Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Feature Story: An interview with John Stonestreet

You’ve all seen him at the meetings around campus. He’s the face of OCF and the OCF-NC Blog had an interview with UNC Class of 2000 alumnus John Stonestreet.

John is the first official, full-time OCF chaplain—ever. As so, there was no instruction manual for his job.

“It’s like being Davy Crockett,” John said. “It’s kind of uncharted territory.”

OCF is a full time job for John. His salary, his health benefits, and the money for the free pizza at meetings come entirely from sponsors and fundraisers organized by him. Outside of meetings, John organizes and promotes OCF events. He meets with students for lunch or coffee.

And, he plans the future of OCF.

“Every day is a new and exciting adventure and a new challenge. Challenges are fundraising, developing relations with universities, developing relations with other campus ministries and religious groups, professors, students, parents, and clergy across the state. There are a lot of relationships to really foster.”

He said that a long-term goal of his is for having a dedicated Orthodox worship and fellowship facility on each campus in the Triangle region—similar to the Newman Center (Catholic)—with a chaplain for each campus and a regional training center.

“The North Carolina Triangle will be a model for the rest of the country for the fact that it can be done.”

For John, college ministry has personal meaning.

“I lost my faith in college at UNC. I grew up as an Evangelical Protestant and became disillusioned with my faith in college.”

He said that he rediscovered his faith in the Orthodox Church, but not until after college when he first learned about Orthodoxy.

“I was sad that I spent time in college looking for faith but didn’t find Orthodoxy.”

John wants students to have an Orthodox presence on campus.

“I felt called to campus ministry, so I enrolled in St. Vladimir’s seminary. The summer before going to St. Vlads, I flew up to Boston to and met with the leaders of the OCF national office and said I feel called to full-time on-campus ministry.”

But back then, such a thing didn’t exist.

That was why he went to seminary. After he graduated, he got back in touch with the OCF national office, and it turned out that some other people were interested in full-time college ministry—and they were from North Carolina.

Rosanne Niforos started UNC’s chapter in the 2005-06 school year as a freshman. John came on the year later. Alex Andreev started Duke’s chapter. NC State had an operational chapter for a while.

“I think that students from diverse backgrounds have gotten to know each other and come to appreciate each other, and to realize that there are so many beautiful cultures in Orthodoxy.”

“What a lot of Orthodox students have in common is they have a culture that is different from students on campus. It helps people to see what they have in common.”

“I think it’s easy in college to forget that you’re Orthodox because nobody knows what it is.”

John said that he cannot predict what exactly the state of OCF will be in 5 years since there is a great deal of unknowns, but he is working for his long-term goal of a dedicated OCF facility on each campus.

When John was in college, Facebook and digital audio players didn’t exist, and cell phones were a luxury item.

“People walked around and talked to each other.” Strange but true.

The UNC men’s basketball team went to the Final Four three out of four years when John was in school. He won a contest from that paid him to go to the Final Four in Indianapolis.

John was a rhetoric major and part of the UNC public policy debate team.

“It was great to be at UNC.”

John had a “big fat Greek wedding” and is married to Anastasia Stonestreet.

John made it onto a sound bite of the Paul Harvey radio show when he was born on February 27 at 3:55 AM, because his older sister was born at the exact same time and date in a different year.

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