by Joelle Rush and Jesse Torbic
Last December, middle school students left Holy Trinity for a middle school retreat at Antiochian Village. At the retreat we had a great time, but also learned about our faith as Orthodox Christians. We also met other middle school aged Orthodox Christians as well as Bishop Thomas.
One idea that we looked at on this retreat was “Children are the Present of the Church”, not just the future. This means that we are a part of the church from baptism and we should live in the presence of God. Another thing we talked about at the retreat was not only how to be a Christian inside the Church, but also outside the Church. We discussed how the Church isn’t only a building; it is a world we live in, and that we have a toolbox that God has provided us with. In it are things such as faith, the Church, the Bible, and saints.
Another topic we discussed is how we dedicate ourselves to Christ. The kids were split into six different groups. We were all assigned a saint to learn about. An example of one of these saints was the Theotokos. She gave her life to Christ at about the age of 14. Other examples were Faith, Hope, and Love, who in a time of trouble, always believed in their faith. They gave their lives to Christ at about the ages of 9, 12, and 14. A third topic that was discussed was that we should love ourselves, but not be in love with ourselves. We should love ourselves because we are God’s creation.
Alongside of having discussions, we did many other activities including sledding and playing in the snow, playing four-square, having a bonfire, singing Christmas carols, making cinnamon flavored apples, assembling hygiene kits for charity, and other team building activities that required us to interact with other people outside of our church parish.
Along with spending time with others, Bishop Thomas was there as well. He talked to us about always following God and not making excuses to skip church and church activities; that church is a feast we should take advantage of. In the sermon on Sunday, he talked about being in time-out, which means that we need to take a break and look at our faith.
On the drive back from the retreat we asked everyone what their favorite part was and what they took out of this weekend. Nick McFarland quoted, “It was fun to hang out with my friends and make more friends.” “I learned you have to be yourself all the time,” said Nicholas Siewers. “I learned you have to believe in your faith,” stated Anna Abashidze. “The church isn’t only a building,” Lauren Torbic said. “My favorite part was sledding and making a ramp for the sleds,” said Ben Oleynik.