Monday, July 6, 2015

All about OCF in the United States

(AOB) - The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America released a new study report today. The report focuses on Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF), the official collegiate campus ministry program of the Assembly.

OCF plays a critical role in the lives of young Orthodox adults who study at US colleges and universities. Strong OCF chapters can provide a vital connection for youth to the Orthodox Church and stem the tide of students who leave the Orthodox Faith while in college. For the study, student leaders were surveyed in 130 OCF chapters. What types of challenges do OCF chapters face? What are their needs? What does it take to be a successful and vibrant OCF chapter? The report answers these and other questions from the viewpoints of active student OCF leaders.

Read the full report here (PDF).

Some interesting bits from my reading of the document...

  • Some of them thought that OCF is too ʺprogressive.ʺ Here is an example of what one of the respondents wrote: ʺHaving been highly involved in the church and attended many events and programs growing up, I believe that OCF is taking a wrong turn. OCF is a ministry that should seek to promote liturgical life among the student population and spread the word of Orthodoxy on our campuses. OCF is becoming too progressive and also giving students and the current population group the idea that we can take certain aspects about the Orthodox Church and turn them into what we believe they should be. Students are becoming proactive with teachings of the Church that have held for centuries, all of which have had millions of martyrs and innocent blood protecting these Divine teachings for 2000 years. OCF needs to focus on becoming more spiritual and concrete in our teachings, and through this the Holy Spirit will continue to provide guidance for the Faithful.ʺ
  • Yet, some had quite opposite view that OCF is too ʺconservative.ʺ Here is an example: ʺI felt that OCF is too conservative nationally and it discourages people from being a member. Once we had an OCF discussion about marriage where we were told that the father of the family is the head of the house. I raised my hand because my parents are divorced and I live with my mom who is a doctor who provides for my family. The OCF priest told me that actually my priest was the head of my family since I did not have a father.ʺ Similarly, the analysis of the last open‐ended question revealed that OCF chapters presidents are also quite divided among themselves on the question about how much ʺreligiousʺ versus ʺsocialʺ activities local OCF chapter should have.
  • A small but important note should be added to what was found and reported about relations between students and their spiritual advisors. In their answers to the open‐ended questions, several student respondents mentioned that it would be a very good idea to use (whenever possible) Orthodox seminarians in the capacity of spiritual advisors. Their argument was that Orthodox seminarians are well educated in the church‐related matters (thus, capable to lead discussion and provide religious education), but, at the same time, they are only slightly older than the students that makes them easier to relate to and communicate with.
  • In summary, the present model with each chapter on its own is clearly not functional. The ʺnationally centralizedʺ model when national headquarters would communicate, coordinate and cooperate with each chapter directly does not seem to be possible and realistic under present circumstances. In this regard, considerable thought and more emphasis should be given to creating strong regional OCF alliances.
  • Clearly, the students from the various Orthodox jurisdictions are accustomed to somewhat different church traditions and ʺways of doing things.ʺ Under these circumstances, the presence on the college campus of an OCF spiritual advisor from the certain jurisdiction increases the chances that the students from the same jurisdiction are more likely to gather in this particular OCF chapter.

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