Deacons and diaconal candidates received focused training during the Seventh Annual Diaconal Practicum held at Saint Vladimir’s Seminary here in June 2013.
Led by Archdeacon Kirill Sokolov, director of the Diaconal Vocations Program for the Orthodox Church in America, the intensive workshop offered instruction in liturgical celebration, public speaking and vocal training, and practical ministry.
Archpriest Dr. Chad Hatfield, Chancellor/CEO of the seminary, welcomed participants to the campus and spoke on pastoral issues facing clergy. Each day of practicum began early, with students gathering in the chapel for hands-on preparation for the Liturgy. As appropriate, they assisted in the entrance prayers, preparation rites, and Divine Liturgy as singers, readers, and servers. Every day was also punctuated by the serving of daily Vespers.
The divine services launched long days of experiential learning.
“The deacons and diaconal candidates were guided through the precise serving of the divine services,” explained Archdeacon Kirill, “with emphasis on the patterns of the deacon’s service in a theological and historical framework that increases understanding and proper serving—especially in unfamiliar liturgical situations.”
Priest Dr. Sergius Halvorsen, Assistant Professor of Homiletics and Rhetoric at Saint Vladimir’s, assisted at the practicum, leading sessions in singing, chanting, and preaching. “Our sessions focused on effective vocal production so that the deacons could serve beautifully, intelligibly, and with conviction,” he said. “As ordained ministers of the Church, there will be occasions when deacons will be called upon to speak about their Christian faith and to preach the Gospel. Possessing basic rhetorical skills will help them to engage these opportunities with confidence and with effectiveness.”
His Grace, Bishop Michael of the Diocese of New York and New Jersey, presided at the Divine Liturgy on the final day of the practicum, and afterwards addressed workshop participants. He noted that deacons throughout Church history have been known for exercising a variety of spiritual gifts, such as Saint Philip, an evangelist.
“Bring your talents to bear,” emphasized Bishop Michael. “You will feel drained and strained, but our Lord did too. Take the gifts God has given you and give them back to Him. When you serve, serve piously; learn the services and love them. But it’s not all about liturgical pomp and circumstance; deacons have pioneered hospitals and schools and prison ministry too.”
Other special presentations during the week enriched the practicum experience. Priest Martin Kraus, Rector of Holy Trinity Church, East Meadow, NY, shared an example of charitable diakonia by discussing his parish’s ministry to the hungry in mid-town Manhattan, thus illustrating how similar parish efforts could be set in motion. Archpriest Dr. John Jillions, Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America, with Cindy Davis, Coordinator for the OCA’s Office of Review of Sexual Misconduct Allegations, spoke to the participants on a number of matters, including pastoral issues on relating to parishioners and sexual misconduct reporting procedures in the Orthodox Church in America.
The Diaconal Vocations Program is a program of theological formation created by the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America to prepare men for service in the Diaconate. The Church-wide program of mentored learning in a local setting, combined with on-line instruction and diocesan diaconal formation programs, utilize the practicum to prepare men for the central and visible liturgical aspect of the diaconal ministry. Saint Vladimir’s Seminary has served as a frequent host for these practicums. Archdeacon Kirill serves as director of diaconal and late vocations on behalf of the Holy Synod’s Board of Theological Education, which is chaired by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon. For more information, visit http://oca.org/dvp.
A gallery of practicum photos is available on the seminary web site.