The Fifth Annual Diaconal Liturgical Practicum, held by the Diaconal Vocations Program [DVP] of the Orthodox Church in America and Saint Vladimir’s Seminary here, worked to expand the vision of the Holy Diaconate for deacons and candidates. Intense liturgical training was the focus of the four-day training program held June 19-23, 2011, on the seminary campus.
Thirteen participants from nearly every diocese of the Orthodox Church in America traveled to New York to attend the practicum. One participant noted, “The opportunity to serve the Divine Liturgy and to learn from this faculty and a ‘class’ of brothers from all over strengthens and balances my study for the diaconate throughout the year.”
Practical liturgical training began with daily celebration of the Divine Liturgy and other services by participants with seminary clergy. Intensive workshops led by Archdeacon Kirill Sokolov, director of Diaconal and Late Vocations for the OCA, aimed to provide participants with the skills needed to serve effectively in the Orthodox Church as an attentive server, deacon, or priest. Focus was given to the typical celebration of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom by one priest and one deacon. Participants also received guidance on concelebrations and hierarchical services so that they could effectively prepare for such occasions.
Additionally, deacons, faculty, and staff from the seminary community served and worked with the practicum faculty and participants. Priest Sergius Halvorsen, recently appointed Assistant Professor of Homiletics and Rhetoric at Saint Vladimir’s, led sessions on voice, chanting, and preaching, which sought to empower future deacons to proclaim the Word of God beautifully and compellingly their voices. Archpriest John Behr, Dean of the seminary, began the week’s deliberations with a keynote address by expanding the participants’ vision of what we actually “do” when we gather as Church for liturgy. Archpriest Chad Hatfield, Chancellor of the seminary, led a sobering conversation on the spiritual challenges of being a husband, father, and clergyman.
Archdeacon Kirill addressed the nature of the Holy Diaconate and the connection between the liturgical center of the deacon’s ministry — being the symbol of Christ’s diakonia in the life of the Church — and diaconal service to the neighbor. The conversation continued in action as the participants travelled to New York City to learn from and participate in ministry to the homeless with the “Christian Kitchen” — a ministry of Priest Martin Kraus, former coordinator of the Diaconal Vocations Program, and the parishioners of Holy Trinity Church, East Meadow, NY. The moving experience highlighted the way in which outreach to the poor is indeed possible for our communities throughout the country.
The practicum culminated with the arrival of His Grace, Bishop Tikhon of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania, Rector of Saint Tikhon’s Seminary, South Canaan, PA, and Chairman of the Holy Synod’s Board of Theological Education. The Board of Theological Education oversees the work of the seminaries and the Diaconal Vocations Program and reviews the applications for admission and ordination in the Church’s late vocations programs. His Grace led the participants in the celebration of Great Vespers and the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy. His Grace also addressed the participants on the diaconal ministry and questions posed by participants.
In addition to this longer practicum held annually, shorter weekend practicums are held regionally throughout the year. Further information on the Diaconal Vocations Program is available at www.oca.org/dvp. Photos of the four-day event are posted on the seminary web site at www.svots.edu.