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Just a short note to express my excitement this morning at my very good fortune to be heading to Dallas, TX, this afternoon to attend the annual OCF Heartland Retreat.  The idea is that I’m going so I can cover it for the OCF Podcast.  And, I mean, I am.  But, I’m reminded of something Mr. Woodall, my beloved high school band director, once told us as we were practicing a piece we would be performing at a band festival in Orlando, FL.  He said, “You’re going to do well on this, folks.  You’ve put a lot of work into this, and the other things you’ve done this year.  That’s why I’m taking you on a vacation to Disney World.  And, it is a vacation.  The only reason we’re going to festival is because that’s the only way the school board would approve the trip. [grins widely].”

No, seriously…this is going to be part vacation, part assignment, part mini-SAB planning meeting.  Along the way, I imagine I’ll learn a thing or two about the Church’s view of love, dating, and marriage (it’s the theme of the retreat).  Of course, I’ll make new friends, stay up waaay too late, and hopefully find a guitar to borrow for the talent show.  Don’t know what I’m gong to sing yet, though…I’m trying to avoid the typical Switchfoot song…lol

When I was a kid, my mom went to Dallas.  I was about, oh, six, I think.  Dallas was a popular show, thought I didn’t really understand it.  All I know was that J.R. Ewing was a bad guy and he treated people like dirt.  Well, I was scared to death that my mom was going to go to Dallas, go on her little tour of the Southfork Ranch (where the show was filmed), and J.R. was going to snatch her up and make her work for him and she wasn’t coming home.  lol  (Unfortunately, a much more tragic thing happened while she was gone: my dad lost his old bandmate Darryl to a helicopter crash when he was testing a new Med Chopper for UT Hospital, and my parents lost a good friend.) But, no fears of that happening this time.  🙂

Well, I’m off.  Wish me well, keep me in your prayers, and pray that I don’t find a phone booth, lest my fellow OCFers be embarrassed…

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Disclaimer: The thoughts expressed herein are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of Ancient Faith Radio or Orthodox Christian Fellowships.

Note:  I rarely say bold things in a public forum.  Therefore, I’m slightly nervous about posting the following.  However, I feel this to be absolutely true, and a terribly vital point of conversation.  So, I ask that you read on and prayerfully consider what I have to say. —Jonathan

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the OCF Podcast (for which I am the coordinator, host, and producer).  Where it is.  Where I want it to be. Where it’s going, where it’s been…you know, basic introspection type stuff.  And, I have to say that I’m really pleased.  The fact that the podcast is doing well is enough to make everyone at OCF HQ and those involved with the show fill with excitement.  Though, along with excitement, it fills me with questions.  Good questions.  Necessary questions.  Hard questions.

The primary thought that enters my mind is this:  Why is the OCF Podcast so lonely?  Why are there only a handful (2-4, by my estimation) of podcasts targeted toward students?  Why is it that, with all the data about the growing influx of converts, and with the knowledge that an increasing number are aged upper-high school to twentysomethings (I hate that term, incidentally), why are there not more resources being poured into producing audio and even video programs to match even half the caliber and ubiquity of the programs which already grace the Orthodox landscape, primarily geared toward people 30 and older?  Why is more not being done?

Let me pause and say that I love these shows that I kind of indirectly (and unintentionally) just slammed.  I listened to practically the entire archive of Our Life In Christ when I got my first iPod back in 2006, shortly before my Chrismation. (I still like to randomly listen to entire series.) Half of the podcasts I currently listen to are from AFR.  And they’re wonderful; they do endless good toward helping me to understand and reflect on the Faith.  Still…I feel like something is missing.

And this is where this podcast comes in.  Originally, the podcast began as an idea to help keep us students connected with each other within the OCF world…to keep up-to-date with things that were going on, to hear each other’s stories, and to drop in on retreats halfway across the country. It is beginning to fit in to that mold, glory to God.  At the same time, it serves as a small step toward filling the gap I mentioned earlier.

OCF Executive Director Fr. Kevin Scherer once told me that the number one problem facing student ministry in the American Orthodox Church is a lack of curriculum.  Now, two years after that conversation, I fully believe it.  And, I would venture to guess, he’s not simply talking about Sunday School or Bible study.  Now, this is simply my opinion.  But, where students are concerned, I see an utter void of anything in any consumable media (save a few books and the podcasts mentioned above) which strikes me as engaging and relevant to today’s Orthodox young adult.  This ranges from student devotional books to conference materials, from t-shirts to CD’s and DVD’s of student-oriented teaching.  Yes, there are strides being made.  But, more could and should be done to assure that the Church in America offers more and more to the generation which is rising in service and devotion to Her.

I, for one, am dedicated to exploring this topic and seeing what can be done.  I will seek to enlist the help of John Maddex of AFR, Fr. Kevin Scherer, some of the clergy near and dear to OCF, and, of course, you.  The only reason I bring this up at all is because I feel it would be a huge service to Orthodox students to have these things.  Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe I’m more right than I realize. Whatever the case, the only way to find out is to hear what students have to say.

I’ve heard it said that the Orthodox Church is thirty years behind the curve in the area of student ministry.  I, for one, want to see us catch up.

I ask that you please pray for this effort, for it is only with God’s grace that any of this chatter will ever lead to thoughts, plans, and actions.

Through the prayers of the Holy Apostle Timothy, who was encouraged to be bold in his young age and to set an example for all of the Faithful, may our great God and Savior Jesus Christ have mercy on us as we journey with Him to His glorious Pascha.  Amen. +

OCF Podcast

Episode 1 of the OCF Podcast is finally ready for public consumption!  This weeks episode features part one of a talk by executive director Fr. Kevin Scherer entitled “How to Survive College as a Christian.”

Download/subscribe here.