Faculty Augment Scripture and Homiletics Courses for Fall 2012: View a Seminarian's Sermon

27 April 2012 • Academic News

View a sermon delivered by senior seminarian Deacon David (Chandler) Poling, here.

2nd-year seminarian Harrison Russin preaching at morning matins2nd-year seminarian Harrison Russin preaching at morning matinsBeginning fall semester 2012, Scripture and Homiletics courses offered at St. Vladimir’s will be augmented in accordance with planned curriculum revisions begun by the Dean and faculty in 2007. The reinforced curriculum, according to Dr. John Barnet, associate dean for Academic Affairs, is being implemented to strengthen even further the preaching and exegetical skills of our seminary graduates.

"It goes without saying that good pastors and preachers need to know the Bible well,” notes Dr. Barnet. “They need to know what it says, of course, but they also need to know what it doesn't say.

“Correct understanding of Scripture begins with the recognition that each book of the New Testament is a distinctive witness to the gospel of the crucified and risen Lord,” he explains. “Good pastors and preachers must convey this understanding in effective preaching. The goal of the Scripture-Homiletics program at St. Vladimir's Seminary is to train our students to become effective preachers."

The Rev. Dr. J. Sergius Halvorsen, currently assistant professor of Homiletics and Rhetoric at the seminary, further explained the newly developed curriculum, saying, “ThisDn. James Parnell, 2nd-year seminarian, preaching in Three Hierarchs ChapelDn. James Parnell, 2nd-year seminarian, preaching in Three Hierarchs Chapel past year, we began teaching our students the theological and rhetorical skills necessary to craft a homily based on a biblical text from the lectionary. We paid particular attention to the difference between written language (e.g. writing an essay) and oral language that is spoken and heard in a homily. We also focused on homiletical structure: strategies to clearly and persuasively convey the gospel of Jesus Christ in a form that is meaningful and engaging for all the hearers. In the first semester students focus primarily on 'basic' sermons, the kind that would be expected at a morning matins service in Three Hierarchs Chapel, or at a Sunday Divine Liturgy.”

“This coming fall,” Fr. Sergius continued, “We will add some more advanced rhetorical techniques, and we will focus on preaching at baptisms, weddings, and funerals. We'll also focus on preaching the gospel in other challenging contexts and situations, such as during times of crisis or in communities that are struggling with serious pastoral issues. 

“Homiletics,” he explained, “is an interesting discipline inasmuch as it combines theological knowledge with liturgical art. Just like the icons in the Church, effective preaching creates an image of the biblical text, the living Word, in the mind and heart of the hearer. The effective preacher must know Scripture, and doctrine, and be steeped in the wisdom of the Fathers. However, merely possessing that knowledge is not enough. The preacher must craft language that is appropriate for the particular community, and then, like a skilled liturgical musician, deliver that message in a way that is beautiful, compelling, and inspiring. So, in both semesters of homiletics, we place a great emphasis on actually crafting and delivering homilies.”

“The coordination of assignments between the homiletics courses that I teach and the New Testament courses that are taught by Dr. Barnet is important because Scripture is the foundation of all Orthodox preaching," Fr. Sergius concluded. "Effective preachers must have the ability to read the Bible (including basic analysis in the original language) and understand how that particular text not only spoke to an ancient community, but how that text also speaks to us today. Great preachers are not only able to exegete faithfully the Scripture, but they also allow the Scripture to correct, shape and form them. These are the skills and the kind of pastoral formation that Dr. Barnet's Scripture courses provide.”

This coming academic year, a second course in homiletics will be added to the program, and student assignments between the homiletics and the New Testament courses will be coordinated so that seminarians may learn how to ground their preaching even more firmly within a biblical context. Also, seminary Dean Archpriest John Behr will teach a new introductory Old Testament course, “Introduction to Scripture, which will provide a foundation for seminarians developing homilies from the texts of the Old Testament (as seminarians are required to do during the season of Great Lent).

"I am really excited about teaching the new introductory course to Scripture this coming fall," commented Fr. John Behr. "After working, teaching, and writing for the last twenty years and more, on the Fathers of the first centuries, concentrating especially on their interpretation of Scripture, hermeneutics, and the Scriptural texture of all theology, as well as reading more broadly in contemporary scriptural scholarship and modern philosophy and hermeneutics, it will be a wonderful opportunity to teach the Scriptures themselves. My goal will be to familiarize students with the Scriptures, to introduce them to the Scriptural world of early Christianity, and to help them understand and respond to contemporary problematics."

The new courses scheduled (OT= Old Testament, NT= New Testament, and HO=Homiletics) are:

  • Junior year (fall)

OT 100 "Introduction to Scripture” (replacing OT 101 “Survey of Old Testament Literature”)

  • Junior year (fall)

NT 100 "Introduction to the New Testament: Text, Translation, Interpretation"

  • Junior year (spring)

NT 202 "St. Paul and His Epistles"

  • Junior year (fall)

NT 203 "The Gospels and Acts of the Apostles"

  • Middler year (spring)

HO 204 "Introduction to Homiletics: From Scripture to Spoken Word"

  • Senior year (fall)

HO 205 "Advanced Topics in Homiletics: Challenging Contexts and Special Occasions”

“These new courses represent just a few of the curriculum changes we’re now implementing to keep pace with our 2007 plan,” concluded Dr. Barnet. “We’ve also bolstered our fieldwork programs—in Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) and prison ministry—and our iconology and missiology programs. Additionally, we’re working on a D.Min. Hybrid Program, which is foremost on our minds right now. By continuing to strengthen our programs, we believe that we are better preparing our graduates for their ministries."

View all courses offered by the seminary in our 2011–2012 Academic Catalog, here. New courses will appear in the 2012–2013 Academic Catalog, which will be available in July 2012. 

Interested in attending the seminary? Please contact Dr. David Wagschal, director of Admissions and Financial Aid: admissions@svots.edu or 914-961-8313 x328.