Thursday, April 19, 2007
The Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas
8 East 79th Street, New York, NY 10021
Joseph J. Samra III
Orthodox Christian Fellowship
OCF Responds to Tragedy at Virginia Tech
Boston, MA – Prayers, resources, and outreach to the local Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) chapter at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) are part of the response OCF has mounted to address the horrific tragedy that occurred on the 16th of April in Blacksburg, Virginia, which resulted in the loss of 33 human lives. Although it has been reported that all of the OCF students are safe, some of the students lost friends and acquaintances in the shooting.
OCF has been in constant communication with the leaders of the Virginia Tech OCF including Rev. Constantine Nastos of Holy Trinity Church in Roanoke, VA who serves as the OCF’s spiritual advisor. OCF is doing everything possible to respond to the emotional and spiritual needs of the students. In conjunction with its sister agency, International Orthodox Christian Charities, OCF is coordinating the deployment of “frontline” responders to minister to the Orthodox college students and community at Virginia Tech. The responders will include OCF Executive Director, Rev. Kevin Scherer, and three others who have all received specialized training in Critical Incident Stress Management and Debriefing. When classes resume Monday (April 23), Fr. Scherer and the three Orthodox Christian responders will meet with the Virginia Tech OCF and provide various levels of support, ministry, and counseling as needed.
“This is an important time for the Church to make sure that it creates an emotionally safe environment for students, everywhere, to share their feelings and experiences relative to this tragedy,” says Fr. Scherer. “Our responsibility is to actively listen and help them contextualize this horror in light of the Gospel, especially Christ’s life-giving resurrection.”
OCF has created a special website section with resources including prayers, selections from Scripture, and a messaging tool for the Orthodox community to share their condolences with the Virginia Tech OCF. A Memorial Service, with litanies and/or prayers specific to the tragedy, will soon be released to encourage local OCF chapters to pray corporately for those who lost their lives. The website (www.ocf.net) also includes an email address for the Virginia Tech OCF, allowing local OCF chapters and the Orthodox community world-wide to express their concern and support. The emails received thus far have been heartfelt and loving, and are a great testimony to the unbreakable Christian bond Orthodox college students have for one another.
It is with extreme sadness that OCF responds to this tragedy. These recent events reaffirm the urgent mission of OCF to help college students grow closer to Jesus Christ by living out their baptismal vocation during one of the most pivotal times in their lives.
OCF humbly asks each Orthodox Christian to continue offering their fervent prayers for all involved in this tragic event and for all Orthodox college students throughout the world. The support of the entire church is needed during this crucial time.
Orthodox Christian Fellowship is the official campus ministry program of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA). It is a Pan-Orthodox effort which is overseen by a Board of Directors and assisted by a Student Advisory Board. Additional information on all the OCF programs can be found on the OCF website, www.ocf.net, or by calling toll-free, 800-919-1623.