St. Vladimir’s Seminary launches clergy continuing education

Father Halvorsen
Fr. Sergius Halvorsen, SVOTS faculty member, with clergy from the Carolinas Deanery.

“St. Vladimir’s Seminary has stepped up to the challenge recently set by the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America to provide our clergy with continuing education,” said Dr. Paul Meyendorff, the Father Alexander Schmemann Professor of Liturgical Theology at the seminary.

“We are working vigorously to help clergy reach the goal established by the OCA’s newly formed Department of Continuing Education, requiring 20 hours of education and training each year for priests,” he explained.

Dr. Meyendorff was referring to the mandate set by the OCA Holy Synod of Bishops at their January 2013 meeting, which requires clergy to receive further education in professional and ethical issues. Heading the OCA’s new department is Archpriest Ian G. Pac-Urar; Dr. Meyendorff serves as Director of Continuing Education at Saint Vladimir’s.

“We’re delighted to see Saint Vladimir’s step forward with the first institutional response to the Holy Synod’s call,” said Father Ian. “As a matter of course, clergy participating in the offerings from Saint Vladimir’s will receive full credit for the Continuing Clergy Development program. We encourage all clergy to take advantage of this great opportunity.”

Similarly, Archpriest Eric G. Tosi, OCA Secretary, noted, “We are so pleased that this program is moving forward. The issue of continuing education has been discussed for many years by the Holy Synod and was brought to fruition with the mandate of the Strategic Plan of the 16th All-American Council held in Seattle in 2011.

“Father Ian Pac-Urar and the Strategic Planning Committee of the Metropolitan Council were dedicated to making this become a reality so that OCA clergy can continue to improve their pastoral skills,” he added. “Saint Vladimir’s Seminary has taken the lead in offering such a program in a formal manner, and it is hoped that many will take advantage of the expertise and resources in the program.”

Inaugurating the seminary’s efforts, Dr. Meyendorff noted, was a recent seminar given by Archpriest Dr. Sergius Halvorsen, Assistant Professor of Homiletics and Rhetoric at Saint Vladimir’s. From March 31 to April 2, Father Sergius led a continuing education seminar on “Liturgical Preaching” for eight priests from the Carolinas Deanery of the OCA’s Diocese of the South. The seminar began with a webinar in the middle of March, during which Father Sergius presented some fundamental concepts for preaching and gave the participants assignments to prepare in advance of the in-person session. Then, gathered at a home on the shores of beautiful Lake Keowee in Salem SC, the participants worked together in sessions that began on Sunday night and concluded on Tuesday morning.

During these sessions, Father Sergius presented basic guidelines for effective preaching, after which each participant offered two oral presentations—a short meaningful story about their life and a “work in progress” version of their sermon for the following Sunday.

Reflecting on the seminar, Father Sergius said, “The depth and honesty of the feedback from the participants was quite remarkable. Everyone left the seminar with a few really solid ideas to help them in their preaching ministry.”

Regarding the entire experience, Father Sergius said, “I am extremely grateful to Father Thomas Moore, Dean of the Carolinas Deanery; Father Marcus Burch, Chancellor of the Diocese of the South; and Archbishop Nikon, Locum Tenens for the Diocese of the South, for the opportunity to spend time working with the clergy. Pastors are physicians of souls, and like doctors who treat the flesh, they benefit greatly from continuing education to help hone, refine, and strengthen pastoral skills. Furthermore, participants benefit greatly from strengthening ties with brother clergy who support and encourage each other in their ministry. This continuing education session was quite successful on both these levels.”

Speaking of future goals for continuing education, Dr. Meyendorff said, “Our aim is to develop continuing education workshops on topics such as homiletics, end of life issues, dealing with mental health issues, confession, parish management, and so forth.  Programs will be held both on the seminary’s campus and at locations throughout the country [as we begin] working with dioceses, deaneries, clergy associations, and alumni groups to develop and host one- or two-day sessions.”