Learning To Live And Apply A Deeper Orthodox Christian Faith
When we look at the spiritual life and socialization of the young people of our church, we realize how little time our teenagers are spending developing in these two very critical areas of life. Worship and religious education are relegated to an hour or so on Sunday mornings, socialization with their peers occurs at the occasional GOYA meeting or church social event, and dialogue with a priest is a rare event, if it happens at all. The busy life of today's teen doesn't provide, and in general, doesn't make the opportunity to give our young people the spiritual grounding they need to withstand teenage temptations, or the spiritual identity that shapes who and what they will be as adults. Summer camp takes a teenager out of his or her environment for a week. Worship is done not an hour a week, but brief services are conducted each morning and evening. Catechism and more important, the opportunities to ask questions about the Orthodox faith and how to live an Orthodox life are abundant. Several clergy of the Diocese participate in the camping program, and offer each participant the opportunity for one-on-one interaction through conversation or confession. Many of these encounters have been life-changing, and in a few cases, life-saving moments for our young people. The majority of the day is dedicated to socialization, fellowship, and yes, lots of fun. After all, what would camp be without sports, swimming, campfires, skits, music, arts and crafts, dancing, hiking, canoeing and so many other activities! Living with 15 people of the same age for a week makes for the start of friendships that last throughout the year. A week of fun in a camp setting makes for a lifetime of memories. And a week spent "out of their element," in an Orthodox Christian environment, makes for more committed Orthodox Christians and more spiritually and morally ground teenagers when the week is over.
+Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis,
Priest of St. John Greek Orthodox Church, Tampa, Florida