our common Orthodox Faith and how to embrace my own culture even more so that other people can learn about how I grew up through Christ in our Diocese. It was a great experience and I hope I have the opportunity to go back next year!